Nine

The thing I’ve been avoiding talking about all day is here, and I realized it was more painful not to talk about it than to just get it out. Today is my ninth legal anniversary with Dana, because she told me that she would file with Multnomah County, and I’ve used it as an excuse not to do it on my own for a year now. I don’t think I can explain why. It’s not like I want to be tied to her any more than she wants to be tied to me emotionally. But last year I said that it would have been our eighth anniversary, and this year I realized that due to a lack of paperwork, past tense is… inaccurate.

Perhaps both of us are too ADD to remember to file, but I think that is a five cent explanation for a hundred dollar problem. I don’t think either of us wants to acknowledge that a relationship like ours could come apart, and that piece of paper is the one thing tying us together. I don’t think either of us is ready to admit we failed, so we stuff and deny. The ADD thing can’t be overlooked, however, because we were famous for sending Christmas presents in April and I’ve been carrying Lindsay’s Galentine in my purse for a week now. It’s addressed and stamped, but have I gone to the post office? Nooooo….

Of course, this is all conjecture on my part about her feelings, but it is definitely the reason why I keep putting it off… and we think alike enough that we used to joke that we shared one brain, and that was extraordinarily difficult when we were separated for 18 months as best friends while I went back to Houston and worked with my family in my stepmom’s medical practice. Neither of us were sure which one had the brain on any given day.

The situation feels, as Deadpool would say, breathtakingly fucked. My whole world smelled like “Daffodil Daydream” rather than Mama June after hot yoga. It’s been almost two years, we’re both ready to move on, and this piece of paper sits in my subconscience like a rock. Writing this may be just the motivation I need to take matters into my own hands. At first it was the principle of the thing, that Dana said she would take care of it and I trusted that she would. Now it’s just embarrassing how badly we’ve both ignored it, and at least on my part, hoping it would go away on its own. She’s been to DC at least twice since we separated, and didn’t want to see me either time. I’ve been back to Houston once, for my mother’s funeral, and she didn’t want to see me then, either.

I don’t know why, because we did talk on the phone as soon as I got the news and the conversation was both amicable and hilarious during a time when I desperately needed to forget what I was about to do for a few minutes, at least. But that’s as far as it went, except for texting a picture of us at my aunt’s Thanksgiving that I thought she might want to have. Maybe she thought I needed my wife, but I didn’t. I needed my friend, and the fact that all of it is gone weighs heavily on me… perhaps more than she knows, or perhaps exactly how much because it weighs on her, too. I take nothing away from her own feelings, I just can’t objectively talk about them because I don’t know anything about her life anymore.

For me, it’s how do you say goodbye with finality to that amount of closeness? Emotional relocation of our memories so that they aren’t quite so haunting has been ridiculously hard, because I remember just how good and how bad we got. Two years ago, about a month before we separated, I wrote I do, with everything I am and everything I will ever be. It’s amazing how much a difference two years makes.

I miss her every day, multiple times a day, and yet, I don’t think anyone can bounce back from physical violence. I couldn’t help but be reactionary when she pushed me with force, so I can’t go to the place that I deserved everything I got in that fight. I just went off like a rat dog with a Napoleon complex. But what I can do is take responsibility for letting the situation escalate instead of getting in my car and running away. We were fighting about money, and the bait and switch in order to not talk about it was to bring up Argo and make her the focal point of the fight when she was never in the game. We were working on our own issues, and it was a masterful deflection. I didn’t want anything but facts, and it turned into everything I’d done wrong for a year. It was the Mento that dropped over the Diet Coke, and I can forgive her, but forgetting is so much harder.

Argo was a light and flirty wordplay crush that delved deeper under my skin than I ever wanted it to, because our connection was explosive both for evil and for awesome. I leaned on her too much for emotional support because she was my sounding board in all things, the eventual goal to put strict boundaries in place so that Dana couldn’t use her as an excuse anymore. Those strict boundaries are in place, but they just didn’t come on Dana’s timeline. I found them on my own. Looking back on it, I’m not even sure that would have been enough, because when Dana would use Argo to disengage, I just became irrationally irritated and on some level, I think it pleased her to have an RPG that would explode everything so that we could avoid talking about what was really going on with us.

It took over conversations about everything, because when Dana didn’t want to open up, it was a cheap shot to get me to recede into my own head and write to Argo even more, because if I had anything to tell anyone, she was my go-to. Little felt real until she replied. It was never validation that I was right- sometimes she told me she thought I was being a jackass and said so.

She stopped replying after a while, and later I got an e-mail from her saying that one of the reasons she pulled away was so that she wouldn’t be Dana’s excuse anymore. I told her thank you for picking up what I couldn’t, and it was a good call. When I told Dana this, she apologized for my friend feeling that she needed to ghost because of her, and it was perhaps the last moment of clarity that we had about the situation. She wasn’t immune to the fact that Argo was a sounding board for my own frustrations with our marriage, just like she had to blow off steam with her own friends. My steam just happened to dissipate while writing, and hers by talking. She wounded me by saying that my virtual world left no one to hug me, which wasn’t true by any means but it sounded good?

I loved that Argo wasn’t a part of my daily life, didn’t know the people involved, and therefore could honestly inject some objective truth into the situation because she didn’t have a horse in the race. It wasn’t a competition, but if it had been, she won. I grabbed on to Argo’s belief that I would do and be everything I set out to do, as opposed to Dana’s view that I would never amount to anything. When your wife tells you that to your face, it’s time to get out. It might have been something she said in anger and didn’t really mean, but it played into my own worthlessness loop and it was kicking me while I was already down- below the belt in every conceivable way.

There was also another dealbreaker conversation for me… a night in which I was feeling the need to reconnect romantically and instead of saying “I have a headache” or “something good is on TV,” she said that she thought I was being aggressive. It hit all my psychosexual/emotional abuse buttons at once, and I slinked away with my tail between my legs and cried in the shower for 45 minutes, not knowing what the hell to do, but knowing that being hit that hard and that fast emotionally was a category of hurricane for which I was unprepared.

The next few days were awkward at best, because my own worthlessness was reinforced. Not only did I feel the weight of being a “bad wife,” she started a tape in my head that I was a rapist… when again, a “no thank you” would have done it. She agreed with me that it was a low blow, and apologized, but after that I couldn’t bring myself to touch her because I didn’t want that repeating tape to become what I thought of myself. Again, it pushed me further into my own head and away from her. I sat in my office alone and played my horn with my headphones in to try and create signal out of noise.

I needed to get away, and DC seemed like the safest place to do so, because our connection wouldn’t be severed… just perpendicular instead of parallel. But even with no contact, DC is the right place for me to just be, because our tie to each other was so strong that I couldn’t break it without a physical boundary. For about a month after I moved, we talked occasionally in our best friend patois, but in the end it became too painful to contemplate. No contact was not what I wanted, but it was what I needed to return to wholeness within myself, taking away that feeling of sharing a brain took months, because even though we’d been terrible to each other, there was never a question in my mind that we didn’t have the capacity to be friends after an adjustment period, but being married was a whole different committment.

Physical relocation made emotional relocation so much easier. The thing is, though, hurt people hurt people, and shit rolled downhill with Argo at an alarming rate. At times where I could have used support, I lashed out. At times when I could have used love, I asked for it in the most unloveable of ways. I was a complete wreck of a human being, and losing both of them at the same time was hitting rock bottom and realizing that there needed to be some drastic changes in my life so that even if burnt bridges couldn’t be rebuilt, I’d never have relationships again that ended like they did… one with physical violence, one with emotional. I couldn’t handle everything coursing through my veins, and shit rolled downhill. I can’t help but think on some days what might have happened between Argo and me had I just managed to calm the fuck down. I didn’t need to connect with her romantically, but I could have used a burger and a beer night. I remember the days when we looked forward to meeting on the ground, and I kick myself mightily that it never happened, and probably won’t.

Because even though burnt bridges can be rebuilt, there’s no room for new construction, mostly because of my absolute self-destruction, in all things, really. Now I’m just rebuilding the bridge back to my old self, the one that feels the most like me, with extraordinary room for growth and development so that I don’t continue to believe that I’ll never amount to anything.

The first step is getting in touch with Multnomah County, because I am tired of waiting for a piece of paper that may never come. I have to release myself from this enormous thunderstorm of emotion, and that legal document holds in the rain, rather than letting the sun come out and shed its warmth on my mood and behavior. It’s hard to make room for something new when I am wrapped up in the past, and I don’t mean romantically. I mean kicking myself for everything I did wrong so that I think I don’t have anything to offer anyone, so why bother?

I am lucky I have friends who love me despite all my flaws and failures… ready to give me a hug when I need it, or answer an e-mail when I am too sad to people. It’s a spectrum, a duality that lives in me and always will as a writer. Because some things are too painful to process in the moment verbally, but reading this after some time has passed and there’s some distance from it will ultimately remind me of the journey I’ve taken to become the Leslie I want to be. I have a long way to go in order to be the person I want to be or think I am, but the main point is that I keep trying. Persistence is kind of my thing, as is bouncing back from failure.

It will happen as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not letting there be a ten.

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