We moved everything out of our storage unit. We had a cop there the entire time to supervise because we can’t even be in the same room as each other without needing a chaperone. We each opened up boxes that 10 months ago I had
foolishly lovingly packed without even the slightest possibility in my mind that when they were unpacked would be anywhere other than the home we would build as newlyweds.
His sweatshirts were wrapped around my pie plates. My throw pillows cushioned framed photos of him with his father. It was an excruciating reminder of how willingly and completely I had intermingled our lives.
So item by item we sorted. You take the bowls and plates, I’ll take the wine glasses. Give me the frames and throw the photos in the trash.
When people say “thank God you at least didn’t marry him,” it’s these moments that make me my throat clench. Why would that be better, exactly? Because I would have a paper and a party that made my promise of forever more valid? I’m not trying to scoff at the sanctity of marriage at all, but when I moved to San Antonio, I made a promise to him:
“Where you go, I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people are my people. Your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.”
I meant it. He was going to be my forever. The ring and the dog and pony show that are most weddings didn’t mean as much to me as this promise because I
foolishly lovingly believed him when he said this was his promise to me too.
So that’s why after every box was unpacked and repacked to send us off into our separate lives, after the phone lines had been split up, after the initial financial reconciliation had been taken care of, I was stuck in purgatory. I wanted to hate him. I wanted the strength and the venom and the decisiveness that I had on Labor Day to come back. I wanted to be enraged and indignant and strong, but I was splintering into infinitely smaller pieces with every box he so cooley loaded into the moving van without even the slightest sign of heartache. Meanwhile the voice in the back of my mind kept falling to her knees, pounding the ground and wailing,
“HOW COULD YOU? HOW COULD YOU? HOW COULD YOU? HOW COULD YOU?”
We were walking away, presumably seeing each other for the last time, and he made a joke about asking if he could borrow some money for gas; for a glimmer of a second, we felt like us again. I laughed because it was the first moment that felt normal in over a month. He smiled because he only loves me when I let my guard down. We both for a moment lived in a world where my insurance policy wasn’t so extremely effective. He wrapped his arms around me and I collapsed into his chest, not knowing how I was going to ever stop loving him.
That night I dreamed that after that hug, instead of awkwardly wiping our cheeks and going our separate ways, we both got in his truck. We left everything in the moving van. We threw our phones out the window. We drove for two days straight until we got to Montana. We found a little cabin in the woods with no TV or internet. We went to counseling and read books about forgiveness, infidelity, anger, and communication. We cried and talked and talked and cried. We spent mornings in bed like we used to. We did the ugly emotional work together. We asked questions like “how did we get here” and “whywhywhywhywhy” and didn’t walk away when we didn’t like the answers. We fought and screamed and we apologized and things got worse before they got better but this time instead of turning away, we turned toward each other. We took the broken pieces and instead of rebuilding, we built something new. Stronger. Smaller. More compact and less likely to blow away. Not as big and beautiful for spectators, but infinitely more stable and shatterproof. We disappeared for 6 months until we were ready to tell everyone that no matter how crazy the past had been, we weren’t giving up.
We kept our promise.
And then I woke up.