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Friday, June 5, 2015

Misery Business.

"You know he wants to marry you, right?" Kyle said with that little laugh-snort he does when he's being smug. I've grown accustomed to it, except in arguments, where it still infuriates me. It has a wide range of nuance in his bizarre way of emoting, and here it carried the inflection of slight disbelief laced with maybe wounded amazement.

Basically, I think he couldn't believe what he was seeing, but needed to acknowledge it.

And of course, I knew that. Matt and I had talked extensively about a future together. They were in the same room, after all, because Kyle wanted to meet Matt, since he was spending so much time at the house, around the kids. Kyle had known about Matt's presence for almost the entire duration of our now nearly-year-long relationship, which in itself was complex and kind of strange. Kyle had only recently figured out the seriousness of it, the depth at which Matt and I felt for one another, and as a father wanted to meet the man who was ingratiating himself into a similar role in our fractured family's life.

Maybe he thought I needed to hear it.

I blushed and bit my lip as I retreated to my bedroom to finish getting ready for work. Matt had left, hence Kyle's comment, and I was at a disquiet place. After all, when your soon-to-be-ex-husband meets your married boyfriend with a casual handshake and a how do you do like it's the most normal thing in the world, how do you react?

I may have gone through the motions of getting divorced before, but as we did not actually finalize it, I've never been divorced. I don't know how to handle a lot of these situations, and for better and worse, Kyle is still the person I have the most contact with, thanks to co-parenting. And our relationship did span nearly a decade -- our entire twenties -- and he is who knows me probably best in the world.

Kyle followed me and made jokes about how Matt was a typical Pisces, as he literally retreated into a shadow and watched as Kyle and I spoke about the kids' day as we do every day at trade off. Look at you, Sagittarius, I thought, look at how far you've come.

And a part of me beamed, because it went so smoothly, no one postured possessively or was passive aggressive. The two most important men in my life stood in the same room and were more than civil, something close to friendly despite their differences and general disapproval of the other's treatment of me. And Matt could see my dynamic with Kyle and Kyle could witness the seemingly undeniable connection between Matt and I and this, I thought at the time, is the beginning of The New American Family.

*****

"But are you holding your breath?" a friend asked, when I talked about not being able to breathe around it. It was two, maybe three days after I emailed Matt's wife to inform her of my presence, and I received the last messages I ever would from him -- a screenshot of her telling him to get out, to go to the bank and get money, and that she didn't know what to do. We discussed how long he needed to be prepared to be gone for -- a day or two versus nearly a week -- and then, silence.

A call to him later, after discovering my complete excommunication and blockage on social media, for an explanation, found him at home, having dinner.

His phone number was disconnected shortly thereafter.

I hear my friend's voice when I feel the pressure of my heart cracking again inside my ribcage, and I forcibly exhale. 

It's possible I've been holding my breath for my whole life, learning that when it comes to men and their relationships with me, I must hold it in at all times, because at any time it will come crashing down around me and I will suffocate among the debris. I, perhaps, have always been trying to stockpile oxygen in preparation of my inevitable demise at the hands of someone who was supposed to love me.

*****

There is an invisible rope that strings from the center of my heart and travels out, southward, into the ether that exists between him and me. I can feel it pulled taut most of the time, and I can feel it shift daily, as he travels northward to his workplace, tangentially passing me in the commute. Sometimes I still feel him around lunchtime, but sometimes it fades into a slack, not unlike a jump rope awaiting it's first twist into orbit. As he travels southward home again and I simultaneously travel west into the city for my employment I feel the tug at both ends as we circle around each other in the intricate dance of two people pretending they don't live in the same city anymore. Sometimes when I find myself traveling during the day and I inevitably end up close to where he is, the rope pulls so tight I think it might snap. My heart physically aches as the rope pulls and pulls and pulls me closer to where he is, to the other end of this rope that we braided together. Breathless, I have no choice but to ignore it, to continue on with pedestrian errands as if the pull wasn't being bored into my heart by that rope, the friction burn cauterizing a hole that will always be the place where he once existed. The rope twists and turns and pulls and burns and I am at its mercy.

I can't help but wonder if he feels it too, if it tugs at him the way it tugs at me, if it pulls at him with varying force throughout his day trying to guide him to its other beginning, the place where it ends, with me.

*****

I have watched others remove themselves from my circle of support. I have been told to not speak of my heartbreak because what did you expect and don't you remember what this felt like? Yes, of course I do. I have never not remembered, and I would say the biggest point of strife between Matt and I had been my regular reminders to him that he was being unfair to his wife and not allowing her the freedom to pursue her own happiness, through being honest with her about us, about how he told me he felt, not just about me, but about his life and his fledgling marriage. It's why I messaged her, when he alluded to her stating the possibility of her being pregnant, because having once been her, that was my uncrossable line. I had lived that specific story nearly seven years ago, and I could not allow it to repeat in the same manner, not at my hands.

So I have lost support, been faced with shame. I had wondered if as much would happen, but I still wasn't fully prepared for the sting, the loss on top of loss, of being reduced to a simplistic label instead of seen for the multi-dimensional human being that's usually so brightly apparent.

But I've been graced with others, people who tell me, honestly, to fuck the haters. People who have honored my internal annihilation with of course you're devastated, you have a big heart and it just broke clean in two and you always see the good in people, you always trust people mean what they say because that's how you are, how you've always been.  I hold on to these statements when I can't find my breath, when the anguish and the loss -- one friend likened it to missing limb syndrome, but to me it equates to the death of an intimate family member -- overwhelm me and I collapse into myself, when the screenshots and Google search results and the reports of his presence in the world sent in love and concern feel like ghost sightings, hauntings to remind me of what once existed that now just lingers in the still, quiet moments of my unexpected solitude.

The more I speak, the more I find that despite the surface appearance of the situation, people are kind, understanding, supportive. It doesn't change the pain, the betrayal, the heart-shattering loss ... but sometimes it makes it just the tiniest bit more bearable.

*****

I have lost seven pounds. It has not been intentional, it's just how my body has long reacted to stress, to anguish, to anxiety. It is a struggle to eat solid food and not vomit.

I was recently reminded of a poem written through the imagined voice of Frida Kahlo and it remarks on how heartbroken women work so hard to make themselves invisible in the wake of their emotional obliteration. This is not that.

I watch the curves and soft spots of my frame, the places he once held on to, pushed his fingerprints in to the gentle give of my yielding skin, become more rigid, more angular. I watch with an almost morbid fascination as my body morphs without my permission from a soft place to land into something harsher, sharper.

This is not a plea for invisibility. 

It is a fortification around my heart, my spirit. My bones are now my weapons, bringing harsh jabs and brutal stabs to anyone who dares to get too close, who dares to search for comfort in my curves. Whatever beauty I possess in the shift of my hip or the round of my shoulder will dissipate into a hardness, fostering an unapproachability to warn away anyone or anything that dares to even think to look my way. My curveless frame will serve as my exoskeletal armament, whereas my heart, when left in the same role, failed.

My external hardness will guard my inner emptiness until strength chooses to find me again, if ever.

*****

Strangest still, in all of this, has been Kyle's support. Sure, in his way, when he's not in the mood to hold my figurative hand I hear that familiar irritation in his voice, that lack of patience for me and my constant emotional over processing. Yet more often than not he is kind. He has let me cry on his shoulder, done small errands around the house to lessen the strain of the everyday as I sit stoic on my corner of the couch when I get home from work and the kids are asleep, entrenched in my feelings. He has cooked meals and left me the leftovers, or taken the four of us out, to make sure I'm eating. He answers my painful questions about us, about his perspective upon the situation as only someone who has made the same choices as he can give.

He has been a friend, a good one.

Maybe it's because we intimately know this road, albeit from different perspectives, different roles. Maybe he recognizes us in the actions and maneuvers of the two of them, how they ring hollowly and sadly familiar. Maybe he is able to see, now, more of what happened between him and I, which now, so obviously, was not reparable.

Or maybe, if I stretch out onto my farthest branch, he dislikes seeing me being hurt so badly, again, by another angle of the same story he began for me, as if I can't escape this story line that for once, I didn't write. That he still cares enough about my heart that to see it broken hurts him, especially in light of the how, and the why -- that maybe, maybe this is all an extension of our failure, and that had he made different choices, my heart would be closer to whole instead of shattered and scattered throughout everything, again.

But, that's probably a stretch.

Somewhere, I've seen a quote about that the same situation will keep presenting itself to you until you learn from it. Perhaps I had more to learn. Perhaps we both had more to learn. In a way, suffering this loss has felt like closing the last chapter of my marriage to Kyle, as our divorce officially begins it's legal journey just next week. Perhaps living this same story from different perspectives has finally allowed us to forgive each other our past sins and move forward in the crippled ways we have no choice but to accept.

*****

I glowered as he walked out through my front door into the pitch of the technically very early morning. I fought less than usual to hide my distress at his departure, knowing where he was returning to, and where that again put me. I was already in a foul mood, despite the unprecedented frequency with which I'd seen him that day, as plans had gone awry and an argument with Kyle left me feeling trapped within my own home, isolated from any semblance of a life beyond ex-wife and baby mama. I always hated when he left, but the unease in my mind made me feel like being alone would only be detrimental to my well being.

More than anything, I wanted him to stay with me.

He turned around and leaned back through the doorway, kissing me earnestly, then holding my face in his hands.

"It won't be like this much longer. I promise."

He tilted my face up, forcing me to meet his eyes as mine began to brim with tears I'd gotten worse about being able to hide. I both hated and loved when he did that, forcing me to let him see me, to let him in to the ugly moments I usually tried to hide from nearly everyone. A second might as well have been a lifetime as the blur of his bright blue-green eyes became the only thing remotely clear in my line of vision.

"I love you." It was forceful, but kind. Reassuring. A desperate plea for me to hear it, to let it in, to believe it, and him.

I had just begun to do just that. I told myself I would tell him the next time I saw him, how deeply I had finally let myself fall for him, how I had come to trust him and his words as if they were nearly holy. 

Because soon, he wouldn't be saying goodbye, not like this. He'd said so, himself.

Another kiss, gentle on my forehead, then a turn and a few paces out onto my porch, under the fluorescent light where he looked back, hands shoved in his jeans pockets, and winked, repeating those three words that from his mouth both filled me up and broke me apart every single time.

I returned them, choked out barely above a whisper, and watched him walk down the stoop stairs into the darkness of the street, then into the blackness of his car, and drive away.