This might be the last letter I write to you, as my wife. Whatever else that means, and by “that” I’m talking about us being husband and wife, it certainly does mean that I’m writing with gravity. Gravity is an appropriate word, because I feel an immense heaviness, having to put these words down.
M, please know that I’m not writing to get anything from you. I’m just feeling like right now is the time to explain myself. Life is too damn short for anyone to add to their own troubles, and I hope this does not add any trouble on your end. I learned something from you. Not just from what has happened between us, but from us. Our situation held us together, even when I didn’t have the strength to hold you. The family we made, the strength of our love for our family… we lived and breathed with that kind of strength.
I did tie myself to that strength. Right now I keep thinking of something I learned in high school, and I want to share it with you. You’ve heard of Homer’s “Odyssey,” about the hero Odysseus. He passed the Isle of the Sirens, inhabited by dangerous harpies that could bewitch his crew. Odysseus made his men tie him to the ship’s main mast and put wax into their ears as they rowed past the island. Of course, this was not the end of the story, and Odysseus braved the harpies. Well, there’s a similar story told by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, called “The Wreck of the Hesperus.” In this story, a sailor ties his daughter to the mast of his ship, the Hesperus, to save her from a freezing hurricane. The short poem is horrific, and does not end well. I’m thinking of these two stories, because I want you to know that I thought of myself as Odysseus, seeing the dangers and tying myself to the mast. I thought I could weather both the struggles we were facing and the obvious struggles we had brought on ourselves (I brought more than my fair share). I thought that we would survive and move past the problems, as we grew into the new people we talked about over our dinner in Ventana. I did not want to believe that we were actually on the Hesperus, and that I was tying you to the mast, only to ultimately fail.
It wasn’t in me to break away from the strength of the “mast of love” we had for our family. There was too much promise in the dream of spending the rest of my life with you. In my heart, I never wanted to break away. I’m sorry- for both of us- for the time it took me to give up. Any decent man would have foreseen my imminent failure, and not risked the hurt it would bring everyone for me to admit that I simply didn’t have the heart to hold on, while the struggles we faced tore at us both. A long while ago, I should have realized that underneath the discord, I was becoming a type of Jonah and cursing us all by delaying, hiding, and overestimating myself.
Before I go on, I haven’t asked you to forgive me. Well, get ready, because here I go:
M, you never deserved to be shouted at. I shouted, especially during the beginning of our love. Through loving you, I discovered what you needed the most, and I did a despicable thing with that knowledge. I held hostage what you needed most, and acted like an ass. To my utter shame, I even let myself act intimidating, a few times. That was hateful and cruel; a monstrous way for anyone to use what should be intimate and wonderful. I never lied to you, but I did worse. I lied to myself that I was capable of shouldering the struggles of anxiety. Part of this was my own ignorance, and the rest of it was my endless pride. I was prideful, and I should have told you how much things were weighing on me. Things destroyed me, on the inside, and I hid my own unhappiness from you because I’m ridiculously filled with machismo and my own insecurities. I tried to reach out to your friends, and I learned a lot through that experience, but I also acted like an ass and embarrassed you more than any police report ever embarrassed me. I also reached out to them, in a way that I never learned to reach out to you. You do not deserve to have to shoulder my expectations, on top of your own. More than that, you don’t deserve to have to feel like I expect nothing from you, and wonder if I think that lowly of you, because I don’t know how to encourage without sounding condescending. You witnessed me as I tried to learn to be a good parent, and I never considered how scary that must have been for you, with your history of parenting. I got that message loud and clear from a prison cell, with shackles, because I was stupid and ignorant enough to need that rough of a wake-up.
You’re still here with me, every day, walking around in your bathrobe and stress bun when songs play that make me sad. Sometimes songs get to me, and I can’t even understand why. John Vincent McMorrow comes on my Pandora, and I have to stop what I’m doing, because he’s saying “I never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you. And I-i-i-i-i-i wanna fall in lo-o-ove… with you.” It may sound silly, and it is, because I can’t stop having these stupid dreams about you and K. Every damn time, it’s the same. I see K, and she’s… she’s walking. Well, that really does a number on me, because I’m so proud of her, for walking. I’m also proud of how well you dressed her, and I know in my heart that you were there cheering when she took those first steps. It’s right around then that I try to talk to her, and she’s confused, because she doesn’t know who I am. And then, and I’m not really sure if you would ever do this (in my heart, I don’t think you would), you come over, in your green coat with the fur hood, and you grab her hand and scowl at me. Then you take her away, while she looks at me, puzzled.
I don’t think I’ve ever woken up crying before, in all my life, until now.
My mother tells me that this is like a death in the family, and maybe to my mother, who has a family riddled by divorces that never healed, this is a death that will never turn into anything else. I tell her that I plan to do everything I can to allow a new type of relationship to grow, and she just smiles at me. “I hope so, too, honey,” she says. Now, I’ve never known my family enough or felt attached to anyone enough to compare what’s going on to a death in the family. But, I can tell you, M, that I have never felt such a long lasting pain in my entire life. Even when I moved from Houston, I didn’t feel this type of grief. It has to be true heartbreak, because, even right now, it feels as if I’m running my fifteenth mile and swallowing battery acid. Ask me, someday, about the pit I was in during the first week I spent alone, missing what I hoped we would one day have. I’m not proud of how low I was, but… today, I am more stable, and I count myself as stronger for it.
When I was sitting in jail for a few weeks, I had the opportunity to read a book called “Shantaram,” by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a 900 page, truly beautiful beast of a story about Roberts’ own life on the run. He was a fugitive smuggler in India during the 1970’s. There’s a part of the book where he is dealing with the sudden loss of his good friend, Prabaker. This passage I scribble-copied down, and it weighed on me as I was released:
“At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone. For I still love you with the whole of my heart. I still love you, Prabaker; and sometimes, my friend, the love that I have and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.”
I’m not telling you this to try to get sympathy from you, but I am telling you this because I want you to know that, even if this is easy for you, and if it seems easy for me in the courtrooms, I truly am grieving. You know I will never badmouth you, to her, but this grief even comes out in the letters I’ve written for an older K. I’ve tried to tastefully explain that things stretched until they starved, between you and me. In my own journal (that I’ve surprisingly been keeping up with) it’s easy to see how much I’ve overestimated how well I’ve dealt with this grief so far. I had thought I was all the way into the final acceptance, but as it turns out, I have barely crept out of shock. I have been trying to move through small anger, had thought that the anger was directed at you, or maybe myself, or maybe even the struggles we were both facing. That’s not it, though. The anger is simply the only way I have to feel close to the both of you. It’s the opposite (and negative) side of the love I have no way to give.
I don’t want to give space in my heart for anger to pass. I don’t want to grieve. I think I knew it was never going to be the same after that time I almost took Silas back, and after the Planned Parenthood… thing. But you told me something that I hope you still believe. I never believed it, but it came to me, on its own, about a week ago. You said that your ex was not good in a relationship, but he was a good person. I have come to realize that there is a great nugget of truth in this. In our relationship, there was something terribly off, and I still break down to think that it really couldn’t ever work. However, in our relationship as a married couple, that may have exactly been the case. It struggled and forced, but I know in my heart that you are a wonderful person, and I know that I am now rapidly becoming the someone you never got to know, as your husband. This grief is a just stepping stone to a new life.
Hopefully, you can come to believe that, for yourself, since you taught it to me.
One day, I hope you will be with someone who can be the person I am… just… not. In my deepest heart, I want that for you. You deserve to be happy, and to have someone love you as I never learned to. Maybe I just don’t have the depth in my heart to love you as your husband should, facing those unique struggles and trusting you, unafraid. It will be difficult for me to adjust without those struggles, because now my sense of purpose is empty and doesn’t feel like changing, but I am nothing if not adaptable. I still, and always did, love
you, and now that love is changing into something new. I will love you with a friend-love, and former-partner love that is totally new to me. I want to see you happy, leading a happy life free of anxiety with someone who can enjoy a life with you while you pursue your dreams. You deserve to be that butterfly you told me about on the phone. Free.
What is to become of the triangle of M, K, and A? This letter is me telling you that I hope for the best. You are, and may always be, the most incredible person I have ever met. I’m not saying that so I can get something from you; it needs to be said. You are a beautiful person, with a deep well of kindness and understanding. Forget your potential to become great. You became someone whom I hope to be like before I even met you. You come to mind in a pleasant way when I’m all alone in what used to be our house, finding scraggles of your hair, walking past your carefully packed and padded coffee cups like ancient artifacts. You would think that fighting felony accusations would make me miss you less. But you have shown me that you can be a loyal friend, and right now, I haven’t had time for local friends. The only communiqu? I have from you are the court papers saying that you think pretty lowly of me, but I want you to know that before, during, and after this I remember times when I’ve seen you be a wonderful mother. It confuses me as to where your accusations are coming from. But please don’t read into this and think I’m trying to “take the high road,” like a snob. I’m not flattering you. I married you because I love you, and you should know that I will never let what’s going on right now color the past. You were my wife whom I loved and admired. I know who you are, M. You have looks that could stop a train, inner peace and turmoil at the same time, and a heart that could power the planet. I count myself lucky to have been your husband and held your hand. My shoulder won’t ever be the same, having had you trust me enough to cry on it.
I have more than just a father’s desire to be a part of K’s life, some day. She is great, and I miss her. I want to be there in such a way that is not intrusive on anyone’s happiness. I also want to have you included in our relationship, creating friendship between us. You have taught me so much, and even though you are not my “baby,” anymore, I still would lay myself down to take care of you. For your sake, alone, I would do whatever I could to make sure you want for nothing, even without K. She is our beautiful daughter, and I will always be there for her, but you are someone that I truly value, no matter what happened to our marriage. It might be coming to light for me, even now, as I write this, that this is the truly undying love that I can give you. I reached the end of my strength, and cried terribly after I gave up in the car that day, but our lives have now been realigned, and I am being forcibly magnetized to this new setup. Whatever it means, or doesn’t mean, to you… you are the one person I know for sure that I have unending love for. That love will look like smiles when I see you, and a growing friendship, if you will have it. We both know, and… I mean, good god, we even talked about it, we were never really friends when we were married. But in this new life, I am becoming ready to be your friend, if you will take my heavy-minded and growing offer. I am a different person from the guy I was when I met you, and that means we really can become friends.
If you believe you can’t trust me, right now, I will be here if you ever want to come around. I don’t want our daughter to be tied to the mast of our own hateful Hesperus. We are getting divorced, and if this is as hard for you as it is for me, than you also feel the pain and sadness and sometimes anger and even a desire to let spite creep in. On opposite sides, we are in this together, and I don’t want you to think that I am going to make this harder. That being said, you are, truly, a better person than me, and I am appealing to your better nature for us to at least not be like my mother’s family, and not like what little I know of the relationship between your mother and your dad. I don’t want K to wonder if she should resent me for not being there and not knowing me, and I don’t want her to dread the tension between her mom and dad. Even when the greatest man for you comes along, I want her to have two loving dads. The chance for me to freely give my love to her, and for her to not feel like it makes anyone uncomfortable to go see her dad. We have a chance to show her a beautiful, living example of people who can forgive and move onward without war or grudges.
Remember when I told you that I wanted to write a letter to Jessie, because I wanted to apologize for the attitude I had, and the way I wasn’t mature enough to see how much that hurt her? That is not the nature of this letter. In the letter I wanted to write to her, I didn’t care whether or not I got a response, because she and I are forever over. She also is, unfortunately, not the type of person to understand real growth. There is no way that there will ever be any type of relationship there. …You must see where I am going with this. You and I are not in that hopeless situation. I do not expect, but I do hope for things to overcome what they don’t have to be, between us. I don’t want to be -I REFUSE to be an ex husband who acts hatefully, or resentfully, for my own sake. Also, it’s for our own sake. For your sake. For K’s sake.
You are wise enough to not feel like you need to respond to this letter. There’s no doubt in my mind, that as of today, you might want to cut me off. In 2065, you might feel the same way. My lawyer says that you probably will, and I had to stop myself from setting him straight, because even though he doesn’t know you like I do, I just don’t know what you will choose to do. But I promise to understand, and I will never breach your boundaries. You are safe from my intrusion, and I will respect your privacy, your relationship choices, and your parental judgment. If I see you out somewhere, with whomever, I will greet you with an open heart and a genuine smile. I want us to be better than just an awkward old boyfriend and girlfriend run-in.
While I will not wait for your response to this, I want you to know what’s behind my sometimes inexpressive eyes. If my face is not enough to show you how much I wish you the best, I hope that this letter will. We can be far from enemies. If you want, I will be a sponge to take any… any sort of talking-to you want to give me. I will listen, and it will affect me. It will become part of me, just like the past two years will always be the happiest years I’ve ever had.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this.
I will always love you, M.
Your former husband,
May 29, 2015