It’s been a minute since I wrote another book chapter. I know it’s been much longer than the week I promised when I started this whole thing, but in the middle of all my writing, I realized a few important facts:
1.It’s really hard to write about things that I don’t even want to remember. I’ve spent four years trying to forget most of these things, so despite the fact that I really want to finish this novel because I feel like I have a lot to say, I also don’t want to relieve the shittiest moments of my marriage. But in order to finish the book, I have to.
2. It’s even harder to imagine what people will think of me when I tell them my story. I’m close to a lot of people in my life. That said, there’s also a lot people don’t know about me. Maybe because of my marriage, maybe because of how I was raised, I keep people at an arm’s length. That’s not a practice I plan to end anytime soon, because I actually really like being who I am, and I really only want to get close to people through my writing, but even that, with this type of intimacy, is difficult.
3. I’m not sure I can do this. I enjoy writing. Most of the time, it makes me pretty happy, even when I’m writing about serious topics or social justice issues, because I really like finding out that other people can relate to what I’m saying. And I like feeling like I could be making a difference by opening someone’s eyes to something new. But I don’t like this. It doesn’t make me happy, I’m not sure why I’m doing it, and I’m tempted to ditch the novel idea altogether. It’s a novel, not a memoir, so while it is largely based on my life, details have been changed. That said, I’m still really hating it.
I don’t have any conclusions. I just have a difficult Chapter 5 below. If anything, I may adjust my commitment from one chapter a week to a slightly less regular schedule, because I don’t want to live in this world – my old world, the world that I worked really hard to leave behind – that often.
Catch up on the rest in my Book category tag, here.
P.S. If you know me, and love me, know that I love you, too, but I don’t want to talk to you about this chapter. I want to put it into the universe, release it from my psyche, and not think about it anymore.
My favorite evenings in my marriage had come to be the evenings I spent totally alone.
When a relationship ends, normally there are bad moments interspersed with good ones. Sure, as time goes on, the bad moments outweigh the good ones (often dramatically) but at least you still have those few sweet moments where you both reminisce about what it used to be like before you hated each other.
My marriage had no such sweet moments anymore. It was all slammed doors, angry texts and silence.
And I was pretty okay with it. Not because I planned to live that way forever, more because I knew I was getting out, I just wasn’t quite sure how yet.
Holly and I were sitting on the couch in our living room. As had become normal, she was curled up with her favorite chew toy and I was searching for jobs. Not in New York, where my husband and marriage were, and where my life for the last 9 years had been, but in California.
No, I didn’t know anyone in California, nor did I have any family out there. And I didn’t even know what I was searching for. I just knew I needed to get the hell away from New York and my marriage as quickly as possible.
I heard the key turning in the lock and looked up, startled. It was the middle of the afternoon and Jack wasn’t supposed to be home for hours.
God damn it, I thought, I’m going to have to talk to him.
The door flew open and he walked in, looking pissed about something.
I didn’t look up from my computer or acknowledge his presence in any way. Because that’s what our marriage had become.
“Hey monkey,” he started.
The pet name made me jump. He hadn’t called me that in months and if I had to guess, I would’ve guessed that he was about to ask me something I really didn’t want to hear.
“What,” I said flatly.
Our interactions over the past several months had been a combination of one or the both of us making it clear that we didn’t want to be interacting, with the other begrudgingly continuing the conversation until whatever initial goal of speaking was accomplished.
“We need to talk. I told Julie she could move in this afternoon.”
At that sentence, I tried not to just get up and walk out the door. I wasn’t accomplishing it super well, though, and I could feel my legs itching to move.
Let me give you the back story: Julie was a friend of Jack’s. Not a super great friend, but one he had known for a few years. Julie was also a mess. She could never hold down a steady job, she was always getting into shitty situations, and a lot of the time, Jack was bailing her out.
I didn’t have much of a problem with any of this, because I truthfully didn’t give a fuck.
What I did have a problem with, however, was the fact that Julie had been in a two-year live-in relationship that was now ending, and Jack had told her she could move in. Without consulting me. Without so much as notifying me, in fact. So, how did I find out? Well, it was a delightful little situation over drinks with some of Jack’s friends, including his evil troll of a bestie, George, who had said to me, with feigned innocence, “I was surprised to hear Julie was moving in! I know you’re not that big a fan of hers and your place is pretty small.”
Cue a shittastic explosion of marriage fireworks because my husband couldn’t be bothered to communicate with me about who he’d asked to move into our home. While our marriage was already struggling.
And when the inevitable weeks-long, cringe-worthy, blame-game of an argument ensued, his parting shot to me was this: “Well, it’s actually my apartment. I own it.”
So, yes. I was leaving this man. The question was just when.
“Are you even listening?” Jack was standing in front of me now. Holly, who had long since gotten used to our explosive fights, had slunk off quietly to our bedroom already.
I knew she was moving in, I was just hoping to have moved out before that happened. No such luck, it seemed, because my husband also, apparently, couldn’t be bothered to tell me until the very day she was moving in when she was moving in.
“No, I’m not. I don’t particularly care what you said.”
“Julie is moving in this afternoon and we have to talk about setting up the guest bedroom and how we’re going to manage with her here.”
“We really don’t. You created this situation, you figure it the fuck out. I don’t give a fuck.”
“Anjali, can you not be so angry? I’m trying to figure it out because we’re going to have someone else living here for who-knows-how-long.”
“I would love to not be so angry, you incredible asshole. But when you are married to someone that literally doesn’t communicate with you about anything they do, it’s hard to walk around with a permasmile on your face. So can you seriously just fuck off.”
I was being way more douchey than I needed to be. I knew this. And yet, I didn’t care to stop. I had become an evil, disgusting, bitter human being in the 10 short months I’d been married. I didn’t like myself. But I didn’t know how to turn back into me.
He sighed and started to walk away. He then seemingly changed his mind and turned to face me again.
“I don’t want this marriage to fail. I never have. I love you and I have tried to make this work from day one. And I want to stay in this marriage and make it work.”
That may have melted my heart, if I didn’t have a heart of stone.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING?” I exploded. “YOU’VE tried to make this work from day one? By ‘make this work’, do you mean ‘I’ve been an inconsiderate asshole that treats my wife like shit’? Do you mean ‘I don’t actually do any work because I’m a narcissistic douchebag?’ Do you mean ‘I don’t know the meaning of the word communication?’ Leave me the fuck alone, seriously. Someone else might fall for your bullshit, but today, it’s not going to be me.”
“What the fuck do you want from me?” He was yelling, which was new for him. “I literally wake up every morning hating my life. This isn’t fucking working, but I’ve been trying.”
“No you haven’t,” I retorted. “You’ve been doing exactly whatever the fuck it is you want for months and expecting me to be grateful that you’re still around because you think I’m so damaged that’s all it takes. Well, you can go fuck yourself. We both know there’s no way this marriage is working, so let’s just get out gracefully.”
He started to open his mouth again, but then closed it. It had been really horrible between us for several months, but neither of us had acknowledged the reality that it was over.
He sat down on the couch. “I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to spend some time with you. With YOU, the girl I married. Not this angry girl who can’t stand me.”
“Too fucking bad.” I couldn’t stop pushing. “You created this girl so you can go fuck yourself.”
What I was doing wasn’t fair. True, our marriage was in shambles, but it wasn’t just his responsibility. I had contributed my fair share of bullshit to the situation we found ourselves in, too. But still, I wasn’t ready to give up the fight. I hated myself more with every word I said. Still, I kept pushing.
He got up to go to the kitchen. I got off the couch and followed him.
“When you have spent the past three and a half years making someone feel like shit, how can you expect them to offer anything to you? How do you think I have anything left?”
“Babe, I really just want to get some dinner, now.”
“Well, I want to talk now. About why we’re so fucked up.”
I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t know why I was following him, or pushing him, or goading him into a further argument. I saw myself doing it but I couldn’t stop.
“Seriously, let’s talk.”
“Okay, you want to talk? You want to know why we’re so fucked up? You are so fucking difficult to please. No matter what I do, I can’t make you happy! You don’t appreciate anything, you’re always miserable and you hate everything I say or do.”
His words didn’t sting at all, anymore. He was right: I did hate everything he said or did. It had gotten to that point in our marriage. He was screaming at me, but I knew exactly how he felt.
“I’m fucking difficult? You think about your friends before me. You think about your co-workers before me. Hell, you think about your fucking CUSTOMERS before your wife. All you’ve done is make me miserable this entire marriage. I’m sorry I ever met you. I would have been happy to have never crossed paths.”
“The feeling is mutual. Do you know that when we go to parties I envy the couples who are happily enjoying each other? When Julie used to sit on Derek’s lap and laugh with him, it made me jealous as hell. Not because of her, but because I got married because I thought that’s how life would be. But it hasn’t been with you, it’s all fucking fights and screaming and you being a bitch.” His voice kept getting louder and louder.
“Fuck you, dude. Seriously.”
“Is that the only thing you know how to say? Aren’t you supposed to be a writer?”
That was a low blow and he knew it. I didn’t care about almost anything else in my life, including being a lawyer, and despite the fact that I knew it was a stupid insult, it still got to me.
“At least I’m a writer. You can’t even manage to run a restaurant without letting everything else in your life go to shit.”
That part wasn’t exactly true. His restaurant was doing well, but I knew he was sensitive about it, just like he knew I was sensitive about my writing. And our relationship had devolved so much all we did was push each other’s buttons in the worst ways imaginable.
“You are a miserable bitch. All you’ve wanted to do is make me miserable this entire marriage.”
I looked at him, startled. Normally, he retreated at some point, not wanting to fight, but I guess I had finally pushed him to the point I had been at for months. A sick, twisted part of me felt glad about this, as I felt fairly certain it would lead to the end sooner rather than later.
“That’s not true. At least, I didn’t want to make you miserable at first. Now I really don’t give a fuck what you are or how you feel, since that’s pretty much how you’ve felt about me our whole marriage.”
“Why are you so miserable, though, seriously? Poor little rich girl syndrome? Your parents gave you everything you ever wanted so you had to cry about it?”
Instead of answering him, I decided now was the time to end it. I turned to walk back towards the guest bedroom, where Holly and I had been sleeping.
“Oh, so you can start a fight but you can’t take it? Now I want to talk; I want to talk about how much this marriage fucking sucks and how much I hate you.”
We had never said the “H” word to each other before, but I knew it was there, hovering just below the surface of every single fight we had, so it didn’t sting at all. I was surprised, I expected there to be at least some parts of the old love there for each other, but the truth is, there hadn’t been any love for a long time. There was nothing left between us except anger and hatred.
“That works out. I actually can’t fucking stand you, so let’s just put ourselves out of our misery and start the divorce proceedings now.”
“YOU want to put US out of our misery? YOU ARE THE MISERABLE BITCH. YOU ARE THE REASON THIS MARRIAGE HAS BEEN WHAT IT IS.”
“FUCK YOU, JACK. Your whole fucking life is full of money and shallow friends. I’ll be thrilled to be rid of you.”
“You want to be put out of our misery.” His voice suddenly got very quiet.
“Leave me alone, Jack.” I was tired and despite that I had pushed him to this place, I didn’t want to continue talking to him.
He walked back into his bedroom and when he came back, my heart started beating harder than it ever had in my entire life.
He was holding his Beretta in his left hand.
It was a gun I rarely saw. I didn’t really believe in guns and Jack knew it. He also knew (as did I) that nothing was going to change about our respective positions on guns so we didn’t talk about it, though I knew he kept not just the Beretta, but a few guns in the house.
He raised the Beretta and pointed it at me.
“I can put us both out of our misery.”
I couldn’t feel anything. I thought somewhere in my mind I might be terrified, but when he raised that gun, all I felt was numbness. I didn’t know if it was loaded or if he was serious or how crazy he had become.
I didn’t know if my life was going to end in a few short seconds.
I didn’t know what to do.
So I did nothing.
I sat there silently, mentally willing him to put the gun down. I was starting to feel the fear and didn’t want to speak, for fear that I would set him off. I was also in shock: my husband, though a terrible, emotionally unavailable husband, had never been a violent or abusive man. As far as I knew, he didn’t even have it in him to hurt another living being. He was a dedicated vegan for years, and I saw how much he truly did care about animals and other people. Just because he didn’t know how to be a good partner didn’t mean I thought he was capable of violence.
It turned out, I was completely wrong.
What felt like hours went by, though in reality, it was probably more like a few seconds. I was keenly aware of Holly’s presence on the couch in the living room. I didn’t know what was about to happen and my first thought was of her not getting in the middle of Jack’s crazy state.
There wasn’t a sound in our entire apartment. I could even hear my own breathing anymore.
We sat in silence for a few more seconds, Jack with the gun pointed at me, and me trying to figure out a way out of this situation. Finally, he lowered his hand.
Without saying anything to me, he shoved the gun in his pocket, pulled open our apartment door, and left.
Before I could think of anything else, I immediately got up to check on Holly. She was fine, on the couch, aware of the tension but otherwise unharmed. When I realized she was okay, I took less than five seconds to make a decision. I threw a bag of puppy food, my thyroid medicine and two pairs of clothes in a duffel bag, grabbed her leash and started to open the door.
Then I stopped.
I realized there was a possibility he was on just the other side of the door, or that he was downstairs, or that he was somewhere where I might run across him. I still hadn’t processed anything other than I knew I had to get the fuck out and get away from him. I just didn’t how to do that if I didn’t know where he was.
I stood at the door for at least 15 minutes, leash in hand, with a confused Holly at my feet. Finally, I decided I couldn’t be in the apartment when he got back – if he got back – so it was worth running into him in a public place, instead.
With a deep breath, I flung open the door. There was no one in the hallway and it was dead silent.
I started down the stairs, and with every step, a better plan formulated in my head. Nothing mattered to me except never seeing him again, so even if that meant staying in a hotel until I could find a way to get Holly back home to my parents’ house in Florida, I would do it.
By this point, I had reached the ground floor. I walked to the corner to hail a cab and when one pulled up, I sank gratefully in the seat with Holly by my side.
“Where to?” He was young, probably not much older than me. He had a deep voice and crinkly brown eyes. “Cute dog.”
“Oh…” I hadn’t gotten that far and now I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. It’s funny how easy it is to interact with a stranger that knows nothing about your life and pretend to be totally normal when that’s the last thing you feel inside. “Um…could you drive me to LaGuardia?”
“Sure, what airline?” He was so relaxed, he had no idea he was driving a 26-year-old soon-to-be divorcee away from a life-threateningly violent situation.
It all felt so totally normal. Girl with a dog hops in a cab. Just another day in New York.
“Oh, um.” This guy probably thought I was an idiot. “I’m not flying anywhere; I need a hotel.”
“No sweat, I know there’s a few right around the airport. I’ll drive you to the closet.”
“Thanks,” I managed to eke out.
I settled back into the seat and got Holly sitting comfortably for the short ride. We lived in Queens, right near the airport, so I knew it wouldn’t be long until we found a hotel that accepted dogs.
I just had no fucking idea what we’d do after that, save for one thing: we were never, ever going to see Jack ever again.