“I just think it’s best if we…” your words stopped but your hands finished the sentence, each moving in opposite directions. My mind finally caught up to what my heart already understood.
“You…you want a divorce?” I asked, a lump forming in my throat.
“I just think it’s best. Better now that she’s young. Better now than later, right?”
I stared at the vase of flowers on the table, given to me less than a week earlier for our five-year anniversary. They had shriveled up and died within two days. Mom always said flowers given from love will always bloom the longest. A small part of me almost laughed at the obviousness of what I didn’t see coming.
My tea was getting cold in front of me. You had made it in our matching mugs while I put K to bed, and I found it sitting there waiting, with you. As if tea could dull the forthcoming knife-like confession. A parsimonious offering of chamomile to quell a hurricane. I would never drink tea again, I swore.
If there are stages of a reluctant uncoupling, I unknowingly tried them all.
“You don’t want to try counseling? You don’t even want to try?” The sound of my own pleading disgusted me, but I was consumed with desperation. I could see nothing beyond the familiar fear of abandonment.
“I’ve been trying. For a year.”
K had just turned one. So, for my entire postpartum season…
I dug my nails into my palms. My heart was racing and I felt lightheaded. My mind was grasping for something, anything to make sense or escape this. The shame and embarrassment I felt compounded into otherworldly grief. I could only see myself to blame. My body, my depression, my inability to host a healthy work-life balance all became targets in rapid succession.
I reflexively searched your face to find comfort, like I had done for so long. I found none. I only saw relief. As if the weight you had been carrying was finally lifted from you. And I envied you, because a significant heaviness just made its home in my mind.
That night I came apart, shattered on the bathroom floor. And when I asked the vast and empty space around me,“Why doesn’t he want me?” I was once again 8, and 19, and 25, and now 35, wondering why they never stay. Space and all of my years bent and twisted, and each abandonment was happening in real time. Attempting to contain that torrent of grief seemed impossible. I thought I would dissolve into nothing. I wanted to dissolve into nothing.
I eventually gathered my raw and mentally half-beaten self up off of the floor, collected my mind and found my way to your side. Your cherubic face illuminated by the faint moonlight. You stirred as I lay down, reaching for me in your sleep, and my heart and spirit reached back, a layer of grit forming slowly. You needed me to be strong, and forge ahead. I kissed your soft head and felt tears forming. For you, I knew I could.
My tea sits steaming in my favorite mug, and I’m brought back from that memory by your happy shrieks. I watch you jumping on the couch.
“Mom, look how high I’m jumping!” you yell out in that sing-song way.
“Wow, I see that!” I reply, laughing.
You run over and climb in my lap. You’re getting so big and changing every day, and our bond is stronger than anything I’ve known.
You peer in my mug and ask me what I’m drinking.
“It’s just tea.” I smile and take a sip.
It’s still warm. I’m still here.
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