“Hello. I’d like to get certified copies of my divorce decree.”
“Do you have your case number?”
“OK, what is your last name?”
“I don’t see you in the system. Where was the petition filed?”
“I … I don’t know.”
Turns out I was in the wrong clerk’s office. But nevermind that. Nevermind that the county’s and the city’s clerk offices are one block apart. Nevermind that the lady kindly directed me to the proper office, or that the security guard at the courthouse offered the warmest of smiles. I couldn’t remember where I got divorced. Am I that thoughtless, that disengaged? Is this a self-protection mechanism? Am I not over this? Funny how the things have a way of bubbling up to the surface and sending you overboard like the boom on a sailboat.
This morning I went straight for the earrings Former Husband had given me on my most recent birthday. We had been separated for a year already, but on my birthday I came home to an envelope tucked inside my storm door. The card had a picture of John Lennon inside, because we share a birthday and that’s how Former Husband remembers my actual birth day, and a pair of fantasy earrings from my favorite local knick-knack store. I loved them instantly. Some weeks later, I had put the earrings on that morning. In the evening in the bathroom, I saw my reflection in the mirror. Only one earring. Frantic search ensues. Still no earring. All I could think of was that it had fell down the toilet. It’s the kind of earring that hooks in, with no fastener or safety plastic bit to stop it from sliding out. I was devastated. I was ashamed. I went straight for the laptop with a severe case of emotional diarrhea. Some hours later, I found the earring on my bedroom floor. Excerpt from what I wrote that evening before I found the earring again:
I lost an earring to a flushing toilet. Not while dashing madly around the hospital or doing yoga or running because I am late to dinner with friends. I lost an earring at home to my own toilet. I lost the earring my husband gave me. He doesn’t know. I haven’t told him because we have been separated for over a year and in the midst of a divorce. I am enraged I lost that earring. I feel I have betrayed him in a way that is intimate. Can a lost earring recapitulate a yearlong separation and its torrents of pain and self-doubt? He bought me those earrings; he purchased a card; he drove to my house. I left the earrings buried under piles of crap for weeks and a few weeks after honoring the gift I lost it? Am I worthy? It’s a ten-dollar earring and yet I feel empty without it. I can’t help but see a painful metaphor in the inadvertent flushing of the earring down the toilet. Had I flushed my marriage down the toilet too?
Now it is eight months later, the divorce has been finalized, and I am moving 500+ miles away. Does checking the boxes on my to-move list help me move on? Does moving away equal moving on? Rationally, I know that they are no to-do lists long enough to keep me from reflecting on my marriage and divorce. Rationally, I know that there will always be something to remind me of Former Husband – the earrings, Mr Pig holding silly pictures from a Tokyo photo booth on my nightstand, the bread machine I used countless times to make his favorite bread. What is moving on, anyway? What does it mean to start fresh? Only newborn wee ones start fresh. The rest of us have all of our past informing our present. My Oprah magazine tells me to be bold and courageous, to embrace the new me. But the new me is only in existence because of years of happy marriage, an agonizing separation, and a sad divorce. And I like me; I like my newfound vulnerability.
I’m not moving on; I’m moving along, taking pieces of Former Husband with me. Because they are who I am.