Catch up on the rest of the book here.
Just like that, Jack ceased to exist in my life.
I was looking around our apartment wondering what I really needed to take with me to Florida. I mostly didn’t want to deal with any of it, but knew I had to get my shit together to pack up and get ready to go.
My mom was on her way up from Florida and would be landing in a few hours and I still had a load of packing to do before I would be ready for our long road trip from New York down south.
Holly sauntered into the living room, looking relaxed as ever, despite that she knew something was up with me flitting around the house and Jack not being there.
“Holl, can you please grow some opposable thumbs and help Mommy pack this shit?”
She just stared at me.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what I thought,” I grumbled as I turned back to filling up the suitcase I had laid out in front of me.
A mere two weeks had passed since Jack had left and to my significant surprise, he hadn’t come home. Not only had he not come home, he had not called.
He hadn’t called me or my mom or Jen again or anyone else. In fact, I had even called his mom the day after he left and apparently, he had reached out to her with the same weird phone call as to my mom and Jen. He had told her he was leaving, that he couldn’t tell anyone where he was going, and that he wouldn’t be reaching out again.
I had no clue what the hell had happened, but I knew I wasn’t sticking around to find out. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get some time and space in the apartment to pack up and figure out what I wanted to do next.
What I wanted to do next, it seemed, was to move back to Florida for a bit, where I grew up and where my parents were. So, I asked my mom if she could come do the drive down with me and she was on her way.
It was definitely weird that my husband had just up and disappeared into the night, but there wasn’t much else I could do about it.
After he had been gone for a few days, I called him once and left a voicemail. It had been a kind voicemail, because at that point, I had been wondering if he had just had a nervous breakdown.
Because I wasn’t sure what could possibly have happened, I called our therapist at some point during my packing up process. I knew that Jack’s dad had very severe mental health issues, and I was wondering if there was a chance that what was going on with Jack now was related to his mental health. I was hoping our therapist could provide some insight.
The day I called her had been a weird day. I hadn’t gone to work. That was partially because I was trying to pack and get everything going for my move and partially because I already didn’t really like my job so I didn’t particularly care if I missed a few days here and there.
When she answered, I flood of words came out.
“No, Anjali, it’s completely okay. Can you slow down a bit? What happened? Jack left?”
What proceeded from there was a conversation where I told her the entire story of my evening. I, of course, left in each of the critical details, including that Jack had called my mother and my best friend to let them know he was leaving but hadn’t called me. And I let her know some time had now gone by and not only had he not come back, he hadn’t communicated with anyone.
“Well, Anjali, you know I can’t diagnose anyone on the phone and I don’t actually know what’s going on with Jack. We may never know. I suspect, though, that it may have something to do with the history of mental illness in his family. Maybe something just broke for him.”
“Yeah…” I didn’t know what to say. I had guessed as much myself. Jack’s dad had bipolar disorder. And it impacted his life to a huge extent. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jack was starting to have some of the same issues, but hell, he was in his 30s. I had no idea when that stuff was supposed to onset but I assumed it would have been earlier in his life. Maybe not.
“What?” Jennifer had been saying something to me, and, as usual, I had already zoned out.
“I don’t think it matters what’s going on with Jack, to be honest, Anjali. I think you should be focusing on you. I think you need to figure out what it is you want now, and go with that.”
“Oh. Yeah. I’m moving to Florida. My mom’s coming up to help me drive down with Holly but I’m already basically packed up and ready to go. I really have been tired of New York for the past few years and I was only staying because of Jack and the restaurants. So now I think it’s time to go.”
“Well, I think that’s great. It’s good that you decided to do something that will make you happy. Now you should focus on self-care.”
Just like a therapist, I thought. But she wasn’t necessarily wrong. I was really looking forward to being back in Florida after having such a shitty time in Manhattan over the past few years. I knew I would probably be back one day – I loved the city too much to stay away. But I also knew that right now, I needed a break.
I thanked her and hopped off the phone, knowing there was nothing else she could do to help.
I sat down on the couch and looked around the small apartment again. Despite that I didn’t really want our marriage to work out, a part of me was sure he would be back in a day or two or even a week. When he hadn’t come back or tried to communicate in any way, I was surprised.
It was in these moments that I started to wonder what I believed. I had been raised Hindu, with parents that cared more about whether I was a good person than whether I subscribed to any particular rituals for my religion. As I had gotten older though, and started to learn more about the world and become more logical and rational, I had quickly defined myself as an atheist.
The truth was though, whenever someone asked me if I believed it God, I flippantly replied, “Only when I’m mad at it.
That statement, though perhaps irreverant, captured my relationship with the “God thing” well. In times of happiness and joy, I was definitely a confirmed atheist. In times of anger, I needed something to be angry at.
I knew that part wasn’t rational but I didn’t really care. At this moment, however, I had been wondering if perhaps there was a “God thing” or at least, some universal forces I would never be able to understand, that had made these events turn out the way they had. The most rational, scientific (and probably, therapeutic) minds would tell me that I was just trying to make sense of things because I had endured emotional trauma. And they would probably be right.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel this was all “meant” to go down this way, whatever that means. Maybe it would be the best thing in the world not only to never see, but never talk to Jack again.
I got up from the couch and started thinking about how I could avoid packing as much as possible. This was Jack’s apartment, so I didn’t particularly care at all what I left behind for him, and I also didn’t care about trying to clean up the place. There was some stuff I didn’t want anymore, and some stuff that I just couldn’t be bothered to pack, so maybe all I really needed was my clothes and my puppy’s things.
“Well,” I said to Holly. “Back to the salt mines. We have to get this packing done before Grandma gets here.”
Holly gave me a long look before she turned and walked into the bedroom.
“Yeah. Go. Don’t help mommy. I see how it is.”
I sat back down on the couch. I sensed a lot of my day today would be like this: up and down, quite literally.
I was looking forward to my mom coming up and looking forward to the drive to Florida, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was going to do and it was time to be honest with myself about that fact.
I had hated being a lawyer. I had hated working at a company run by millennials. And I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do with my life.
So that was clearly a good start.
I also knew that I would need to make my temporary move-in with my parents just that – temporary. After going to undergrad and law school and getting married and divorced, I thought it would be nice to live at home with the comfort of my family for a bit, but I knew it would quickly get old after that.
I tried to be angry at Jack for putting me in this position, but I couldn’t even muster that, because the truth was, after three and a half years of being in a relationship I wasn’t sure why I was in, it was nice to be free. It was sad, of course, that I would be a divorcee at the age of 26, but it was also so nice to suddenly be able to see my world in a completely different way than I had been able to just a few weeks prior.
I was free.
I didn’t have someone to consider while I made plans for thinks like traveling or changing careers or moving states. I didn’t have someone else’s mood hanging over me all the time. I didn’t have to care to ask about someone’s day when I really didn’t care.
It was perfect.
I had felt this way the entire time I had been with Jack – so what had prevented me from ending the relationship? I still wasn’t sure but I was ashamed of myself. Instead of waiting until circumstances necessitated the end of our marriage, I should have never gotten married to him in the first place. Our relationship should have ended a few months after it began.
The thing is, I actually did break up with Jack. I broke up with him after we had been together for 7 months. But a month later, I got back together with him. I didn’t know why.
So much of my life to this point had been spent in a haze of not knowing why I was doing what I was doing and that needed to change. I just wasn’t sure how to change it.
The only thing I felt strongly was regret. I regretted wasting the past three and a half years of my life. Not necessarily just on a particular man, but on living a life that was never going to fit me.
I kept listening to other people’s bullshit opinions of what my life should be like.
Why did I do this to myself? At the end of the day, I really didn’t care what most people thought of me or my life. Was I scared? Did it make me feel like less than a human being if other people judged my choices? Was I worried I would never amount to anything?
Probably yes to all of those things. More than anything, my parents had drilled the idea in me that financial planning and a professional future were things I should be working towards. Even in the brief time I was working at the newspaper, I felt somehow less than perfect, as though not using my professional degree meant I was less of a human.
It’s crazy how much childhood fucks us up. I knew this logically, but emotionally, I just kept discovering more and more ways that I was completely fucked by the conditioning I had grown up with.
Well, at least my divorce freed me from the bounds of monogamy. For a long time, I had been considering that it might not just be that I wasn’t a good wife, it might also be that I really hated monogamy.
Before we got married, Jack and I had discussed the possibility of one day having an open marriage. At the time, he seemed receptive to it and said that we could definitely talk about it later down in our marriage.
Then, we got married, and I started asking about having an open relationship and he flat out denied consideration. This was just another reason that I had loads of feelings of resentment built up towards Jack – our sex life was terrible, he wouldn’t do anything about it, I was nine years younger than he, and he wouldn’t consider an open marriage.
If that wasn’t a combination that was already going to lead to divorce, I don’t know what would have been. Couple that with Jack’s attitude and my immaturity and it was a perfect storm.
I looked around the room overflowing with boxes again. I really did not feel like doing anything. In my ideal world, I would’ve popped on a movie, snuggled up with my puppy and a mug of tea, and gotten lost in some cheesy Hollywood flick. Then I would’ve worried about the packing later.
I had, unfortunately, a Type A personality where I wasn’t very good at putting things off.
“Well, you know what,” I said aloud. “Fuck that.”
I had a moment of insight where I realized I was my own damn boss now, with no one else to consider, so let it all be damned if my packing went to hell because at that moment, what would make me happy was a soft couch, my puppy, and a movie.
I called Holly over, flipped off my living room lights and powered up Apple TV.
My marriage was over, I was a full-fledged attorney and I was 26 years old. That was a whole lot of adulting for one year.
From this point forward, I was going to do whatever the fuck I wanted.