(Excerpt from The Lemonade Year, finished novel seeking representation)
When I get home, Jack is at the apartment clearing out the rest of his stuff. I give him his space as he boxes and bags the things he cares about enough to haul away with him. This particular part of a relationship’s demise is like a sick joke. You’ve done the yelling, the crying, the bargaining, the giving up. You’ve hired the lawyers and paid the fees, but now you have to hole up in the kitchen and chop vegetables for a dinner you’re not really going to make so that your disappearing other half can retain some dignity as he packs the last of his things in a cardboard box. Funny the way we attempt to fit life in a box.
This stage of it all happens in some twisted other celestial plain where things take much longer than they should and you feel like a royal ass for slicing carrots through the whole mess, but wouldn’t it be rude to offer to help. Let’s speed this up now, toss this in too, my potatoes are on boil, if you hurry it up you can be out of here before the biscuits are done.
“I think that’s it,” Jack says, coming into the kitchen and sitting at the barstool like he did on those rare occasions that he was home in time to catch me cooking as opposed to our usual routine of me eating alone and then nuking the remains for him when he got home.
“Ok then,” I say.
There is nothing to be said about this process. Nothing that makes it any better, that is. It’s too surreal to divvy everything up like children portioning out candy and counting the pieces to make sure each got their fair share. You take the couch and I’ll take the love seat and recliner. You take the bigger of the sauce pans and I’ll take those two little ones that you don’t like anyway. We each get two plates, two coffee mugs, two wine glasses, and two sets of silverware.
What I’ll do with that second place setting, I don’t know.
“Are you going with me to the thing,” I ask, feeling silly at my inability to say the word funeral out loud.
“I don’t think so,” Jack says, and swivels around, putting his back to me. “I just don’t feel like being the asshole all day.”
“Don’t you think not showing up will have the same effect?”
“Two totally different scenarios,” Jack says, and swivels back around on the barstool to face me. “One—I don’t go and your Aunt Rose asks you in that tone of hers why I’m not there, even though she knows good and well that we’re divorcing. You make some excuse for me, or you don’t and she tisk-tisks at you and goes on her merry way. People talk amongst themselves for a minute, but out of sight out of mind and I’m soon forgotten.”
“And scenario two?” I ask.
“Two,” he says, holding up two fingers for effect. “I go, and everyone leers at me all day because they know we’ve split and that I don’t belong there anymore and if I look at my watch or yawn or get up to piss, it will be an indication of my lack of sincerity and general jackassedness and they will talk about me behind their hands and rolls their eyes like I can’t fucking see them.”
I want to come back at him with some pithy something, but he’s right. Of course scenario two makes things difficult for him where as scenario one makes it hard on me. I could fire at him for that, but were the tables turned, I can’t honestly say that I would do any different. There’s no sense to torture him. Despite the end of our time together and the events that lead to it, I do love him. It’s almost never a lack of love that ends things. Now, your husband having sex with his receptionist and boss’s assistant and the girl at the drycleaners can drive a wedge however. Of course perhaps if said husband had been allowed to have rowdy sex with his wife, naked co-workers and clothes cleaners wouldn’t have entered into the picture at all.