The Story of My Divorce

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Too Good a Deal

January 27, 2010

I'm at the Gap, where I stumble upon a clearance rack with a dozen pairs of men's pants marked 90 percent off. Five of them are in M.'s size.

I've been buying his clothes since we were engaged. The day M. showed up at my parents' house to ask them for my hand in marriage, he was wearing acid-washed jeans with a matching jacket. After that day he let me take over his wardrobe.

The pants are $4.99 each. I take them off the rack. I put them back on the rack. I take them off again. What's the etiquette of buying clothes for a man whose earnings pay your credit card bill; who is still your husband, but not really? I take the pants to the register.

Later I call a friend and tell her what I've done. I ask her if it's weird. "Yes," she sputters. "Don't give them to him."

"I couldn't not buy them for $5!" I reason. "If I hadn't bought these, then the next time he needed pants he would have bought them for $50 each, and that would have been $250 less that could have been spent on our kids."

Silence. "Okay," I sigh. "It's weird." In the end we decide that the kids will give the pants to M. for Father's Day.

February 20, 2010

M. is proving himself to be the best ex-husband a girl could ever hope for. It's not just that the checks arrive on time. It's that he e-mails me pictures and updates of the kids when they're with him. It had always been my job to make sure the boys saw their grandparents regularly, but now he takes the kids to visit his parents weekly -- and he stops by my parents' house on the way home. He even invites my parents to spend time with the kids at his apartment. I explode in frustration: "Why are you doing all of this now? Why weren't you this great when we were married?"

March 21, 2010

I've been on Facebook for six months and only recently discovered, quite by accident, that M. is on it, too. In an unhinged moment of trying to show how evolved I am, I send him a friend request. He e-mails me saying he'll accept the request -- as long as I don't mind seeing that his status is listed as "single."

I don't reply.

April 3, 2010

A friend is visiting while the kids are with M. "You look good," she says. "Everyone who's heard about your divorce has been surprised, because they say you've never looked better."

"I've never felt better," I tell her honestly. "In these last few months I'm happier than I've ever been. I've been trying to put a name on this strange, unfamiliar feeling of lightness. I think it's called 'absence of suffering.'"

I do cry sometimes, I tell her, but they're cleansing tears -- not the black tears of depression.

"Well, whatever it is, keep it up," she says. "It's nice to have the old you back."

April 5, 2010

While spinning on the tire swing at the park, my younger son throws up. He's not feeling well, and the pediatrician is available in two hours. Just enough time that it makes no sense to go back to my house, when we're already so close to M.'s apartment and to the doctor's office. I call M., and we head to his place.

We usually do the handoffs at my house, so this is only the third time that all of us have been here. I deposit my son in the tub, then throw his clothes in the washer. I fill up the load from the hamper next to it. And I reflexively empty the dryer.

M. is sitting just a few feet away. "You don't have to do my laundry," he says.

"I'm not." But I am. I'm doing my kid's laundry, and my husband's laundry, in a home where their things belong, and I don't. Silently, I start crying and turn my back to M. so he won't see. But I can't turn my head too far, because then my son may be able to see me from the bathroom. So I keep my head at that funny, twisted angle, hunched over the washing machine, and sob.

Today

The past two years haven't been easy -- for me, for my children, for their father. Time does not heal all wounds. But it has allowed for scar tissue to form, enough so that the wound no longer requires my constant attention. Though we've lost so much, M. and I have developed a beautiful and cooperative parenting relationship -- and even a friendship.

Still, the divorce was a death. It was the burial of family photographs with four people in them. It was the burial of my head leaning on M.'s shoulder as we watch our sons get married. It was the burial of a love that lived so deep in my bones that it was the actual marrow of my existence. It was the burial of M. holding my hand when I'm 79 and he's 83 as we sit on our old green upholstered couch, debating the cost of generic versus brand name, while he's wearing the pants I bought him, pulled halfway up his chest.

R. M. Yaqub's writing was featured in the most recent volume of The Best American Essays anthology series. She lives with her two sons in Maryland. If you think you've met her future husband, drop us a line.

She's ready to meet him.

 

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