Pancakes Taste Like Poverty: And Other Post-Divorce Revelations

BOOK: Pancakes Taste Like Poverty: And Other Post-Divorce Revelations
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For Shirley, Sherrie, Christopher and
my
babies most of all.

Preface

A
box of condoms started all of this.
Well, to be perfectly honest
it was a garbage can full of maggots, as you'll soon learn, and then
a box of condoms.
You see, I was ten years into an obligatory
marriage when, during a family trip to get blueberry pancakes, I
opened the glove box of my then-husband's car to stow away my
cumbersome clutch and came to find a bright blue box of condoms
tucked away inside.

He froze. His face was
all guilt, remorse, fear, panic, mouth agape, eyes wide. But I was
awash with calm and blessed with a surprising lightness and
relief.
There was only one option. This was the end. This box of
condoms was just one in a long list of symptoms of a poisonous,
destructive marriage.

I was staring right at
my exit, my reality, my last straw.

The last straw wasn't
the time he skipped our first Christmas together to do cocaine all
night.

The last straw wasn't
the time he cheated with the checkout girl from the title loan shop.

The last straw wasn't
the fact that the kids and I went without dental or medical care
while he collected RC cars and swords and went on yoga retreats.
The
last straw wasn't when we moved into his parents house, having lost
our house, and him asking if he could date one of his former
classmates.

And the last straw
wasn't the love letter I found written to one of his ex-girlfriends a
few weeks earlier.
Nope,
this
was it.
Shortly
thereafter I scraped together enough money for a deposit on an
apartment nearby. We'd been saving to get a house and move out of his
parents house. I called my mom to help with the rest. Our belongings
had been absorbed into his family with his siblings and parents
borrowing and using and rarely replacing or returning. Boxes of our
memories had been shoved into the deepest corners of closets and
garages.
I didn't care.
I just wanted out.
So I took my
three children, a few backpacks of clothing and a mattress that his
mother offered me and left the rest behind. The mattress was twenty
years old, bowed in the middle, chewed by dogs and peed on by my
bed-wetting children.
It was more than enough. I just wanted
out.
And so there I was with three kids looking to me to handle
everything. The fear couldn't show. The pain couldn't show. I had to
be strong for them. And so, I took to journaling or, rather, blogging
as a means of relieving the pressure.
I just needed to be
heard.
What follows are my blog posts between 2011 and 2014.
During that period I contemplated prostitution, dreamed about
suicide, ate a lot of beans, moved, met amazing people, rebuilt
myself, learned some parenting lessons, got Catfished, went back to
college twice and found love.
In addition to my blog posts are
entries from a personal diary I was keeping at the time with the
intention of publishing on the blog which never made it for one
reason or another.
Reading my
blog posts now, the ups and downs seem to happen very quickly and
I go from feeling powerful and full of light to murderous and
sorrowful
within a few sentences.
I apologize in advance. But, if anything, it's an honest account of
the post-divorce rollercoaster.
I'd like to thank my mother for
supporting me so endlessly, my sister for being my champion, my
father and stepmother for depositing parcels of wisdom into my heart,
the crazy blonde lady for showing me what community and solidarity
mean, all my sisterwolves who roam and hunt together, my children who
are so wise and patient, and Christopher, one of the loves of my
life.
And thank you, dear reader.
J.
Viv

TAMPA

Stuffed
– February 2011

I’m
Jessica.
I’m
twenty-nine.
I’m
a mom of three.
I’m very recently single after almost a
decade of marriage.

Yes, that would mean I got married before I could
drink legally.
No, I don’t know what the hell I was
thinking.

Getting divorced feels a bit like leaving one of
those cults Dr. Phil is always trying to infiltrate. Any hopeful
moments of freedom-triggered ecstasy is met with the terrifying and
nauseating realization that you don’t know anything and the
rest of the world evolved and expanded while you wiped spit-up from
your bargain bin maternity tee.

I spent my entire adult life identifying myself
with the moods, thoughts and idiosyncrasies of one person.
Add to
that a lonely, latch-key childhood and an almost insatiable addiction
to male attention and you’re left with one seriously lost
individual.

And so my quest begins to…

(I can hardly type it, clichés make me
gag)

…to…find myself.

Really. I don’t know how else to say it.

Or, instead of finding myself, I am building
myself. I'm sewing all the pieces together, stuffing myself with the
love and attention I wasted on others, picking out a cute little
outfit to wear so that I am
irresistible
to shoppers.

There are some things I
do
know:

I know I’m funny.
I know I’m a
good friend.
I like to cook.
I want Joseph Gordon-Levitt to
be my next ex-husband.
I love the Earth.
My belief system is
not exactly mainstream.
I’m a good mom.
I was a good
wife.

The rest will fall into place.
I think
that was another cliché. Sorry. I'll work on that.

The Beginning of the End
What's interesting
about leaving a marriage is that what looks like the end is never the
end for the person who's choosing to go.
My eventual acceptance
of my dead marriage came in the form of a few pivotal moments. It
wasn't the fights or the drama or the transgressions. There were so
many I couldn't begin to remember them all. But I do remember when
the Universe first whispered for me to go.

It was 2009 and we had been fighting for days. I
have no idea what about. I was taking out the trash. I could hear the
garbage truck coming.

I lifted the lid of the giant trash can, already
teeming with this week's batch of maggots, and the top- heavy
container tipped over, spilling rotten food, fermenting garbage water
and maggots all over my driveway.

And then it hit me.

Right in the chest.

A sledgehammer.
But the pain never let up.
I
gasped.

I couldn't get air.

A fist was squeezing my heart.

Tighter and tighter

I collapsed on the driveway.

No air.

Blackness.

Stars.

Slow down.

Breathe.

With each desperate gasp I could feel my throat
closing, despite my attempts to control my body. My heart was
pounding in my ears.

I don't want my kids to find me. I don't want
to die in my driveway.

I don't want to die.

I don't want to die fat.

I don't want to die uneducated.

I don't want the last decade to be the way I
spent my adult life.

I don't want this to be the last day.

I heard a voice through the muddy drumming of my
heartbeat
. A vague figure came toward
me. There was the faint, fruity stench of the garbage truck.

You are in control.

The drumming slowed.

You are in control.

I forced my lungs to work
for
me
.

This marriage will kill you.

The garbage man helped me up and insisted we call
an ambulance. Having no insurance, I insisted he didn't.

I think it was a panic attack. It could have been
a heart attack. Either way, the message was clear. My marriage was
going to kill me. Maybe not immediately, but the stress and the
holding in and the lack of respect/love/excitement/trust

all of it

would kill me.

I looked at my life as someone's wife: I didn't
finish college. I quit a job I was good at
and
that I loved, to support my husband's goals. I was
forty
pounds
overweight. I was sleepy. I was angry. I was vengeful.
I was getting migraines. I was miserable.

And one day, I will die.

There is nothing

absolutely not ONE thing

more
valuable or precious than peace of mind. It's not security It's not
what-your-family-will-think. It's not
the-next-obvious-step-in-the-relationship.

Nothing.

From that point on, I told myself that even if I
file for divorce and then turn around and get struck by a truck the
fact that I
finally
put my happiness on the to-do list would
be worth it. It would be worth it for my two girls. It would be worth
it for my son.

I do not believe, for a second, that I will get a
gold star when I die and go to Heaven or
w
herever
on my how-I-lived-my-life essay for my "Excellent Martyrdom."

I had become one of those Oprah makeover "before"
moms
, s
omething I had vowed NEVER to
be
.
When I was just me, I thought I'd be a cast member on SNL or an
English teacher or a sex therapist.

I was none of the above.

I was not much aside from embarrassed and
ashamed.

How did I get there?

How
did I get to the driveway, in Mobile,
Alabama, covered in garbage juice, with a maggot in my hair, having a
panic attack, with three barefoot kids in my rented house.

HOW!?!?!

And more importantly, how the hell do I get out?

That was the day. That was when the seed was
planted.
I did not immediately file for divorce but we talked
about it.
Shortly after that, we found out we were getting
evicted and decided to give each other “one last try” by
starting afresh in Tampa, Florida near his family.
Shortly after
that the five of us were living in two rooms in his parents house
,
forced witnesses to their own crumbling marriage.
Shortly
after that he dated other women and wrote love notes to even
more.
And shortly after that, I saved myself and left.

Moving Day
He
and I had a tendency to overestimate our ability to earn a living. We
were perpetual minimalists
;
chronic
purgers.
If we didn't want to move something, we just threw it
away.
This wasn't my natural state, but
h
e
conditioned me to be this way.

Only now, looking back, I know this is a
manipulation tactic.

When we first moved in together after finding out
I was pregnant with our first child, while packing the things from my
single-girl apartment he edited me aggressively.
My beloved New
Kids on the Block blanket that I'd had since I was
ten
,
soft and heavily hugged. It was THE most comfortable thing. I used it
to
envelop drunk
friends who stayed the
night and they always woke up expressing exactly that.
“This
blanket is THE most comfortable thing.”
It had to
go because it was “stupid.”
I went to the same small
private school from first grade until graduation. Like all kids, the
majority of my formative years were spent at school. It was my
dysfunctional family. My yearbooks were my dysfunctional family
album.

They had to go because they were “heavy.”
Piece
by piece my “before” was erased and being so young and so
scared and so desperate I didn't put up much of a fight.

The pictures of his pre-Jessica partying and
pre-Jessica girlfriends became shrined in his memories got to stay
despite my protests.
It was
so subtle but so obvious looking back.

But then I didn't know anything. I was
brainless.
So again, when I was manipulated into leaving my
turf and coming back to Tampa, I was advised to leave it all behind
because “the kids and I are already here, just bring what you
can fit in your car. We can replace the stuff. It's just stuff.”

This resulted in ten years of existence being
reduced to little more than a few boxes of essential books and photo
albums, suitcases of clothing and little else.
We were “starting
over.”
This proved to be extremely inconvenient when it was
time to move out on my own.
When we moved into his parents'
house it was made clear our presence, rightfully, was not exactly
welcome.

It wasn't long before our boxes got shoved and
dumped and upended into random closets already stuffed to the brim
with however many years worth of his parents' stuff.

The archaeological mission of finding our things,
which had already been squished and integrated into
their
things was, frankly, not worth it.
I just wanted out.

I wanted
out
.
I did manage to find
one box of books.
I never found another, full of my smutty books
of erotica and studies of Japanese sex clubs. It is still lost,
somewhere, in my conservative Christian ex-mother-in-law's house both
to my dismay and delight.
My in-laws let me take the mattress our
family had been sleeping on. My kids had taken to bed-wetting and the
twenty
-something year old mattress had
already been chewed by its previous occupant's pet
C
hihuahuas.
It
was holey and pissy and, apparently, now mine.
And that was about
it.
I'd been planning my escape for longer than I realized,
squirreling away money when I worked at my last job as a hotel
concierge. I'd been away from that job for about six months under his
advice. The schedule was too hard with three little ones and getting
them to school was too much. I should just let him handle the work
and bills and find another job with a better schedule.
With this
squirreled money and a huge, huge amount from my mom I was able to
get an apartment less than five minutes from the majority of his
family. I had no family nor friends of my own in Tampa so I figured
close would be better.
His mom and I moved my three boxes, three
kids, piss-mattress and I to the new place.
And despite having no
furniture, no toiletries, no groceries, no toys and now, no father in
the home my kids were shockingly...light.
They were giggly and
happy and buoyant and sunshiny.
To them, the lack didn't matter.
This place was new and it was
ours
.
It was
ours
.

BOOK: Pancakes Taste Like Poverty: And Other Post-Divorce Revelations
8.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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