The Dumpster


I remember now.

Once the house was going and I was going, the stage was set. The whole, awful summer had been leading up to these last few weeks which wrought swift, painful change.

And those things that changed? They stayed changed.

Which is why, I think, I still remember them. Does that make sense?

* * * * * *

I was finally able to forge a plan. It would change, but I had to start somewhere.

First, there were the basic logistics of moving. I decided I would fly to San Francisco the weekend following Em and Nick's wedding. Between the time of the house closing and the wedding (about a week), I would stay with Healy and Brian in Boston. I would pay to have my car shipped to me.

Then there were the financial logistics. David and I had agreed we would split our assets right down the middle, and that decision remained. We never really discussed it, but I suspected it would have been pretty easy (legally) for him to have left and taken all the money. That fear kept me in line. It was extra incentive for me to try and never upset him – the fear that all of a sudden I'd say the wrong thing and he would say, "That's it! You've annoyed me for the last time. I'm leaving, and I'm taking everything."

I wouldn't be surprised if these days he regrets having given me anything. Then again, maybe not. If I'm being perfectly honest, he was basically paying me off, like we were in a bad movie and I'd committed a crime and had to escape underground.

Here. Here is your check. I will give it to you under one condition: that you take it and move away and live as though this whole thing never happened. Got it? I have given you more than enough to start over, so I have nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, I'm being more than generous. So go on, go.

Like hush money. More or less.

[After I'd move to San Francisco, I'd have nightmares and panic attacks that I would somehow, months and miles away, piss Dave off and that he would come find me and take it all back.]
The logistics of the "stuff" was a little more complicated. I would later regret my decision, but in the fog of "just make this whole nightmare end" I said I wouldn't, couldn't take anything with me. David would get all the furniture to do with as he pleased. I could have any of the "knickknacks" – wall hangings, candle holders, cooking utensils, etc. – so long as I could figure out how to get them to California.

But all the beautiful furniture I'd purchased, or been given, or found and spent days painting, I gave up. I didn't have the emotional energy to deal with it. I just let it go.

I have no idea where any of it ended up.

Finally, there were the cat logistics. I couldn't figure out how I would get them to San Francisco. I mean, I could take them with me on the plane, but um…and then where would they go? From the time I left the house in Connecticut until I found my own apartment (and, uh, furniture), I was going to be living out of a suitcase. How do you do that with cats? I suggested, of course, that David, Mr. I-Just-Want-To-Be-Domesticated,-You-Are-The-One-Who-Changed should keep them. But he said no.

We compromised and agreed to each take one. And while I still had no idea how I would manage even one cat throughout my move, I figured it would be easier than managing two.

* * * * * *

On the morning of September 11, I drove into the office to settle a few things before permanently moving to the West Coast. On my way in, insipid DJs interrupted some insipid song to say there were unconfirmed reports that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The DJs speculated that it was probably a small, personal jet and that some pilot had just lost his way (or mind). You know. Crazy New York.

By the time I arrived at the office, the DJs were talking to some man on his cell phone who was trapped in one of the offices above where the plane had hit. He couldn't get into the stairwell. How someone could be trapped after so minor an incident didn't make sense to me, or the DJs, or the man stuck in the office. What was going on?

I got out of the car and into the office where clusters of people had gathered. The news my officemates were getting was more reliable than the news I had heard. I hadn't changed my radio station to something more newsy because, really, I had no way of knowing it was such a big deal. But then the reports were so...

Hearing the "news" in real time, in convoluted dribs and drabs, was painful and shocking and unbelievable and unreliable. Our tiny little office had no idea what was going on, but who did? Everyone was rushing to different websites and radio stations, trying to get the most accurate account as it – slowly – became apparent that this was not a small event at all.

What are they saying now? People are stuck? How can – oh? Not a small jet? An airliner? What do you mean a second plane? There is? There was? It hit? There's footage? Cameras? People are jumping? This was…deliberate? Are you kidding? Headed toward the capital? There could be dozens more?

I called ElG who was still sleeping and said that he'd better get himself to a TV.

And then, what? What was there to do? What did any of us do?

I stayed in the office for a little while, feeling something akin to bewilderment. History was being made, and more and more I realized that nothing in the world – ha, let alone my life – was ever going to be the same. Everything had stopped making sense altogether.

I decided to drive myself home, back to my own personal war zone. I couldn't help but think of it that way.

In my rear-view mirror, far in the distance in the direction of New York, I could make out a cloud of black smoke billowing in the sky.

* * * * * *

At home, the dumpster had arrived. Left to my own devices, I knew I would be getting rid of as much as I could: expunging my life of excess; throwing away memories I had no reason to hang on to.

But how do you start?

I wandered around my house, picking things up and putting them down again. I would need to get boxes. I would need packing tape. Every single thing would have to go somewhere.

So daunting.

I would hold an object in my hand and without meaning to I would know where it had come from and when we’d acquired it and how I’d decided to put it on that table in this room instead of this table in that room. I had loved it all, in part. At least, I had loved the promise.

Had it really been all for...nothing?

* * * * * *

I am pretty sure it was September 12 that David came over to go through the CDs and DVDs with me. They were our only belongings that didn’t have a clear owner.

We were fairly methodical about it. There were only a few, including the Princess Bride, that we’d both wanted but I knew better than to argue for something as silly as a DVD.

No, I am pretty sure it wasn’t about the DVDs.

I am pretty sure it wasn’t about September 11, either, though I remember being surprised at how unmoved he seemed to be by it. I brought it up and he was dismissive. He didn’t get what the big deal was. He was slightly perturbed that I had called to reconnect our cable so that I could watch the events like the rest of the known world.

I don’t even think it was about the cats.

He announced that day that he had “found a home for Sherlock.” I was stunned.

“What do you mean, you found a home for him? I thought you were taking him. The whole point was that we’ve had them for three-plus years and we can’t just give them to someone else now.”

And do you know how he replied?

“You don’t get a say in what I do with Sherlock. He is my cat now, so I can do whatever I want with him. And I am giving him away.”

Divorce logic in action.

”Fine, I will take him. I am not letting our cats go to someone else.” I was horrified.


And then…I guess I really don’t know what it was. But it was. Something escalated quickly and suddenly everything, everything came out. Oh god, everything.

(My heart is racing right now as I write this...)

We were arguing furiously and it was awful. I was begging him not to leave. Please don't go. I was begging him not to have this be the end. Please, please David. Please don't go. I was begging him to keep me, or keep some part of us alive. Any part. I would do anything. Please don't go.

I could barely move, barely breathe. I was shaking and crying, allowing myself for the first time to feel the truth.

And he? He was saying awful, horrible, spiteful things. He was alternately screaming at me and smirking at me. God, that was the worst thing. He made fun of me. He laughed at me. He mocked my pain and told me I deserved to feel as badly as I did. He shrugged off my behavior as being “dramatic” and said I was only behaving this way out of “fear” and that it wasn’t real.

I literally fell to the floor. I was at the top of the kitchen stairs that led to the basement and driveway where he’d parked. He was on his way out. I was a pool, and he was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at me with disgust.

I begged him again, again not to go.

He just made fun of my crying, actually mock-crying at me before storming out of the basement door and slamming it at me.

Hours later, after I’d peeled myself from the floor and stopped shaking, he called me to apologize. He had behaved so badly that even he was ashamed. But it didn’t matter. It will never change my memory of that day, or of David.

Especially because that was the last time I would ever see him.

* * * * * *

Later that evening, still faced with the ridiculous task of packing the house, I did the only thing I could think of to do.

It was over. I was leaving, and the sooner the better. I was done. The sadness of leaving would forever be shadowed by the horror of our ending. Just like that.

So I wandered around our house until I saw it. Yes. That will do nicely. I grabbed it, and I marched to the front of the house, threw the door open, bounded down the stairs and threw that damn thing with all my might.

My beautifully framed wedding picture was the first thing I tossed into the dumpster.

It shattered.


  1. Not to take away from your beautiful writing, or the pain you felt, but man, this brings back memories of my own breakup with a guy I now barely remember details of (though I have the pleasure of seeing him every few weeks as he works on the same floor in the same building as me!). What was it I was begging for??? Can you imagine if he/they'd given us what we wanted? How many more years of loveless and hopeless unhappy relationships we would have been locked into? (Be careful what you wish for, etc, etc.)

    Years later, doesn't it make you wonder why we were begging them to keep us?

    For me, it will always boil down to fear of rejection and a fear of never finding anyone who could ever find me worthy of loving because I was so broken (broken, ironically, from being with the man who broke me but I was begging to keep me!).

    Kristy, it's nice to know this display of, well, what I consider (my own) patheticness is not just something I went through.

    And it's nice to know (now in retrospect) if you do it once, you will never do it again. :)

    Therein lies the lesson we take away from these situations, I think.

    Great writing.

  2. anon,

    thank you, and you ask great questions. i would have been wrong, but i absolutely would have stayed with him if he'd changed his mind then.

    (i wonder for how long...)

    the whole thing is so icky. yay for being on the other side!

  3. I also had a time where I "don't go"d my ex.

    I didn't want him, really. I just didn't want him to go.


  4. How absolutely horrible and heartless David was. I mean, I get it. He didn't want to be with you anymore. But, um, a little COMPASSION please? Dear God. Karma...Karma can be a mean bitch. Not that I wish evil things for him, but perhaps just a lesson learned. And maybe, maybe this was really a gift. Because you have all these stories (or maybe just one big story) and you can write them and maybe even write a book. A very successful book. And who will have the last laugh then?


  5. Kristy:

    Why is it that men think they can treat us like shit and say the awful, most hurtful things to us in the moment cause their pissed off? This is what gets to me. I also went through a nasty divorce and when I remember the things my ex said and did in the name of revenge for the pain I had caused him... I still feel blown away by it and it all happened 3 years ago. Even when I was at the height of my anger, I never said mean, awful, nasty, hurtful things to him....maybe I should have but the thing is, you can't erase those things that you say in may regret them later and you may even try to apologize, but they are still there in memory and you always wonder how much truth there is in the painful accusations and the shitty comments and in a way, you can never go back after those things have been said.

    My ex did some unspeakable things to get revenge against me because I finally chose to leave him. When I found out about what he had done, I could never trust him again. And, here is the thing, after he did all of those awful things, he tried to get back together with me!

    It just never ceases to amaze me the way that people behave with each the name of intense emotion. Sometimes, that's not a good enough reason!

  6. Has David gotten hit by a manure truck yet? Because he deserves it.

  7. what a fucker David was! Hsve you ever spoken to him since that day

  8. Kristy -- I have always enjoyed your writing, but it wasn't until just now that I realized what a gifted writer your are. Pitch-perfect, as they say. I was going through my own divorce at exactly that same time, and you have articulated things that I barely even acknowledge feeling.

    Keep writing, keep hanging in . . .

    Other SF Kristy

  9. Oh, Kristy. After reading that, I feel like I have been punched in the stomach.

    You are strong, my friend.

  10. Liar, cheating heart, mentally unfaithful, verbal abuser, don't want to be the bad guy. Low self esteem.... all sounds so familiar.

  11. wow. you sucked the breath out of me.
    you are one tough strong cookie kiki :)

  12. your life would make an excellent movie. I got a complete mental image of you and the dumpster. You seeing it through a window of your house, the gleam in your eye, hearing your inner voice say "yes, that will do nicely". we see you leave the shot hurridly and know you're grabbing something to put in the trash... not seeing what you grabbed, but watching as you gallop, almost like a child running down the stairs on christmas morning... knowing you're hurt and angry and need to have some sort've outlet... and this is it... pan to you standing in front of the dumpster, throwing something in...we watch as suddenly the form becomes clear... some sort've "frame" a rectangular shape floating in the air and lowering into the dumpster (some of the aduience will know what it is because in earlier shots, the picture could be seen in the background)... the camera shoots to your face, sees you wipe away a tear and turn around to walk back into the house... slowly the camera raises and lowers into the dumpster, and there you see it... your wedding picture... your smiling faces ironically staring up through the broken glass.

  13. Thanks for sharing your story. I can't imagine, at this point, so far removed, reliving my personal breakup story detail for detail. Reading yours though, I remember thinking some of those same things - Including the "payoff". How ironic that in the end, the things that were once "ours" become a bargaining chip - The thing that is somehow supposed to make the whole nightmare OK. Ironically, what finally makes the nightmare OK is moving on. A point came, for me anyway, when I could barely remember any of the details of that past, and I certainly can't remember what would have made me wish it wouldn't end. Life is great now...all things for a reason.

  14. You know what? My ex did the same thing with our cat. Except there was only one cat, and as I was moving from the suburban house (which he KEPT) to a room in a flat in London, I wasn't allowed to have a cat. And he gave her away ... not to someone we knew, but to the RSPCA.

    It was then that I realised I had absolutely no desire to ever see the man again.

  15. Kristy -

    I so feel your pain and ww's having been there myself. I think Jenny said it best - I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach.

    You are an amazing person and a fabulous writer. I'm so glad you found it to "the other side"!

    -- J.

  16. I'm just baffled by David's behavior. I mean, I can understand some animosity - maybe in his eyes you ruined everything, or cheated on him or whatever - but still, how can you be so cruel to someone who at least in some point point you claimed to love? Laughing and mocking's just unbelievable to me how he could be so heartless, especially considering the circumstances with your mom. As painful as it must have been to go through, you're clearly a stronger person and oh so greatful for those around you that at least tried to make up for his dispicable behavior.

    While your story is amazing, even more so is your ability to so vividly recount it. To echo many before me, thanks so much for sharing. I'm very happily married and have been with my husband for 11 years - your story makes me understand that I'm not only very fortunate to be with the man I am but also that our life makes me happy.

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  18. K ~ one question springs immediately to my mind. Why is that he could have "taken everything?" Even in the case of infidelity (and you hadn’t even met the Internet Guy yet, right?), the other partner doesn't get everything from the marriage.

    How awful that he treated you that way. It's certainly no excuse, and I’m not defending him, but my compassionate side also sees that this man you loved and who loved you, who had never treated you like this before must have been in a lot of pain to act the way he did and say the things he did.

    I’m not defending him, I’m not advocating that what he did was right or even okay; I can just so clearly see his pain and anguish shining through his horrible behavior.

  19. I can only say wow to your writing. I too was going through a separation that led to divorce at the same time. I remember feeling so much of what you have written. September 11th just compounded everything. Your writing feels so vivid like you are just coming out the other side, it is addicting.

  20. tonya,

    yes, i agree with you. he was clearly hurt and unable to deal with his pain in any sort of constructive way. he behaved like a hurt child. (probably because that's what he was.)

    i still don't totally blame him. i just don't like him.

    as far as his being able to take everything -- i never looked up the law on it, but all the money we had came from his job and his stock options from before we were married. i thought maybe he'd have a pretty good case that i deserved nothing, especially after being married for under two years.

    i didn't know. but i didn't have the energy to fight.

  21. I remember mine. Laughing at me...get up off the floor you f*cking drama queen...mock begging..feeling more hurt than I've ever felt in my life...

    So he left, then started calling with the I miss yous and I'm sorrys...I didn't wait around for those, though. And they meant nothing at that point anyway. You CANT erase things you say...maybe you can dull them with explanations sometimes, but having someone staring down at you ridiculing the hurt. No, that has never gotten any less sharp or painful.

    Yes, Kristy...yay for the other side.


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