Today is the 1st anniversary of my divorce from Juan.  Its both hard and easy to believe that a full year has passed since the courts made it official, since the judge signed the papers, since I was able to let go at another level.  Of all the stories I have written about loving Juan and the process of losing him, this is my favorite.  It seems appropriate to post here again.  Its made it into a couple of my best hits compilations.  Apologies to those who have seen it before and don’t want to read it again.  New writing is coming soon.  I promise.

It was an unusually warm April day.  We were standing in the park.  It was a Saturday but we were working–the way people in Washington, DC do.  But because it was Saturday we could give ourselves a break from the relentless pace and walk around the block.  We stopped in the park and stood about three inches away from each other and talked, the way we had been talking for months, about life and family and justice and my married lover and movies. Suddenly the skies opened up and it started to pour.  I barely heard him over the thunder.  “You know I love you, right?” he said.  “Yes” I said, slipping my hand into his.  The next moment before we kiss stretches infinitely out before us.  Spacious.  Open.  At that moment everything in my life changes.

********

He slipped the key into the lock and it turned.  We couldn’t believe it was ours, this house.  It felt like a palace.  After the studio apartment where he spent almost every night and then the one bedroom basement in Mount Pleasant that we shared, the openess seemed like a metaphor.  Our whole lives lay out before us–full of possibility and hope.  He rolled around the floor and I took pictures.  We dragged in paint cans and ladders along with a suitcase full of dreams and made love on the drop cloths.

********

I was rolled up in a ball–scared, terrified.  I was eight months pregnant and I realized that when I had this baby he might just love it more than me.  I had never been loved so deeply before in my life and for the first time ever I had felt rooted and at home.  I was scared, so scared that it would all start to shift away from me once there was this little person around–this child I so desperately wanted.  I would become second in his eyes.  I would fail as a mother and he would love me less.  The tears started to drip off my chin.  He wrapped his arms around me and promised me it would never come true.  He would always love me.  Always.   And I knew he was right. 

********

The day they placed Max in my arms.  I knew I had it all wrong.   He would never stop loving me.

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There are endless stretches of no sleep.  There are short words.  There is postpartum depression.  There are chores that don’t get done.  There is frustration.  There is unhappiness that creeps into every corner of the house.  There is a child that consumes both of us and leaves so very little left.  We have nothing to give each other. 

But we try.  We rally and laugh and delight in this child we created together.  We hold hands and share our stories of him.  We find our way back to each others bodies at night.  We tell ourselves that love will get us through, that we are a team.  We make plans and we dream.  We convince ourselves it is going to be OK. 

******** 

But work is hard.  Life is hard.  There is so much falling apart around us we don’t know how to start holding it all up.  When we go out for dinner we are so tired we can do nothing more than stare at each other. 

We love each other madly even though it is beginning to feel that love may not be enough.

********

The day he tells me he is leaving me, everything inside my body goes cold.  I can’t breathe.  Everything stops working and then starts working in reverse.  And then stops again.  The walls that just five years before had seemed so widely spaced are closing in on me.  Our two year old was sound asleep in his room. How did it come to this?

We could figure this out.  We always could figure it out.  I beg him.  Lets figure it out.

********

Nine months later, the air is so heavy in our house I cannot breathe.  “I don’t know how to do this.  I don’t know how to stay.  I can’t do the hard work.  I can’t figure it out,” he says.  “I can’t believe this is us, falling apart this way.” 

We are sitting three inches apart from one another.  “You know I love you, right?” he says to me as he pulls his hand from mine and gets ready to walk out the door.  “Yes,” I say but I am not sure he hears me.  He kisses me too quickly and in an instant my life has changed again.

******

I have everything I wanted out of this divorce settlement.  There was no fight.  It is sketched out on a napkin at a Lebanese restaurant.  We promise we would be our best for each other, for him–the only one each of us truly knew how to love at this moment.  After years of disappointing each other so deeply I wonder if this was yet another empty promise.  I try to so hard to forgive–to forgive him, to forgive myself, to forgive love for not  being enough.

********

I need to bring my marriage certificate to court on Friday.  I finally bring myself to dig it out of my files.  Sometime last year I had moved it from M for marriage to D for divorce.  I pull out the file.  There is only one certified copy left.  I need a certified copy for the court.  I make a mental note to write the County and request another for my file.  And then it dawns on me that this is the last time I will never need a certified copy of this document ever again.  I don’t need to write the County.  I put my head in my hands and the reality of the last 4 years hits me like a truck.

********

I move in and out of my day.  I am so blessed.  My life is a good one.  I have beautiful friends, I have not been without love for one day in this whole journey–not one.  I laugh every day now–genuine hearty spontaneous belly laughs.  I wrap my arms around my dearest girlfriends–soul sisters who understand my heart and giggle with me until 3am.  My life is messy but I am bowled over by the stark beauty of it.  I am better for this journey I have taken.  I am wiser and slower and kinder and gentler.  I know that I would not have this–this community, this love of life, this appreciation for slowness, this knowledge of the depths of my heart had he stayed and pretended, but I can’t help but say to anyone who will listen, “I don’t recommend divorce.  I say stay.  Stay. Stay.”

******** 

I sit and play my guitar but my fingers don’t want to work on this right now.  They want to twine themselves in the hands of someone I once thought I would never live without.  I stop and don’t even notice that I have.  ”You’ve stopped” my friend says.  “Sorry” I say and I mumble something about how I was frustrated with myself.  ”I want to start again”.  The metaphor hits me like a ton of bricks.  I want to start again.  Yes–I want to go back to the moment in April when the air hung hot and the thunder clap almost drowned him out.  Before I knew how it would all turn out.  I want to rewind the movie and play the beginning over and over again.

Despite the thousands of ways he has found to disappoint me, I still love him.  

******** 

I can’t live with him anymore.  I don’t want to. 

I remember this fact and look at my friend.  I look at the guitar in my lap.  I think about the richness of my life, about the gorgeous details in this tapestry that is my life.   It all turned out exactly as it should have.  I have everything I need. 

So I pick the guitar back up.   I apologize for my bad mood and rotten attitude.  For the somewhat wasted lesson.

My friend launches into a spiel about how its the middle of the second period and there is another period and a half to go and you might be getting your ass kicked but you still have to put your head down and tough it out and play and hope you learn something for the next game.  I want to kick him out so I can have a good cry but I know that he, with his icehockey metaphors, is right.  Wait for the final buzzer I tell myself.  I put my head down and I play so soft thunder would drown it out.

******

He plays Tom Waits.  And then he plays another song–a song I believe I have known since before I was born.  He knows I love it and he wants to cheer me up and he does– a little.  I hug him–it is time for him to go.  I tell him as he packs up that Friday is the day.  “I know” he says.  “Its hard”.  There is nothing more to say than that–and I silently thank him for not trying to say more.

********

I sit in the dark and wrap my arms around myself.    I breathe in and out the truth–the honest truth.  I love my life, with its ups and its downs.  I love the strength I have discovered in myself.  I love my friends, my urban family and the rhythm of this community we have created with shared meals and Eric’s homemade key lime pie and Jackie on my cell phone and Stephen in my office making fun of me.  I love Barbara with her laughter and Jen with her schemes and Jeff with his music and Cathy with her  cup of coffee and the kids begging me to stay for dinner or take them to icecream.  I love my housemate with her fancy salads.  I love my job, even when I have to fight with my colleagues.   I love raising Max more than I have loved anything else in the world.   The truth is I am giving birth to a life that I love more than anything I have ever loved and I couldn’t do it without losing my marriage.

******** 

And I know, honestly, that I would walk this path over and over just again to sit here in this moment right now.  The moon is full and I am incredibly happy even as I am sad.

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“You know I love you, right?” I whisper to noone in particular–to the moon, to my sleeping son–to myself.  I feel the words vibrate around the room before they finally settles on the couch next to me and slip between my fingers.  The moment both stands still and passes quickly.  And I tumble on, head over heels in love with whatever will come next.

2 Responses to “Somebody Loved: A love story in several acts”

  1. Jennifer Ballantyne Says:

    This is a beautifully written story Meg, it held me captivated till the finish. Love you, jen xxx

  2. The Dream that is Living Me - Meg Casey Says:

    […] ago, when I first began to believe that dreams might actually come true. I wrote that list when Juan and I were separating, when the world had fallen apart and I was block by block imagining my life exactly as I wanted it […]