I believe that a roadmap of my grief over my first marriage and subsequent divorce would look something like an EKG… and for the first few months, it was more like a picture of atrial fib.
I keep reminding myself that grief is natural, that grief is a matter of time and time alone, that nothing I do will hurry it along. Those thoughts keep me from feeling quite so sick to my stomach whenever a thought of Kathleen washes across my mind, as if a solitary thought or picture is a betrayal to my new relationship.
In terms of grief, today has not been a high point. It started when I was looking for my friends in the Webshots community who hosted several parties for GLOBAL, the GLBT student group at University of Houston. There we were, Kathleen and me, shiny and smiling at 21. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was wearing my sister’s leopard print pants. My hair was the same color as Carrot Top’s. I struggled to remember the woman standing next to me in that moment. The many nights of jagged crying bouts over the injustice of her infidelities and the role I played in everything that led up to them had left me with precious few memories of what life was like before.
Later in the night, due to the string of thoughts I’d had since seeing that first picture, I couldn’t help myself. I went to the last URL I had for her and took a peek. It was an egregious error that could not be undone. Posted to the front page with glaring clarity were Kathleen and her new fiancee along with both sets of proud parents.
Injustice rose within me. The simple act of taking a family picture was a level of acceptance that I had never received, even though I loved them and even tried to like them most of the time. I could relate to Donna- a writer who escaped into the world of her romance novels because it was better than anything real life could cook up. And then there was Joe, a NASA engineer and realtor who spoke with a strong lateral emission lisp and pronounced the famous author “Jule Verness.” Overbearingly Catholic, Kathleen and I were allowed to show very little affection in front of them and they seemed shell-shocked by my spiky red hair and “I’m With the Band” t-shirt.
As time went by, we each began to get used to each other… with a few exceptions.
There was the memorable experience of me going up to the priest at St. B’s for communion, because back then I was naive and thought that all people needed and deserved communion… and a whole host of other uncomfortable moments that I’m sure will come to me if I sit here long enough.
But I’d rather talk about her shoes. Kat was wearing these open-toe sandals that just screamed, “I watch the 700 Club!” The Kathleen I know wouldn’t be caught dead in those fuckers, preferring instead to wear sneakers with everything.
And therein lies the rub.
THIS IS NOT THE KATHLEEN THAT I KNOW.