9/29/13

The Night My Marriage Ended, Starring Catherine Zeta Jones!


So. I'm tweaking my manuscript and it dawned on me that I never wrote about the actual moment I knew my husband was leaving me. I've told this story so many times, to so many people, that I kind of assumed that I'd written it down. I was wrong. 

I'm thinking that this would be a good first chapter. Or foreward. Or intro. Or is it prologue? God help me. I have no idea what I'm doing. But that's something I can deal with later. For now, please have a read:



THE NIGHT MY MARRIAGE ENDED, STARRING CATHERINE ZETA JONES!

We were eleven and a half years into our marriage. The child who had hastened our wedding plans, Charlie, was 10, our girl Molly was 8, Henry was 6 and the baby, William, was 4. Summer vacation was just around the corner, and I faced the prospect of three months with no school as many stay at home mommies do: with a mixture of dread and excitement. The seemingly endless summer loomed before me, and I'd been occupied with getting the kids signed up for all of the busywork that middle-class suburban children attend to in June, July and August: day camps, park and rec activities, swimming lessons. I'd surprised my husband with tickets to see Jack Johnson in Chicago mid-summer, and had just squared away the childcare arrangements with my mother-in-law. Marriages will go stale if they're not tended to properly, you know. I was secretly, guiltily, dying to get away from the kids for a few days, and to reconnect with my fella. Plus, Jack Johnson...enough said. 

The day my marriage ended was a Saturday. It started out as normal as any Saturday got around our house. Big Daddy had taken off first thing that morning, saying he had some errands to run. I did the usual weekend stuff with the kids: went to a t-ball game or two, cleaned a little, played a little, putzed around in our shiny, newly remodeled kitchen. When Big Daddy returned a few hours later, with two coffees in hand, the kids ran up to greet him and I waited on the front steps for my kiss and my coffee. 

You know how it goes in households with several little kids: tag team parenting. So, coffee in hand, it was my turn to go get a few things done. First stop was the grocery store. It was a gorgeous, late spring day, the kind that calls for grilling and dinner on the patio. I picked up some steaks, some corn on the cob, and a bottle of wine. Because, after all...this was Saturday night. My last stop was at the video store, where I picked up the movie Chicago, featuring sexy Richard Gere, Rene Zellweger and of course, Catherine Zeta Jones. Big Daddy and I were woefully behind on the "Must See" movies, and I was determined to get us caught up a little that evening.

Dinner was fabulous, as I knew it would be. We sat at the patio table, Big Daddy and I, and watched the kids cavort in the backyard for a while before clearing the dishes and gathering up our tired brood as dusk settled in. We gave the kids baths, read them their stories, tucked them in a few times. The usual rote bedtime rituals that millions of families do in millions of households every night. I decided to tackle the dinner dishes before firing up the movie, and asked Big Daddy to open the wine. He poured me a glass, and set it next to me on the gleaming granite countertop. I was elbows deep in hot, sudsy water, scrubbing the large pot we had used to boil the corn.

Big Daddy sat on the arm of the sofa in our family room. When we remodeled the kitchen, we had added a big pass through between the two rooms, so whoever was stuck on dish duty could see all the action. He was acting kind of strange, I remember. Like there was something urgent he needed to tell me, or ask me. But he waited until the kids were asleep. 

Wasn't that thoughtful of him?

He cleared his throat. "There's something we need to talk about," he started. I turned off the water, took a sip of my wine and smiled. I thought to myself, "Oh boy. What did he buy now?"

He fidgeted and squirmed, tried to find a comfortable position on the wide arm of the couch before he began. 

"Today, when I was out this morning...I got an apartment."

In what was to be the last few seconds of my familiar life, my old life, I pulled a towel from the oven handle and began drying the dishes. I looked at him and said, "Really? For who?" I thought maybe one of his brothers was looking for a place. Or maybe, a coworker. Looking back on this now, I'm touched by the naivete of my response. I really had no idea what sort of hell I was about to enter.

"It's for me, Jenny. I signed a one year lease on an apartment for me."

I remember this moment as if it just happened last night. I can feel the hot dishwater evaporating from my hands and the cool, smooth granite beneath my fingers which had somehow splayed themselves on the counter top.  I can feel my body frozen there in front of the pretty new sink, bathed in a warm yellow pool of fake sunshine from the fancy pendant light I'd picked out at Home Depot just the week before. 

I stood there like that for a few minutes. Or maybe it was an hour. That part I don't recall with as much clarity. 

Finally, I managed to speak. One word was all I could manage as I looked at the man with whom I'd just made dinner, the man who stood beside me in bedroom doorways as we'd said goodnight to our babies. My husband. He didn't look at me as I said it. He chewed on his lower lip and fussed with the hem of his shorts.

"Why?" I asked. 

Still sitting, he shrugged. Shrugged. He had just announced that he was leaving me, and all he could offer me was a shrug? I found my voice again, and found something else as well: a primal, rapacious anger that I'd get to know so well in the months and years to come.

"You're leaving me? Leaving us? WHY?" I said it loud, not quite yelling but definitely not chatting now. "Is there someone else?"

His fingers left the hem of his shorts, his eyes found mine for the first time since he sat down to tell me his big news. He shook his head side to side, the floppy swath of hair that hung over his forehead swaying to and fro.

"I feel like a prisoner here. I'm not happy." He stood up. "I need some time alone. Time to think." 

I pulled the stopper from the sink and watched as the dirty, soapy dishwater circled the drain, slowly at first and then faster, that wet sucking sound filling the empty space between me and my husband. 

Just off to the right of the sink was the big wooden block that held our Wustoff Trident knives. A much-loved wedding gift, the various knives and kitchen shears had become the most-used items in my kitchen. For a few seconds, I pictured myself pulling out the big butcher knife, the one I had used earlier in the day to cut up a juicy seedless watermelon, and plunging it into his chest. I could see the knife going in, could see his indifferent blue eyes looking at me with horrified shock, could see the blood spurting out onto his stupid golf shirt and frayed khaki shorts and then pooling onto the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors. 

Of course I didn't do it. What I did do was slip into denial mode, a mode which had served me well in the past, and was as comfortable as a tattered old robe.

There would be no more talk of marriages disintegrating! The dishes were done and there was wine and a movie to watch! Surely my husband would soon realize the grim error of his ways, and we'd laugh as we talked about "that time he almost left". This was not, could not, be happening.

"Well." I said, finally drying my hands and clutching the wine glass in a trembling death-grip, "we should probably watch that movie. I don't want to talk about this anymore."

And what's funny, is...he followed me into the cozy front room where we kept the big t.v. and the DVD player. We sat on our worn Southwestern striped couch, the couch we'd bought with some of our wedding money. The couch we'd taken turns holding fussy babies on. The couch we actually made a baby on, once. We sat there, like it was just any other Saturday night, not the Saturday night our marriage ended. 

We sat there and watched Chicago, starring Catherine Zeta Jones. 


40 comments:

  1. I would have shot him, I give you many many praises that you controlled your self in such a manner, I definitely would not have even as a Christian. Wooochild Shanaynay from Martin would have came out!

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    1. The part I didn't write: there was a big ol' butcher knife close to the sink. For a second, I looked at it and imagined sticking it into his chest. Just for a second though. :) I was in shock, though. Pure shock.

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    2. ^^ You'd better put that part in there. That's good shit. (From a literary perspective, I mean)

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  2. Denial is so powerful. This story is so powerful. I had never heard it and I'm so glad to know how it went down. How soon after did he leave?

    He's not the brightest bulb is he.

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    1. If memory serves...he stayed that night. Hung out like everything was cool the next day, then slept somewhere else (his new digs?) Sunday night. He "officially" moved out about a week later. On the last day of school.

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  3. "He Had It Comin' . ." (Cellblock Tango) was oddly prescient.

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  4. This is so bizarre. You must have had that reaction from most of the people you've told. The way he told you is so bizarre. Your reaction is so bizarre. It reads like a sitcom. You must have been in complete shock.

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    1. Sitcom is bad, right?? I agree with you, 100%. It WAS so freaking bizarre, so out of left field. I was in total shock...I think the psychiatric term for what happened to me that night is called "splintering" or something like that. Kind of traumatic schizophrenia??? Only not like, serial killer splintering. The real me just kind of shut down. It was awful.

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  5. Denial is so powerful. This post is so powerful. I had no idea this is how it went down. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Thanks for reading it, Gail. It's my version of a rough draft. I like to see how it looks out here in the real world. I see this one needs lots of work :)

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  6. What would 46 year old Jenny want to say to that PollyAnna Jenny if you could reach back through time to that moment?

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    1. Augh. Where do I start? There are so many things I'd have said. Firstly, I would have told her to kick the mother effer out of the house that night. Then I would have told her that the movie kind of sucked :)

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    2. To quote John McLaughlin, "Wrong!" The correct answer is "I love you and you are stronger than you think."

      Just for fun, obviously there is no right or wrong answer.

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  7. Change the title to create some suspense. Don't give it all away in the beginning.

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    1. Excellent suggestion, SC! I appreciate the feedback. I kind of wanted to see how it looked "in public", if you know what I mean. I see many changes that need to be made.

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  8. amazing story -- the small commonplace details of a happy suburban family life juxtaposed with a life-altering revelation makes it all the more shocking when it happens - I was completely hooked on your description -- can't wait to read the whole book!

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  9. I have lived that denial. Reality is tough but so much more clear.

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    1. I love that nobody is yanking my chain anymore, Missy. Denial is comfortable but not healthy.

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  10. Unbelievable. I feel for that woman in the story. I'm relieved that I know that she makes it out of that situation "ok" but I would definitely keep reading. Thank you for sharing that.

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  11. Confirms what I've thought ever since I started reading your blog: Your ex is nothing but a weak, immature chickenshit sorry excuse for a man. You can put that I said that in the book, too!

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    1. Ha! Mayhap I will! Thanks for reading, Jenzi.

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  12. This is gonna be a great book. I will one of the first in line to buy it. And promote it, as much as I can from my little blog and page. =)

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    1. I feel like it'll never get written. So hard! But I will remember what you said, and totally take you up on it :)

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  13. Do you remember any parts of the movie? Or were you frozen in fear? Is it a movie that you now associate with this incident? I support what JCS said above. It's so spineless how he made his announcement and then his following actions in the minutes, hours, days after. In the long run though you've become a much more wonderful, funny, honest, and good person. It helps to go to hell and back.

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    1. I remember bits and pieces. I don't think we finished it. And yes, I associate this movie with The End. But only Catherine Zeta Jones, ha! Not the other actors. I think I probably watched it and thought, "Something like this would never have happened if I looked like that".

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    2. It doesn't matter how you look, narcissists only see what they want to see. My soon to be ex dropped the bomb on me too after 28 years. They do not consider anyone other themselves, especially the havoc and heartbreak. Your life will be richer (emotionally) without him, mine already is.

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  14. Ever since I found your blog, it's been like finding an old friend. One who you had maybe forgotten, life goes on, etc, but then you find each other and realize you have this freaking HUGE thing in common. And suddenly that person is in a whole new league of friendship because not too many other friends really understand what it means to go through this.

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    1. I love this, Tara, and I'm so touched. Thank you.

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  15. I agree with whatTaraLee said. Sometimes when I read your posts, I feel like I am reading about myself...you put into words what I am feeling and thinking. Thanks Jenny! I don't think any of us will ever forget the moment it happens. Life as we knew it was over. Sucks. But I can honestly say, some things are so much better now. Their loss.

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    1. Thanks Sil. I feel the same way about you! There are a lot of us, aren't there? Thanks for reading.

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  16. The shrugging must be a personality trait of assholes. My cheater asshat shrugs all the time. Drives my sister crazy. It's body language for everyone can go fuck off, I'm more important than you. (Or at least that's my interpretation.)

    Your ex is a POS through and through. He's a defective human being. Your story sounds similar to mine. Asshat took me out to dinner and then we got home and I thought I was going to get laid and he told me he wanted a divorce. Uh, say what? Total shock. Assholes, assholes, assholes... And just because you can never say it enough, I'll throw in one more asshole for good measure. I can't drive by that restaurant now without getting so angry or upset. (Asshole, I snuck another one in there...)

    You have risen way above what he did to you and your kids. You are BOWH (better off without him), totally and completely.

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    1. OMG! my ex used to shrug all the time with a stupid smirk on his face!! as soon as I read it here, I could picture him doing it...you're right, it is a personality trait of A-holes that says "who cares!". I never thought about it before but you hit the nail on the head....I'm telling you, he used to do it all the time too!

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    2. Kay you slay me. That effing shrugging. I always hated it, even before he exposed himself as an asshole.

      I love how yours bought you dinner first. "Maybe the news will be easier to take if she's full". Assholes.

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  17. I've began reading your blog a few days ago, all have been touching, hysterical and totally relatable. However, this particular one struck a nerve with me. I was sobbing after I read it. The memories we tuck away only to be reminded how fresh they truly are after time has passed. One day I will tell my story as eloquently as you have done. Thank you for sharing that small glimpse into your daily life.

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  18. Wow. I feel as if I just read my life. My kife that unfolded almost 3 weeks ago to today. I arrived home from visiting family with my kids and after a semi normal conversation everything unfolded. I'm following and will be reading more of your writings, I need this comfort right now. Knowing I am not alone, I will survive and life is going to keep rolling.

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