Well, It Seemed Like a Pretty Good Idea at the Time

“Why did you ask me to marry you?”

It’s been two months since we separated, since I moved your things out of the house/our house/my house? Whatever. I carefully folded your shirts into the drawers of your Brooklyn apartment where I no longer reside. I’m that kind of wife/partner/queer….whatever I am now, I do give a shit.

I can hear the anger, resentment, grief in your voice on the phone as you ask me “why.” You’re pissed, sad, scared — which all makes sense. I would be, too, if I were you! Must be one of the five stages of grief everyone’s been telling me about. Which stage am I on now?

To be honest with you, I can’t be honest with you. I can’t tell you the truth, you won’t understand. You won’t hear me. The isolation, frustration, disappointment, waiting for life to happen. I had to wait for you to come home so I could be peppy and fun, so I could live — like a 1950’s housewife standing at the door, waiting for you. Like every woman before me in my family (sorry, Mom, but it’s true). Fucking genetics, fucking societal norms, fucking gender bullshit, fucking taking care of everyone but myself.

It’s refreshing to hear so much emotion in your voice, even the anger.

Okay, what did you just ask me?

Why….did I….ask you…..to…marry me?

Jumbled letters that make words! Words that mean things! I have an answer somewhere, I must! I smoosh the words around in my head like Jello trying to make sense of them. Memories fill my head — smiles and laughter and late-night drinks at our favorite bar, perfume and heels, train rides and nakedness, coffee and quiet moments, softness, a life together — but I also remember ugly things more recent, nights alone, doors slammed, words said we can’t take back. I have answers that will make you livid. I know all your buttons. Misunderstandings turned into tiffs, turned into verbal machine guns. Now, I’m seething all over again.

FUCK FUCKING FUCK! The words are there and I’m ready to hurl them at you. I’m ready to release the pressure in a raging shit-storm. It will feel good for about five seconds. I know because this method hasn’t made anything better the last 20 times I’ve tried it, but oh, have I tried it! We both have.

The seconds pass in tense silence. I’m thinking, returning to the now. You’re still sitting on the phone breathing, actually expecting an answer. My mind wanders.

Spring of 2019; sunny day, sweaty palms. I did my makeup and hair, which I never do. I was a wreck of nervous knots. You had a work meeting you were distracted with and were late to meet me, which generally you never are. I met you outside Via Carota with a ring in my pocket. I’d procured it in secret from your mother a week before, the longest I could stand. You love surprises. You love the city. You love great food. It had to be special. Everyone would meet us after to celebrate at Cubbyhole where we’d met three years prior, it was all perfectly planned, perfectly timed, perfect! We’d walk down the same street where I first held your hand. So fucking romantic. I got to the restaurant 20 minutes early and arranged for a special outdoor spot in the sun.

It will make you so happy. It will make everyone so happy.

I get down on one knee. You’re shocked and dazed and ask if you can call your parents, just as they turn the corner and hug you, all smiles and laughter.

That was pre-Covid, pre-remote work. pre-‘postponed’ wedding. Back then, I had names in my phone to text and meet for a drink the same day. I had train rides to work listening to podcasts, watching strangers. There were smiles and hello’s on the street wearing my new dress I just got the week before. Coworkers told stories about their weekends. We would try a different restaurant every Friday night out. I was known to go out for happy hours every Thursday in the city with a different friend or acquaintance and you’d meet me out later on in the night to collect me and get me home, hurrying to get to me after some late-night work event of yours before I was swooped up by some hot young thing. I was someone people loved to be around and you loved it.

Oh right…you’re still waiting. What was the question again?

Now, my coworker is the dog. My office doubles as my bedroom. After work, the big decision is which chair to sit in and which screen to stare at with beer in hand. I make a sandwich after all my zoom meetings in my sweatpants and slippers, and you and I catch up on a quick call as I lather mayo on bread and pound potato chips. You are out somewhere exotic and fun, yet again checking in from your hotel before heading out to some five star restaurant.

I’m so unhappy. I’m so tired. You aren’t here.

It’s okay, really. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve told you that over and over again, haven’t I? It’s my problem not yours, it’s just how things are.

And. It’s. All. My. Fault.

Is that what you need to hear from me now? Is that what you, what I, what we need to have me say to make it all okay? I can make it all okay again. That’s what I do.

I tap my fingers on the table. I take a sip of beer. The dog barks to be let out and I’m brought back to the now. I look around the chilled empty room of our ‘upstate dream house.’ It’s the house we bought together as an escape from the fear of the world. Now, it’s my cage.

“Well, it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.”

I smile inwardly at my snarky response. It’s a Midwestern passive aggressive response. It’s also honest.

I know it will piss you off. I want to piss you off.

I’m tired. I have work to do, a dog to walk, a meal to make for myself later that will likely come from a box or the freezer because you’re the cook of the family, not me.

You breathe on the other end of the phone. I think you’re crying. I sit and listen.

I’m in the ick and I know it. It’s better than pretending like I’ve been pretending over the last year. I’ve forgotten to reach out to friends, deleted calls from my work calendar, watched myself disappear.

I remember similar feelings when I left my husband ten years ago. Oh, you didn’t see that coming? Repeat offender here. I love love a lot, it seems. I’m the most committed, non-committal, open relationship queer on the planet. I soak myself into problem solving and fixing things at the drop of a hat. Every dream my chosen beloved decides to have becomes my new life goal and I make it happen. Move to New York City with no money? NO PROBLEM! I’ll barista. Move upstate into a shit shack? I’ll learn CARPENTRY! What’s a little grouting?

The last time around, I promised myself I was leaving the lie and running to the real me. I was running toward the gay me, the inner closeted lesbian hiding and waiting to get out. What’s my excuse, now? What part of me am I hiding from? What’s my next Pretty Good Idea going to be?

I think the words “I love you” in my head, but I don’t say them. I hang up.

Why did I ask you to marry me?

Sorry about that, I didn’t really have the inkling that the world was going to be hurled into a catastrophic emergency state for years where my daily reality would be upended, where my life would change, become forever different from yours. I didn’t know our realities would be split apart, that we’d be forced to pivot and pivot again to make our lives work in the now, rather than the then. I didn’t know that we would start using the word “no” so much to one another, that we would struggle with money and time and commitment. I didn’t know it would be so hard to find some semblance of happiness as individuals with all the new variables and complications we’d throw at one another while caring for an old dog and an old house, devoting time to aging parents and uncertain jobs — that we’d barely have time for one another. I didn’t know that I would feel isolated, alone and left behind, voiceless and angry.

We both needed kindness and attention. We needed community and connection from others to learn how to heal. It turns out what’s best for us now is completely different from what was best for us then. We changed and continue to change because we have to and that’s just how it is.

What a great opportunity to ask new questions for ourselves that work for us now. What a great moment in time to move forward and think big and stop licking our wounds and start focusing on what we can contribute — how we can be better. It’s time to get out of the boxes made by ourselves, by myself, and learn to be more than my label of “wife.” I am so much more.

Divorce Week is a celebration of taking a life-changing step, of coming out the other side of devastating trauma and being all the better for it. It’s co-edited and curated by Nico Hall and Carmen Phillips. Remember, you may be divorced, but you’re not alone.

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Sarah DeVore

Sarah DeVore is based in Upstate New York but born and raised in the Midwest. She's a queer thru and thru who loves gardening, her dog Penny and working on her house.

Sarah has written 1 article for us.


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