Let me start this by saying that I do not know what moving on looks like. Does moving on mean that I don’t write about it anymore? Does moving on mean that I don’t talk about it anymore? Does moving on mean that I don’t think of him anymore?
Does moving on mean that he stops haunting me?
For the most part, he has stopped haunting my mind, but my body is still haunted.
The last time I was held down was a consensual kind of being held down. Still, this man was very strong–much stronger than Caleb. The thought crept into my mind that I was weak, and soon, Caleb’s ghost was in my bones again. I almost panicked.
But I didn’t.
And later, when I said that I had to leave, and this strong man threw his leg over me and pulled me back, I did not panic. I relaxed into his embrace. Because it was an embrace.
Sometimes it is difficult for me to distinguish between being held down and being embraced.
I saw a video recently where people confessed their struggles with domestic violence. One woman said that she is afraid to tell men that she is a survivor of domestic violence because she knows that no one wants to deal with that. When I heard those words, I started crying.
No one wants to deal with that.
Does moving on mean that I should be in a new relationship? This seems to be the most common view of what moving on means.
I am ambivalent about relationships. Does this mean I haven’t moved on?
At Reed’s soccer camp, there are mostly fathers on the sidelines. I watch the friendships between them develop. I sit there quietly. I want to visit too, but I am afraid to talk to the fathers. I might as well have a sign pinned to my shirt that says, SINGLE.
I am afraid to talk to the other mothers for the same reason.
Reed never has a father at anything. He only has a mother.
At soccer camp, one of the fathers chases his toddler daughter as she runs into the field that her brother is playing in. He scoops her up so lovingly, and I stand there and tell myself that I will not cry in that public space because my little boy is out on that field, failing royally (he is the youngest in his group), and I know that he will never have a father in his life like that girl does.
I tell myself that I will not cry because I am never going to have another child. I did not have my own little girl when it was possible because, deep inside, I knew that I was going to leave Caleb someday.
In the last year of our marriage, we had so much unprotected sex. It was some kind of awful mind-fuck on his part, and when my period was late, I thought, “If I am pregnant, I will cut this baby out myself.”
And I can’t believe that I am admitting that here because I love babies so much. I can’t get enough of them. I wanted to have another one. I wanted a little redheaded, blue-eyed girl to complement my redheaded blue-eyed boy, but I knew that I could never have that with Caleb. I knew that I could not bring another child into his misery.
I knew that I could not leave him if I had another child.
I married the wrong person, and it kept me from having what I wanted.
And then, as that father scoops his daughter up so lovingly, and I try not to cry because I feel so very alone, I stick my hands into the pocket of my rain jacket, and I pull out this:
It is a ticket from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. Caleb and I had traveled there when he was developing a course on Greece. His sister (whom I loved so much) watched Reed for the week. Caleb and I ate dinner in the Plaka, and as the sky grew dark, we looked up, and the Acropolis glowed above us. We were still happy then, or at least, I was.
Caleb gave me everything that I wanted. We saw a leather shop, and we descended the deep stairs into a dusty cellar full of leather bags. I found a backpack. I had read that we should barter, and Caleb tried to barter, but the man behind the leather sewing machine yelled “I am not Spanish!” We bought the backpack anyway, then howled with laughter on our way out.
We could always laugh.
Caleb went to Greece on his own the next year. My mother came and stayed with me to help with Reed. Caleb and I were miserable by then. I knew too much about him. I worried that he was going to sleep with one of his students. I worried about other things that will go unnamed.
I wept and told my mother how scared I was. She didn’t understand because I hadn’t yet told her everything about him. She told me that I was being too hard on him, and I believed her.
When Caleb returned, he gave me a beautiful silver and amber bracelet, along with a hand-woven scarf from the island of Mykonos.
He told me how much his female students had loved what he had picked out for me.
I’m sure they did.
I’m sure they thought I was very lucky.
Caleb and I could laugh at anything. Laughing was our one joy. My mother would come upon us in the kitchen laughing hysterically over some ridiculous scenario that we had imagined. We were both writers. We created our own humor.
My mother told me, in that same kitchen, that she didn’t understand us, but we had so much in common. She told me not to let that go, because it was so rare.
Please let me reiterate that my mother did not know everything. She was doing the best she could at the time.
When shit got really bad, Caleb and I laughed at that too. Caleb had this writer friend, and on Facebook, his life looked so amazing. He was always posting about the awesome things that happened to him.
Caleb joked that he was going to post a real Facebook post. He was going to post that he had beat his wife, that he had been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder because he could look at internet pornography for twelve hour shifts at a time, that he hated his job, that he hated his life.
There is no way to translate the humor in this because it is far too dark.
It is not funny.
Still, we laughed.
I laughed because I believed in him. I believed that he was sad about those things. I believed they were out of his control.
I laughed because we were in it together.
I laughed because I am nothing, if not loyal.
I went to Lowe’s this past weekend. I bought myself an expensive stainless steel trash can, and I hate it.
A couple of days later, I wrote this to a friend:
I was in Lowe’s last night, and I tend to avoid that place because as a divorced woman, it’s kind of like the cemetery for broken dreams. I have so many memories of doing household projects with Caleb, of how, when we were in the midst of a project, it was easy to live in the realm of the future, which always seemed so much more promising than the present.
In short, Lowe’s makes me sad, but this time, I realized that, someday, I’ll be able to buy my own house. That is not an “if.” I will be able to afford one, and I am going to be okay.
My aloneness is not so terrible.
He wrote back that everyone hates Lowe’s, and he was right.
I was right too.
My aloneness is not so terrible.
Last night, I picked up Reed from his dad in West Virginia, and we had the silliest conversation where we fictionalized a funny story. When we got home, he showed me this joke and dance he had made up, and it was so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop giggling.
I said, “That is SO dumb.” And he replied, “That’s why it’s funny.”
And I suddenly realized how much he is like Caleb. In that way, at least.
In the way that I loved.
My therapist used to tell me, “You got the best part of Caleb in Reed,” and she was right. It just took me a long time to see this manifest.
But, in the ways that matter, Reed is like me. I do not believe that he will abuse a woman in his lifetime.
If he does, I am prepared to intervene rather than enable. This is the best I can do.
I talked to my mother the other night on the phone. I told her how nice my house looks because I recently paid someone to deep clean it. I told her about how I’m going to be spending most of June in Europe. I told her that I still plan on spending the rest of the summer with she and my father in Idaho. I told her that I had realized recently that I have achieved every dream that I have ever had, except the dream of a loving relationship.
I did not tell her this out of mourning. I told her this out of triumph. How many people can say they have achieved that many dreams?
Maybe I’m just meant to be single, and if that’s the case, then I’ll be fine. Like I said, I am ambivalent about relationships.
But I am not ambivalent about my career, about traveling, about having a home that I adore, about having a son who makes me laugh. I want all of that, and I have it.
So, I have everything that I really want. Does this mean I’ve moved on?
Maybe to you, it doesn’t. But it sure does to me.