When Matt and I knew it was over…

By: Robin J. Engel

He had taken a job near San Francisco; I took an apartment in AZ with the kids so I could finish my degree; we’d rented out our big house -the one we built,  the last one we would ever buy, we said. When he lost his job, it took almost a year to get another one that could support the family, so of course, he took the job in Cali. 

         The kids and I went to visit him for a month that summer. There was no air conditioning in his apartment, because it’s rarely hot enough to need it; in Phoenix, we were used to temps that could melt an egg on the sidewalk. We lived with Matt in his cramped, one bedroom apartment. 

          Matt’s neighbor, Sue, befriended us. We went on picnics with her and she helped me sort out whether or not I should stay in this marriage or not. We made a pro and con list. The kids had no idea that their mommy and daddy had been talking about divorce for quite some time, but decided we would stay together for the kids. After living together for 5 years, when we decided to have children, we got married so we could seal the commitment. We were going to honor that commitment. We would work it out somehow.

          California is a beautiful place, so Matt and I took the kids on a   vacation to the Redwoods, and the big amusement parks, and the beach. Climbing onto the giant sequoias that had fallen on the ground made us feel like we were cartoon characters in some surreal fantasy. These trees, that were thousands of years old, majestic in stature, that could endure fires, and ward off blights, that provided shelter and food for probably thousands of animals, the Kings of the Forest, had fallen. Still, in their death, they provided security and sustenance for a teeming forest of life. They would not disintegrate easily into the dark night. Not them. 

           So, Matt and I, even though we were disintegrating,would provide food, and shelter, and clothing, and a stable family life for our children; we had made a promise to that idea, even though our marriage had fallen to its death. We would be their tall trees. 

One evening, we left the kids in the cabin and went to the pub at the resort. We were determined to pick up the pieces of our failing marriage and stitch them together into some worn and tattered tapestry. After all, isn’t that what families do? 

Some mediocre musicians played some pop tunes at the pub. We played a game of pool. Matt was an excellent pool player, but the conversation was stilted. Matt and I were like 2 inert elements – no flow between our electrons due to the fact that inert atoms have complete valence shells and therefore do not react or interact with atoms of another element. No matter how hard we tried, we could not mix. 

I went to the bathroom, just for something to do other than sit there and attempt to bond with Matt. I talked to some stranger, because that’s what women do, we talk to people in the bathroom – it’s a level playing field in there – we all know what’s going on – and told her about my dilemma. She wished me luck; she had no real words of wisdom, only comfort and an ear to lend. 

When I returned, Matt and I made the excuse of going to check on the kids just so we could get out of there. We walked across the grass in the darkness, just the sliver of a moon lighting our way. Without speaking, both of us stopped, looked at each other, and held hands. I can’t even recall which one of us uttered the unmentionable. “It’s over, isn’t it?”

 “Yeah, it is.” the other one muttered.

 We hugged. We kissed each other on the lips, for the last time. There were no pangs of desire, just a feeling of relief, a feeling of despair, and clarity. Then, we hugged again. And cried a little. When we parted, we didn’t speak. The silence spoke for us. 

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