Twenty-three years, four days, six hours and nineteen minutes. She’s been on this earth for forty-two years, so that twenty-three years, four days, six hours and nineteen minutes is a little less than half her life. She can’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that half of her life can be boiled down to the ten or so pages that sit in front of her on this mahogany desk. Twenty-three years of kisses, holding hands, and saying I love you. Twenty-three years of making dinner, doing laundry, and raising two kids. Twenty- three years of date nights, car pools, and birthday parties. Twenty-three years of giving all of herself to another person, and with one swift movement of pen to paper, it will all be over. With trembling hands, she picks up the Montblanc pen, which probably costs more money than she makes in a week, and initials and signs next to all the fluorescent yellow tabs that her $225 an hour attorney has easily “marked for her convenience.”
She planned this day years ago and it wasn’t supposed to go like this. Today they should have been celebrating the culmination of years of hard work and good parenting – sending their youngest child off to college. They should have packed up the car and driven Alyssa to her dorm – together. They should have helped her set up her room and hugged her goodbye, him trying to hide his tears while she blubbered like a fool. They should have driven home together, holding hands the whole way like they used to, planning what they were going to do with all the newfound privacy they’d have. Instead he just sat on the couch watching the game as they left. He didn’t even notice that she had packed herself a suitcase along with her daughter’s things. He couldn’t even be bothered to give his daughter a hug a goodbye, he just waved and said, “See ya later, kiddo,” as they walked out the door. The man she married was not the man she left yesterday sitting on the couch. For all intents and purposes, the man she married died three years ago.
Three years ago, the company that had employed her husband for over twenty years up and decided to close their doors. For about six months he pounded the pavement trying to find another job, but when it wasn’t as easy as he thought it’d be to get another job, the depression started creeping in. The daily job hunts and interviews eventually became weekly, then monthly, then none at all. Eventually, he just gave up. The man she once counted on for everything slowly morphed into someone she didn’t even recognize. One day he just plopped himself on the couch, turned on the television, and popped open a beer. It seems like he’s been sitting there on that couch ever since. She can’t remember the last time they had a conversation that was more than a few words in length. Can’t remember the last time he touched her…or kissed her…or told her she was his everything.
Eventually, their savings ran out and at 40 years old, Julie Harris found herself working two jobs to make ends meet. She tried everything she could think of to get through to him…self-help books, counseling, medication, ultimatums – but any change was only temporary. Eventually, she got fed up. She finally realized that she wasn’t a captain…she didn’t have to go down with this sinking ship. She had to save herself. Every minute she spent trying to save something that couldn’t be saved, she lost a little piece of herself.
With a strength she wasn’t even sure she possessed, she choked back the sob that was forming in her throat and signed her name next to the last little yellow tab.
“That should do it,” her attorney said as he took the pile of papers and put them in a manila envelope, “I’ll give you a call when we get Mr. Harris to sign.”
“Do you think it’d be okay if I wrote him a note?”
“You want to write him a note? To go with the divorce papers?” he asked, doing a really bad job of hiding his amusement. She nodded her head yes, too embarrassed to answer. He just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as he handed her a piece of paper. “Have at it.” He may have been the best divorce attorney in three counties, but he sure could stand to learn a few things about compassion. Ending a twenty-three year marriage may be a normal, everyday occurrence for him, but it’s not for her.
She, once again, picks up the very expensive pen and begins to write.
I’m sorry if what’s inside this envelope blindsided you, but I feel as though you’ve given me no other choice. I’ve tried so hard to be there for you, to be patient while you worked through whatever it is that you’re going through, but I’m tired. Tired of shouldering all the responsibility. Tired of feeling alone when I’m not the only one in the room. I want nothing more than to be able to tell you that I can wait around for you to come back me, but I can’t. It hurts too much to watch you slowly slipping away. One day your dark clouds will clear. The sun will come shining through with a blazing clarity…and you will realize. Realize that it would have been worth the effort to fight. To fight for me…to fight for us…to fight for yourself; but with that blazing hot clarity will come the gut wrenching realization that it’s too late, because the sad part is, forever is just an illusion.
I’m so sorry,