Modern Love

By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand’s light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep’s heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.


What dark clouds shrouded George Meredith’s marriage when he wrote those lines in 1891. Fifty 16-line stanzas of a failed marriage. Like sculptured effigies they might be seen upon their marriage-tomb.

I know that marriage tomb, and the pale drug of silence–the disassociated wife who lay the sword between us. That was my marriage bed for three-fourths of my marriage.

This morning in my monthly call with a small leadership group one participant described his joyful, intentful marriage on New Year’s Eve to his partner of many years. When asked did he feel different afterwards, being married not just partnered, he answered yes, that marriage carries a sanctity of commitment and support and recognition well beyond the paper that certifies the occasion.

This commitment, a commitment to a way of being bigger than the independent lives of the married couple, was a commitment my wife rejected, both in principle and in practice. She said a commitment doesn’t last forever, a commitment is always conditional.

That’s not a commitment. That’s a failure of integrity, a moral failure.

I wanted to say to my phone call friend, I hope your commitment is truer than mine was; I hope your husband honors his commitment as a commitment standing in integrity and love. I hope you have better luck than I had, Only time will tell.

In our old shipwrecked days there was an hour
When, in the firelight steadily aglow,
Joined slackly, we beheld the red chasm grow
Among the clicking coals.

Yes the red chasm did grow, dug slowly at first, then with abrupt stabs, on that afternoon of February 9th, the Dreaded 9th of February, may the day live in infamy and dishonor.

I will strike it from my calendar, or wear a black armband to honor death, the death of love, the death of marriage, the death of one kind of future. She–she whose name is forever blotted by legal censure–failed to recognize the irony of that day, its funereal mournfulness, its darkness, its sadness.

When I left to walk the cold dark seaside for hours and hours, contemplating the end in water, she had the courtesy to call and ask was I coming home.  I had no home.

Is my soul beggared? Something more than earth
I cry for still: I cannot be at peace
In having Love upon a mortal lease.
I cannot take the woman at her worth!

She could not be taken at her worth.

No one should take her at her worth.

Ever again.

Thus piteously Love closed what he begat:
The union of this ever-diverse pair!
These two were rapid falcons in a snare,
Condemned to do the flitting of the bat.
Lovers beneath the singing sky of May,
They wandered once; clear as the dew on flowers:
But they fed not on the advancing hours:
Their hearts held cravings for the buried day.
Then each applied to each that fatal knife,
Deep questioning, which probes to endless dole.
Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life! –
In tragic hints here see what evermore
Moves dark as yonder midnight ocean’s force,
Thundering like ramping hosts of warrior horse,
To throw that faint thin fine upon the shore!

Leaving San Francisco


4:00pm Saturday afternoon, alone in Robin’s house in West Oakland, last afternoon living in California. Adam and Rachel are fetching me in about an hour. Dinner with them, then they will drive me to SFO and it’s over.

My friend Mark W recently shared a poem by a friend of his Maya Rachel Stein that captures precisely what I’m feeling:

“It looks like the sky is coming apart and together at the same time “

And the body is holding its losses like a fist.

And a fleshy hope is opening to an unprecedented vastness.

And whatever we think we are leaving behind will keep insisting.

And the things we desire will elude us.

And our efforts will pose as failure.

And we will not recognize how far we’ve come.

And we will solve one problem and create another.

And we will feel broken.

And we will not be broken.

And the silence will be deafening.

And we will love destructively.

And no one will appear to be listening.

And there will be too many doors to choose from.

And we will keep saying, “I don’t know how to do this.”

And we will be more capable than we ever imagined.


Goodbye San Francisco.


A Hard Time of It

At breakfast New Year’s morning following the South End’s annual Alcatraz swim, a mutual friend told me she’s having a hard with it. Sorry to say I’m glad she is. I hope she has a hard time with it for a very long time. Like forever.

Even bolters must have a conscience.  Even bolters must know when they’ve hurt someone.

Even bolters must sometimes regret in the deep armored recesses of their dark hearts that they cast off a man who loved them.

Even bolters must fear dying alone.

I’m glad to be leaving her orbit. Her distance, denial, and disassociation are wounding.

I’m not glad to be leaving my life here. Not glad to be leaving Adam. Not glad to be leaving close friends. Not glad to be leaving the South End. Not glad to be leaving Cow Hollow. I’m having a hard time with it.

But I’m glad to be moving back to New England, familiar and new at the same time. I’m not at home Out West.

Yesterday afternoon we went to see Greta Gerwig’s new film Little Women, set largely in what purported to be Concord and the Massachusetts countryside, so beautiful. I’ve many memories in those towns and hills of the Berkshires. I had a life there, too. The architecture looks right to me, the way California houses however elegant never have. The golden hills have never sparked joy the way the Hudson flowing past Midwood does, with the blue Catskills in the distance. Or cresting Silver Mountain Road, with the Southern Berkshires meeting the Hudson Valley in the distance. Or the Maine coast cut out of rocks and pines and shingled houses.


I’ve experienced two romantic kisses in my life—kisses that filled my entire body with bliss, kisses I remember, will always remember. Kisses that lifted me from my body. Out of the thousands of kisses I’ve given and received these two remain etched in gold.

One on a cold snowy December night in front of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One on a warm spring evening in front of the Balboa Café on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Many, many years apart. One marked an end, one a beginning.

I think of that night in the Berkshires, when love and fear gripped me equally, when opportunity opened and closed in a kiss as tender and sweet as d’Yquem. I think what might have been had I been braver;  I think because it reminds me of her of the loveliest of love poems by Kenneth Rexroth, set on a New England afternoon in another season:

We lie here in the bee filled, ruinous

Orchard of a decayed New England farm,

Summer in our hair, and the smell

Of summer in our twined bodies,

Summer in our mouths, and summer

In the luminous, fragmentary words

Of this dead Greek woman.

Stop reading. Lean back. Give me your mouth.

Your grace is as beautiful as sleep.

You move against me like a wave

That moves in sleep.

Your body spreads across my brain

Like a bird filled summer;

Not like a body, not like a separate thing,

But like a nimbus that hovers

Over every other thing in all the world.

Lean back. You are beautiful,

As beautiful as the folding

Of your hands in sleep.



The second kiss opened and blossomed. There were summers, and autumn afternoons. Our hands did fold in sleep.


         See. The sun has fallen away.

Now there are amber

Long lights on the shattered

Boles of the ancient apple trees.

Our bodies move to each other

As bodies move in sleep;

At once filled and exhausted,

As the summer moves to autumn,

As we, with Sappho, move towards death.

My eyelids sink toward sleep in the hot

Autumn of your uncoiled hair.

Your body moves in my arms

On the verge of sleep;

And it is as though I held

In my arms the bird filled

Evening sky of summer.

I wonder if she remembers, too.

Maybe I should have married those women. Maybe those two kisses ought to have been a warning, a signal signifying how a romance begins. And if it doesn’t, don’t go there.

It didn’t go there.

I leave San Francisco tomorrow. This has been my last full day living in California. I had lunch with Josh, and dinner with Kevin—two close friends, both friends for life. In between I walked around the city, thinking about being new here eleven and a half years ago. Thinking this was where I would stay.

Life didn’t turn out that way.

It’s okay.

The winter will move to spring in a different place. There will be snow, then sunshine.

She will fade. She will never disappear.

Version 2


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

When you think about it, seriously think about it, it’s awfully peculiar how we ascribe meaning to days, dates, years, decades, centuries and eons, all the way to eternity. The days of the week each have their meaning. Maybe it comes from astrology. Here we are on a Tuesday, a Tuesday that also happens to be the last day of this year, 2019, the last day of the decade.

Wikipedia tells me that Tuesday comes from the Old English word Tiwes dæg. This was named after the Nordic god Tyr. Tyr was the God of War, like the Roman war god Mars, and Greek god Ares. In Latin, Tuesday is called Martis dies which means “Mars’s Day”.

Tuesday is considered to be an unlucky day in the Greek world because the Fall of Constantinople occurred on a Tuesday. However, Tuesday is considered a lucky day in Judaism because it is mentioned twice as a good day in the first chapter of Genesis.

So it’s hard to know what to make of Tuesday.

Today’s Tuesday however is December 31, 2019. I’m not sure whether today marks the last day I am legally married, or the first day of no longer being married. It’s a kind of  cusp between married and unmarried, significantly different sides of the same coin.

My birthday is the cusp between Capricorn and Aquarius, January 20th. This coming year it’s on a Monday.

I think I’ll go with the Fall of Constantinople. It’s suitably dramatic for this Tuesday, December 31st, 2019.

My Tuesday, December 31st, 2019.

In his New Yorker memoir The Art of Dying, Peter Schjeldahl writes about his daughter Ada asking Brooke his wife a question:

Ada asked her mother how to stay married. Brooke said, “Don’t get divorced.” If you don’t divorce, you are a hundred per cent married no matter what’s going on. I am so glad we stayed together that, for once in my verbose life, words to express it fail me.

Don’t get divorced.

Now there’s an idea. It’s an idea that implies a commitment beyond pleasing oneself, beyond believing that a life alone is better than a life together. Or that there’s a greener pasture out there, undiscovered, but surely better than the pasture we’re in.

It’s an idea bigger than oneself. It subsumes oneself into a cause greater than oneself.

“Divorce” comes from the Latin word “divortium” which means separation. It is also equivalent to the word “divort” or “divortere.” “Di” means apart and “vertere” means to turn to different ways.

 Divertere was also referred the meaning of divert, turn aside, separate or leave one’s husband. 

Leave one’s husband. Funny, it doesn’t say leave one’s wife.

Yes, she chose to leave her husband. Leave one’s husband sounds right.

Synonyms in Merriam-Webster: break up, decouple, disassociate, disconnect, disjoin, dissever, disunite, divide, part, ramify, separate, sever, split, sunder, uncouple, unlink, unyoke…

Of these I think she might like unyoke best. She saw marriage as some kind of yoke. Get that yoking bloke out of here!

Never call me your wife; it implies I’m your property. Yoked!

I’m not feeling particularly nostalgic. There’s no ache left in my heart. She wrenched that out over seven grinding months. She choses today to be a stranger, a ghost from the past, a former wife with no name that can be named.

Tuesday December 31st, 2019. A gray day here in West Oakland, not too cold, not warm. Much like my marriage: not too cold, not warm. There were days of sunshine, a few golden afternoons, and moonlit nights. Those were real, and few. Then Payne’s Gray washed over our marriage, neither black nor white, not too cold, not warm.

I need the separation of the Continent.

I need the clash of seasons again in my life: bitter storms, thunder, snow, merciless July heat and humidity, chilled Autumn evenings, the warmth of Spring.

Again Schjeldahl:

Meaning is a scrap among other scraps, though stickier. Meaning is so much better than nothing, in that it defines “nothing” as everything that meaning is not. Meaning prevents nothing from being only nothing. The “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is,” Wallace Stevens noticed. The same nothing, but a difference of attitude.

The meaning of distance, of seasons, of separation. The same nothing, but a difference of attitude.

Let’s cheer 2020. Wednesday, January 1st, 2020.

Wednesday has always been my favorite day of the week. For the past eleven years Wednesday is Cow Hollow, dinner with my friends, Gamine. New Wednesday rituals will emerge. I’ll find them. Give them meaning.

Welcome Wednesday January 1st, 2020.

The End is Where We Start From

December 29, 2019

This is my last Sunday as a resident of California. It’s the last Sunday of the year, and the last Sunday of the decade. There’s some kind of poetic significance to this—it all lines up so well. Of course that’s just a story, the dates in and of themselves have no meaning. They have meaning only to me: the story I tell myself. They mark an ending.

In two days my marriage comes to its legal end.

The year ends; the decade ends; my marriage ends; my life in California ends. The narrative is almost too perfect.

At dinner last night with Ray—whose past year has been personally worse than mine with two bouts of cancer and other ailments—he mentioned that his sponsor suggested he look at where he is today, and what he has gone through during the year, as an accomplishment. Victory over poor odds. He’s alive, and looking good, and engaging in his life, out with friends, making plans. These are indeed accomplishments.


The future remains unknowable.

We are so often overwhelmed with misfortunes small and large that once beyond them we fail to register any success achieved. Things happen. Bad things happen. If we don’t die, aren’t maimed, we go on. We might be different men as a consequence. Maybe we have learned something important. Maybe things just happened. We try not to make bad things worse. That’s a moral obligation we owe ourselves and others.

Where do we go from here? Where do I go from here?

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

I want my life to flow forward without pain, or unhappiness, or poor health, without too limited resources, with the people I hold dear, with someone in my life to love, to be vital, to accomplish things, to be of service to others, to not suffer in death when that time comes.

Most of these plans won’t happen. Life doesn’t work out that way.

Yet I can live a life that manifests itself as meaningful. I can discover my values.

What I can accomplish is taking responsibility: responsibility for myself, my decisions, my responsibilities to others, to work, to my body, to my life. To not make anything worse than it already is. To not let people down.

To found my relationships with others on trust and truth.

To remain sober and committed to a life of sobriety in all its manifestations. To be free to be and free to act. To be there for my sons, for my friends. To do the things that matter. To take responsibility for being.

Her life with me did matter. That she ended it also matters. The end is where we start from.

Everyone says, so common wisdom goes, that fresh starts, new beginnings, are the revitalizing staff of life. They keep us young. They open new doors, new vistas, new horizons. New people enter our lives. What didn’t matter slips away.

I didn’t plan a fresh start. I didn’t plan my marriage to end. I didn’t plan my son to become ill. These things happened.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

What I have learned in sobriety is that accomplishment, however defined, must be for oneself. To do anything solely for someone else is to fail. It’s incomplete. When I first stopped drinking I told myself I did it for my sons, that I would never let them down again, never let my own life’s unmanageability be a burden on them. I did it for them.

And then I realized that, too, was a burden I placed on them, a burden they wouldn’t want. My commitment had to be for me, and being for me, and for me alone, the resulting lightness of being would benefit everyone. That caring for myself relieved them of caring for me. They have their own lives to care for.

That doesn’t mean we don’t care for each other. We care deeply. But it means our care is without strings. It’s free.

I’m sad that my marriage ended. Sad about the idea of marriage ending for me. Right now, I’m not sad not being with her. During the last years of our marriage, indeed three fourths of it, physical and spiritual nourishment wasn’t there. Sex and intimacy are a form of communication; we weren’t communicating. Let go of that negative power. I’m sad that it wasn’t so but that’s what happened.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

The beginning lies on the other side of the country, today in the snow, far, far from this city of hills on the Pacific. There’s a future there that didn’t exist for me before. I don’t know what it is.

That I wanted my future to be here in San Francisco is another story, now a closed chapter in my life. It turned out to be a short story. Life didn’t turn out the way I planned.

Maybe there never was a plan, just a story. She’s part of that story, but no longer part of my life. Let it be.

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.


‘Twas the Night Before Moving

‘Twas the night before moving, when all through the house

The closets were empty, and my mind set loose.

Everywhere I looked I was leaving behind

That and that and memories that bind.


Another night before moving: first from Russian Hill to her house; then from her house into the Pod and temporary housing—very gratefully received temporary housing in West Oakland; now from one temporary house to the next across the country in Boston. I will live temporarily with my son Sam and his family. My plan is to have a new place of my own in February.

My mail, already going to three different impermanent addresses, will be screwed up for a year. Mail forwarding is a suggestion by the Post Office. Much slips through. Mail has been stolen from my Oakland son’s front door. I hardly know what mail is going where.

It’s hilarious that she said to me that her life was just as disrupted as mine by our divorce. She who changed nothing, whose life goes back to exactly to the way it was before she met me. It’s hilarious only if you aren’t experiencing the truly dislocating, life up-ending consequences of ending a marriage and moving out.

I’m moving too much of that I’m certain, yet cannot eliminate further what’s coming with me. I’ve done the downsizing already. (Oh, did she downsize her life, too?)

I want to be reunited with all this stuff. That’s the sorry truth. I take comfort in what I’ve accumulated. It’s not that much—it all fits in one moving 8’ X 16’ moving Pod. They say it holds four rooms of furniture. I don’t have four rooms of furniture. I have a few chests, one chair, a table (no bed), bookcases, and twenty-five boxes of books, many boxes of papers, and artwork, and framed paintings, and a lot of this and that, random things too good to toss away, not good enough to sell, someday needed for sure. I have no idea how it will fit into whatever small apartment I come to rent.

Moving does have a cleansing appeal. Despite too much remaining there has been a paring down, a sorting out of the essential versus the almost essential. There’s the anticipation of thinking about a new arrangement, in a new place all my own. There’s an appeal to that.

I fit into her life, into her house. She never fit into my life. I adopted her ways—and then she blamed me for always being there, anticipating, trying to please, trying to fit in. I gave up everything to be with her.

Foolish me.

So moving again. Back East. It’s a return not a retreat. I don’t want to be in her orbit. I don’t want to be yet another castoff, another healing broken heart. She’s had several of those already. She’s been the cause in the matter, called the shots, but not the decision maker now.

Her life will likely remain small, maybe even smaller. Emotional trust zero.

Who could trust a bounder? I did and look where it got me.

Bounced and bounded!

Let’s reframe it a springboard!

Ordinary Tragedy

I’m stunned by the normalization of the most dire, most tragic, aspects of life. Things that make me blanche, make me cry, wrapped up in all that’s ordinary. Everyday occurrences happening all the time. To people everywhere.

Today I received from her attorney’s office two documents “for my records.”  A Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution” of our marriage, and its accompanying “Request to Enter Default.” Just pieces of paper, or rather their digital versions, signed by her. She signed away our marriage. And, no I did not contest. Why contest the inevitable. Why add time, expense, and agony to heartbreak? In California only one party in a marriage is needed to legally end it. It’s no different than in Sharia law when all a husband has to do is say three times “I divorce you.” Much quicker, less expensive. The pain in the heart over in a moment of shock.

That’s what she did. She whose name—my wife’s name, the name of the woman I married, the woman I loved—whose name I can’t write unless I want to receive another threatening cease and desist order from her attorney. No name, no wedding photos. Identity elimination. Nothing to connect her to me. She was never connected to me. It’s an apt metaphor for our marriage. No names, no photos. Erasure.

I was wished well on this painful journey.

It’s all so ordinary.

I go with my son to his chemotherapy infusions every other Friday. Normal hospital procedure. Many people being infused with lethal chemicals. The normalization of cancer. I am chipper, and positive, and my heart is bleeding. I am there for him; we will get through this. It matters what’s happening. If I could trade places, let it be me not him, I would in an instant.

He is strong; he will be strong.

That she doesn’t ask how’s he doing, your son, your beautiful son, is testament to her disassociation, her own self-protection more important than caring, than compassion. It was always more important. Compassion withheld.

Of course she feels vulnerable. Of course she’s withdrawn. Of course she can’t speak to me, see me, acknowledge me. Of course she can only communicate by way of her attorney. It’s all so ordinary, the way she is, has always been, the way she wound up being.

I can almost forgive her. If it wasn’t so ordinary, expected, and sad. If it didn’t break my heart.

God help any man who thinks he might get close to her. Closeness spells the end. Closeness triggers leaving. That she could not accept the great blanket of my affection, that she found it invasive, is all on her. What she told me I won’t repeat. Why bother repeating her words when she only denies her words, says they misrepresent. It must be hard being her.

I loved her. I gave her my love. I gave her all of me, and all of me was too much. I was made to feel that to want togetherness, to want to be a married couple in spirit and practice, as well as on paper, was some kind of neurosis—she after all the brain specialist. All my problem.

Never call me your wife, it implies I’m your property.

Never call me your wife.

Never call me by my name.

Never call me.

Cold bed. Cold heart. Cold comfort.


Spear-carrier in someone else’s opera

“When you can recognize a person’s story as their story, you begin to have access to their version of the story, so that you’re not stuck with, you don’t have to resign yourself to, their version of the story.”

“You can’t ask questions like ‘True?’ about people’s stories. There’s no such thing as ‘true stories.’ A story’s a story. People get into trouble in life because they start believing their stories. Even worse, you start believing someone else’s story—makes you a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. This is not a good way to live.”                                  Werner Erhard


What happened: we got married. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. There was no hesitation: yes, I will marry you. It was an afternoon in the early spring of 2014. We were on the bed talking about things and I think she asked me if I could imagine living with her, in her house. I said, yes, and then asked “Will you marry me?” She said yes. We chose to get married.

As proposals, and acceptances, go, it was pretty cut and dry. There wasn’t any romance to it. I don’t think we kissed one another, embraced, definitely didn’t make love. We talked about the practicalities: health insurance, protecting assets with a prenuptial agreement, dates for the wedding. Then the day went on as any other day at home.

What happened? We got married. Then there’s this whole story. And they’re distinct from one another. Mostly our stories are constituted by our reasons. We live the kind of life that people would have if they lived out of a story.

My wife’s story is about leaving. She was already always leaving. Her story about leaving owned her. She left her childhood, her home, her family, her husbands, her lovers. Years and years and years of leaving. She was always already leaving. Oh, she had reasons. And her reasons confirmed that her story was the true story. She believed her reasons and her story and those reasons and the story she told herself validated her leaving.

Her story left no clearing to have a new possibility in her life. Her future was constituted by her past, and her past was always already leaving. Its obviousness was apparent to anyone who looked closely. That’s why so many of her friends, afterwards, told me that was her history. She left her men. The two who immediately preceded me, the two between husband number two and husband number three, perplexed many. One I know; one I don’t. Both, I’m told, were hurt by her leaving. The one man I know, and like, has only very recently opened up to me. His polite reserve prevented him from ever saying anything while my wife and I were together. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. Or kind.

Three times in my life I have confused an interesting, compelling story with an interesting, compelling person. One would think I might have learned the difference, even the hard way. But that’s the danger of stories. Stories captivate the listener as they imprison the teller.

Then, as Werner warned, you become a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. Tragic opera.

And sometimes the spear-carrier gets speared in the story.

It’s bloody, and bloody awful.


What Would Completion Look Like?


As the year draws to a close, this year of divorce, dislocation, sickness, surgery, and global malaise, what would completeness look like? What would complete the conversation with her, the woman I loved and who ended our marriage? What words might be said? Setting all leftover rancor, bitterness, and the nasty threatening cease and desist order aside, what communication remains that would end the year if not in joy and happiness, at least not in sorrow and regret?

Our experience of things, of the world and relationships and even love, exists in language. When language is absent, all that’s left are emotions, our internal states disconnected from what’s actually happening, drawing on the past, and pulling that past into the present. There can be no future lived in a new possibility when there is no language to declare the way forward. There’s only stalemate, and all the old regrets. It’s like leaving a brick wall behind.

I don’t know what we would say to one another. That, yes, we did love one another once? That we were sorry our marriage ended this way? “I’m sorry our marriage has ended this way” was the last thing she said to me, standing in the living room, moments before she walked out the door and out of my life forever. I believe she was sorry. Perhaps no more, now that the dissociation is total, that the only communication from her arrives in lawyer’s letters. (She had only to call and ask. Talk…words.)

All that I might want to say I have written. And I would no longer want to say these things that I have written. The past needs to be put in the past.

But some words, maybe even kind words, need to be said for there to be some kind of completion to this marriage ending. She told me many times in our final months together, those strange painful months of packing up and moving out when nothing was said of any consequence, that she had to withhold compassion because it was what I wanted. I never said I wanted her to be compassionate but of course I did. I would have been grateful for any table scrap of kindness. And maybe she was right: to have been kind to me might have given me false hope that there was a glimmer of salvation.

No, those words need not be said now. No rehashing, no rationales, no what if’s, maybe’s, might have beens.

But something. To part, finally, these four months after my moving out, with no words, no language, no looking into one another’s eyes, maybe even a smile of recognition, is sad, deeply sad. To remember the person who more than five years ago was the light of my life. To say goodbye. No I’m sorry’s.

Just goodbye and good luck.

It would be nice.

It would be complete.


Silence is never golden

Of all the things I find unfathomable about my wife’s decision to end our marriage—and there are many incomprehensible things—all these many months since she first told me she no longer loved me—it is her refusal to speak to me, now even to acknowledge my presence. I have become a ghost in the corner. She told me once during the dissolving of our marriage that she was a better friend than a partner. This has turned out like much else not to be true. She could no longer find a way to be a partner, and now isn’t a friend. Friends talk to one another.

I saw my wife last night at our South End Rowing Club’s holiday party. “Saw” is the operative word, because she didn’t acknowledge me, or say hello, or ask after my son Adam’s health. Her disassociation is complete. It is purposeful, and intentionally hurtful. She knows and finds some kind of perverse satisfaction withholding communication. It’s because I want it that she withholds it. It’s the one power she retains. She held all the cards, played them, and now that the game is over has shut down the gaming hall. Her gamble is complete. She won. Let us hope it’s not a Pyrrhic victory—though as she once said to me that she was destined to die a lonely old woman.

It didn’t have to be so. And perhaps she’ll find yet another man to be with, briefly. There have been many–all without the foreknowledge of her expiration date.

She also said to me months ago that she couldn’t talk to me because I write about our conversations. If she talked to me maybe I would not have to write about it; maybe I would know and not obsess. Genuine communication—a practice we were never good achieving—would resolve so many questions, would make things complete. Completion wasn’t her goal; only ending.

Thinking about how she’s behaving, I have to ask myself the question, why do I care? What did I expect would happen? Why did I harbor any misguided illusion that she might turn out to be genuine, to be a warm, compassionate woman? It was my fantasy, what I wanted so passionately to be so, when it was so evidently not so. Ever. The trauma in her life prevented it. Her default attitude is distrust, especially men, and people in general. So when I failed to perform to her expectations, the thin veneer of trust vanished. She called me untrustworthy. In truth, there was no trust from the beginning.

I didn’t expect to be disappeared.

I know, now, that my decision to move is beyond doubt the right decision. Continuing to share with my wife the life I created here, so much of it with her, is emotionally impossible. Yes, my emotions are internal states that I inflict on what’s happening. Putting them away, far back in the past drawer, will be so much easier on the other side of the country.

I imagine she’ll be grateful, too. She has told me many times that she is not the cause of anything I’m feeling, or decisions I’m making; that these emotions, these decisions are mine alone. And they are. Yet to deny being the cause in the matter, the match that lit the fire, is yet more evidence of her disassociation—from me, from her life, from life. It’s a denial of possibility, a wall constructed to block out any light that might, just might, shine in.

I walked out of her house on September 1st and her life returned to how it had been before she ever met me—but for five years past and the specter of Niland still haunting our common pathways. Very soon that specter will be gone, and she can be free of being purposefully furtive, evasive, avoiding the places I might show up, not “seeing” me when I’m there.

She wounded me, and has found a way to twist the knife. She knows how much this causes me despair. I doubt it makes her happy.

Moving will be my healing. I sacrifice much leaving the life I have created here, but good friends will remain good friends, and new places and people will come to replace the old ones. She cannot take these things away from me. She took one kind of life away from me, but not my actual, as-lived way of being who I am. I realize I am more who I am without her. I had hoped to be more of who I am with her.

In two weeks it will be Christmas, a holiday my wife hates on so many levels, and did everything within the limits of family acceptability to ignore. She permitted a celebration, one dinner, with our children and sometimes a friend. She very reluctantly participated in gift giving. She disliked that I enjoyed Christmas, enjoyed giving gifts. Among the reasons she gave to end our marriage was that I spent money on Christmas gifts for her, and my sons, when I was otherwise short on contributions. I think my wife did try to make the holiday acceptable–she liked giving us experiences instead of things–but at base Christmas was a bone that stuck in her throat. And she resented it.

Will Christmas come this year to her with any memories of our Christmas dinners past, when together with our children and friends we feasted on the elaborate labor of love dinner I prepared, setting the table with all the “good” china and silver, an orchestrated holiday meal meant to surpass the year before? Did she enjoy those times, or see them as an obligation she couldn’t avoid? I know she saw my enthusiasm as an indulgence, something to endure rather than be delighted.

This being Christmas I end this very last piece I will ever write about my marriage to this woman, a marriage I do not regret but for all the things I failed to see, with my sadness over one Christmas gift delivered a year late. It was promised, and after much trial and a lot of error, finally accomplished. I know it was received, opened, and the packaging discarded. Yet when I asked whether this package had been received, more than a week after it was delivered and verified by the PO, I was told no. I don’t know why she would lie to me.

It’s unfathomable, and sad. It tells me something I don’t want to know.

Time to move, move on. Onward and upward!