He was gone.
He was gone. I looked around the empty apartment wondering if this was a joke. It couldn’t have been a joke though, because it was empty as a pin drop and my best friend Jen was standing next to me, looking concerned.
“This is the weirdest thing ever,” I said to her. “I know I should be like, extra emotional or something, but I’m not. I almost don’t care, other than I’m annoyed now I have to deal with all the shit in this apartment.”
“Yeah…” was all she could manage to eke out.
I turned to face her. “You really don’t have to stay, I’m completely fine. In fact, it would be better if I was left alone.”
She gave me a withering look. “Fine,” I sighed. “Come in.”
We walked inside to a bouncing, happy Holly.
Two days before, I had received a text from Jack saying he was working a lot – and gone from the apartment – so I could come back if I wanted. We hadn’t spoken since Holly and I left and the text didn’t say anything else. I suspected the implication was that I was able to head home and grab some things if I needed them, so I took Holly with me and had been at the apartment the past two nights, because, well, staying at a hotel was spending money I didn’t have. Luckily, I hadn’t seen Jack at all. I didn’t know if he was actually staying with a friend or what, but whenever I was there, he wasn’t there. Today, though, I was planning to head back to the hotel to figure out what to do next, since I hadn’t made any significant progress in that area.
Tonight, though, was different.
I had been leaving for work around 3PM, since it had been a few crazy weeks in the news and I was working a weird 4PM to midnight shift at the newspaper. It was lonely and boring but at least it was different.
Around noon, though, I had received a text from Jack asking if I wanted to come into the city to have lunch with him. It was definitely bizarre, especially for where we were at that point in our relationship, so I had written back and said no.
He then texted again and said he knew it was weird, but that he would really like to sit down and talk somewhere if I had the time. I suppose he knew I wouldn’t have sat down and talked in private, at our apartment.
“About our divorce?” I had texted back.
Without answering, he just wrote back naming a vegan place we liked and asking if I’d be there at 1. I didn’t write back but I think he assumed I would show up.
And I did. Largely because I assumed we would, in fact, be talking about our divorce. I wasn’t under any illusion that Jack wanted to make this work – and I certainly didn’t – so I assumed he did want to start the discussion of how we would be ending our marriage.
When I got there, though, he didn’t want to talk about that at all. In fact, he didn’t really want to talk about anything real. He wanted to talk about my job, and how it was going, and his new restaurant, and how the construction on that was, and Holly, and how she was learning new things every day.
It was really weird, but I tried to humor him as much as possible, if only because I was wondering if we were ever going to get to the point of why we were there.
We stayed at the restaurant for an hour and a half just talking about our lives, like we hadn’t done since before we were married. He looked at the clock and realized that I would need to be at work soon.
“Can we walk from here, or is it too far?”
“We?” The attitude that I had walked into this meeting with hadn’t dissipated, despite that I was actually really appreciating having a totally calm, peaceful moment with Jack. I knew it wouldn’t last forever though, so maybe I was just pushing the next fight along by being an asshole.
“Yeah, I’d like to walk you to work if you have the time and energy.” It was about 10 blocks away, but I was taken aback. Was this the same man I married that normally didn’t have a spare moment for me? Now, he not only wanted to ask about my day and how I was doing, he also wanted to walk me to work? What the fuck was happening?
I didn’t have the energy to say no, so I just shrugged and we started walking to the office of the newspaper.
About two blocks into our walk, Jack pulled his gloved hand out of his pocket and grabbed my hand. I felt like I was going to scream, or cry, or freak out because I had no idea what was happening and why he was being so sweet and normal. At lunch, I didn’t bring up the fight and our inevitable separation because I kept assuming he was going to talk about it. Now, though, I wasn’t so sure.
He can’t really think this has a chance of working, can he? I thought to myself.
The truth is, I had no idea what he was possibly thinking, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.
I pulled my hand away and looked up to find him looking into my eyes, very hurt.
What was going on? How had we entered some alternate reality where I was the asshole that pulled my hand away from my “husband” and hurt him?
I was getting annoyed by this entire situation because I knew what we were, and I thought he knew what we were, and I didn’t know when we ended up in a place where we were trying to make it “work,” for fuck’s sake. I didn’t want to make it work, and I hadn’t the slightest idea that he could’ve considered that, too.
Luckily, we were about to reach the newspaper, and it was getting close to the time I had to go inside. We walked in silence for the last few blocks and then he turned to look at me.
I was shocked to see tears in his eyes.
“Babe,” he started, but couldn’t continue. He was actually crying. What the fuck was happening here? Was this some sort of weird good-bye, was this an acknowledgment of fault, was this an attempt to make our marriage work? He hadn’t actually said much of anything at lunch, he had just talked about light, meaningless topics. If he felt so strongly about…whatever he was feeling so strongly about, why wouldn’t he just tell me?
“Babe, I love you. I’ve never loved anyone more than you. I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, but you truly changed my life.”
I had no idea what to say, so I didn’t say anything. He leaned in to give me a hug and I let him. Despite whatever had gone on between us, he was clearly feeling very emotional about something and I didn’t need to be an ass now. I could just be silent and analyze this entire situation later.
He turned and started to walk off, but then changed his mind. He stopped and turned back around to look at me. “I’ll see you later, babe.”
“Oh,” I started. “Will you be home when I get home?” I figured that, despite our lunch, we still had the understanding that I wasn’t going to be in the apartment at the same time as him. I hadn’t anticipated him being home and if he was, I was going to have to gather up Holly and take her back to the hotel before he got there.
“I’ll see you later,” he repeated again and walked off.
I had been married to him long enough by this point to know that if he didn’t want to tell me what he meant, it wasn’t going to happen. No matter, I’d just try to leave work early to grab Holly and go back to our hotel. I had been close to making plans to find a new place so it wouldn’t be too much longer paying hotel prices. I’d just have to suck up the money for now.
The night at work was fairly normal. I wasn’t a fan of working nights and I still wasn’t a fan of the newspaper in general, but it was actually sort of nice to be alone with my thoughts in an empty building. Normally, I just sat around and thought about how dumb the heads of the paper were having an evening editor come into the office. We also had an overnight editor who worked from home. My shift lasted until midnight, so what the hell were they thinking? That’s what I got for working at a company run by millennials who had never done anything else.
The news was slow that night, too, and I really wanted to be aimlessly texting people. Unfortunately, the building didn’t have a lot of cell service.
I spent the night mindlessly updating the front page of the paper until it was time to leave. Just before I was planning on walking out, I got up to pee and took my phone with me, as I always did. I was surprised when I looked down at my phone to see several missed calls from both my mom and my best friend Jen.
How odd, I thought. Was it possible there was some kind of emergency happening in both New York and Florida? Ludicrous, I know, but why would they both be calling?
Whatever, maybe they just both wanted to chat with me about random shit. Just as I was thinking that, my phone buzzed again and it was Jen.
“Yo.” I answered.
“Hey, are you off work yet?” She sounded breathless and ridden with anxiety. “I’m outside.”
“What? Are you okay? What happened?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, I just wanted to know if you were off.”
“Not yet, but I will be in a few minutes. I was going to go pee, but fuck that, I’ll meet you downstairs in five.”
I was definitely panicked. It was almost midnight on a random weekday and Jen was waiting outside for me on the streets of New York? Something bad had happened, but I had no idea what it could be.
My phone buzzed again and this time it was my mom. What the hell was happening?
“Mom, is everything okay?”
“Yeah–are you okay?” She didn’t sound very convincing.
“I’m just freaked out because I don’t know what’s going on. Jen just called and now you–did something happen at home? Is everyone at home safe?”
“Yeah. Anjali, I just got a call from Jack.”
“Jack!? Is he okay? Did he get in an accident?”
My first thought was still the safety of my husband whom I was planning on leaving very shortly. It was a reflex.
“No accident. Anjali, he said he left.”
“What?” My brain couldn’t comprehend what my mom was saying.
“He was only on the phone with me for a total of maybe 30 seconds. He just said he had to go and that he wouldn’t be calling anyone any more or telling anyone where he was. And then he hung up on me.”
“What?” I asked again. “I just saw him this afternoon.”
“You did?” My mom sounded surprised. “It felt like he was really far away.”
“Okay, so. Let me get this straight. He called you. He called Jen. He said he was leaving. He didn’t call me. And now he’s gone?”
“Yeah, Jen should be picking you up from work.”
I rolled my eyes and tried not to get angry. Jen “picking me up from work” meant my mom and my best friend didn’t think I was capable of dealing with my own emotions about this. I hadn’t told anyone about our fight, or whatever the fuck it was, several days prior and no one really knew how unhappy I was in my marriage.
I briefly wondered why that was. I guess until I felt like I had truly made a decision about my marriage, I didn’t want to tell anyone how bad it was. And then, a few days earlier, when I had made the decision, I immediately went into “what do I do next” mode.
“Anjali, are you there? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. I know you’re worried about me, but I’m really okay, I swear. I have to go downstairs to meet Jen but I’ll call you later.”
“Okay, can you call me as soon as you get home?” I tried not to roll my eyes again.
I clicked it off and walked downstairs to meet Jen.
And that was how Jen and I ended up opening up my apartment door to a bouncing Holly and no Jack.
I sat down on the couch and patted for Holly to come join me. I looked up at Jen.
“Really,” I said. “I would rather be alone.”
“Your mom doesn’t want me to leave, so I’m not going to leave.”
I was trying not to be pissed, but I was actually really irritated that my mom and Jen wouldn’t leave me alone. I wanted to deal with this in my own way, and no one knew what Jack and I had gone through a few days prior (nor was I planning on telling anyone at this point) so no one would understand that I really didn’t care that he was gone.
What I did care about, however, was that after everything, he hadn’t bothered to have a conversation with me. He just disappeared into the night like our marriage had never existed.
I felt like I was probably in at least somewhat of a shocked state, but I wasn’t sure why. My marriage was over. Even if he came back in a few days, which I suspected he would, my marriage had been over for a long time.
But, still. The man I married couldn’t bother to sit down and have a conversation with me about the end of our marriage? We had seen each other for lunch that very day, and yet, he wanted to talk about everything except divorce.
This was all I got for wasting the last three and half years of my life on this man?
A marriage full of bullshit, and hurt feelings, and anger, and neglect, a horrifically violent argument, and then not so much as an acknowledgment that I was another human being who deserved a conversation about the end of our marriage.
I wanted to break everything he owned. I wanted to take Holly, Jen, some things of mine and leave. Then I wanted to come back and set the place on fire.
I had never been so angry in my life. After all that, he decided the best way to deal with everything would be to just abandon me, our dog, his apartment that he owned, and let me deal with the entire situation on my own.
I looked around and considered what I could destroy. It was then that I noticed he had left everything almost untouched in our apartment. His laptop was gone and so were his shoes he normally wore, but other than that, he hadn’t taken anything else. Not even a pair of clothes.
Still, though, I wanted to break everything I could get my hands on. Or throw everything down the stairs. Or literally, just take a match and set the place ablaze. I couldn’t think straight I was so angry.
But I didn’t do any of those things. I looked at Holly and tried to figure out what our next move should be. I suppose Jack being gone just made it easier to stay in the apartment to pack up our things, but it was nearing 2AM and nothing was going to get done tonight.
“Should we go to sleep?” I turned to face Jen
“I mean…sure.” She looked confused. “Don’t you want to like, talk, or anything?”
“This is why you and my mom are pissing me off. No offense, but it’s actually really irritating to feel like my babysitter is staying the night with me when I’ve told you repeatedly I’m fine.”
She looked taken aback, but I didn’t really care. As far as I was concerned, I had already told her several times I would be fine alone and at this point, she was just forcibly staying in my house when I would have rather been totally by myself.
“Yeah, but Anjali…” she started.
“No ‘But Anjali.’ That’s not a thing. I’ve told you a hundred times I’m fine. So he left. So what? I really, honestly, at this point, couldn’t care less. I would have hoped he would have been enough of a fucking human to sit down and have a conversation with me, but that’s fucking life. I’m sure he’ll be back in a few days with his tail between his legs. But it doesn’t matter. My marriage has been over for a long time. And I don’t want to deal with any of this right now. I wouldn’t mind taking Holly out to pee and then going straight to bed.”
Now she looked like she was about to cry. My best friend wasn’t a crier, so I didn’t think that was actually going to happen, but I knew I had hurt her feelings. Unfortunately, there was so much else going on in my life and I was still so annoyed she was at my house that I couldn’t be bothered to deal with that right now.
“I’ll make up the guest room for you, let’s just go the fuck to sleep.”
She didn’t say anything but followed me into the guest room and started silently helping me put on the sheets.
After Holly and I had gone out and Jen was comfortably in the guest room with the door closed, I laid down on the couch, wide awake in my dark living room.
I once heard or read something that said then when life hands you something unexpected, you should just yell “PLOT TWIST” and move on. The idea was that we should take things in stride more and stop getting caught up about the unexpected.
Well, I had been wanting out of my marriage for some time. Now, my husband had just disappeared, like a fucking Lifetime movie. On the one hand, it was the easiest way out I could have imagined. On the other hand, who just leaves their wife in the middle of the night without so much as a conversation?
Maybe he wasn’t going to come back. Maybe I would never see or speak to my husband, ever again.
It was so odd to know that my marriage was over – just like that – in the blink of an eye.
And yet, all I felt was freedom.
“Plot twist,” I whispered into the night.