Posted by: patti | May 4, 2010

Oppressive

It was humid in New York yesterday, with the heaviness you expect in July or August, not the first weekend in May.  I spent Sunday and Monday on the Upper East Side, haunting the places the Librarian and I once called our own.  By the time the rain started late Monday morning, rain that did nothing but add to the oppressiveness, I still had not encountered anyone I recognized from our six years living there.  Not a single waitress, bartender, or bookseller was familiar.  In spite of this, and in spite of the Second Avenue subway construction, the East 80s are maddeningly, eerily the same.  Nothing, and everything, has changed.

I could have taken this as a bad sign.  I could have taken the weather as a bad sign. I also could have taken the whole day, the whole visit to the Upper East Side, as a good sign, as a talisman against what was to come Monday night.  Instead, I just took it as comfort, something to ease the last months of anger and hurt and damage. I’m learning, slowly, how to be, one moment at a time.

But I believed, I realize now, right up until we left the mediator’s office with our signed and initialed documents, I believed the Librarian was going to say, “No, wait, stop.  This is crazy.  We can’t do this.”

Instead, we signed the divorce papers.

The mediator had made a lot of mistakes with our separation agreement — everything from misspelling my name to sending us documents that belonged to another couple to calling me Monday morning to say they’d filed everything wrong and we had to wait another two weeks.  (This declaration was also incorrect.) Before and after each appointment, the Librarian and I would sit and talk, and usually,  drink, and we would inevitably joke about how we were hiring a man to do paperwork for us, and paperwork was the one thing he couldn’t get right.  And because neither of us really wants this to end at all, let alone this way, we put the process on hold half a dozen times.

He was my partner, my best friend, my lover, for sixteen years.  He will always be a part of me.  I am having a very hard time letting go, and an even harder time understanding how it turned out this way.  I’ve had plenty of time to prepare, months and months of evidence that my marriage has been over, but I am walking around in a state of shock that can only be associated with a new, fresh, deep loss.

The mediator is a semi-retired lawyer, author of a handful of terribly written but informative books on how to get divorced with a mediator, and he is quite deaf.  The Librarian and I had to shout our personal information at him; we had to endure rambling speeches on New York State divorce law.  We made each other laugh, trading jokes the mediator couldn’t hear.

There was no joking yesterday, no private, gentle smiles.  Every time I looked at the Librarian, I saw again how thin he is now, how much older he seems, and I would start to cry.  His eyes were sunken and red-rimmed, too.  There were opportunities to make jokes, to ease the tension, but I let them pass.  And as we flipped pages, initialing and signing the most ridiculous documents I’ve ever seen in my life, I kept waiting for him to stop, to put his pen down and touch my hand.

He did not.  The mediator reached to take the petition back from me, thinking I had already signed it, because I had signed everything quickly until I hit this document, but I had not signed it.  I had realized that this was my last chance.  I could refuse to sign it.   I could beg him, again, to reconsider.

I did not.  I couldn’t bear hearing him say no, or worse, nothing at all.  It’s his silence that has hurt me the most these last awful months, his inability to express what he wants.  His inability to choose me.

We left the office together, and he walked me to Grand Central.  I started crying before we got to the end of the block, and he couldn’t look at me.  I wanted to take his hand, slip my fingers into his where they belong, where they fit perfectly, but I did not.

We walked in silence. A cab passed us, and I commented on its roof ad: “I have a hard time believing that the world needs another Robin Hood movie.”  I said it slowly, and he probably thought I was going to say something else altogether.  He laughed with sudden relief, and we bantered the rest of the way to the station about Russell Crowe, old Bell telephones, and pool cues. We have our own particular dialect, the Librarian and I, like Esperanto, or some language twins teach each other, and oh, I miss the daily joy of it.

At the clock in GCT, he held his arms to ask for a hug, and as my forehead touched his chest, I sobbed, “I’m afraid I’ll never let go.”  And I stepped back and away from him, to stop myself from holding on to his shirt, gathering the material in my fingers, clutching.  He was crying, too, and we both found we couldn’t look at each other and hold it together.  “I never really thought we’d do this,” I said, and he couldn’t answer me, couldn’t look at me.  We wished each other a safe ride home.  I don’t know how I found my train.  I’ve been numb and almost catatonic since the clock.

We’ve made a mess of things, a terrible, terrible mess of things, the Librarian and I.  I moved out last summer because I did not know who I was or what I wanted, and we’d been together too long for me to know my own voice.  He gave me that time to figure it out, a gift that was as hard for me to accept as it was for him to give.

The problem is, I discovered that who I am is the Librarian’s wife, and by the time I knew that for certain, he had moved on without me.  It sounds very simple, and in a lot of ways it is that simple, but it’s also a lot more than this.  And I’m afraid I will never understand, and I am desperately afraid I am going to spend the rest of my life waiting for my Terence to come home to me.

I know I can’t do that.   I also know that I won’t do that, that I will move on and grow and write, the best I can.  But, oh.  I am so, so afraid.

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