So, funny story– years ago my husband, immortalized in my early Posse posts when we were still married, gave me a lovely, expensive strand of pearls. The strand broke recently and I took it to my favorite local jeweler, the guy who does my ring repairs. I got to chatting with him across the glass counter about various options and ideas for re-stringing and he seemed … politely confused by all my dithering given that the pearls were, you know, fake.
“What?!” I squealed. Then, after a pause: “That. Cheap. Bastard!” Followed by gales of laughter, much to the relief of the jewelry guy, who laughed along nervously.
The joke’s on the ex—he may have saved a bundle on those pearls, but he’s paying a heavy price for his life choices now, and I’m not talking about money. Anyway, turns out those pearls were worth something—as grist for this story, told to a number of friends in the past week (and now you)! I think I’m going to put those loose pearls in an envelope and mail them to him with a note that says you jackass. It’s not like I needed them – I do all my pearl-clutching with the very nice, very real strand I got when his mother died.
Those memories of my former life are now a well-healed wound that reminds me it’s there with an occasional twinge as I go about my day – or maybe it’s a phantom limb, or a vestigial reflex. I was with him for a quarter-century; we had four lovely children; I adored him. He was the giant in my fairy tale. He was my dark sun, the dying star around whom we all revolved. Yes, he was difficult in later years, but honestly? He didn’t seem any more demanding than the men my friends were married to.
He was charming, exciting, enthralling, intoxicating. At the end there was no slow lowering of dosage. One day I had to quit and, like the addict I was, suffer through the brutal short-term consequences. I wrote him a letter recently, a letter I’ll never send, that said I loved you once; I remember why. He writes me letters full of complaints and self-pity that I keep in a file labeled Goat-Head (downgraded from Voldemort) which was his brother’s nickname for him. Now, there’s a sign. Maybe I should have paid more attention. Or not. I used to say, laughing, well, at least I’ll never be bored!
I remember. We went to New York for our twentieth anniversary; left the kids with family, stayed in a nice hotel, had some honeymoon sex. I remember dinner that evening; not the meal itself – not where, or what we ate – but that he, with a smile and a flourish, handed me an envelope with my name scrawled on the front. I remember opening the envelope slowly—the heavy, bespoke stationery he always used– wondering what it held (plane tickets to Florence, maybe? A note telling me to look for a small blue box in his right coat pocket?) and inside was … a check.
I believe he thought I was rendered speechless by his generosity. What I was thinking was, so, here’s mine, apparently, and all the rest is yours? You wrote me a check? I felt like an employee, or a whore. The next day, over lunch near a gallery in Soho, I ventured that he was being unfaithful on his many solo overseas trips, and he stunned me by casually acknowledging it. Then we went to the gallery. I remember we got ice cream on the walk back to the hotel. The rest, who knows?
I remember during my miserable divorce I went to a tattoo parlor. My husband thought tattoos were an abomination, so. On my back is a snippet from my favorite Loren Eiseley poem:
Now you will own
nothing that is not yours, yourself
down to the naked bone.
Every summer I add something to that tattoo – a dogwood blossom here, a honeybee there. It’s a work in progress. I forget I have it, mostly.
So it’s almost Valentine’s day and here I am, alone…. with my four kids, two dogs, and hectic, messy, mostly joy-filled life. Well-meaning friends try to set me up and I tell the truth – good relationships include compromise, and I have not an ounce of compromise left in me, I used up my lifetime allotment in my marriage. I compromise for my children (children are compromise) and that’s it, I’m tapped out. It’s been, what, six years? and I’ve not been on a single date. Don’t be sad. I’m not pining.
Anita and I are planning another trip. She says I’m the perfect travel companion and I say, yeah, sure, because I’ll actually go somewhere! I’m tired of traveling by myself all the time. We’ve been to Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina… she just sent me some Mitsouko, which I adore, as you and she well know. I’m wearing it now. I think we’re driving north this summer? That’s the plan at the moment: New England in June, but now it’s cold, wet February, and I gaze out the window and listen to the rain and dream.