Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
The other shoe had finally dropped. The words gushed from his mouth like water from a busted dike. "I want a divorce," he said. I knew he meant it. The decision had been made. This was another ten years of my life that had gone down the drain. This was divorce number two for me. The first ten years of my life had gone down the drain in the same manner. A simple statement had poured from "his" mouth too. They always fixed it so I had few choices. Housewife doesn't pay much in the outside world, and it sure doesn't pay the mortgage, so once again I would leave my home. When was this repeating cycle ever going to end for me? Later I found out.
The first time the shoe dropped I hung around. The population of the community we lived in equaled the elevation. Thirty-five hundred people, 3,500 feet above sea level. Average yearly rainfall: 35 inches. I cried 17.5. These facts always struck me as odd. Anyway, I stayed. Convinced perhaps that I could change things. The only thing that changed was me. I used tears and booze to get through it, and he used sex. I frequently contemplated suicide but knew it was impossible to exact revenge when you're dead. I discovered two very important facts during the time I stayed.
The first revelation came when I finally understood the value of my friendships with women and the wisdom we inevitably pass on to each other. My women friends yanked on their rain boots and waded through the stream of tears to get to me. Sometimes the occasion called for fisherman's waders. They brought casseroles and broad shoulders. It was 1972 in the Siskiyou Mountains, so the casseroles were concoctions of lentils and tofu instead of macaroni and tuna, but the effect was the same. There is something about food and women that is inextricably woven together. The food always fits the occasion. Women all know that you don't bring Couer a la Creme to a divorce. That is clearly a Valentine's Day food.
Diane was the first one that said "it," and the memory is seared into my brain. It was the single-most important fact I would ever learn about men. It surpassed anything my Grandmother, Mother, or Aunts had ever said about how to get and keep a man. Their "advice" went like this: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," Grandmother chirped. Mother advised, "You can fall in love with a rich man as easily as a poor man." Aunt Barbara chortled, "Whore in the bedroom, lady in the parlor." So far none of this wisdom had panned out. On the other hand, Diane's wisdom hit the mother lode. It was the truth. The truest words ever spoken. "You can't polish a turd," she said. Her words stuck to me and I couldn't get them off. Never really tried.
The turning point came when Connie showed up. Two years had passed and all I had to show for it was an additional twenty pounds and a receipt for two busted windshields. When Connie showed up, she was barefooted--waded right through. She did something that will probably never happen to me again as long as I live. It's unlikely that it would happen to any woman once in a lifetime. She stretched out her scrawny arms and roughly grabbed me with both hands. Around the collar area. Sorta like you'd see men in a bar grab each other six drinks into it, and you know it's time to back up cause they're going outside. Hopefully. "It's time for you to leave town," she snapped. I instantly I knew it was, and I did. After I left, I never thought to ask myself any questions about the divorce. "Why?" would have been a good starting place. Instead, within a year, I applied for and accepted the same job, different face, and started working on the next ten years of my life.
When the other shoe dropped, I left town. The population of the community had little to do with the elevation. Twenty-five thousand people. Sea level. Average yearly rainfall: 35 inches. I cried 70. Those facts didn't strike me as odd. Anyway, I left, convinced that I couldn't change a thing. Six hundred miles to be exact. Once again, I used tears to get through it. No booze. I'm sure he used sex. I never contemplated suicide, because I didn't think I cared about revenge this time. I really had learned something about pain and suffering, and how to do it and how not to do it. I also had an increased sense of vanity regarding my behavior in public. I instinctively knew it was better to go out quietly this time. Well--almost. I found out I did care about revenge. There was the final parting incident with the car. It was parked directly in front of my truck. I now refer to it as "The Tragic BMW Incident." He really loved that car. Washed it twice a week in between rainstorms. That always struck me as odd. I found out it had a $500.00 deductible. I didn't know that; my lawyer told me. This time I asked myself a question. I only needed one. Did I want to be in this marriage? The answer was no. So, I left town to start working on the next ten years of my life.
The second revelation came when I finally understood that I had to figure "this" out by myself. This time there were no friends around to wade through the river of tears, so I left the door wide open so the salty water could flow freely. There were no tofu or tuna casseroles. It really didn't matter. I could cook for myself. Diane's words of wisdom were still stuck to me. I never could get them off. Never really tried. The words spoken by my Grandmother, Mother, and Aunt were still useless bits of questionable wisdom.
The thought never occurred to me after the second shoe dropped to check the want ads. I didn't care about the job position anymore. What I really wanted was something to end the ten-year cycle. I knew the answer. It was up to me. The answer seemed crystal clear. But what would I do? What would I become? Forty-four years old, and starting over--again. There were so many choices. Maybe I'll become a lifeguard.
Two weeks ago I was in San Francisco. I wandered into an offbeat card shop in North Beach. A thank you card caught my eye. It read, "Thanks for the: engagement ring, dinner, lovely gifts, divorce, wonderful time," and next to each item was a little blank box to mark off your choice. I bought it.