Category Archives: Tears

The Online Other Woman: Chapter 12, The Dreadful

Through the twisted danger of memory fades a day from long, long ago. It was a lovely day, sunny, with only a slight chill in the air, unusual for February in New York City. Dan and I rode with four friends on the Avenue B bus downtown to the municipal building where a grey haired judge with kind eyes asked some questions and said some words. I wore a purple velvet suit that I had sewn myself and carried a few lavender roses. Dan looked dashing in a black vintage suit. After the ceremony, we walked with our friends across a park to the old City Hall where Lincoln had lain in state in the sad spring of 1865. One of our friends took a photograph of Dan and me in our wedding attire that day. We were standing in one of the grand rooms under an ancient oil painting; we were looking out at an uncertain future. Hope, history, loss, beauty, betrayal, and terrible mistakes turn the tides of memory and all that was or never was is gone forever.

Some memories, though, are seared into the flesh and may never take their leave. Such was the moment that night at the Dylan concert when I noticed that Dan was not wearing his wedding ring. I did not speak. I only reached out and touched the bare skin of his finger. All he said to me was “I don’t want to be married.”

So soon! So coldly soon. Dan had told me nothing of his feelings until two days prior, but now, already now, so soon after his first announcement at the dinner table, here was the realization as to where all this must inevitably lead. I managed to ask, “But we’d have to get divorced?” A dizzy swirl of fear fell on me as I looked to him for confirmation but hoped for denial.

He said, “Yes, we’d have to get divorced,” and he began to tell me about cheapie, easy, do-it-yourself divorces that his buddies at work knew all about.

I sat beside Dan in the stadium seats of the concert pavilion, the arm rest between us, and over this I stared. I stared at what he was saying and that he could say it.

Divorce. The word ran through my veins, through my nerves. Divorce. I had always had a horror of divorce. It was one of the reasons I waited so late in my life to marry. Divorces were so dreadful.

When I was very young, my first job was working at a bank in downtown Memphis. I worked with thirty or forty other women. We took breaks together, and over the course of the three years I was there, I heard enough divorce sagas to put the fear of marriage into anyone: he cheated on me, he stole my kids from the babysitter and went off to Arkansas with them, he put his hands on somebody at his job and he’s in jail now. So many horror stories! I came to view marriage as a high-risk experiment with the odds heavily in favor of disaster to be followed by the doom of divorce and the deadly warfare that seemed to rage all around it.

It took my own marriage years to get there, but finally I was there, right where I had always dreaded to be. I did not want to call its name, so I just called it The Dreadful.

During the back and forth emails when we were working with the settlement papers, Dan had said he wanted to be present at our court date, but when the dread day did arrive, he said he would be working. A girlfriend said she would go with me because she remembered her own divorce and how it had helped her to have a friend waiting when she walked out of the court room. But when the date arrived, she said she couldn’t go because she had to babysit her grandchild. I considered asking Max to go with me, but quickly put that aside. A child does not attend the divorce of his parents.

I would have to go alone. Like Woody singing the old gospel song, there was a lonesome valley up ahead for me, and I’d have to walk it by myself.

The Dreadful was scheduled for a day in early October, a month that is usually gloriously warm and beautiful in the South. It was the best month of the season that had been my father’s favorite and mine. He used to say he loved the fall of the year because the weather was mild with very little wind unlike spring when, though the weather is nice, it is often windy.

Now my favorite month of the year would be forever tainted. And, strangely, this October, coming as it did during the season of the Crack-up, did not follow the usual autumn weather pattern. The whole week and especially the day of The Dreadful were grey and rainy and dark. There was a hopeless bitter wind blowing and the sun was gone forever.

The time I had been given was 9 AM. I had worried that I might oversleep because I was taking several prescriptions at the time, but I did not sleep at all, so waking up was not a problem. Driving was. Driving with a blur before my eyes, my chest compressing my heart that was breaking, and beating, and breaking like a lost cause.

I was so alone walking the sidewalk, the cold stone that led the lonely to the columns and the walls and halls of the county court house. I had no idea what to do. Courtroom B, I think I had been told. I went in, hesitated, and then sat to the side in the back on a very cold bench. Nervously, I wondered, where is the lawyer? Does she find me, or am I supposed to find her? Up front the judge was questioning a man and then granting him a divorce. Next there was a woman. She had two friends with her.

Finally, my lawyer came and spoke to me. A few minutes later, I was the one standing up front being questioned by the judge and being granted a divorce. It was not until I was downstairs in the clerk’s office that I broke down. The room went dark; I gripped the counter to keep from falling. My lawyer tried to comfort me, but I just wanted her to hurry up the filing process so I could go, so I could get out on that lonesome road and run and keep on running.

Finally, it was over and I was home. I felt so destroyed, so driven down to nothing that the only thing to do was go to bed. When I woke up, I remembered that Maria and Mark and several other close friends had planned a little dinner for me at a restaurant in Decatur. I began to get ready. The rain and dreary weather continued making for a dark afternoon.

Max came home from school and stepped back into my bedroom to check on me. I turned when he walked in; I was still weak and weepy. He looked at me without talking for a minute, and then said, “How are you?” I said, “I’m sad, so sad, but I’m going to be OK.” He reached out his arms, so very kind, I walked toward him, and we embraced. It was then that I noticed my son is now grown so tall that he can put his chin on the top of my head when we hug.

I told him that I loved him. He said, “I love you, Mom. I’m sorry this had to happen to you.” It was very sweet of Max, very generous, and very brave, because, of course, the loss, the sudden loss of love and of our old life had happened to him, too.

The dinner out on the rainy night with friends was darkly, somberly pleasant. Everyone wore their sweetest smile, their deepest hope that I would last through my sorrow. It was reassuring. It did help to spend the evening with people I had known and loved for so long. Although the lonesome road lay up ahead and was not to be avoided, although I was sinking lower as the unfamiliar aloneness of divorce crept nearer and nearer all around me, at least for this first post-Dreadful night, I would raise a glass to dear friends, and I would blink so no one could see the tears.

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The Online Other Woman: Chapter 11, The Heart of Decay

Max met me after I got off work at school that day. Together we rode to the house closing at Dan’s bank. I was grateful for Max’s support. The house that was being sold was his house, too, the one that he had lived in ever since we moved from New York when he was two. And the seller in the dark heart of that market was his own father.

I arrived at the bank with a pounding in my chest, a breathless, strange unease, and a rock cold fear. After eight hours in a middle school, I was also tired and frazzled. On the way over, Max and I had made a quick run into my bank to my safety deposit box to pull the checks that had been prepared, amounts that Dan had told me would have to be paid to settle his debts on the house, and the balance in a check for Dan himself, money that he would use to pay for his three weeks with the Instagirl on her visit to the U.S. and his trip to Australia to live with her. And what was this money of mine that I was giving up? Hard-earned teacher pay. No one who has not been a teacher can know how hard-earned it is. But there I was walking into Dan’s bank with it in my hands for this closing and with my heart so heavy.

Property closings often involve ordeal both in the negotiating phase and on the actual day itself when papers are being signed and money changes hands. Ours involved ordeal, for sure, but that was just the business hassle of it. There was also the emotional side, the turning turmoil of my life going swirling, swirling down through a spiritual vortex.

With relief, I saw that Dan’s father was already there waiting for me. If my father had been alive, he would have been there with me to offer support. As it was, I had turned to Papa, as we called Dan’s dad, and he in his goodness had answered my call.

One more person was needed. Because Max and Papa were relatives, they could not serve as a witness on the closing documents. My dear friend Kate agreed to help me, and soon she, too, was with us.  I spoke to the mortgage banker Mrs. Simmons. She was ready on her end and placed us in a small conference room.  All that was lacking was for Dan to arrive. Meanwhile, my throat was closing up; it was all I could do to contain myself and sit as I knew the situation required. My heart was pounding so powerfully that I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. Would I be able to withstand the next hour?

Finally, I looked up and saw Dan enter dressed all in black. I wondered if he would actually sign the quit claim deed. I wondered if the check denominations that I had brought could be made to work once it turned out that Dan had given me incorrect figures for how much I would need. Since the closing papers had been typed using those incorrect figures, they had to be retyped. Kate volunteered to do this, so in the middle of the closing, she was in the office next door typing and coming back to me with questions. The tension was terrible.

Dan was so cold and remote, not like himself–not as I remembered him. I could no longer make myself stay in that little room. I rushed out and began to pace the lobby of the bank blinded by tears. The president of the branch came out and rescued me. She brought me into her office and gave me tissues and a few minutes of privacy to collect myself. Eventually, I was able to go back.

In the conference room the atmosphere was chilly between Max, Papa, and Dan, who had all remained in the room together while Kate and I had been out. I would later learn from Max what had created that cold and empty climate.

At last the papers and monies were ready. The notary was brought in and we all signed. I now owned the house that I had thought I already owned and would live in forever as Dan’s wife, and he and his bank had all my teacher savings.

None of that really registered with me at the time. My emotions were running so strong that perception and memory were disjointed. There were sudden vividly held vignettes and then gaps where I’m not sure how I got from one place to another. I don’t remember Kate leaving, but clearly I remember what came next. Max and I stood to bid goodbye to Papa. We were all three in tears; Papa’s eyes are blue and the sunset light in the crystal blur of his eyes, oh, I remembered that. Max and I hugged him, one of those three-person hugs. There aren’t many of those in life, so I remembered that. Dan just sat there, disengaged, a demonstration of how done with all of us he was.

The next that I can remember, I was rushing from the bank with Max right behind me. I was crying, moaning, feeling as much pain as I had ever felt in my life. Was I saying something? Was I moaning, “I can’t believe this is happening to me! I can’t believe this is happening to me!”?

As Max drove me away, I think I looked back and Papa and Dan stood together and watched us go. In that moment, Max saved my life. One more minute in that bank, one more look of pain from Papa or Max, one more look of indifference from Dan, and my life would have ended.

On the ride home, Max told me what had gone on in the conference room while Kate and I had been out. Dan had finally confessed to Papa the truth that he did have another woman and he told about her. We all, of course, already knew about her, knew, in fact, that she had arrived a few days earlier from Australia. But here, two months after the Crack-up, Dan finally, formally admitted his deception. He had waited until “the money was in the bank,” so to speak, his bank. All along he had feared that a revelation of adultery with the Instagirl would affect the financial part of our separation proceedings. Now that he could see how pitiful and cooperative I was being, he knew I was not in a state of mind to make trouble for him. He was going to have it all his way. I could feel the tension and the hurt in Max’s voice when he said that Dan had said he loved the Instagirl more than he had ever loved anyone. There was such hurt and anger coming from Max.

Dan was still married to me that day when he professed his love of the Instagirl, so one might suppose that Max’s anger was for me, for the faithlessness of his father and the betrayal of his mother. But I believe that his anger and hurt were for himself. When Dan professed a love for the Instagirl beyond anyone one else, Max took it personally. My life with Dan cracked that night at the dinner table when he told me he was leaving. I think Max’s life with Dan cracked that day at the bank. For Max, that day was a journey into the heart of decay. He witnessed firsthand what Dan could do so easily, so carelessly to me, to Papa, and to him. That day was the end for him. Dan would never get another chance to hurt Max. Max would see to that.

Our home–the home that Dan and I had lived in, taken care of, and loved for years, our son’s home–was broken. I alone now owned it, but with a price paid that would impoverish me for the rest of my life. My savings were gone.

Relationships were gone as well. That day marked the end of any hope Dan would ever have of a relationship with his son. The relationship between Dan and his father would be forever tainted by the fact that he had lied to his father’s face in response to a direct question about the existence of another woman. And it separated me not merely further from Dan himself but from any sense that he had ever loved me.

I long for a day free from the downward spiral, the sinking, the loss. I long for a day when the late light will shine on eyes of crystal vision instead of eyes of crystal tears. Papa’s heart was broken, Max’s heart was forsaken, and my heart learned that it had never been loved. On that day at the bank, we journeyed into Dan’s cave of lies, of forsaking, and the knifeblade of neverlove. We journeyed into the heart of decay.

Don’t Keep Score When Music Is Losing from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

—dedicated to Dan and to his best friend

We’ll talk now of what he was.

It may serve as antidote and sedative,

As palliative to what he has become.

There once was a man who wanted

To be different, to be new, to be himself,

Influenced, of course, by the past,

The present, and the future,

But not owned by and certainly not

Speaking for any of them, speaking for himself.

 

He was to be his own new man

A work of his own art,

And that art really did not need to entertain

Or be accepted. Of course, if it were,

That would be amazing, dazzling, fitting,

But that was never the great thing.

It was as if he were a scholar

Whose job it was to quietly, steadily,

In a large way or a small one, to

Quietly, steadily, and quite seriously,

With enormous intention,

And yet no thought at all,

Absorb though exposure

Strange and random images,

Music, noise, sounds, thoughts,

Poetry, dangers, bliss—

Drink all the transporting tea of this

And then to breathe it in the heart

Of this new self that was himself

Influenced, of course, as we have said

By the past, by the press of all,

But not owned by any of it.

He would make a sound, a song, a music

That would speak a simple or

Complicated truth, or joke, or twist of fate.

A 12 or 13 philosophy—his own yen yang,

Surrealistic hog calling if that would

Bring I into B-B-B-B–Being,

Tell of Lake Tear of the Clouds,

And a spear through the ambient veil,

Or, now here’s where it gets personal,

About a call to a woman in the night,

A test of love she passed driving

Backwards down Spring Street waving.

It would involve chance elements.

The statement would be open to interpretation.

The participation of the listener and the viewer

Would play a part.

That’s how new it was meant to be.

 

This art, his sound, his music

Would exist and live in the air

Around the listener, but

Freedom, real freedom,

Not a catch phase version,

A real freedom searched for and found

Would fly in the space

Where his song was being born.

 

I’d like to end this story there

On that high and positive note.

I will resist Morrison’s deathless dirge,

And only say that what we have talked about

For these past few minutes went away.

He went away. Everything went away.

Not just the music, but the place

That he was so close to creating.

It is floating now, unformed,

In that still, chill oxygen

That fuels the dreams

That dwindle

Down at

Dawn.

 

 

 

 

Crystal Blur of Tears from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

Crystal Blur of Tears

Losing occupation,

Broken soul confrontation,

It is what occupies us

As we sift through sorrow.

The mind is not idle or at peace,

So to be occupied, we cry.

No, that is not correct

We are not in control.

We who cry are not in control.

This is not a choice, not a decision.

 

The out of control see

The Abyss, yes,

And the fear of falling,

Fear of the dark,

Fear of being alone,

Fear of being unloved,

Fear of having made a

Searing and fatal mistake.

 

Monsters rise

From their depths

And we cry

As we remember…

What shall I remember?

A beautiful, ancient memory of snow and

Walking and kissing in Central Park,

Or a terrible memory of

The way he would not listen,

The way I could not

Capture his attention.

 

Warm and oozing,

Hot even, when at their worst,

But soon tears cool,

On cheeks and down the

Neck they cool.

And the eyes, crystal springs

And source

For crying and all the tears,

Burn; my eyes burn.

There is a sting as the

Tears push through.

Salt. Is it salt?

 

Through the days, weeks,

Months that followed

The crack, the great divide

in my life, I cried.

I cried so much–

A river, like Ella, I cried a river.

I cried a foolish flood,

So much that I lost weight,

So much that I was loud.

Sobs, breathing, sobbing

In a rough rhythm. Crack-up crying

Has a sob, an unsung sound,

That I don’t remember

Hearing in earlier tragedies.

 

Triggers. Heartbreak songs,

My public playlist on YouTube,

Crack-up Favorites.

For example, Neil Young,

“I went insane like a smoke-ring day…”

That time when Sweetness and Jules

Came to comfort me,

She stood beside me, and I buried

My face in her belly, little belly,

That made her a mother and

Now pillowed her crazy friend.

 

Tears have a partner named Pain

Who twists in every muscle

With a tension that coils and coils

Like the hanging rope that

Can snap a life in an instant

Or leave you there to dangle

And dwindle in slow suffering.

 

The mind thinks the

Thoughts of all trapped animals.

“What is happening to me?”

“Is this the end?”

“Will I die?”

“Please, don’t let me suffer.”

These death wish thoughts

Coil and coil, wrap and wrap

The trapped animal.

Release would be merciful.

Tears could be a release,

A drop of mercy falling like rain

From the shifting vault of Heaven.

 

But it is too soon to hope for release

Because it is not just the wet mess of tears,

The oozing, and it’s not just the coil of tension,

The contorted, tortured face,

It’s the tears inside my head,

The clogged contagion of

Wrong and hurt and

A back-stab to the heart.

 

The tears, the hot wash, and the eyes close,

The mouth moans and moans,

And the paws of the trapped animal

Paw and dig at the air

To escape the inescapable end

As the pain grips and holds,

Tears and rends the tender flesh.