“I do, I did and now I don’t”

Spoiler alert: The little romance mentioned at the end soon enough went bust. But the next one didn’t. As in I did, and I do, all over again.

Originally published Sept. 6, 2005, in The Daily Reflector | (c) 2005 Cox Newspapers, Inc.

pZALE1-12841357t400I do, I did and now I don’t

I never intended to write about this.

Then again, when I said “I do” a dozen years ago to a remarkable woman standing beside the windswept dunes overlooking the ocean at Topsail Beach, I never intended to begin today by filing for divorce.

But there you go. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Life.

Right now, it’s Wednesday night, late. I’ve just gotten back from a run intended to clear my head. Except that my head isn’t really the problem here. It’s my heart that’s been cloudy all day.

Now, if you’re starting to hear violins, stop. Because it’s not like that. No woe is me. No pity the poor fool.

I want to be very clear: I don’t desire to go back to anything that was, or wasn’t; there is no going back. This isn’t about regret, what if, if only. None of that.

My wife and I ended up as great friends, but for our last few years together, we were lousy spouses for each other. We grew apart, as they say. Irreconcilable differences, they call it. No third parties to blame. No second thoughts. No curtain call. Exit stage left.

But when 11 years of your life with another person can be boiled down to a couple standardized forms and a single cash receipt, what exactly are you supposed to feel?

Thankful?

Relieved?

Joyous?

Free?

Maybe those feelings will come later. Because when I handed over the certified letter containing the stamped-and-paid-for civil summons to be delivered to my wife, and stepped then from the post office, I felt instead like the day looked, gray and overcast.

I’m not ashamed to say that I gave real thought to calling my colleagues at The Daily Reflector and saying: I can’t do this today, guys. Cover for me, please. Because I’m going into the first open bar I come to, and I’m gonna get drunk. And I mean hammered. Bartender, call me a cab and have the driver dump me on my porch.

But I didn’t do that. Because I’m not that guy, though maybe I used to be. So instead, I drove to work, and helped put out Thursday’s paper.

I had completed all the divorce forms myself; legal services don’t come cheap, and my ex and I are still readjusting to lives on single incomes. So a lot of online research had been involved, a lot of seriously unfun hours spent. Yet for a long time, it looked like I might never get finished. I kept putting off dotting those final i’s, crossing those final t’s.

Because our lives together were adding up to even less paper than Reflector subscribers get in their TV book each week.

But now that part is finally done. By the time you’re reading this, my wife has likely signed for the paperwork, meaning that next week I’ll set up a divorce hearing for a month from now, to show up at the courthouse one final time, probably on a lunch break.

Then it’ll be a “Do you swear,” a few questions from the judge, and stamp, stamp, stamp, file, file, file, yippee ki yo ki ay.

Congratulations, divorced man. Next.

But there ought to be something more meaningful to such an important official ending, some bit of ceremony, a tiny wake, perhaps. Because otherwise, what?

The dissolution of a union undertaken with trust and hope in the future deserves some better final nod than just the whack of a judge’s gavel and a “Don’t let the courtroom door hit you on the way out.”

I don’t want so much of my life to fit so neatly into a file that fits so neatly into the notion that matrimony seldom works anymore. I obviously believed in marriage once, and though I may never “I do” it again, I still believe it can work.

So I’ve considered slipping on my long-absent wedding ring one last time on the day of the hearing, pulling some Frodo Baggins before the fixed eye of the law before casting the powerful trinket out once and for all, into the smoke and ash of the past.

But I won’t actually do that either.

Because that little band of silver can’t possibly fit me anymore, whether or not it’ll still slide onto my ring finger. It belonged to some other guy I used to know, and if this whole maddening process has taught me nothing else, it’s this: I’m not him, at least not now, and even more so, not tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. In the morning I’ll surely feel a little bit less out of sorts. And the next morning, a little bit less still.

Every day, a new adventure.

There’s this mesmerizing woman I met just weeks ago who smiles at me when she sees me; how long she’ll continue, I wouldn’t hazard a guess. But even after today – maybe especially after today – I believe I’ll keep on smiling right back.

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