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Dangerous Hope

May 28, 2012

(Musings on the May 25, 2012 meeting)

He walked in the door of the cafe and my heart tried to leap out of my chest as soon as I saw him. “Oh shit!” I thought,  “I don’t know if I can do this.” I was already nervous but now that the moment had arrived, I was in danger of a cardiac event.

I’d seen my husband in person on only a few occasions since our separation. The day of the hearing at the courthouse he had stood up, hugged me and asked, “How are you,” in the sweet way he used to when he missed me and then sat silently with his eyes closed, not saying a word until we were called in. I saw him when we signed the papers to close on the house. He was still wearing his wedding ring. And at the site of Christopher’s car accident after a day of terse e-mails. Once he walked by me at Downtown Alive and there was the time I sat a few chairs down from him and his friend at the tapas bar we both frequent. On those occasions I got an awkward smile and no more. It was always difficult for me to see him because I miss him and love him and until this moment, I haven’t dared to ask what he thinks and feels. This was my moment to lay it on the line, to make myself vulnerable, to be brave and tell him the truth. Now that it had arrived, by nerves were failing me.

The meeting was my idea. Our divorce could have been final by now but a court date has not been scheduled. It’s been over six months but I’m not ready to sign the papers ending our marriage. My excuse has been that I need to do due diligence and have a CPA look over the paperwork and be sure that the language protects me. But I’m worried that I’m not-so-unconsciously delaying the last step because I’m not ready for reasons other than due diligence. I’m not ready because I’m not over him and I don’t want to give him up. I’m not ready to have him out of my life. I hear myself saying these things in my head and I wonder at my thinking process. I sound like one of those crazy women who clings to an obviously unhealthy relationship, who doesn’t take the hint when they’re rejected and talks about “getting their man back.” I used to scoff at such speech. No woman should have to go and get a man or fight to keep a man. I’m a queen and any man should consider himself lucky to have me. I don’t chase after men. That was always my attitude, the convenient attitude of a happily married woman who had indeed never chased after anyone. I have not had many men in my life, but the few I have, pursued me, not the other way around. That was before. That was before I lost the love of my life.

So, there I sat with little notes in my hand listing what I needed to say and how I wanted to come across. Don’t be angry or negative or defensive or demanding. Be calm and loving and at peace and funny and open and honest and vulnerable. Lay your heart out for him before it’s too late. You have nothing to lose here. Go for it.

As with every other major and minor event that has occurred since the day of our separation, I have consulted with numerous family, friends and even my therapist about this meeting. I confessed to them that I found myself with feelings for my husband that were not going away. My circle of support told me, “This is perfectly normal. You were married for over 20 years. You raised two children together. You’re not going to get over this right away. It takes time.” I heard them and listened but my heart and my gut were saying something else. They were whispering in my crazy little head, How can you let this happen? You love him. He’s your soul mate. He’s the man you’re supposed to be with for the rest of your life. How can you let this go? How can you give this up? Do something. Don’t let this happen.

So, I decided that I was going to make this request. I was going to ask him to meet me face-to-face one last time before we signed final paperwork. I was going to tell him how I felt. Of course, my support group and I pondered and conjectured over all the possible reactions and outcomes this meeting could produce. So many of my confidantes gave advice, “You can’t say you want to be friends and say you love him. You can’t have it both ways. You have to do this. You have to do that,” etc… etc… To which my general reply was, “I don’t have to do anything and I can say anything I want. My mind is a jumbled mess of incongruities and mixed feelings. I don’t know what I want or what is best. I just know how I feel and that I have to tell him. If I come across like a mess, it’s because I am a mess and that’s just the way it is.”

Most of us agreed however on the outcome that would be the best for me……the healthiest for me…………..the scenario that would provide the catalyst for the breaking of the spell I’m under. I need him to piss me off. I need to leave this meeting angry and reminded of all the bullshit and nonsense. I need to feel the way I did the day I left. I need a reality check, a wake-up call, a slap in the face. I need jackass, tense husband to show up, to be defensive and accusatory and full of anger and bitterness and blame, to have that look on his face I’ve seen so many times with that wrinkle between his brow, that look of annoyance…..contempt even. That would do it.

That’s not the man who showed up.

He walked in. He was in a nice suit, a light color with a pale green shirt and a tie I could’ve picked out for him. He was wearing his thick, black-rimmed glasses that accentuate the nerdy, sexy look that has always drawn me to him. He looked good. We hugged. “Your hair is getting long,” he said, “You’ve lost a lot of weight.”

“Nervous stomach,” I replied. I laughed nervously. I wanted to cry. My heart was racing. He bought a bottle of water while I tried to calm down. He sat down. I looked at him nervously and shifted. “I change my mind,” I joked, “I can’t do this. Why do you make me so nervous?”

“I freaked out a couple of times on the way over here, too,” he confessed. “Let’s talk about something else for a minute,” he suggested.

“Ok,” I said. I gave him the gift I had bought. A tie. Red. With paisleys. When I bought it I asked for approval from the salesmen. “Who’s it for?” he had asked. “Your father?” No. “Brother?” No. “Boyfriend?” No. “Husband,” Not exactly. I told him why I was buying it. “It’s to give my soon to be ex-husband. Today’s our 21st anniversary and we’re meeting for a last face-to-face before it’s over. I want him to think of me when he wears it,” I confessed. He liked the tie. Said he had others of that brand. Good.

“How was Germany,” I asked. He talked for a long time about his recent trip there. The culture differences, the sites he saw, the connections he made. He talked about how annoying his friend and colleague and co-traveler turned out to be. “He’s an idiot,” he said. I listened and watched him, looking into his eyes. I thought about how I missed talking to him like this. I thought about how much I just missed him. We both relaxed and I said, “I’d like for us to be able to do this more often. Just talk like this.”

“I’d like that, too.” he replied. Ok. So far, so good. After twenty minutes or so, he looked at my little notes on the folded piece of paper next to me. “Well, I’ve talked for a while. You want to get to…..?” he asked as he gestured to the paper.

Then I did it. I poured my heart out to him. I mentioned that we had not really talked face-to-face for about six months and that I thought that we should see each other before we took the last step, ending our marriage and that I wanted to tell him that I love him. As soon as I said that he responded, “I love you, too.” Just to clarify and make sure I was getting my message across I continued, “I am in love with you and not over you.” Tears were coming down my cheek at this point and my voice was wavering. He changed his seating position and leaned up against the wall and his eyes were glistening as well. “People tell me that this is normal and part of the process but I’m not sure that I will ever be over you. I’m not exactly saying that I don’t want this divorce to happen or that I have any other solution in mind,” I said, “but I’m not ready to have you out of my life and I wanted to see you and face you and make sure this is really what you want.”

He paused for a moment and he talked about how things had not been working between us and it wasn’t something that happened all of a sudden. There had been many problems over several years. I agreed. It’s difficult to put into words how he talked about this, how he phrased it and why he seemed so different to me when he said it. He wasn’t bitter or angry. He didn’t lay any blame. He seemed………..grounded. Different.

Though I rushed to write down everything he said right after the meeting was over, my memory isn’t exact and I can’t remember every word with accuracy or the order in which they were said. It all happened so fast and every word drips with meaning to me now.

“I couldn’t handle everything,” he admitted and I knew what he was talking about. “Something had to give. I was serving many masters.”

When people ask me why we’re getting a divorce, this is what I usually say, “Our marriage wasn’t perfect. Like all marriages it had its fissures. But when we moved to Lafayette and my husband bought this company………..doing something like that, buying a company and running it by yourself……it brings out the best and the worst in you and he just couldn’t handle stepping up to what he needed to be as owner of the company and being a husband at the same time…………and the fissures became canyons and it blew up and was destroyed.” That’s what I think happened to us. Some of his words confirmed this analysis for me.

I asked him if he thought it might be possible for us to try to see each other, post-divorce to talk and spend time together. He said yes, that he didn’t want me to disappear and to never see me again. He wanted to see me, to be able to meet with me and talk with me like we were doing. That would make him happy. Ok, again, so far, so good. Then he said something incredibly touching. He brought up our new grandchild (see explanation below) and said that going to see him might be something we could do together. I couldn’t believe that he would say that. I don’t know how much he meant it. But I immediately replied, “I would like that very much.” He added, “And I really want you to go see him soon.” He had suggested this to me a week so before, that perhaps I could use his airline mileage points to get a ticket to Hawaii to go see our grandson. That suggestion had thrown me for loop at the time. Hearing him say it again, looking me in the eye just tugged at my heartstrings more.

Though he affirmed a couple of times that yes, he wanted to see more of me, he kept adding phrases like, “in time,” or “with time.” I’m not sure what he meant by that. I asked him why it was so difficult for him to see me. I could see him struggling to answer. “What emotion do you feel, what are you thinking when you see me?” I asked.  “I miss you,” he blurted, “It’s disarming for me to see you.” Disarming. Wow. I disarm him. Ok. “The best way for me to deal with this is to not think about it,” he said. I smiled and replied, “That’s the worst way to deal with it.”

“Well, that’s the way I have been dealing with it,” he said. I told him that I had not been sure about what might going on in his head when he saw me. I wasn’t sure if he just couldn’t stand the sight of me or if he was just so angry that he couldn’t stand to see me. “No,” he said, “It’s just difficult but now that we’ve done this, maybe it will get easier. It will take practice, that’s all.”

“Yeah,” I said, “that’s what people tell me, too.”We had covered some pretty heady stuff and things were going ok, so I asked him about the time frame of his filing for divorce. He said he was under tremendous pressure from the people he was buying the company from, people he owes a lot of money to as well as his business lawyer to quickly file for divorce to protect the company from liability. He didn’t even pick out his divorce lawyer himself. They did. “I was under a lot of pressure to file and I thought, ‘if we work it out later, I can withdraw the petition,'” he admitted. That statement took me my surprise. Just like the one I had heard weeks ago, “If only Marie had stuck around,” had thrown me for loop. I sat back in my chair and let out a breath. “Does that upset you,” he asked. “When I got your e-mail saying you had filed for divorce,” I explained, “I took that as a clear sign from you that it was over and you didn’t want to work things out.”

“I don’t want you to think I was putting the company ahead of you,” he said. I didn’t say it, but I was thinking that he did put the company before me. “I have a lot of regrets,” he said tearfully. He said that more than once. I didn’t ask what they were. It was enough for now that he had them. I do, too. I told him, that, like he probably has, I have gone over the events of that time repeatedly in my head, wondering if I had done things differently, if I had just phrased my e-mail differently, if things might have worked out different. “We both could have done a thousand things differently,” he said, “but it wasn’t working and we didn’t have a solution and one was not going to present itself.” Of course he’s right. I know that.

“Do you think divorce can be the ultimate reset button,” I asked.

“It has been for others,” he said. One of his friends and his wife have been divorced and remarried. They have been a source of support for him. No doubt he may be seeing them as an example. I don’t know how far he’s willing to go in his imagination with this idea. I know what I’m thinking. I want to date him. I want to restart. I want him back. I want to have sex with him again. I continued, careful not to push too far, “I’m not ready to have you out of my life,” I said, “Do you think we could start to see each other again after the divorce?” I’m not sure exactly how I phrased it but however I did, it elicited this response, “What do you mean,” to which I nervously said, “I don’t know.” But I know what I was thinking. I was just afraid to spook him, to go too far, to say too much.

I also asked about the “seeing someone else,” thing. I’m just realizing I haven’t written about this yet. Months ago I had asked him to give me a heads-up if he were to start seeing someone else and I would do the same. I couldn’t bear the idea of seeing him out with a date. That would be devastating to me. Of course, I was thinking that this sort of thing might happen months after the divorce was final. I was at Festival International. I had had this incredible day of covering the festival for the paper and dancing and generally having a great time. I was on a high and then I got the following text from him at about 11pm. “You asked for a heads up. I’m here with someone I’ve been seeing.” I read this as I was walking out of Pamplona’s. I proceeded to fall apart, right there on the sidewalk. “Someone I’ve been seeing.” Complete. Break. Down. Later, I found out from Gina that he was not “seeing” anyone. It was only a date, if that. In a subsequent e-mail my husband phrased it this way, “I see a lot of my customers socially and Friday was one of those occasions.” WTF? I “saw people socially,” the entire time we were married. So, at our meeting I asked him about these incongruities. “What did I say?” he asked. I explained that “someone I’ve been seeing,” implies kissing, dating and possibly sex. “Oh no,” he said, “It wasn’t anything like that! I don’t know if I would even call it a date. It was just the first time this person and I went somewhere together by ourselves, and didn’t just run into each other at a function or event.” I know it’s going to sound crazy, but there was something absolutely adorable in the way he was trying to explain this to me. (Wow. That did sound crazy.) I think I even said as much. I told him I didn’t have any expectations about his seeing other people. It was his right. Though I did admit that it was going to be devastating to me if I found out he had a girlfriend or was sleeping with someone else, but there was nothing I could do about that. Then he said something. He said he hoped that I would see other people. He put his hand on his heart and said he would feel better if he knew I wasn’t going through this alone. I don’t know what to make of this, but I don’t like it. I don’t want him to see other people. I want him to love me, to want me and no one else for all of eternity. Divorce be damned. Dammit, I want him to feel the same way about me. (Yeah. I know. Crazy-talk. This is what I’m saying.)

After a good hour or so of talking I decided to be even braver and admit that I missed having sex with him and he said with a mischievous look on his face, “Yeah, me, too.”

He said he needed to go. He was meeting friends. He had ignored a couple of texts or phone calls during the meeting. I ended with a joke inside of a joke. I said, “I promised myself that if things went well I would end with this joke, by saying, ‘so where do we stand on the bootie calls….yes? or no?'” He laughed a little and made a face that sort of said, “Well I don’t know about all that.” We stood up and hugged. I kissed him on his cheek and said, “Thank you. I love you.” “I love you, too,” he said and he walked out.

I went into the bathroom, cried a little, came out and hurriedly wrote down notes trying to remember everything that was said.

I left feeling warm, fuzzy feelings as I walked home. The fantasy world I had created in my head, the world where we got divorced, lived separately but dated and had sex and continued to love each other in a monogamous, divorced relationship just got fed a big slice of hope. Son of a Bitch!

So now, only a few days later, my head is swimming with even more craziness. I thought it was bad before. I’m going through thought cycles that consist of, “He still loves me. I want him back. I’m going to get him back. How? What should I do? Oh, God what if it doesn’t work? What if I sign the divorce papers and then I still lose him? What if he only wants to be friends? Will we ever have sex again? Is that even possible? Yes. I’m going to get him back. Maybe I should start flirting with him by e-mail and texts, the way we used to with each other. Maybe I should give him time. Maybe he should make the first move. Or second move, now. What if he doesn’t? We would never have even met like this if I hadn’t initiated it, which is so, him. Oh God, what if I lose him for good. He’s already sort of seeing somebody else. What if it gets serious? This is bad. This is very bad. Now I want him even more. I’m going to get my heart broken again. This is really bad. What am I going to do? What is going to happen now? How will I survive any of this? I can’t lose him. I want to see him again. What am I going to do? What if we do see each other again, date even and he starts treating the same way again, a way that is unacceptable to me. What if the man who showed up at the cafe was an apparition, not the real thing? What if he hasn’t changed at all and the anger and bitterness and spite and blame are just resting in limbo, waiting to come out again once he’s comfortable enough? What if this is just what we needed to find our way to some kind of new, unconventional relationship? What if he’s changed for the better and he moves on…..with someone else?”

I’m fucked.

Scientist say that humans don’t really consciously chose their mates. That we’re not attracted to each other for the reasons we think we are, the reasons we want to believe we are. Some say that it’s just a matter of chemistry, of pheromones in the air. One day, you’re in the presence of your chemical match and it’s their scent that gets you. It’s chemicals in the air reacting in your brain and that’s it. You’re done. Then you try to get that basic, animalistic, evolutionary instinct and fit it into the social construct of marriage and society with its budgets and roles and dishes and laundry and kids and sex and love and in-laws and pressures. And it doesn’t work, but you still have that base, animal, pheromone attraction going on.

I remember the first time I say him. We were 18 years old. 1988. English 115. Honors English. There were about twelve of us in the class. There he was, that blue-black hair, with bangs hanging down over his eyes, tanned, olive skin and a maroon beret on his head. He wore an army-issue cargo vest, baggy shorts and vans. He carried a skateboard. I had never seen anyone like him. When roll was being called, everyone answered, “Here,” or “Present.” He replied, “Yo!” I was hooked. Right then. Right there. I was gone.

When I think about us, our personalities, our characters, the ways we’ve changed over the last 20+ years, I think, we’re not what the other really needs. We’re both too emotional. Neither of us is really strong enough to hold the other up. We’re not good for each other, exactly. Yet, there we were, sitting across a table from each other, looking into each other’s eyes with nothing but love and longing, confessing once again that we felt exactly the same way about each other. We’re like doomed swans.

So, should I change my friendface relationship status to “it’s complicated?” Too soon?

God, help me. I’m in love with the man I’m divorcing.

Note:  My 24-year old daughter just adopted her 4-year old nephew (her husband’s sister’s natural son). They are stationed in Hawaii right now. This is our first grandchild. I have been anxious to be a grandmother for a long time.

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