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I made a beeline for the grimy two-stall bathroom, checked to make sure I was alone, and then stared at myself in the mirror. The florescent overhead light should have washed me out, but there was color in my cheeks, fire in my eyes. I looked my reflection straight in the eye. "Anna. Don't do this. There will be consequences." (Bathroom-mirror pep talks are common for me when I've been drinking.) My reflection didn't flinch. Intellectually, I understood that the decision I was about to make was a bad one, but I was tired of fighting the past, tired of inoculating myself against life. I locked myself in a stall and waved the white flag. Not that averse. Give me a few hours.
I only told one other person about my decision, a friend who had made plenty of her own mistakes and would not judge mine. She was on her way home, but told me to wake her up if I needed to crash on her couch. I assured her I wouldn't, and texted him. You still up?
Come pick me up?
I weaved my way to a street corner a discrete distance from the bar, and soon saw his green Honda Civic (formerly our green Honda Civic) slowing as it came toward me. I took a deep breath and climbed in. We kissed awkwardly. "Is this a terrible idea?" I asked.
"Maybe," he said.
We didn't talk much on the short drive back to his apartment (formerly our apartment; I had to stop thinking like this). Instead, I thought about how clean his car was. It made me sad. So this was what life was like without me — tidier. As we walked to the front door like we had countless nights before, I had the disorienting sense that the past ten months had been a dream. I pushed it away. In the living room, his penchant for sheepskins, Persian rugs, and Orthodox iconography had gotten out of control. The last time I'd been there, when I was moving out, I'd been struck by how easy it had been to divide our possessions.
I reached for him, and we fell into the bedroom.
That weekend suddenly seemed like a lifetime ago. How had we never noticed that everything I owned was modern and everything he liked was antique? Had I really lived for five years with someone who decorated his apartment with animal skins?
But the thoughts didn't gain much ground. I reached for him, and we fell into the bedroom. He'd rearranged the furniture, but it was all still there: the bright Mexican prints we'd found in Oaxaca, the wrought-iron bed we'd picked out together at IKEA, the turquoise Ralph Lauren duvet cover I'd bought with his mother in a New Jersey outlet mall. I tried not to notice. I tried to concentrate on kissing him, but even that was weird: familiar, dull, mechanical. When he produced a nearly full box of condoms from his bedside table, I tried not to wonder who he'd bought them for, or how many he'd been through since our split. I tried not to be bothered by the atrocious length of his hair. I tried not to think about the phrase "marital bed." I was so busy trying to concentrate on the task at hand that it took me a minute to realize that he had lost all enthusiasm for it.
"What's wrong?" I asked, still pretending, even though by then we both knew it was no good.
"I... I don't think I want to do this," he said. "I'm so sorry. It's just too weird."
That was all it took. My emotional floodgates groaned under the weight of it all: the sudden intimacy and rejection, the alcohol, the turquoise duvet cover, everything else I was trying not to think about, everything I'd been holding inside since September. I burst into wild, body-wracking sobs. "I don't want to do this either," I wailed.
"That's okay," he said and pulled me close. I told him it wasn't and pushed him away.
"We used to love each other so much, and now we can't even have breakup sex," I sobbed, and starting pulling my clothes on, violently. I said that if I let him comfort me, I'd be doomed. He seemed to understand. I couldn't stop crying. He offered to drive me anywhere I wanted to go, and I sheepishly called my friend and told her I needed her couch after all. We finished dressing quickly, in a silence that wasn't awkward or tense, just terribly small and real. Truth be told, we were both a little embarrassed. After all we'd been through together, we should have known better.
I didn't know where I was when I opened my eyes on a strange couch the next morning, but after a few seconds the whole sorry scene came crashing back, along with a throbbing headache and aching limbs and eyes puffy from crying myself to sleep. I lay very still and waited for the usual wave of recrimination and self-doubt that usually follows in the wake of my drunken bad behavior, but there was none. In its place was a profound sense of well-being. Our marriage was resoundingly over, and now that I'd finally mourned its loss, I could let it go.
Hear that, girlfriend? You need to open that door and face whatever's behind it, if you know what's good for you. Then slam it shut and find someone new. n°
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Anna Roth is a food, pop culture and travel writer, whose work has appeared in the Seattle Weekly, Sunset, Seattle Times and Edible Communities. She currently lives in Los Angeles and works as an editor at a new media company.|