This week I continue a third excerpt from the book I'm writing, What Lies Between Us ( A Geography of Marriage). I'll end the excerpts here for a time. If you missed the first two entries, you'll find them in What Lies Between Us and The Medieval Prince Bids Farewell. Thank you for allowing this peek of my newest work...
"How wrong we were about each other, and how happy we have been." (From the poem, I Married You, by Linda Pastan)
The closet was one of the most spacious I'd ever had--kind of counterintuitive in such a small house. In fact the entire master bedroom was almost another little house in a house--like those Russian nesting dolls. In the bedroom I got down to the next to last doll, and then that remaining little doll, as tiny as a thimble, was me, my truest self there in that sanctuary of a bedroom--able to rest and read, sleep and think. I decorated the room in soft greens and creams. For Valentine's Day, Giovanni bought me a comforter that had the same greens and creams with understated touches of pink in the design. He brought it to me on that Valentine's night after he got off his shift at the Olive Garden.
"After I got off work, I went over to the mall. I wanted to get you something, and I found this at Sears." I was already in bed, reading. I put my book face-down on the nightstand. Giovanni handed me the bulky comforter package and placed it on my lap.
It was these types of gestures that made me feel again like that first day. That first day our eyes met when we were so young, the familiarity in that glance, the feeling of being home. This man "got me." I could just imagine him wandering the mall, tired after a long shift--after having worked in a restaurant that did not value him--that basically sold frozen Italian dinners--not real food. His expertise and knowledge of food was so beyond this American chain. Yet he worked there, because he couldn't not work. No wonder he wanted to go to New York.
I got up and we removed all the old bed clothes. That sage and ecru comforter set became a sort of metaphorical symbol of tenderness between us, and as I gazed at it that rainy day, I missed him, missed the warmth of his hand on my knee when we'd lie in bed togther, me reading, he on his laptop catching up on news. But I shook off the memory and walked into the closet.
I began pushing the coat hangers down the closet rods. I found a black and white checked suit jacket that I used to wear constantly when I was a size eight. I tried it on. I couldn't button it. The snugness reminded me of my weight gain over the last several years. Size ten was my usual now, and sometimes even a twelve. I felt discouraged, but took the jacket off the hanger and placed it in the Goodwill pile. I was merciless. I decided I wouldn't keep anything that didn't fit me now. I was letting go of ideals. I wasn't going to bank on the fact that I'd lose ten pounds and get back into the size eight. No. That jacket was to be left in the heap.
Then I came to a brown polyester suit with the original coat hanger and plastic protector that read: The Great American Short Story. I wore that suit at my first marriage. I bought it at the store for women 5'3" and under. It was a size six. I did not try it on. I wan't willing to humiliate myself further. The suit, though, stirred my thoughts. My first husband, Mason, and I had eloped. With money that my dad gave us, we both bought wedding attire--me the brown suit, and he a green plaid three-piece that was in fashion at the time, but ultimately really not so attractive. But I'd kept the brown suit, because it was a classic. I'd worn a salmon-colored blouse with it that tied at the neck and had the slightest, subtle polka dot in the weave of the fabric. I wore a small pin in the shape of a cowboy hat, that same peachy, salmon color, on the lapel. I still had the cowboy hat pin in my jewelry box, but I placed the suit in the Goodwill mound and kept the coat hanger, the gold flaking off the capital "S" in "Short."
As I filled up the bundle to take to the Goodwill, I almost pulled the brown suit out. I wasn't at the same place with the divorce--not in that cluster of doubt and sadness--that swamp of ambivalence and shame. But I still second-guessed myself about leaving Mason and felt guilty. And simultaneously, I knew I couldn't go back and make things different. I had to keep marching on. I told myself that perhaps the divorce and subsequent pain was the only "school" where I could learn to be real, remembering that the Velveteen Rabbit is not, of course, a plush, beautiful stuffed animal.