“I want a divorce”, she said.
The words hung in the air like a thick cloud of melancholy smog, emanating the kind of heavy, vague sadness she imagined hung over Los Angeles in the mid-nineties. Angie paced back and forth by the apartment steps. She had walked down from their second floor apartment to get some fresh air, to think things through, but the air wasn’t fresh and her thoughts were equally foggy. Each time she practiced saying them, the words got stuck, hung like a horse pill in her throat.
“You can do this, damnit.” Angie was pacing faster now, wringing her hands. She made herself stand still and take a deep breath. Why was this so difficult? Crew hadn’t loved her in years, she knew that. They hadn’t had sex in months and worse, neither of them wanted to. Conversation between them had dwindled down to a measly “hello” in the morning and “goodnight” before bed, with sometimes a speedy “love you” as a way to get off the phone at the grocery store. Crew had been sleeping in the kids’ bedroom for three years now. Divorce made sense for him, for both of them.
So why couldn’t she say the words?
They hadn’t been a fit from the start: He liked horror movies, she didn’t. She disliked tattoos, he was covered in them. He didn’t read books at all and she dreamed of owning a library so vast it could never be completely filled. Hell, she was a writer. Crew had never voluntarily read anything she’d written. If that wasn’t a sign they shouldn’t be together, she didn’t know what was. And now, a decade into a mediocre marriage, Angie was steeling herself to cut the cord of complacency from them both.
Now that the day had come, all she could think about were the good times. The reasons to stay. The parts of herself she had only shared with him, and the times he had been completely vulnerable with her. Reliving their wilderness hikes, nights spent watching bad b-movies, and asking each other questions about their deepest, darkest, secrets was part of what kept her hanging on to him, even now.
Crew had been her savior, a mild-mannered man she met after leaving an abusive relationship. Standing on the beach saying her vows to him, she remembered how sure she felt about him, and she remembered why. “He’s never raised his voice to me”, she bragged to herself. He had been a cool balm to her soul after being burned badly. Crew was not an angry guy, she knew she’d never have to worry about him hurting her on purpose, and for Angie that was the most appealing thing about him.
Leaning on the railing of the apartment steps now, struggling to keep her wild emotions encased in her chest long enough to practice politely shattering both their lives for good, Angie felt both grateful and angry for the last ten years. She pushed herself up, pacing back and forth on the small patch of grass near the stairs, and tried again.
“I want a divorce,” she said.
She wondered now if any of the big choices had been his. Turning the pages in her mind, Angie surveyed the pictures as best she could of their past and all their years together. It was she who pursued him when they were dating. He had tried to tell her he wasn’t good for her. He didn’t want kids or a family, he had told her one steamy Georgia night sitting in the back of his green Jeep Wrangler staring up at the stars.
Looking back on it now, Angie was ashamed of her naive persistence. “When someone tells you who they are, believe them,” she whispered to herself. It was something her Grandfather had told her on numerous occasions. She remembered the words, but seldom did she put them into practice, and now those words echoed in her thoughts like the pulsing that stays with you long after you’ve left a rock concert.
Angie was pushy sometimes. She wanted what she wanted and she couldn’t see past her own desire and will. It got her into trouble. It also made her brave. Two sides of the same coin.
She got pregnant and he proposed and the rest was, as they say, history.
Crew was a nice guy, but not particularly ambitious. He was… content. That’s the word that popped into Angie’s head frequently when she made a mental list of his good qualities.
Crew reminded her of a friend she had, she hadn’t realized it when they met, but she saw it now. Now that there were vows and babies and a mortgage, cold oatmeal in the sink and old dreams piled up by the curb.
They were happy, she thought. If anyone had asked Angie a year ago – hell, even a month ago – what her life was like with Crew, she’d have said that word we all use when things are floating around, not good or bad, just … fine. They were fine, their kids were fine, their jobs were fine, their marriage was fine.
She laughed to herself now in recognition of what that answer really meant. It was a non-answer, a verbal shoulder-shrug, a personification of the indifference that had seeped into every nook and cranny of the home they had built, pushing out every other thing – every emotion, every motivation, every reason to try – until that indifference was the one thing they still had in common.
What people say and what they do are often times incongruent. It’s a fact of life. Angie knew that and accepted it, for the most part. Humans are human. They are flawed and imperfect and many times, endlessly frustrating. She could empathize with most people, and she could forgive the inconsistency in strangers and people she wasn’t close to.
When it came to the people who used a certain four-letter-word with her, though, she expected absolute loyalty. Angie had been hurt as a child by her parents, by friends, by people who said that word. Love. Now, that hurt child was a full-grown mostly-healed woman, and she didn’t take that particular word lightly.