I’m feeling a little crazy again. This week, I had an idea that I kind of ran with, so there was no prompt necessary.
A Fading White Line
He was on the wrong side of thirty for this shit.
Okay, yes: his thirtieth birthday was in two weeks, but all the same, he was too young to be a divorcee already. Hell, he wasn’t even old enough for a mid-life crisis.
And it wasn’t even his crisis. He had been surprised as hell when Lauren walked into their bedroom six months ago and announced that they were getting a divorce. He didn’t even get a say in the matter. He didn’t even get a chance to put down the book he had been reading and say can we sit down and talk about this? before she had already left the room, the apartment, the neighborhood, and, consequently, his life.
The papers were delivered by courier the next day.
They had been high school sweethearts; the couple that everyone expected to last forever. And, while he had always been a patient man, Lauren made him feel impulsive. At eighteen, he was fresh out of high school and the third finger of his left hand was freshly adorned with a simple gold wedding band.
It had taken him a while to settle in to the domesticity of it all: waking up next to another person every morning, sharing a bathroom, needing to run errands to the store for tampons, but he got used to it and settled in for what he assumed to be the long haul. But, while he found a job that would pay most of the bills, Lauren was always reaching higher, never happy enough: going to night school to be a lawyer; working long hours on no sleep to become partner in her firm; spending nights away from home with Mark from Accounting so that she could have babies and breakfast in bed and wouldn’t have to live in a cramped apartment anymore.
The morning after she left, surely she wasn’t serious, she’d be back…soon. Right? he stood in the middle of his now half-empty apartment, wondering just exactly who the strange shell of a man was that was staring back at him in the mirror. The last time he had done something for him and not him-and-Lauren, he was eighteen and still developing the calluses around the still-foreign ring. He had no idea who he was anymore. His whole identity had been formed on the basis of who he was in high school and who he was in his shared life. And now, he was on the wrong side of twenty to start doing all the things he used to do back when he was still in high school. Because, no matter how much he really wanted to smoke and drink his way into a truly fantastic stupor right now, he was a mostly mature adult who had responsibilities and a wife who didn’t love him anymore, and probably never had. And while he was being completely honest with himself, he thought, abandoning the mirror to stare in the particularly empty fridge, it was a miracle that their marriage -- playing house Lauren had called it last night– had lasted as long as it had. On second thought, a drink or two couldn’t hurt.
That night, when she didn’t come back, he spent a solid hour drunkenly staring at the divorce papers. Maybe, just maybe, if I drag my feet with the paperwork, she’ll change her mind. He tapped the pen against the paper for a respectable amount of time before changing his mind and, for the first time in his life, getting absolutely, positively angry. He flung the pen across the room, where it knocked a tiny ceramic something-or-another off a shelf and onto the floor. Tugging at his wedding band, he wrestled it over his knuckle and flung it after the pen.
He was significantly more sober when he replaced the ring on his finger, covering the thin white anti-tan line that mocked him of his failure. He just wasn’t ready yet.
He waited for two whole months to sign the papers; and then, he only did so under extreme duress. Lauren had taken to calling him every hour, on the hour, even at night, to bitch at him for at least fifteen minutes about how he needed to punctually return the required paperwork to end their marriage. And if he pressed the pen into the paperwork with a little extra malice, it was the last time that he allowed himself to be angry; instead, he turned the ill-will into a general, sustained buzz that was a mix of ‘upset,’ ‘disappointed,’ and ‘sad.’
He had expected to know exactly the moment in time when he was over Lauren. He was anticipating a huge sign, like a light switch being turned on inside his mind, that would tell him that he was ready to move on with his life. For weeks nothing happened, and he got sick of sitting around in stasis in his boxers waiting for something to happen, so he sucked it up, shaved the considerable stubble-cum-almost-beard off his jaw and got a new job. Something he had never done before; something he had always been interested in, but too afraid to try. When he got home from his first day, he pulled on his pair of decade-old running shoes and huffed his way around the block. He hadn’t run since high school, but the burning in his legs and chest reminded him that it was his turn to reclaim his life. He was so sore the next morning that he didn’t run again until the following week. It had nothing to do with bumps in the road of his epic life-reclaiming, he just wanted to be able to feel his calves again. Hello, Normal, it’s been too long, he thought the morning three months later when he successfully ran around his entire neighborhood without stopping or having a passing motorist ask if he was having a heart attack and would he like them to call an ambulance.
Another two months later, Lauren to inform him that the divorce was finalized, have a nice life. He was proud that instead of reaching for the six-pack of beer he had just bought with part of the weekly paycheck he had just gotten from his new, exciting, fulfilling, wonderful job, he had rediscovered enough of his spine to lace up his (brand new) running shoes and take his frustration out on the asphalt instead. And yes, he was definitely feeling it the next day, and he had definitely out-done it, but this time, it felt amazing.
He took his wedding band off on a Thursday. Permanently.
nt – 3/11/10
Notes: So, as stated above, I didn’t use a prompt this week. I was at work, and people watching (a writer’s favorite hobby). I noticed that one particular person was a bit sad-ish and that their marriage-finger was conspicuously naked for the first time since I had known them. I immediately started creating back story, and this is more or less what I came up with. And if you are this unnamed person, sorry I used you as fodder, but I didn’t want to say anything and come off as creepily observant/insensitive.