Monday, November 24, 2008

'I Been Shattered' for the Daily Telegraph, London


On the morning of April 1, I woke up naked, a full ashtray in my line of vision. Twenty or thirty twisted butts in a large black cigar ashtray with the word HAVANA on its side in yellow; the word seemed to scream into the stale air. An empty bottle of mandarin flavored vodka stood very tall and close to the ashtray. Strains of an Elton John dirge skittered through my head.

“All the papers had to say was that Marilyn was found in the nude…”

Then it hit me: my husband had jammed the night before. The refreshed information slammed back to me. It was definitive; he’d said to expect a divorce petition in the next week, minutes later he’d swooped out of the house like Dracula. I looked around my bedroom, it was different. There was a person missing.

I saw more. Prescription pill bottles clustered round an empty glass. Effexor XR. Xanax. TylenolPM. And for some inexplicable reason,a bottle of Viagra. I'd puzzle this out later. For the moment, it was all just visual information: Still Life Of An Abandoned Wife, With Depression.

Our baby son was asleep in the next room, he had just turned one. One. Surely age one was too early for a child to learn about loss. A child of one needed a father in the house; it should be law. I was furious with the law. Fathers shouldn’t be allowed to just walk away, as from a cocktail party.

I was in a new life, this was the first day. I fucking hated my new life. I had half the income, all the tending of the baby, all the humiliation, and none of the love from my husband. He’d pulled out of our life. My new life would, however, include him as a horror figure and a betraying devil. That’s how I saw it. I saw no end in sight, no credible resolution. I was blind to the future and the present was a blur.

I don’t remember feeding my son his first bottle of the day, but I did. I bathed him, I read to him, I kissed him. I told him how much his daddy loved him. It felt like a lie, but a very important lie, one I needed to push really hard to keep everyone from imploding into pathos.

I fed myself once a day, tasting nothing. I lost 25 pounds. I spent my nights weeping and drinking and chain smoking on the back deck of my little rachety house. I was a terrible smoker, burning holes in every article of clothing and piece of furniture….a very inept, boozy arsonist-in-training. A small throw rug went up, as did three down comforters and part of my laptop keyboard.

For months, I functioned like a machine. My innards and brain were distinctly ajar, tumbled, dysfunctional. Shattered, like a snappy Mick Jagger lyric. I endlessly babbled to friends and strangers about the divorce. I had a list of 10 people to call; they were my lifelines, as in a game show. I was the walking wounded and a walking cliché. I’d gone from an attractive, successful writer and adwoman to a useless, frowsy windbag in one fell swoop.

“Why?” I asked my friends, over and over.

“Because he’s crazy.’

“Because he’s a rotter”

These answers did not satisfy me. I wanted real, hard answers. Such as: You are too wide. The house is too small. He has been lured away by mermaids.


Time passed. Anger came and saved me from depression. I exchanged verbal gunfire with my ex. After a while, it had all been said. I looked up. My son was two, was deeply involved in riding his toy tractor/trailer through the house, loaded with fruit and toy dinosaurs. I refinanced the house, I got a job, went to lunch. I had a party. People came and rearranged the furniture, music blasted. I fell down laughing, and I wasn’t drunk.

In time, I took a lover. I took several.

Dracula and I became friends. I remembered why I’d married him in the first place. Our son was happy. It had come, the miracle…not overnight, like the millennium or the lottery. But it had come.

This was it, my new life. I loved it. It was interesting and fun and hard. I felt gratitude for having loved that hard, for not missing my window of fertility. I felt lucky, a quality I remember feeling as I walked down the aisle, as I held my newborn in my arms. I was shattered but pieced back together, made stronger in the broken places. I was a walking cliché.

Thank God.


George said...

Always good, Suzanne. I do love your writing.


thanks george. i'm trying to read the Shack...whaddaya think of it?

Jerri said...

Great read. So much I identify with, having been shattered myself.

After George recommended it, I read The Shack, too. Very interesting, especially overlapped with The Solace of Leaving Early and Haven's posts.

Happy Thanksgiving, Suzanne. I'm off to slay me some broccoli.


jerri, you rock! i'm starting from the beginning on the Shack. happy T day!!xo sfc


Anonymous said...

oh god, i needed to hear this. you make me feel less alone. less crazy. even though i am.

this hits home today: "These answers did not satisfy me. I wanted real, hard answers. Such as: You are too wide. The house is too small. He has been lured away by mermaids."

i am stuck in anger. as to be expected. i play it on rewind. i fear i'll never get out of that loop. it's good to know i will, at some point. that the miracle happened. that one day i'll fall down on the floor laughing.

you give me hope, and that's cliche, but so am i.

Anonymous said...

meredith: you are not a cliche. and you are definitely not alone.i am here.