Thursday, January 10, 2013

Two Drifters, Off To See The World.

I'm in the process of building a pseudo-apartment in my parent's basement: a bedroom, living room area and "kitchenette" with microwave and mini-fridge. My own space, to be free of rent and parental regulation, to be as sovereign an entity as I can wish to be, under the circumstances.
In other words, a spot to play house while remaining wholly dependent on the upstairs bathroom.
As yet, only the bedroom area is done. After it's completion, we took a break: myself and Dan, who is my partner in the project inasmuch as he hopes to move in sometime in the next year and live here with me while we save all the money we can to eventually buy full-time rights to the bathroom. Now, the break is over, and it's time to clear the space where the living room will be. This is no small undertaking.

Before I can work on dismantling The Great Wall of Chattel, however, I have to clear the opposite corner, to where all of this clutter is moving until such time as my mother patiently sorts through it and decides what can go to charity, what to yard sales, what to the dump. Or until Armageddon. Whichever happens first.
Currently, the opposite corner is filled with my laundry, and mementos leftover from my brief stay there when I first moved back from San Diego. As such, there are a lot of reminders of Zack in that area: things he left behind when he came home for his birthday and stayed with me, because no one in his family knew we were breaking up. Wedding photos that I found upstairs and brought down to spend hours looking at, and crying. As I go through bins that hold a random assortment of things that, at the time, needed to be quickly picked up and stored out-of-the-way, a cleaning technique that is thoroughly Zack's, I find a sample of cologne that he and I got from Banana Republic during a time period where we were endeavoring to have him put more effort into his appearance and, well, smell, I guess. In a moment of sentimentality, I am compelled to take off the cap and to smear a few drops into the pulse points of my wrist. I wait to for it to dry and inhale it deeply, to see if the smell reminds me of him. Predictably, it doesn't.
This is depressing, because earlier in the evening, I discovered that I had accidentally put a shirt into the laundry pile that was never intended to be cleaned. Now pristine and hanging up, Zack's Beal's Lobster Pier shirt had recently arrived back in Maine after a three month stay in California, where he had it to wear for me so that it would smell like him when he returned it. This shirt keeps criss-crossing the continent so that it can either be with me, to remind me of him, or with him, to regain some of the scent that gives it it's powers of recollection. Back when I was sleeping on the other side of the cellar, I wore it a lot of nights.
Nowadays, it doesn't really feel appropriate to do that. In fact, the most depressing parts of my mother having washed it this time are equally that I won't see him again for an unclear amount of time to trade off the shirt, nor that it would be reasonable to keep doing so. In the last few nights, I've missed my husband, to the extent that, had I thought about it, I might have been compelled to wear the shirt. But in so many ways, he ceases to be my husband, now. In so many ways, someone else is filling that role. So when do I give up entirely on the shirt smelling like him?
There's a quandary here about divorce, about what it's supposed to be, and what it's not supposed to be, and why. I went a long time fearing that people would judge our relationship and our marriage, but one of the biggest challenges of this year has been people judging our divorce.
I had two friends who were married to each other. After spying on his internet habits and discovering multiple instances of infidelity, she simply left the divorce papers out on the table for him to find one morning after she'd left for work. She informed the world by changing her facebook status before he even found out about it, and he was surprised when I offered him my condolences. I had another pair of friends in which the wife grew to despise the husband so much that she secretly planned to leave well in advance of doing so, and was merely waiting for the tax return to come in so that she could take it, and, I think, buy a car. When the check came in, she left him while he was at work. He came home from work and had no idea what had happened. She would neither answer his calls nor speak to him in any capacity for months after that. I currently have two friends-- who have never met each other-- who both feel that their marriages are over, but neither of their spouses have been informed that they are just waiting to leave until the moment is right.
I'm still in contact with Zack nearly every day of my life. We text, we talk on the phone, we skype, we play video games together. At current, we're still sharing a bank account until I'm financially on my feet. We won't start the divorce papers until I have health insurance. Two days ago, I wrote his resume for him. Yesterday, I spent two hours editing one of his stories, a project that will probably take me months, just on this one.
I still love him. He still loves me. We acknowledge that there were times in the marriage, and things we do now, that hurt each other. But we don't talk shit about each other. We've been family for years; we remain family, still.
Somehow, we are the weird ones.

Back in April, when we had decided on a trial separation for the myriad reasons that led us there, we were taking a walk in Ocean Beach, one of my favorite areas of San Diego. We were walking through the little shops there, looking at knick knacks, and discussing the upcoming separation. I told him, "If we do get a divorce, I'd like to get matching tattoos."
"Why?" He asked.
"Because, I want to tell the world, I don't regret it. Everyone is going to think we were just young, we made a mistake. It wasn't a mistake and I wouldn't take it back for anything. I love you, and I'm glad I married you, no matter what."
"I'm glad I married you, too." He told me. So it was decided. 
It wasn't decided instantly what the tattoos would be, though. We toyed with matching symbols, each other's names, some kind of illustration. "Maybe something from our song," I thought. Our song, the one we danced to on our wedding day and sang to each other countless times since then, is Moon River.
"That's a good idea," He told me. "But what?"
I thought about it for a moment, and then started to cry. "What is it?" He asked me.
"I figured it out." I told him. "One of us gets 'Two drifters...', and the other gets ' to see the world."
Then he started to cry, too. So it was decided.

I haven't quite gotten around to designing the tattoos yet, but, as I've said, it'll be a while before we officially divorce, so I have time.
The thing is, I don't know how to do any of this. How to be divorced. I didn't know how to leave behind the one person I loved more than anyone in the whole world, the one person I spent my whole adult life trying to give to, trying to build a life with, and sometimes I still don't know how I did it. I don't know when it's not okay anymore to ask him to wear the shirt again for me, so it'll smell like him. I don't know if distance is best for both of us, for a while, or if we need to be there for each other now. I don't know.
But I know I want to wear it on my skin, like a badge of honor, like a scar from a beautiful battle that maybe I lost in the end. I don't want to be ashamed of the fact that I loved him so deeply and for so long, and I'm not.
When I was still living in San Diego, I told a friend of mine what Zack and I had decided about the tattoos. He was not a fan of the art in general, and tried to advise me against it. "You shouldn't do that, you know. That tattoo will last forever."
"That's okay." I told him. "The marriage was supposed to."

On with it.