I’ve been thinking about divorce for the last few days. Settle down, settle down–I’ve been thinking about the one I ALREADY had 10+ years ago. (Not the one I’m gonna have if someone doesn’t get to the bottom of that sink full of dirty dishes, but that’s a different story for another day.)
If March is the month that holds a lot of memories of my time with Richard, April is the month that reeks of Fartbuster. We had an April wedding. Five years after that, he moved out on April Fools Day. We signed the divorce papers on the day after what would have been our sixth wedding anniversary. Oh, and I found out all about his pregnant girlfriend in April, too. Another story for another day.
Isn’t it odd that one of my earliest fond memories of him, when we had only been dating a few months, was from a long drive–he read “The Wasteland” to me? For those of you who went to college in profitable fields, that’s the T.S. Eliot poem with the famous opening lines: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.” After that trip, he gave me his collection of Eliot poems, even crossed through his name on the inside of the front cover and wrote mine below it.
I’ve got a lot of stories about that marriage (The Engagement Fart), some of which I’ve never written down before. Like the time I found myself living out the biggest cliche in the book–the night he came home from “working late” with actual lipstick on his collar. I went to give him a hug and couldn’t NOT see it right there in front of my face. My whole body went cold and tingly. I hesitated for a few seconds–TRYING to summon up the strength to explain it away for him before he had to–when my sane brain took over and blurted out, “Is that LIPSTICK?” He hemmed and hawed then said it must have happened when he gave a secretary who was quitting a goodbye hug. I could have accepted that; I could have swallowed the lie. Instead I said, “That’s hard to believe.” He froze for a good 20 seconds then admitted that “it was just dinner.” OH, OK!!! Psshew! I thought it was something objectionable! It’s funny now to recall that my first thought on registering that it was lipstick was that it was a frosty pink color and I couldn’t get past the TACKY. Jesus, if you’re going to cheat at least pick someone who doesn’t wear Bonnie Belle Lipsmackers.
That was a long night. We fought it out and hugged it out, I swore a lot and he swore he would change….blah, my hands are tired from just the typing of it. The next day, I called in sick to work so I could spend a few hours staring out the window and trying to remember how to breathe. I got it together. I did the laundry. I even washed his shirt for him. The whole time I had that Cowboy Junkies song, “Southern Rain,” going through my mind because there’s a line in it that goes, “Every night there’s lipstick on his collar and every morning I wash it away.”
When Fartbuster came home that evening, he came bearing gifts. As one does, naturally. Try to guess what he got me! A nice pair of “sorry I dated someone other than my wife” diamond earrings? Nope. Two tickets to a romantic second honeymoon? Nuh-uh. A bouquet of flowers from Kroger at the very least? Not so much.
A doormat. The man bought me a DOORMAT. We had two dachshunds so he bought me a novelty doormat that said “A spoiled rotten dachshund lives here!” Because if you’ve cheated on your wife, you need to high-tail it to Spencer’s Gifts in the mall to make it up to her.
Here’s my point in telling all this–people will show you who they are. They will show you what they think of you. When they do, BELIEVE THEM. Don’t give any credit to what they SAY, only to what they DO. I spent a year after this betrayal trying to swallow his bullshit about how much he loved me. There were many tearful scenes on his part, many professions of fidelity and adoration. He said, “I want to move back home because I’ve learned that home is wherever you are.” That was all in the SAY column. In the DO column? A doormat. An apartment in town. A girlfriend. Then another one.
If I had wadded up that doormat and shoved it down his throat, then punched him in the gut until he spit it back out, THEN stuck it in his zipper and lit it on fire, I think a jury of other women would have found me not guilty AND given me the Miss Congeniality prize.
I tell you what–I kept that doormat. I moved it from our house to my house, to another my house, to another our house, which became another my house then turned back into an our house. The dachshunds died years ago but that doormat is still in the garage. Every time I look at it, I remember “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Then I usually mumble, “Dumbass.” For the first few years after I figured it all out, I was thinking of myself when I added, “Dumbass,” Like it was my fault for not seeing through him sooner. “When people show you who they are, believe them, Dumbass.” But now that I’ve done the work to get more whole, I can see that his shortcomings were all about him and not anything I was supposed to fix. I was thinking about the woman who stayed silent while a cheating man gave her a doormat. Now I say it when I’m thinking about the man who thought that was good enough for me. Dumbass.
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