I kiss my son and daughter goodbye at their elementary school, risking parental censure for slowing the theoretical efficiency of the drop-off lane. I return home to a chilly house. My elderly beagle greets me, wagging and leaning into my legs. I stoop to kiss his sweet, greying head.
My husband has left for his engineering job. There are strains in the marriage after thirteen and a half years, although I don’t recognize them as such. Growing pains, I think. Strain happens.
I pour a cup of coffee, open my email, and ease into a day of freelance work, comprised of writing, research, and looking for more work. There is never enough.
I try and concentrate on my freelance project instead of my writing. I had a book published in 2006 by a very small publisher. The print run was tiny. Still, I thought it marked the opening of a door for me, the door. Yet I had little luck when I began shopping around my next manuscript. I revised it, exploring different angles, tightening here, expanding there. I got “good” rejections. Unsure of how to proceed, I begin a cycle of setting aside the manuscript—a meditation on a troubled marriage from the husband’s perspective—and focusing on my freelance work. I contemplated an MFA, a journey I would not take until years later.
My husband, bearing the weight of primary breadwinner responsibilities, struggled with his own disappointment. We communicated well, but not about these things. When we resolved issues about the children, or where to spend our summer camping trip, we patted ourselves on the back for how well we compromised. But for the delicate conversations, those requiring surgical precision to navigate complex emotions and complications, we didn’t have the stomach or skill. Those discussions were routinely, deliberately, avoided, a dull ache going untreated for years.
I wrap up another freelance essay and leave the house to collect the children from school. As the kids snack on apples and pretzels, I start making pizza dough, a Friday tradition. My husband calls and tells me he’s stopping for drinks after work, another Friday tradition, and my clock-watching vigil begins.
We don’t know it yet, but by fall, as the economy collapses hard in Detroit, in the heart of the auto industry, my husband will take a company buyout. It is an event that will transform the strains into fault lines.
I got married when I was twenty-four. If you had told me then that situation was terminal, I would have laughed. If you told me it would end the chaotic way it ended, or that daily, moment-to-moment trauma could be prolonged and endured for over a year, my response would have been horrified disbelief.
Now, ten years after the beginning of that shattering end, I measure time differently. I’m four years past the end of a 20-year marriage, writing and seeking and becoming. Still, I find that there is much I do not allow myself to acknowledge publicly, despite the fact that the soul-injuries have been sutured, scarred over, and faded by time and intention into soft pink shadows. I’m guarded, still trying to figure out who is actually protected by silence. From the outside, my oblique comments are often regarded as evidence that I “handled things gracefully.” I’m not sure I believe in this kind of grace, though by now I know the words to these litanies by heart.
Catherine works as an editor at an educational reference publishing company and publishes a blog, Chronicles of the Open Hearted, at cathchronicles.com. You can still find her novel Amazing Disgrace on Amazon. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and continues to seek publication for a new novel and several short stories and flash fiction.
A vegan, an animal lover, and a rescue dog mamma, Catherine supports her local humane society, www.michiganhumane.org. Catherine encourages others to do the same.