Last November

It is the last day of November, the last November I’ll be in California. I move ‘back east” in January. I loved California because people I loved loved California. And those people have let me down.


I am more and more convinced, sure in my heart, that filing for divorce is a supreme act of cowardice and defeat. It is the Get Out of Jail Free card of life. Barring guns and abuse, filing for divorce is not trying to learn how to live, how to be a human being, an imperfect, fallible, all-too-human, human being. When filing for divorce unilaterally, inflicting unwanted misery on another person, a person presumably once loved, it is doubly dishonorable. It is a moral failure, a failure of character, compassion, a lack of courage and fortitude.

The law makes it so easy. Yes, it costs money, and time, and many notarized signatures, but in the end, it’s just paperwork. There’s no emotion in forms, and declarations, and lawyer’s conference rooms. The legal assistant processing the dissolution of our marriage was courteous to the point of embarrassment on Wednesday when I signed the ten documents handing over my consent to end our marriage without contest. Perhaps he had some notion of the unfairness, to me, of the entire proceeding; he was after all Brenda’s attorney’s assistant. I was the object, not the subject.

I heard tonight from a man who had been with my wife prior to me. She had ended that relationship, too. I was touched to hear from him, and surprised since while swim club friends, we have never been close, perhaps because of the mutual relationship with the same woman. He reached out to say to me I would be missed once I had moved back east.

I like being a couple; I wanted to be a couple. I like the togetherness being a couple implies. I blame myself for not realizing that being a couple was exactly what my wife did not want to be. She felt emphatically constrained by the very idea of coupledom. She saw it as a violation, a metaphorical rape of her being. She ought never to have agreed to marry me, to be married to me. Perhaps she sought to overcome her own demons.  But she had to end it. She told me never to introduce her as my wife, that it meant she was my property.

When one commits to marriage it is an agreement to find possibility out of the limitless ways two people can discover common and uncommon ground together. To file for divorce is to negate that possibility, to limit connection, to end an experiment in living that has no end but death. It’s not about happiness or unhappiness. It’s not even about sex. It’s about a mountain with no top, the journey not the arrival, with all its twist and turns and dead ends and speedways.

Marriage, too, is a bulwark against a world gone mad. Things have fallen apart. It’s true what Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

Filing for divorce is a lack of all conviction; it’s a failure of imagination.

It is singular and arbitrary and hurtful. And those who inflict it are singular, arbitrary, hurtful, and wrong. Though she justified her decision based on clarity of vision, it’s blindness not right sightedness.

The prayer I invoke is not for reversal of decisions, or fortune–that time has past–but for eternal regret. That may be a vain hope. My sadness may not be shared sadness. The gulf is deep and wide. She was clear about that.

So be it.


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