Shmo/Robert C. Jackson
I’m at a party and again, it’s at Sarah’s apartment. By this time I’ve learned on the most part to stop chugging punch before eating so I’m all good. It’s winter and I’m adding my vintage moth eaten red pea coat to the top of the pile growing on Sarah’s bed. Inches from the peak of this mountain of jackets, lying on the bed, is George. It’s been over a year since that night when I threw up. Since then I had moved on, released George from my mind. I had a wildly romantic nine month fling with Ludo, a Russian romantic and often gotten together with my on and off again boyfriend, Cal. Let’s just say, I was busy with my own shit. But I see George and catch a flash of Animal Architects sitting on my shelf. The only problem is George’s arms are pinned down up above his head by the woman straddling him - slender, tall, blonde and thankfully wearing a loud blue taffeta dress. Her face is up close to his and they are both laughing. Neither of them notice me walking out.
My ring. I’m still wearing my it. I’m not totally ready to take it off. As of today, George is still wearing his. The one on George’s finger isn’t the original– it’s Ring 3.0. He lost Ring 1 years ago when he took it off to properly moisturize his hands at the end of a business flight. Who the fuck does that? Who takes their wedding ring off to moisturize their hand while they're on a plane? He got a replacement, then lost that one in a hotel room. I didn’t think about it too much at the time, but I guess it does seem a little strange.
So like a pedophile going around the neighborhood announcing his guilt, I call my friends one by one and tell them that we are split because I can see it’s actually happening now. Part of me was holding out I guess, not believing it is really happening. Some of them come over and sit and nod while I bawl it out. Some of them cry too. I think this is how it’s supposed to happen. Right? I’m supposed to be sad all the time. I’m supposed to be a mess who has a glass a wine before talking to her kid. I’m supposed to break down with strangers and friends alike. How much more of this until I pull my shit together? Over ten years gone. But gone? The feeling of uncoupling has been there for so long, since the birth of Le Kid, but this was the wrong way to do it. In a fight, in contempt and in anger. As sloppy as it gets.
George is staying in the guest bedroom until he finds a place to live. We haven't told Le Kid yet and he hasn't asked about it. We pull it together when Le Kid is around, but otherwise, we’re both crying behind our closed doors. Geroge is mad as hell, I’m mad as hell. We saw this coming, but are broken and shell shocked anyway.
I’m mad family life wasn’t his thing and that it turned out to be mine. I’m mad that he feels at liberty to yell at me, to bark at me the way his dad barked at his mom before he was caught having an eight year affair with their friend and neighbor. I'm mad that he valued all the wrong things in life and lost my respect. I'm mad he didn't evolve into being a man, a dad. He's mad that I didn't go back to work once Le Kid was born. He's mad that I didn't move quicker on house renovations. He's mad that I complain about him not spending enough time with us. He's mad that I didn't want to have sex. I wanted to have sex, but I just couldn't get it up for him.
Just crying, just crying and crying. A lot of staring. I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Am I right?
Was there a more handsome guy in in New York? Not in my opinion. There was something about George. Even as I feel my stomach turning at the thought of him, I can remember how it used to be. After college in the early nineties he moved to Prague like a lot of liberal arts graduates. The difference between him and all the others is that he dug his heels in for three years and lived the Czech life. I didn’t really know George but I’d hear snippets through the post collegiate pipeline - “George always has a camera and a tape recorder on hand.” “George is writing a screenplay.” “George is living with his gorgeous Czech girlfriend.” “George is a journalist now.” "George is smoking too many Czech cigarettes." When George came back over the holidays to visit his parents (George is a born New Yorker), I saw him across the table at a restaurant a bunch of us had gathered at. Widow’s peak, nice forehead, nice hazel eyes. Smooth olivey skin. Skinny. He seemed like he knew what was what. He was hunched over, his shoulders shaking with laughter and he looked embarrassed. The people around him were laughing too. There was something about that. About him. I felt a flutter in my stomach, I wanted to know all his secrets, I wanted to make out with him. I wanted to smell his clean, clean neck. I was 24 then.
The next night my friend Sarah was throwing a party. George was going to be there and I got it in my mind that he was going to come home with me that night. Not to have sex - no way, not at all. George was way too important for that. I only wanted to show him my favorite book - Animal Architects. A Kid’s National Geographic Special Edition. Before you go judging, let me tell you it’s a seminal read - and I wanted to be the one to show George how fish make homes out of their own bubbles, how termites use their saliva to make hard mud, how birds weave their twigs together. I wanted to be the one to blow his mind with the will of these industrious creatures, give him something to think about on his plane ride back to his leggy Czech girlfriend and legendary Czech lifestyle.
I had never really spoken to him before but the plan was to somehow loosen myself up with some party punch then wedge myself into George’s circle and talk about how important the book was. I don’t have long legs, but I know a damn good book when I see one. Lead with that, I tell myself. Naturally, unable to resist this bait, George would head back to my apartment with me and before you knew it, we’d be high-fiving each other over a beaver’s dam.
So I go to Sarah’s place in Chelsea. I see George in a corner surrounded by people. He’s hunched over again, laughing his secret laugh. I wonder what they’re talking about. I’m by the punch bowl with Sarah who's ladeling some into a large red plastic cup for me. I drink it too fast. When she’s not looking I put more in. There are three types of hummus on the table and I should eat some, but I don't. I spend time hanging out with my ladies - Sarah, the gracious host and Olive. They are like sisters and I love them. We have sleepovers and make pizzas together. We go to thrift stores and pass by the chess shop on Thompson street where the guy serving coffee is really cute. We live off falafel and burritos. We’re hugging and laughing our own secret laugh and maybe I’m leaning on them a little. Like I said we’re young and still figuring it out. The internet hasn’t happened. The iPhone hasn't been invented, apple stocks are next to nothing. So we are innocent and present, not tweeting or photographing each other, just enjoying.
I’ve lost track of George, but he can’t be far - it’s a one bedroom. I’ve been at the party for twenty minutes when I feel Sarah guiding my arm through the armhole in my coat. The next thing I see is the floor of the cab. I hear the car door opening and Sarah is holding my hand as I crawl out. I puke in a receptacle in front of my building before I see the front door of my apartment. Sarah walks me to my room, gives me some water to drink. She asks me in her kind sweet voice if I want to take a shower. She tucks me in bed and leaves. I wake up in the morning on my bathroom floor in just a bra and nothing else. I call Sarah and ask her if she finally had her way with me. In place of George all I feel is shame and that Sarah is my friend. I take Animal Architects, laid out on my desk all ready to be leafed through and put it back on the bookshelf. I look at my watch, - it’s noon and George is probably on his way back to Prague.
Dive In/Float, Samantha French
My name is Frankie. I live in California. I have a home, two cats and a six year old kid. Yesterday, I could have added a husband to that list. Today, not so much. How We Come Apart will follow me through this first year of life separating. There will be “stages” I’m sure. What I look like today (the girl in The Exorcist) will hopefully not be what I look like in a year. What will become of me over the course of 365 days? Will a newer better me emerge or will I be shooting up heroin? Will I even be alive? Will I have sex with tons of hot guys or will I be lured by the free food and housing of my local Jehovah's Witness faction? Your guess is as good as mine.
If you are going through a divorce, separation or know someone who is, follow me through my ups and downs. From the looks of things right now, it might just be downs. Chime in any time you want - - I'm listening.
Do you really need to know all this stuff about me before we begin? I don’t really know. Skip this part if you want. I’m 42. Liberal. Short. Two siblings. A brother, a sister. Parents still together. Haven’t worked since my kid was born. I have a Masters in Social Work. I have excessively dry feet. Like all unemployed people out there I majored in English at a liberal arts college. The one thing that has come naturally to me that I have stuck with is being a mom. I love it - and though I need a glass of wine a little before five on some days, like most moms, it is embedded in my DNA to nurture and love and watch out for this being I refer to here as Le Kid.
The first thing people notice about George is that he is exceedingly handsome. Even now, writing this and going through all this shit with him, I can say he is easy on the eyes. He is also charming, intelligent, can be quite funny. He is 41. He has a decent job which qualifies him as Major Marriage Material in my mom’s book. So what’s the problem you ask? Read on. Read the F on.
This is how it went down. There's backstory to every step of this - reasons why people act the way they do - trust me, I'll get in to that later.
George had just come from a week long business trip overseas. We were scheduled to go to a dinner party hours after he got back in town. I rarely go to dinner parties and my life is really about keeping track of my Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. This was a fledgling invitation that rarely comes my way. I love good food, but I hadn't wanted to go in the first place. I thought George should hang out with Le Kid after being away. I thought George should snuggle with Le Kid and read him books. I thought George should watch Le Kid sleep, watch him breathe and whisper, "I missed you so much" into his sleeping ears. I thought George should at least pretend that he wanted to hang out with me. But the party was being held at a secretive downtown loft with a chef that was being written up all over the place. George didn't want to miss it. He was standing in front of his closet getting dressed while I curled up on the bed.
Me: I think I need to stay home tonight. I'm feeling pretty shitty. I have terrible cramps.
George: I'm a big boy. I guess I can handle myself at a dinner party.
A. This is the only time George has ever referred to himself as a "big boy."
B. I was serious, very serious about the cramps.
C. The dinner party was hosted by an old friend of MINE.
D. You feel me?
I rallied and went, the evening devolved including George's Tourette's inspired cathartic fit over a parking spot before going up to a beautifully laid table and fine wine. I sat next to George but managed to say nothing to him the whole evening. When we got home he slumped on the stairs and asked if I was even glad to see him. No. We got to yelling, we got to going over shit that had happened the last year, we got to breaking up in clear and simple language. George went to bed in the guest room I had gussied up for his mother's visits. I stayed in our bedroom crying, scared, freaked out, stunned. I had said we should break up before but I was too scared to act on it. Before, the words felt distant and oblique even as I said them. Four couples therapists later, I think it doesn't matter how scared I am, it's not like I have a choice. This time, it's really happening.