When there’s a chill in the air, the way it felt in the end, in our perfect, corner-lot home, I wear your flannel shirt. You joked that I shrunk your laundry on purpose because I wanted to make what was yours my own. I was never good at housewife things.
When you asked me to marry you I thought, this is the beginning.
I wanted to dance to Van Morrison just because it was a Tuesday, because the snow floating onto the deck chairs looked so beautiful and the fire felt so nice. I’d hold my glass of wine in one hand, turn up the volume with the other and sway in front of the speakers. The dog’s eyebrows shifted back and forth as he watched from the couch; me watching you stand across the room, letting me dance alone, the artwork rattling against the walls. It annoyed you that I craved to simply be in the moment, untethered to expectations, peacefully content and enough for ourselves–enough for each other–safe from the pressure and the pain and the cruelty outside the cracked glass panel of our front door.
I wanted to sell all of our things and go somewhere new. I wanted to experience the world with you by my side. Let’s get in the car and see where we end up; throw our phones in the glove box and sleep under the stars.
When you told me to divorce you I thought, this is the end.
The American Psychological Association says 50% of Western marriages end in divorce. It was September when our love story, like half of our lovelorn peers, turned into a antiseptic, bold-faced statistic on a crystal white page. We stood awkwardly–heartbroken and tear-stained–unsure if it was acceptable to still hold onto each other while the walls we built crumbled around us. I never truly felt the presence of your heart until the day I decided to eradicate mine.
I don’t know why I am writing to you now. Maybe because the leaves are changing again. Because I feel the tip of my nose go numb when I stand on my front porch and stare at the moon. You never wanted to stop and stare at anything. I know you fell in love again, but did you finally find a way to fall in love with the sky?
Maybe if I put my heart on the page one more time, your flannel shirt wrapped around my waist, tears of rage creeping behind burning eyes, I won’t feel you creep into my mind; the way you’d sneak behind me at the cutting board making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I tell you how you broke me; how when I squint tight I can still faintly see your cold stare past my shoulders, while I begged you to look me in the eye. As if a year later, a wine-sodden Dear John letter could wash it all away.
I regret to inform you that we are through.
I look fondly back on our nine years together, and with sorrow on our one year apart. I am writing to say, formally, we no longer have any business occupying the spaces of one another’s hearts.
Please remove my image from your memory promptly, and allow me to do the same.
I wish you the best.
Remember how we sat around the table with my dad and sister, telling them we’d decided to go our separate ways. We smiled over stiff cocktails, cracking jokes like nothing would ever change. We said we’d remain friends; we’d divvy our things amicably, share the same lawyer, exist with separate lives peacefully, lovingly committed to our respect for the other and what we once had. Funny what difference a year can make.
I started smoking again. Last time I quit because of you, Ex-Husband; flicking my last butt onto the asphalt, watching it dance in the road like our small-town firework shows; your coat over my back with your body just behind.
Remember when we leaned against the falling-over deck rail and swapped stories, chuckling over our shared fondness for Marlboro Smooths. Encompassed by smoke and beer breath we tumbled ass over teakettle into each other’s broken hearts. We had a special way of helping each other toward the things that felt like magic while they filled our insides with tar.
I bleach my hair blonde now; like when I was tow-headed and bright eyed; before I knew the power of love outside the strong arms of my dad. We’d set our snacks aside to dance on the living room rug with the Disney princesses singing behind us. I’d twirl until my skirt floated around my waist and I felt my belly tickle my throat. You always said you didn’t like blondes.
I write all the time now; as if my heart rupturing obliterated the overgrown weeds I’d so long let flourish, leaving behind a marked trail to my true, clear voice. I’ve spent a year peeling back my mask, finally feeling the full beauty and sting of the sun and the wind and the rain. What a year it’s been, huh.
Maybe I’m writing to you to say thank you.
Thank you for not being like the one before you.
Thank you for keeping me safe.
For loving me the best way you knew how.
Thank you for holding me upright on my twenty-first birthday.
For taking the trash out when it heaped over the can.
For building the fire as I sat cocooned on the couch, the dog nestled between my thighs.
Thank you for not letting my wine glass get empty.
For heaping seconds on my plate and telling me I was beautiful as I felt my pants squeeze tight.
Thank you for giving up on me.
For deeming me too much, too little, too everything.
For finding the love I couldn’t give in your simple, perfect-on-paper, so beautiful belle.
Love will never be enough, you told me; your brow furrowed and your heart tucked deep in your saferoom, protected from the world’s hazards, too obstructed to love.
But you were wrong.
I laugh from my belly now, Ex-Husband. And I cry from my soul.
I dance to Van Morrison in my underwear and stand, mouth agape, awestruck, in love with the night sky. Sometimes my wine glass gets empty, and I feel my heart twinge when I swaddle myself in your flannel; because some things are just too good to say goodbye.
But I kiss like I mean it and write until my eyes cross. I tuck my phone in the glovebox and book last-minute flights just because. When you decided it was the end, it was actually the beginning–the place where I rose from our ashes, Ex Husband; where love, for myself, was enough.
Thanks for the lessons. Thanks for the love.
Fondly & No Longer,