After my trip to New York City I perceive a definitive change in our marriage. At first I shrug it off, because I am quite stupid, but after a few days, it is clear that the relationship has changed. We have angry sex. I can’t say that I don’t like it, but it’s obvious that she does not.
It is a clear and sunny April afternoon. I return from our long separation and write a breathtaking romantic letter. It’s pretty good really. It would have worked on me anyways. Touching in all the right places. This will fix everything, I think to myself.
I offer to run out for sandwiches, ever the dedicated father and husband. Upon my return, I notice that my letter is unfolded. She has read it! I offer the daughter her meatball sub, which she accepts graciously. My wife is unusually quiet. Like creepy quiet. Normally she would be criticizing me about towels or the way I drive too fast right now.
“Would you like to go out on the porch and talk?” I ask. She nods.
While she eats her eyes tear. This can’t be right, I think. I am a genius. I can fix everything. Women too.
“What’s the matter?” I ask, ignorant in seven ways. The air is rich with the smell of freshly cut grass. One might say its impossibly beautiful.
She looks me in the eye.
“I am not in love with you anymore,” she admits. “I want out. I want the divorce.”
There is a sudden stillness. My body weighs a thousand pounds.
“What.” I say…. But I realize that it is not a question.
I can actually hear the sound of my own heart breaking. It sounds like two cinder clocks cracking, miles underwater. Only fish will hear this sound.
“What.” I say again. Overhead birds soar past; I can see the earth turning on its axis.
“Please don’t make me say these words again,” she begs, “I don’t want to hurt you anymore.” As if such a thing was possible.
I stand up suddenly and the world lurches beneath my feet.
“So, then…. This is it.” I am out of options, something I have never experienced before. I walk to my bedroom. My daughter sits on the edge of the bed, her eyes haunted, she knows. Only days ago I promised I could make this work out. Now I am only another man to break a promise. I know one day she will adjust to this feeling…. But I wish I had not introduced it to her. She looks up at me, unbelieving.
“I’m sorry honey….” I begin, “I couldn’t fix it.” She erupts into a cacophony of tears. I hold her so tight that I can actually feel the air escape her lungs. Natalie stands in the doorway, watching the crying child. Natalie does nothing. Years of male inattentiveness has transformed her heart into a black void encased in ice.
“You’re sure?” I ask, mostly out of desperation. “Not even one counseling?”
“That’s it! She screams. “Manipulate me with a crying child!” As if I had made a child cry myself. The monumental selfishness of women is apparent to me in a flash. I reach for my suitcase. We are done here.
I reach for the doorknob. It’s slick in my hands. I have all the wrong clothes, the wrong toiletries but I cannot stop. My head is pounding.
II toss my gear into the convertible. I turn the key and the Toyota roars to life. I tur n on Lit, on of the most underrated bands of all time. It’s like, super loud. I sit for maybe five seconds, thinking about where I might go.
“Far”, I decide. I peel out in an acrid fume of burning rubber. I think of the home we built, the life we shared, the trips we took, the daughter we raised, the vows we took. Suddenly its all meaningless to me.
For a second I almost look back, but then I change my mind.
I stand in the airport. My plane is arriving, her silver skin shimmers in the may afternoon sun. I take my seat, wordlessly, moving slow and steady, a zombie among the living. I look out the window. Everything retreats; a matchbook town recedes into thedistance and out of this story. A beautiful stewardess approaches me.
She asks me if I would like anything, and I answer, for the first time in years with honesty, that No. I do not want anything.