Beginning on the night of the crack-up and on and on from there, insomnia began to haunt my bedside like a suicide note that I might write but that no one would read. Some nights were hopeless; I could not fall asleep. I would lie at one end of the night and stare down its long hall to the dawn. The length of that empty hall seemed endless when contemplated from the end where I lay with so much confusion churning in me. Some nights were more casually cursed. I’d finally pass out, but I’d wake a few hours later, feeling the delicious comfort of loose limbs and peace. Then, thoughts of my predicament would creep in. I would try to keep them out. I understood that they would murder my sleep.
The dark mantra of all my sleeplessness was “MacBeth does murder sleep.” Once he murders Duncan, Macbeth realizes that he has murdered sleep along with his victim, the king. Peaceful slumber was lost to him forever. I know how he felt as he craved a rest that would knit “up the ravell’d sleeve” of worry and despair. I felt that Dan had murdered my sleep along with his murder of our marriage.
How do you murder a marriage? Well, the first stab can come over salmon dinner at the dining room table. Another blow can fall as the sad eyed lady listens to Dylan croon “She Belongs to Me.” And then there is the Machiavellian process of death through severing and destroying the business that binds.
Dan was scheduled to come by so we could do the paper work separating the cars, insurance, utilities, etc. He was late by two hours. I had been ready forever and was antsy. When he finally arrived, we sat at the fateful dining room table again. He signed the titles of my car and our son’s car over to me. We called the electrical company and asked them to put the house account in my name rather than my husband’s. We called the gas company and the cable, but they wanted signed paperwork in order to put those accounts into my name. That would require another day with Dan. Our marriage ended the night he told me he was leaving, or maybe earlier, whenever it was that he secretly stopped loving me. But it was becoming apparent there is no sudden death to a marriage. It can be murdered, but the death is one measured in days or months even; never is it anything as brief or as merciful as a backstab to the heart.
A July day in Georgia should be sunny with blue skies blazing overheard. During the summer of my discontent, the skies were gloomy and grey most of the time. Backyard gardeners had difficulty growing tomatoes. Gardens weren’t getting enough sun to prosper; none of us were. Looking back on this grey day in July, I see that our trip to sever the family policies for cars and phones would be the last time that I would ride with Dan in his car. So many car rides had come before: trips to California, back and forth to New York City, to our son’s little league baseball games, so many trips large and small, but this trip would be the last.
We sat in the office of the car insurance agent. A policy was prepared for me that covered my car and our son’s. Our old policy was put solely in Dan’s name with only his car left on it. As the agent made a call to the home office and prepared the documents to complete our transaction, my husband kept company with his Iphone. Dan was fortunate to have something so enthralling right ready at hand, while what I had was the view of a grey day though window blinds. But, I did feel at one with that dim and dripping world. I told myself those were tears, tears falling from the trees, like the ones falling from me.
Sure. Right, I hear you. It was rain out there, but you could never have told me that as I watched my life dissolving in the flood. Still, the insurance office was a picnic compared to the ATT store. We took a number and took a seat. Again Dan had his ever-entertaining IPhone. I squirmed for almost an hour at his side watching sales reps talk to customers, contemplating the gleaming white floor, then the in-house promo signs, and then the people going in and out of the bathroom.
When we finally had our own rep, we accomplished our mission. The family phone contract was severed. My husband was given his own account. I was given an account for our son and me. I was eligible for an upgrade and was given an Iphone of my own for $1.00. I thought, “Well, I’ve now joined the band of captives. Soon no one will ever make eye contact with me again. I’ll be too busy staring at my IPhone like Dan.”
More waiting. As I said, a marriage can be murdered but the process is a cold, slow torture. There is no mercy. There is no grace. In this terrible place, this piece of the killing floor that was dressed up to look like an ATT store, even after our number had been called, and we had a rep working our case, there was still an apparently endless amount of info that he had to type into his tablet and into my new phone, and he came and went, and took a coffee break, for all I know. Finally, it was over. Our phone service was separated or divorced even though Dan and I were neither, not yet.
By the time we got back to our house it was getting dark. Dan wanted to set my IPhone up so I would have apps, not that I would know what to do with them. Also he was going to set me up to receive email on my phone. I thought that that would be useful. As we pulled into the driveway, he mentioned how hungry he was. Long story short, I invited him in. Insane, I know. But old habits die hard, and they breath their last in a swirl of rationalization: I’ve got to cook for me and Max anyway. It won’t hurt to let Dan join us since he is trying to help me program my IPhone, etc., crazy etc.
We reenacted one of the classic scenes from our marriage. I was in the kitchen which is open to our den; a long counter with the sink serves as the divider. I could see Dan in the den, lying back in his recliner with his IPhone. Just like old times, I thought. But wait a minute. This time that’s my Iphone, and he’s setting it up for me. Before, of course, he would have had his phone and been on Instagram, but looking on from the outside, this did look like an eerie replay of the last year of our lives together.
I don’t know how I was able to cook. I know I was not in my right mind, but somehow, I don’t if all women are this way, but when most of us get in our own kitchen, no matter who has died, or who doesn’t love you anymore, we can start putting away the clean dishes from the right-hand sink, loading the dishwasher with the dirty ones from the left sink. We can remember that we picked rosemary from the garden yesterday and there’s enough in the glass by the sink to make our
Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filets of chicken breast in a zip-lock bag, add drizzles of olive oil, sliced garlic, snips of fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the bag to distribute the seasonings. While this marinates, peel potatoes and slice lengthwise into quarters or sixths. Place in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add snipped rosemary, sliced garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir. Spray a sheet pan with oil and pour the potatoes onto one half. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on the other side of the pan. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting until chicken and potatoes are done and have the desired amount of roasted caramel color.
I made one of my vinaigrette salads using tomatoes from our garden. Dan and I had both worked to plant those tomatoes in early summer. Here’s a strange truth: when you put a plant in the ground, there is no telling what situation will surround you on the night when you eat the fruit.
Max joined us, and we sat at our old places at the dining room table. Dan enjoyed his dinner and chatted away. He told Max all about the wonders of my new IPhone and all the apps he was getting for it. Max ate in his usual hurried way, but he did not respond to the conversation. He sat to my right. I looked over at him sensing that maybe there was a problem. It was as if Dan’s light-hearted, “let’s ignore everything that has happened” banter was fueling some kind of fire in Max. Dan was, of course, oblivious and kept talking. Finally, when Max was finished eating, he looked at his dad and said with a dark hostility, “Why are you even here? I thought you were done with us.”
Dan responded with something of a smile, “I always wanted to stay friends. I was always hoping I could come back and see you guys and have dinner.” Max picked up his empty plate and took it to the kitchen. He was done.
Was that simple for Max or very hard? It looked simple from the outside. For my part, I also would have loved to walk away, to walk and just keep on walking until I had completely walked out of my life into a land of no time and no place. I would have loved to be done. Just done. But this was the murder of a marriage, remember. It would take time. Dan would have to finish his dinner, finish programming my IPhone, use the bathroom, ask for some of the tomatoes to take to his apartment. He would get in his car and drive away. I would clean up the kitchen and visit Max for a minute in his room. I would change into my gown and wash my face.
It was then that I would look at my bed and the long hall of the night would open up in front of me. Morning was so far away, so far away like a distant horizon when seen from a lonely shore. How would I ever be able to reach such a far off shore?
I think this was the night when I cried, and then I dozed, and then I woke. I wondered had I perhaps slept through the night? Was I on the hopeful shore of morning at last? But I felt the tears still wet on my face. If it had been morning, they would have had time to dry away. Imagine measuring time by how long it takes tears to dry.
My sleep was murdered for one more night. I turned on the light and wrote in my journal. Here’s what I said, “An expensive day for me. $600 for my new car insurance policy and $100 to set up the new phone account. Back home I made dinner and Dan set up my IPhone. Finally, he left. I was very sad but basically held up. It is weird and terribly sad to me that Dan stopped loving me and never reached out to save us before it was too late. But there it is. Still we got some things done today that had to be done. A huge step accomplished. Hallelujah!”
I really wrote that–the Hallelujah! It seems almost demented under the circumstances, but what is it about completing a hard task even if there is much more to be completed before you will truly be done? I call it the accomplishment drug. There are times when each day—dinner or no dinner, sleep or no sleep, tears or no tears—when each day is a victory.