I’ve been going out quite a bit since my ex-wife moved out. You could call it a distraction. You could say that I’m actually doing what I have been wanting to do. Or you could not say anything at all because you’re not me, and because I’m about to tell you myself. I wholly admit that going out as much as I have been is a distraction, but I’ll also say it’s also what I’ve been wanting to do. When you move somewhere brand new with someone you’ve never lived with before, and the promise of adventuring and going together is over the horizon, that’s what you look forward to. We didn’t do anything of that sort together. And since I didn’t want to just go off and disappear all the time without her, I didn’t go anywhere. In the last month I’ve gone out more and seen more new things than the whole time we lived together.
My friend invited me to a Movies in the Park event in her town, but when I found out what movie was being shown, I immediately felt my stomach cringe. That’s when I realized that I’ve been avoiding a lot of things just as much as I’ve been enjoying new places.
The girl from my first “practice engagement” was Hawaiian, Filipino, and Japanese. I had proposed the night before I left to transfer to South Carolina, and it didn’t take long for things to fall apart. It was in the time of pagers and payphones, and we talked almost every night. I had sent her a card and a gift for Valentine’s Day, and was a bit disappointed that I had not received anything for the great commercialized holiday for lovers. Not a letter, card, phone, or even a six-pack of beer. Needless to say (even though I’m still going to say it), we didn’t talk on the phone anymore either. She was in the military as well and her fellow sailors in the barracks where she lived made up all sorts of excuses for her or just flat out said she wasn’t there.
It was almost St. Patrick’s Day when I had finally received an envelope from her. It was partially ripped in the corner, and the handwriting wasn’t hers. Withdrawing the pages inside, a picture fell onto the floor of my room. It was a wallet-sized photo of her and I with Santa from the mall nearby the base. Cliche cute couple picture, but later that night I had to make my first call to 911, so there was more significance to what surrounded that photo than what could be seen developed on paper. Already seeing what direction this was heading in, I unfolded the pages to discover an angry letter asking me all these questions like, “How could you do this to me?” and “Why did you wait until you moved away to hurt me?” At the end she said it was over and that she was sending back the engagement ring. Looking back in the envelope only to find it empty, I flipped over my relationships paper coffin and understood why that corner was ripped open. Either it been ripped into by someone else, or the bulk of the rock on that band caught on something in the delivery process and it fell out. Either way, I never got it back.
For a long while after that break up, I avoided anything that reminded me of her: Hawaiian pizza, Hawaiian Punch, getting breakfast from McDonald’s (which we went to more times a week than I’d like to admit), even movies or songs that we had watched together or she introduced me to or sang to me.
Eventually I came back around to the delicious combo that is ham and pineapple, or a random bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, but for months afterwards I couldn’t even look at certain things without wanting to run off in a corner and throw up from instant nausea.
And so that’s what happened with the movie in regards to my ex. It’s still so new, this whole divorce, we’re done, start moving on thing, and not even the good company of my friend in a fun, community event could remedy or even numb what I’m currently experiencing.
But I think this is expected. Looking back on previous break ups, there are always things that I shy away from because they hit too close to home. Typically, they’re food related, but obviously there are things like movies and songs that I remember as specific events directly related to them. As much as I love the song we used for our first dance, it unfortunately tastes bitter when I hear it now.
Recognizing this feels like a solid indicator that I’m not as numb or indifferent as I may seem to some. And I don’t want to try and force a replacement memory for some of these social triggers, because that isn’t healthy. As cliche as it is, time will eventually let me enjoy these things without getting all bent up about them, and it will probably occur in a happier situation with a friend. And then it will be our happy memory.
Happy memories. That’s a simple enough thing to want right? All in due time, I know, because there are still so many things where I feel like my ex has marked that spot.