Tuesday, October 30, 2012

chapter two

2. Nobody gets married thinking they’ll get divorced. And if someone had told me even a few months ago that our marriage would not make it ‘til death do us part, I could not have believed them. But now, the wife I loved and knew is someone else. Four years has driven a wedge into us. We've split. And the distance is too great to cross. Our efforts are better spent elsewhere. I will channel energy into writing. She will focus on her art. Teach. Create balance again. But that may take some time. Maggie does not rise, forgive, and create direction on her own. Because of this—whether she recognizes it or not—she is moving north. To Alpena. To live at our cottage on Grand Lake and work at Gallery Fifty-Seven, her brother's art studio. The move is not permanent, she says. Her aim is to save money, get grounded, so she and Sadie can move to Iowa in June. “Why June?” I asked her. “June is when the best part of Michigan weather is coming round. Why don't you set up a little studio at the cottage and just work through the summer?” This was last night. We were on the porch. Exchanging Sadie. “What for? You’ll be on the island. I’m not going through three seasons alone in Alpena.” She brims with resentment. I am leaving her. I am selling our house. I am leaving our daughter. I am giving up on everything. But she is the one that's broken our vows. “For Sadie,” I said. “And for our folks.” Sadie grabs my leg. Squeezes. “I don’t want to go to Iowa,” she says. My wife bites her lip. Nearly loses it to tears and crying and everything else that’s balled up inside her. It is an awful sight, seeing her like this on the porch where we used to sit, drink wine, be happy and unwind. A place where we felt safe. Comforted. At home. Where we could watch Sadie play in the yard. And we could listen to the birds. And talk about the day as the sun fell and the old conversion van turned ice cream truck weaved through our neighborhood playing Pop Goes the Weasel. “Nobody’s going to Iowa yet,” I said. Maggie has something to say. It is on the tip of her tongue. But she cannot let it out. Have it go free to run. And it is this—her unwillingness to talk, to explain, to share and come clean—that heightens my pulse, sends my heart to my gut, and makes me wish that she didn’t look so pretty—even now, with darkness all around and sadness in her face—and that I had never caught her. Fucking another man. In our house. Our bed. In the middle of our life. The day I found out—when I lived out the cliché of coming home early to find her with another man—was the end. There was no coming back from that. Her on top of him. Moaning. One of his hands on her tit, the other rubbing her ass. Some stranger doing things to my wife that she never let me do. It is the type of image, scene, nightmare that once you've seen it, felt it, known it, cannot be forgotten. And even though I've forgiven her, I cannot forget. And once physical lines have been crossed, the stronger, emotional lines begin to crumble. And now, I wonder if her lines were ever as strong as mine. And I wonder about everything. How she started smoking weed a few times a week after Sadie went to bed and I went to the basement for writing. How she started leaving dishes and laundry around. How she painted less and less and watched TV more and spent more time on Facebook and had more nights out with the girls. And the sex—always the sex since our honeymoon—how I always wanted it and she never did. And finally, when we would have it—maybe twice a month—she did not kiss me. Would not allow me to touch her tits. Rub her ass. And more often than not, she would not look at me. Something was wrong. I knew it. But when nearly everything else works, when you get along, support and encourage each other, own a home, a cottage, shiny cars, and you have a beautiful kid, and the biggest bang you get out of the day—aside from your family—is that you get paid to write stories—life is good. And when life is good, there's no reason to worry or wonder or think about how it could be great. And so, you have sex with your wife twice a month. You make sure the bills are paid. And you keep a steady eye on the fact that most people don’t have it as good as you do. It has not been easy. I sleep a few hours a night. Eat too much. Drink too much. It is hard to focus. To think. To do anything. When you know your wife has cheated you want for nothing to matter any more, but every little moment seems louder, clearer, and longer lasting. You are given a great gift of perspective and groundedness when your life is broken. And the damndest thing about it is that the heart remains the only thing unchanged. It has learned what it has learned. Knows what it wants. And there is love within it that cannot let go. As my wife wipes her eyes, there is a great sparkle as her diamond catches the porch light. “You’re still wearing your ring,” I said. “I know. I don’t know why. I just can’t take it off.” She was on shaky ground. About to break loose at any moment. “Give Momma a hug,” I said to Sadie. She let go of my leg. Hugged my wife. Their two curly brown shocks of hair came together. “I don’t want to go to Iowa, Mommy.” “I know, honey.” And then they both fell to tears. Hugging. Holding. And I looked away. To the lights of planes as they pushed through dark sky. To other men and women. Husbands and wives. Great distances from home. Traveling together or alone. Some with more disaster, fear and failure stitching together their relationships—their lives—than any outsider could ever know. And I wonder, if people can put their trust into strangers to land them safely from flights so high above the earth, why can’t I work to rebuild trust in my wife? Why can’t I work through it? Why can’t I make it work? The questions, they keep coming, over and over again, but they are questions I cannot answer. “I don’t want to go to Iowa, Mommy. I like it here.” Let’s not worry about Iowa,” I said. “Let’s worry about Frankemuth.” “Frankenmuth?” Sadie asked. “I thought you were going to the zoo?” Maggie said. Sadie stood between us. Wiped her eyes. Smiled. “What’s Frankenmuth? Is it a monster?” “No,” I said. “Frankemuth is a neat little town just a couple hours from here.” “But I want to see the polar bears!” she said. “We’ll see bears,” I said. “We will?” “Sure, and there’ll be a tiger and lion, and …” “But I want to go into the glass cave. The hole with the water around us and watch the bears swim,” she said. “What’s she talking about?” Maggie asked. “The Arctic Ring of Life,” I said. “At The Detroit Zoo.” “And we can watch the blind sea lions swim round and round,” Sadie said. “And the polar bear will play with the big red ball and I will reach up and touch him.” “She must have had fun last time,” Maggie said. “We’re not going to the big zoo,” I said. “We’re going to a little zoo, but we’re also going to go shopping, and swimming, and we’re going to eat and drink …” “Not too many drinks, ” Maggie said. I ignored her. Kept right on rolling. “ … and play video games and miniature golf and go to The Cheese Haus and Kern’s Sausage shop.” “Okay! Okay!” Sadie cheered. “Let’s go!” And I picked her up and we hugged and Maggie stepped closer and touched my arm and for a moment, we were home again. A husband and wife. With our daughter. On the porch. Decompressing from the day. All we needed was a little wine. The birds. And Pop Goes the Weasel—the ice cream truck serenade. “Where are you staying tonight?” I asked. My wife dabbed her eyes with a tissue. Took her keys from her coat pocket. Pulled her collar up to her ears. “In Canton,” she said. She moved closer. Kissed Sadie’s cheek. Hugged her. “I’ll meet you guys in Alpena in four days,” she said. “And Sadie, keep Daddy on track.” “I will!” Sadie said as she hugged me. Then we turned to watch her mother, my wife, walk away. Down the porch steps where we used to sit and watch sunrises and sunsets. Feed breadcrumbs to the family of mallards that adopted our neighborhood. Into the driveway where we played basketball and hop scotch. And into the car that took us everywhere. Grocery shopping at Meijer. To Wasabi in Westland. To Hines Park. Red Robin. The Drive-In on Ford Avenue. Tigers games. Bald Mountain in Lake Orion. And always up north, to Alpena. Our home away from home. And that, after her stay in Canton, was where she was headed. “I still don’t want to go to Iowa,” Sadie said. “I know, honey. But Iowa’s not so bad.” “Why?” she asked. “They have corn. Good schools. Lots and lots of windmills.” “They do?” “Sure, they do,” I said. I set her down. We watched Maggie’s red taillights until they were gone. I shut off the porch light and we went inside. “Time for beer and Scooby-Doo,” I said. “Okay,” Sadie said. “But not too much. We need our rest.” “You can never have too much beer and Scooby-Doo,” I said.

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