Once upon a time, Husband #1 and I spoke to each other…even while separated. We had to. Kids were involved. Loose ends needed tidied up. Our divorce wasn’t always final.
September 11th happened at a time when we were already living apart.
I remember the day. One of my coworkers had access to an executive lounge where we could watch live TV. The room was in stunned silence as we watched the first…and then the second…tower collapse. The news feed was live. The channel du jour had no way of editing out the people who crazily threw themselves out of skyscraper windows in an attempt to escape the flames and heat. We watched people die.
I called Husband #1 on his cell phone. I knew he was OK already. He was in Miami on business, probably deep in a client meeting as planes fell out of the sky. But I called him anyway, just to make sure that he knew I would take care of the kids. I would hug them and shield them and reassure them and answer their kid questions. I would be the Momma Bird who spread out her wings and kept them close and protected. At least that’s the type of message I was prepared to leave on Husband #1’s voice mail.
He picked up my call on the first ring instead.
It turns out that he was calling me. He wanted me to know that he was trying to get back home but all flights were grounded. He thought of renting a car but all cars were booked. He was stranded and would be out of pocket for a day or two at least (it turned out to be a week). He wanted me to know he was thinking about me and the kids. He wished he could be there to help take care of our little ones.
Even in the middle of our divorce Husband #1 and I still had the capacity to reach out with compassion to each other when it came to tragedy. He didn’t like me and I didn’t like him but when we had to rise above our petty differences, we could.
That was probably the last time we were open and honest with each other.
Months later we fought about justifications, financials, affairs, secrets and lies. Our small moment of reaching out to each other had passed and, like many on that day, it died.
We were no longer a couple or even friends. We had evolved into strangers with memories.