Chapter 13

Two Write Hands

Rodney didn’t refuse to leave 6838 Eagle Creek Path because deep down he wanted to be with me. He just wanted all our mutual friends to think I wanted to be with him. So inflated was his own opinion of himself, he believed he could treat me however he wanted, and I’d sit back and let him. The same way his mom, figuring she had no other choice with two kids and no money, had stayed with his dad.

THUD! Rodney dropped a stack of books on my desk and I jumped. I glared up at him while removing my ear buds.

“Try to keep your things off the dining room table. They’re in my way.” He patted the stack of books and smiled.

Rodney was not an enlightened male. He didn’t believe the things in our home were as much mine as they were his, including the dining room table, the hand-me-down from my parents. The table that once seated six people and their Thanksgiving dinner quite comfortably but somehow now couldn’t accommodate his bowl of soup and four paperbacks.

Because Rodney made eighty percent of our combined household income while I was enrolled in school full time, he behaved as if everything in the house right down to my toothbrush was eighty percent his and twenty percent mine.

Expressionless, I put my ear buds back in and finished a freelance piece for a company that sold cremation jewelry. Rodney loomed over me a while longer, breathing heavily. If you’ve seen the clip of Donald Trump looming behind Hillary Clinton in that 2016 debate, you know that of which I speak. And, if you’re a woman, you probably don’t even need that point of reference.

Anyway, he’d clearly eaten at Yats for lunch that day; his breath was foul. I told him once that the smell of shrimp, garlic, green onions, and cayenne mixed with saliva repulsed me. He decided to weaponize it. The asshole was looking for a fight. Admittedly, part of me wanted to yell obscenities at him for an hour or two, but I refused to take the bait. Liz convinced me that refusing to engage him would eat him up from the inside out, and that appealed to me quite a bit more than calling him a fucking prick for the millionth time.

***

“He’s definitely a narcissist. Definitely a compulsive liar. Probably a psychopath. Or is it sociopath?” I was supposed to be tutoring Liz in Finite Math, but she needed a break. She pulled out a one-hitter and switched on a Carrie Newcomer CD. “Trust me,” she exhaled. Her room filled with the smells of forest, skunk, and citrus. “Making your life miserable is a hobby for Rodney, but controlling everyone else’s perception of him is and always will be his number one priority.

“Want him to stop fucking with you? Expose him.” She said it like bringing him down would be the easiest thing in the world.

“If only I knew how,” I said. I wasn’t opposed to the idea of destroying Rodney, but I didn’t know where to start.

“You’ve got a blog, don’t you?”

“Yeah?”

“Write down everything that motherfucker does. He’ll be so busy trying to public-relations himself out of that hole, you might just get a little break.”

A few hours later, I opened my laptop.

January 06, 2009

I’m writing this with my headphones on.

There are three ways for me to be alone. The first, of course, is to actually be alone. The second is to read a book. And the third is to listen to music using headphones. If I must resort to manufacturing alone-ness, the third is my best option. Because if the music is loud enough, you can’t hear the squeaking floorboards in the hallway, the knocks on your bedroom door, the intrusive questions about the mail you receive, or the irksome comments about your phone calls.

I think a lot about how my life will be different when it’s just me and the dog. No repeats of last Sunday, me in my car in the Marsh parking lot–thankful for the few moments of peace–talking to a friend for more than an hour before heading inside. My friend saying, “…guessing you must be pretty psychologically resilient, you know, considering everything.”

“Oh,” I think to myself, but don’t say out loud, “You must be referring to how I only imagine changing the locks or throwing prized possessions out of second-story windows or putting Ex-Lax in the brownies.” Maybe it’s psychological resilience. Maybe it’s just a super-human helping of the self-control beaten into me by the Baptists I once adored.

For the past week, if I haven’t been downing Tylenol or Excedrin, I have been chewing Pepto Bismol tablets. My mind is sound. My body is paying for it, I think, in headaches and backaches and ulcers.

January 12, 2009

Hope.

When it comes to being mad, I am a colossal failure.

“I’m not talking to you right now,” he said, “you’re upset.”

“Oh my God!” I shouted. “If all you ever have to suffer is me screaming profanities at you from the top of my….” And that’s where it all fell apart. Because six seconds into the fight, the tears were already streaming down my face. And however enraged I still was, I looked like I was just this sad, broken little thing that needed a hug and an ice cream cone.

“I should be out of here by March 1,” I managed to say.

“Oh? Well, I was going to move out in a couple of weeks,” he came back. “I know a guy who knows a guy kind of thing.” Fast forward through my crying and yelling about how it would be nice to know these kinds of things, and fast forward through a little of my wondering out loud what the hell he was going to do if I moved into an apartment before he did.

It’s just a power play. I kept telling myself that. Something to throw me off and make me change my plans. “Right,” I said, still crying, “and when I’ve put off my own plans to leave, your deal will fall through, and I’ll suffer another 6 months of this.”

“Oh, since we’re disclosing things, there’s a chance I might be taking a job overseas.”

You all won’t believe me, but I honestly do try to be rational. And I do try not to let my imagination run away with me. And I do know what happens when a thing is just too good to be true. But I guess I was a little weak from all the crying and screaming, because I immediately began redecorating his room in my mind, using the money I got from eBay by selling the stuff he couldn’t take with him.

***

Rodney was desperate to be adored. So naturally he was promising some woman he’d met on AsianSingles.com that he was coming for her. As for Lucy, well, after the night we all met in front of her apartment building, she eventually dumped him. So, yeah, he’d been taunting me about moving to Thailand to be with someone he called Aleena. He was trying to make me jealous, but all it really did was give me false hope. So I published some intentionally inflammatory junk about how he couldn’t even get his mail-order bride to come visit him. Perhaps not my finest moment.

My readers were enjoying the drama, though. A few hours after I’d published a post, my old boss, the bestselling author, sent me an instant message: “Your blog has gotten fantastic. I mean, I’m sorry about the divorce and everything, but my, it’s delicious.” Later he joked, “I want more! I want him to never move out!”

I sat back in my office chair, bolstered by John’s praise of my writing. Maybe I could post a little more frequently.

***

January 19, 2009

An Alice Kind of Mad

Sometimes I’m irrational.

I know, I know. Hard to believe. Just trust me on this one.

Shortly after I decided that I was going to file for divorce, I started purging the condo of  couple photos. At present, all of our wedding photos have been removed from the walls, except for one studio shot of my mother and me. (What? I love my mother and I’m not exactly opposed to there being a permanent record of me in that dress.)

Anyway, there used to be this black and white engagement photo hanging on the wall in my office too.

When I took that picture down, I stared at my image for a few minutes. (You have to understand that internally I was still raging and very angry, and I was looking for a way to cathart.) So I removed the picture from the frame and carefully cut myself out of the photo. Following all the curves, leaving every last piece of me intact. I gently dropped my photo in to the trash. Then I hacked the other face to little tiny pieces and watched as they fluttered erratically into the can.

As you can probably imagine, it came up later. So I explained what happened to the photo. He was shocked and said in disbelief, “Geez. You really hacked my face to pieces?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “I thought it would make me feel better.” I paused for a minute to remember the act, and then I added, “It didn’t.”

Oh, and there was this one time we were fighting. (I can’t recall exactly when. There were so many offenses. So many fights. But it was before the ceremonial removal of the pictures. That I know.) He was in the kitchen yelling. I went to the bedroom and slammed the door as hard as humanly possible. I noticed a small frame, a wedding gift from my aunt, that contained a picture of the two of us at our reception. It was mocking me from the nightstand. So I picked it up, opened the door and peeked out into the hallway. I saw the hall was clear, so I screamed something–you know, for dramatic effect–and then hurled the thing as hard as I could. The wood frame split on impact and rolled a few more feet into the living room.

As I recall, that didn’t help me much either.

I’m really not a destructive person. Promise. And up to that point in my life, I had never tried to resolve my anger with violence. And maybe that’s why I just had to try it.

January 26, 2009

He said. She said.

“Can you help me with this?” He punctuates the question with a frown.

She reaches to grab the package, but hesitates. “Maybe you should just do it. I mean, what are you going to do when I’m gone anyway?”

He struggles with the packaging more. “I’ll just find a replacement.”

She resumes typing and mutters, “I think you already have.”

He goes to replace the light bulb. She muses about how there’s a really funny joke in that somewhere.

A few hours pass.

She pulls something out of the freezer when he shows up in the kitchen. “I want to apologize. That was a really crappy thing for me to say earlier. I’m sorry. You can’t be replaced. I consider this a major loss.”

She closes the freezer door and his face appears in front of hers. She lets out a disgusted sigh. “Whatever.”

January 30, 2009

To My Dear Readers: A Few Things for the Record, Part 1

First of all, my Ex insists that I didn’t actually mumble “Whatever” as reported at the end of this little gem. (Of course, he also tried to convince me that he didn’t have my set of keys the other day. He was wrong about that too.)

He also wonders out loud why I’m lying to you guys–why I don’t tell you the whole truth.

The other day, he came upstairs after reading my latest post. (I can gauge his mood by how heavily his feet thud on each step. So, I pretty much know when he’s read my blog before he ever opens his mouth.) “I’ve got a question for you. Why don’t you tell them about the other week when I did all that nice stuff while you were sick?”

“Oh?” I asked, “Is that why you did it? So I’d write about it on my blog?”

“You’re lying to your readers, you know. You’re not giving them the whole story.”

“Perhaps,” I added (it’s a great joy of mine to concede a little bit of something and then use that to make a brilliant counterpoint), “but if that’s the case, I’ve been lying to them for years. And you didn’t seem to have a problem with it before. Would you like me to tell them the whole story?” I enjoyed saying the last three words a little more than a good Christian should.

My thoughts on full disclosure for the record:

Readers, as much as I would like to spell out for you everything that’s happened in gory detail, I usually try to be petty on a smaller scale. If the fact that he bought me chicken noodle soup is of monumental importance to you, I apologize.  But I trust you understand that this situation is much more complex than I can convey here. I simply report my experiences from my perspective. I’m sure you’re all astute enough to keep in mind that The Ex and I are not on the same page about this–or anything really.

As for you, ex-husband, fucking push me about what I write on my blog again. I dare you. Also, if you move out, I don’t have much to write about. Just some food for thought.

Ahem. That is all.

January 31, 2009

To My Dear Readers: A Few Things for the Record, Part 2

For the record, I thought I’d heard everything. Until the other day, when he said this: “So does that mean you’re ready to get this thing back on track and work to fix what’s wrong here? Are you ready to undo the divorce?” 

Blink. Blink. “Do what?! What about your new girlfriend?”

“See. You do want to get back together.”

***

Also for the record, and I know a marriage counselor would probably tear me to shreds on this count, I am completely blameless for the dissolution of the marriage. So I might get just a tiny bit insulted when he implies that I need to get right with God and fix what went wrong. Especially when I tried to fix it without any cooperation on his part for something like TWO YEARS.

Now, please excuse me for a second while I address him directly. He does better when he gets it in writing.

No way in hell will I ever want to get back with you. Don’t you ever bring up “fixing things” to me again. Understand that you already had your bazillion chances with me. Understand that I did everything you ever wanted (except make the fucking bed). Understand that I am finished. Forever. Move out. Move on. Let. It. Go.

This is the part where I get to be happy now.

February 01, 2009

Sunday Phone Call From Mom

“Hey, what’s up?” I put it on extra cheery for mom, just because.

“Are you OK?” she asked, obviously concerned.

“Of course. I’m fine.” I was a little shocked by her question, but the shock gave way to guilt when I realized I hadn’t called last weekend. Or the weekend before that.

“Well, I was just wondering about you. You know, Melanie asked me a couple of weeks ago how you were doing. And I couldn’t really answer. She asked me if I read your blog…” Oh God. I held my breath. I was going to shout to her “No!” But then I thought that would only make her curious. I decided to just listen and pray instead. Please don’t read my blog. Please don’t read my blog. I just knew I was going to regret saying “fucking” on my blog.  And I did it twice! Oh dear God don’t let her click over to my guest post.

“But you know how I am with computers,” she continued. I exhaled my relief into the phone. “So anyway, I told her I hadn’t. She mentioned something about you being pretty annoyed that he took off with your car that one time?”

“Yeah, he and I had a little talk about that.”

“Well,” she sighed, “any news yet?” Oh right. I remembered why I hadn’t talked to her in a couple of weeks. Because I hate telling her how there’s never any progress. I keep thinking I’ll just wait and call her when I have good news. It can’t be that far off. Right?

“No, Mom. Still waiting. He told me a while ago he might be out this weekend. But he’s not. I tried not to get my hopes up. I suck at that, apparently.”

“Well, I hope something happens soon. You need closure, Emily.”

“I know, Mom. It’s just a mess. My attitude lately sucks aaaa–” I caught it before it came out. “It really sucks. I mean, the way I see it, I’ve been through more than enough.”

“Yeah, well. It’ll get better. You’ll have your chance to move on soon.”

February 15, 2009

Can it be? Dare I hope?

There’s a dry erase board on the fridge. It reads: “Note: I’m expecting a shipment of several boxes for overseas shipping so I can send a few necessities to Thailand.”

 Now, granted, The Ex has had my hopes up many times before. And he has promised lots of things before. (I vaguely remember something along the lines of “forsaking all others” a few years ago. I don’t know. It’s all kind of fuzzy now.) So I try not to get too excited.

But I cannot deny that I dream of the day he ships himself off to god-forsaken Thailand.

February 16, 2009

Is it just me? Or is it getting pettier in here?

On Valentine’s Day, The Ex gave me a card. “Friends like you…  …make life wonderful!” It cost $.99, and it wasn’t even a Hallmark. There was also some chocolate (you betcher ass I ate it) and an invitation to dinner (you gotta be fucking kidding me).

I would have preferred that he take out the trash for Valentine’s Day. I mean, since he is unemployed. And it has been three mother bleeping weeks since the last time he took it to the curb.

UPDATE: I took out the trash last night. While dragging things to the curb someone closed the garage door on me. Then opened it a few minutes later and laughed. I took more trash to the curb. Someone locked me out of the house. (I had my keys because someone is so predictable. I was also informed by someone that I was a worthless, deadbeat wife who never did anything while we were married. (I was told I should blog that. So there ya go, folks. I am blogging it.)

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