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.
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.