1. He Wants A Divorce
I’ve loved before. And I’ve lost...
Which is why I had promised myself that I’d never love again.
But who was I kidding? I’m Mercy freakin’ Vans! When have I ever passed up a challenge? And when it came to Seth, I knew he’d be my biggest challenge yet. He was like that juicy, flavor-oozing burger, tempting me from an interstate billboard. I wanted him with everything in my body, and yet, I couldn’t have him.
While in real life I’d have no hesitations in taking the exit leading to the restaurant that could feed my burger-craving needs, Seth wasn’t going to be quite as easy. I couldn’t enjoy him and then exercise the negative side effects away. If I indulged in the perfect combination of his sweet essence, addicting quirks, and delicious allure, then there’d be no going back. If I crossed that line, I’d ruin everything. See, this story is not about my weakness for triple-stacked Angus burgers. It’s about my weakness towards my husband.
Man, vocalizing that truth scares me because he honestly makes me feel possessed with passion. I want what I absolutely can’t have.
We met in college and it took a massive act of courage to get him to even notice me. Not until I gained the part of his co-star in a movie he was making for his film class did things start to sparkle between us. I’m not talking ‘vampire in the sun’ kind of sparkle either. I’m talking firecrackers and lightning bolts combined with electrical currents. That’s the sparkle that eventually took over our relationship. It was beautiful.
He had been the completely oblivious, unattainable guy, with too many tattoos, an indifferent attitude, and a sickeningly beautiful face. Yet, I could see something fragile pumping beneath his chest. Some might call it a heart... I call it passion.
His first love was movie production and he couldn’t see past it. He had surrounded himself in such a way that nothing outside of his movie-making world was visible... until I came along and popped that bubble. It was a bit messy at first. I’m sure I drove him crazy. And then one day, something changed. I found him looking at me with that same passion he’d once had for his dream. Somehow I’d managed to weasel my way into his heart and given him something else to live for.
But, unfortunately, this isn’t a happy story. See, I had loved once before. That love had been for my high school boyfriend, James Rodriguez. We were happy for two years, then he cheated. Don’t worry, payback wasn’t kind to him. I managed to forgive him later for his stupidity with a batch of freshly baked cookies. I would have loved to have seen his face when he bit into one. I made sure to make those babies unforgettable. Just exchange sugar for salt, and vanilla for vinegar, and voila! Oh, and don’t ask about the chocolate chips. You don’t wanna know where those came from.
I’m over it now, but that doesn’t make my present circumstances sting any less. There’s something doubly painful about losing love repeatedly. James was love-lost number one, Seth was number two. Seth had been a tough one to crack, but I’d eventually won him over. I won him so well that he eventually proposed and we got married.
But now I’m hit with another challenge... because I don’t believe in divorce unless someone’s unfaithful or the man is a total nut job that uses his hands to force obedience. Seth is neither of those things.
We married too soon and something happened. He just stopped caring. And now I have to love on my own. The worst part isn’t the fact that he doesn’t love me anymore; the worst part is seeing how much he doesn’t love me anymore. I think he feels like I stole something from him. Maybe his youth? His freedom? His career?
I’m not sure. But, somewhere along the way, he started to regret me.
I’ve regretted things before: like forgetting to brush my teeth, or accidentally wearing my fuzzy duck slippers to class, or using the vacant men’s bathroom when the women’s was full. But never have I regretted a person. I can see it in his eyes too: I was a mistake. There’s no warmth in his gaze. The only time we eat together is in front of the tv, we only talk when necessary, and we never share our bed.
When his dream of working in the movie industry fell through, he found a job as Assistant Manager of Human Resources for a large construction company. Maybe that’s where I messed up. When he’d graduated, I still had another year left. We’d been madly in love at the time, and the thought of abandoning his new wife for Hollywood was not an option for him. So, he’d stuck around and found a temporary job until we could move elsewhere as a family.
Well, temporary eventually turned into permanent, and I don’t think he’s ever let that go. We were happy for two years. Now I’m twenty-three, going on four years of marriage, and it’s devastating to know that half of our married lives has been spent out of love.
It’s almost become the norm now. I’m used to not seeing him. I wake up alone, I eat alone, I go to work alone, I go to bed alone. He either leaves before I wake up or he spends the night at his office. There are moments when I’ve pondered the repulsive possibility of him cheating, but he’s just not that guy. Besides, his boss, the one person he spends most of his time with, happens to be a fifty-seven-year-old man. So, I’m not exactly worried about that. But there is something that is bugging me, and it has nothing to do with Seth.
Something’s off with me. I don’t sleep well. From what I’ve read, they say that can be a symptom of depression, but I refuse to believe it. I’m not that girl. I’m the happy, fun, spontaneous girl. Not the girl who puts on a smile in public and then locks herself in her bedroom at night with a stick of beef jerky and a stack of Marvel comic books—Though, let’s be honest, that’s really not that horrible of a way to spend the evening.
I feel defeated. Like the life is slowly being drained from me. I still catch glimpses of Seth occasionally, but he barely utters a ‘hello’. We’re just two people residing in the same house, but living in two entirely different worlds.
I don’t plan on giving up on us. Not ever. But I’m finding it difficult to think up ways of gaining his attention. It’s hard to get someone to notice you when they’re never even around. So, on the rare occasion, I find myself taking lunch to his office, or calling him up to grab a coffee during his break. He always agrees and even seems appreciative, but our conversations are lacking. We have nothing in common anymore.
Though I hate to admit it... we’re dull.
Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes and I flick them away as I stir cinnamon into my hot chocolate. Staring out the bay window of our small home, I wonder how things got this way. How did we not realize the shift in our relationship until things became so damaged? With every day that passes, I begin to wonder more and more if we even have a chance. Will I be stuck in a dead marriage for the rest of my life?
Dread settles into my chest cavity like a block of lead. I’m stronger than this. I don’t wilt and give up. I fight. I put on my boxing gloves and I pound the sadness out of existence. I refuse to let it win. But, right now, I feel depleted of energy... because last night I found divorce papers sticking out of Seth’s briefcase.
I had been tossing and turning all night, waiting for sleep to plow into my rambling mind, but all it did was skip around my conscience and tease me. So, instead of fighting it, I’d rolled out of bed and trudged down the hallway to the kitchen. The moment I spotted Seth’s briefcase and shoes, my steps slowed. I’d tiptoed the remaining distance, using the glow from the outside streetlights shining through the windows as my guidance.
I’d peered into the living room and felt my heart constrict at the peaceful sight of him asleep on the couch. I watched him for a moment, amazed at how young he still looked. The burdens of the last couple of years had definitely changed me. And though I still looked young, I no longer felt it. I wondered for a moment if Seth felt the same way.
His tousled brown hair was flopped over his forehead, and the steady in and out of his breathing was the only sound filling the room. His arms were folded over his chest and I yearned to experience the feeling of them folded around me. He was still so strong—undoubtedly from his ridiculously long hours at the gym. One of his many ways of avoiding me.
Smiling weakly, I turned back towards the kitchen, prepared to grab a glass of water and head back to my room, and that’s when I spotted them.
It was just a sliver of paper peeking out from the side pocket of his briefcase, and though a part of me cringed at the cliche, yet possible, idea of them being divorce papers, another part of me was positive it wasn’t.
Until I pulled them out.
My jaw had literally dropped open. He was through with me. He was just going to kick me to the curb without so much as trying to work things out. Granted, we’d attempted therapy before, but it didn’t seem to do a lick of good. He was too stubborn, and I was too pushy. I lessened my restraints after that. I could see that by trying to make things happen, it was causing things to grow worse. My attempts at fixing us were driving him further away.
So I’d stopped.
Apparently, that hadn’t been the right move either.
Now, as I sit staring out the window at the butterflies fluttering around the yellow blossoms of my Hollyhock garden, I wonder what I should do. I wish it was as easy as just sitting down with him and having a simple chat, but believe me when I say, we’ve tried that. Talking doesn’t seem to do much good these days.
For a moment, I pity myself. I’m not supposed to have to go through this. Seth was the man of my dreams. I should be living the happily ever after. But it doesn’t work when he refuses to stand by my side.
I was happy before he ever came along, but now he’s my life. Signing those papers would be like literally tearing my heart from my chest. I refuse to do that to myself.
Which is why an idea strikes. I stand abruptly, my hot chocolate forgotten on the table and my eyes growing wide with hope. It’s actually a funny idea because it’s advice I remember giving my college roommate nearly five years ago:
Words are just words.
All this time, I’d tried to talk my way into a solid relationship. Sure, I’d taken him lunch and made an effort to spend time with him, but when had I ever given up on my own desires as a way of bringing him joy? I had to do something instead. I needed to prove my dedication and not try to force him back into my arms by coaxing him with pretty words.
For the first time in months, I find myself smiling. Legitimately smiling. I feel a lightness blossom beneath my chest, radiating warmth into my belly. It’s that feeling of peeing after a really cold swim. Goosebumps pop up along my arms, and I wrap them around me in comfort. Something about this new revelation just seems right.
I remember a friend coming to me for advice about a certain guy ages ago, and how she had some elaborate plan of gaining his attention. It was all fun and games then, but this is different. This is going to be hard. Really hard.
Because it’s so much more difficult to regain the love of someone who already knows everything about you. If they stop loving you after all the layers are removed, then what could possibly be done to lure them back in? I’m not new or refreshing. He won’t get to experience that exciting thrill of unveiling the depths of my personality and trying to figure me out. No. He already knows me.
Which is why I’ve got to change up my tactics.
A hum of excitement sizzles through me. This is most definitely going to be my greatest challenge yet. And I’m positive he’ll be worth every aching moment of it.