There is a momentary flicker of pleasure, a sensation of being unshackled, trepidation that runs beneath it but a sense of relief all the same, and I want to savor it. I don’t yet realize how fleeting the good feelings will be.
I’m gazing at my finger and fiddling where I have just removed the rings. I didn’t want my marriage to end, but the long months have worn me down, and official disclosures have revealed truths I can no longer deny.
I suppose that anyone who divorces could say the same, yet certain discoveries in the process make this outcome more palatable.
I am now a divorced woman. I am deeply saddened.
I am strangely lightened.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that he wasn’t there, and after all it wasn’t required. There was a drive through traffic to the courthouse, a woman at a window with a packet of documents, some sort of seal or stamp, then a signature. And that was that.
There was a drive back to my neighborhood, and now this. Lunch.
* * *
I am frail and a little dizzy. I haven’t been able to eat for months and when I do, it goes straight through me. But it’s noontime and the boys are in school, and I’m suddenly terribly hungry. So I’m bravely, defiantly, gingerly taking this step. Lunching alone at a chic eatery.
It’s not like I’m unaccustomed to eating alone, but eating out on a business trip is one thing. Eating out a few miles from home – surrounded by couples and groups – is quite another.
This is not a moment I care to celebrate. Nonetheless it seems like a day to commemorate all the same. Finally, the war is over. Even if you lose, it feels fitting to mark the moment.
* * *
I buy myself a treasure, a consolation prize, a tiny pair of earrings that sparkle as an affirmation of myself, my self, this self as I am looking forward to rediscovering her.
I repeat the words – my self – so I may absorb the ways they will restructure who I am, while challenging the self I always was, the self I lost, the self I will become again, the changed self, the fragile self, the survivor self, the wary self, the self that clings to belief.
Naturally I know we are many selves regardless of marital status. But there was breakage, so much breakage. It’s time for repairs to begin.
What I will know only years later is that my mother went through a similar process as she embarked on her own second act. Her consolation prize was a string of pearls. Her marriage story, different than mine, and her divorce in simplistic terms, a victory.
* * *
I am dining on a salad with chicken and I know this because it’s documented. I am wearing a suit jacket and I know this because it’s documented. I am divorced and on my own, and I know this because it’s documented.
There is an acceptable smile for the camera but it’s hard to read, and that is the very nature of smiling and no more so than when we are hiding.
It seems odd looking back, but I must have picked up my camera at the house before heading to lunch and eventually handing it to the waiter. I come across the image years later, unmarred and glossy, tucked between the pages of a book.
On the reverse along with the date I have neatly penned: New beginning.
In this younger version of myself, the skin is smooth, there is no gray in my hair, and I’m toasting with a glass of red wine. There is sadness in my eyes but also a glimmer of hope. I am in the business of female fabrication, the mother’s manufacture of bright possibilities, the requisite conviction that there will always be a next chapter, there will always be recovery, there will always be renewal.
I could not know the future of course, and the ways in which the war had only begun.
* * *