The Road Taken: The Writing on the Wall

This is how my marriage ended. There was a bang, but first a series of whimpers, which, at the time, I did not recognize for what they were.  In retrospect, I can see clearly. Hindsight is 20-20, after all. But back then, my eyes did not see the writing on the wall. Later, some would say, I was in denial. And of course, they would be right.

Perhaps if I'd seen this writing on the wall, I could have been spared some of the pain. Perhaps.

Writing on the Wall #1

We’d been living in Southern California barely a year, having long left Seattle and, most recently, Maryland. Friends from Maryland came out for a visit and we were all supposed to spend a few days visiting Los Angeles together. At the last minute, G said he couldn’t go. Work was keeping him at home. I did not read into this. I did not think about the three days all to himself, to do what he wanted. The nights, in particular, I simply did not think about.  Nor did I speculate as to why I couldn’t reach him, no matter when I called. I assumed work in his new lab was to blame.

Writing on the Wall #2

Six months before the explosion—the one that I can definitely point to as the beginning of the end—we went on a vacation to visit my in-law’s at their summer home, located on the banks of a secluded lake in the middle of the woods of New England. My daughter was still an infant and had just learned to sit up.  My son was already six, having just completed kindergarten. The three of us arrived first. G stayed behind to finish a grant proposal.  That should have been a red flag, as we’d always traveled together, but I didn’t question. My eyes were shielded by a mantle of trust.

Writing on the Wall #3

A mere 36 hours after he arrived at the lake, there was a call in the middle of the night. This is before cell phones and, the house phone was downstairs in the kitchen. It was my father-in-law who answered it and shuffled upstairs to our bedroom shouting, “G! Phone call. Someone from your lab.”

Startled awake, I wondered what lab emergency could there be at 2:30 in the morning. Did someone forget to put a postage stamp on the proposal? Before I could say anything, G bolted out of bed and took the phone into the hallway. Ten minutes later he returned to the room to say he had to return to California because Louise, a graduate student in his lab, had just lost her younger cousin in a tragic accident, and needed to be consoled.

Louise? I had not met a Louise in his lab and though I asked him repeatedly why it had to be him that needed to console her, the only reply I received was, “You don’t understand, you don’t understand.”  When I nodded and told him he was right, I didn’t understand, that I needed more information, he turned three shades of red and blurted, “I want a divorce!”

Now, anyone else might hear those words and take them for what they were—a plea for me to recognize what was in front of me. But I refused to see the writing on the wall, instead, muttering through my tears, “You don’t mean that.”  And just like that, I wiped away any further discussion of the “D” word. That evening, G took the last flight out, insisting that I stay behind with the children and continue our vacation.

Writing on the Wall #4

That fall, G’s mother came for a visit. Most nights it was me keeping her company, as he somehow had to work around the clock. Sometimes he even told me that he had to work so hard that it wasn’t worth coming home.  Plumb tired, he fell asleep on a couch there.  I never saw this couch, and my dance of denial went on.

Writing on the Wall #5, 6 and 7

The incidents continued and slowly, a realization burrowed itself into my head. Like a small tumor lodged in my brain, growing steadily until I could no longer deny its presence. Oprah might call it an “Aha” moment. A connecting of the dots, if you will.  It was as if I could no longer hide from logic and was forced to see what was right before my eyes. Until finally, I had no choice but to confront the cancer head on. Which is why I asked the question hanging over our heads, thus forever catapulting me into the tsunami that is divorce.

Do you still love me?

Of course, the response anyone would want to hear is “yes.”  The one I still wasn’t prepared for was “no.” Like a sucker punch, a bolt of lightning, a cleaver landing smack down on my fingers. The same fingers used to knead dough whenever I baked from scratch his favorite egg bread, sweet and warm from the oven. The same fingers I used to intertwine with his, as we strolled through our neighborhood, with Katie, our cat, trailing behind us. The very fingers that massaged the stress out of his neck, when graduate school became too much and he was certain he’d have to drop out.  This was my one-two punch:

1. No, I do not love you.

2. No, I’m no longer attracted to you.

But long before this day, before the divorce bomb that landed in a minefield which had developed beneath us, before the explosion that signified the end of our marriage, and before that night of accusations, revelations and desperate cries, there was love. Deep, compassionate, tender love.

And there was Joanie and the camping trip.

           Missed a chapter? You can read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.

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63 thoughts on “The Road Taken: The Writing on the Wall

    • Thank you. A few chapters ago, I went back to the beginning, re how we met, so I thought it fitting to move ahead. I like the feel, the fluidity of it, trying to answer the question, how could two people who loved each other so much, end up this way? It’s a balancing act.

  1. Man, this is good! I was left wanting more. I know that feeling where you should have seen the writing on the wall. I have been there and never want to go there again. Great writing.

    • Thank you, Annie. I’m just writing from the heart. Funny, this happened over 15 years ago, but when I write, it feels like it’s happening all over again. It’s the memories, stored away for some time, now flooding back.

  2. Excellent writing. I have not seen the earlier installments. I thought this was your story. This is a chapter in your book? Yes, I want to read more too! I like stories about women where I feel like I immediately know them and can relate to them. This is really good.

  3. Hmmm…That person he “had” to console…Wow. It’s like, you REALLY have to prepare yourself for the worst, if the other signs don’t. But saying he wanted a divorce, just like that, was punch that came when you weren’t looking. smh.

    • No kidding! For me shouting divorce, in the middle of the night, was so out of the blue. So much so that I refused to believe it. By telling him he didn’t mean it, all that did was buy me some time. A few more months of pretending all was well.

  4. Despite your pain, your humor shines through, Monica. This made me laugh: “Startled awake, I wondered what lab emergency could there be at 2:30 in the morning. Did someone forget to put a postage stamp on the proposal?”

  5. Monica, This is the first time I’ve been to your site…and, of course I’m somewhat confused. I had not read your first 10 chapters before I read this one…so it’s bound to make a difference. Although, I feel like this piece in some ways stands alone. Is this Chapter 11? I love your writing and am intrigued by how long it took you to see the writing on the wall. Over what period of time did the events in this Chapter take place? I have been though divorce and so feel somewhat connected.

    As a writer, I have tried writing about my first divorce…but found it difficult to keep it unique and not sounding like so many other divorces. I’m assuming that this is non-fiction (a memoir…right?) and I see you have skillfully used many of the techniques used in fiction…which is what I am trying to do in my memoir, which BTW is about the 17 years I’ve been an Innkeeper, not about my divorces..

    • There’s a fine line between blogging and writing a book on a blog. I so try to make each “chapter”/post something that can stand on its own, for those readers who suddenly come across it, but there is a storyline. Which is why, I have a page set aside where you can find them all in chronological order. The writing on the wall officially started for me in June and it was the following January when it all came to a head, but, by that time, my ex had been with the other woman for about 9 months. So for at least 3 months, I do not recall seeing any “writing on the wall.”
      And yes, this is drawn from my story. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you’ll continue reading.

  6. So…you’ve decided that this is a book in the making! I have been thinking of making my series a book as well. Will you self publish, e-publish? Do tell all! This chapter was brilliant! I love how you skipped forward only to go back again…

    • That’s definitely my hope. To turn this into a book. I’m having fun going back and forth in time. It makes sense for me. A few chapters back, I went to the beginning, when we met. I haven’t thought about how I will publish, but I want to write more chapters first and then see. Will definitely keep you posted.

  7. Wow, Monica, I had no idea what you endured before I met you. It’s no wonder after reading all your installments how you came to be the strong, independent, smart, humorous and amazing woman that I know today. G’s loss and our gain!

    • Oh, yeah, you said a mouthful. Nothing, Nothing prepares you for divorce. Absolutely nothing can brace you for the agony, the ripping of your insides, the loss of will to go on. That was the darkest period of my life (thus far) and I can tell you, it was bad. But from the ashes of my marriage, a stronger me was born, so thanks for recognizing that.

  8. Oh, Monica, I’m sorry to hear this :(. It was beautifully written, though; I couldn’t stop reading.

    Hope you have a great day! ;) And thanks for dropping by!

    Miki.

  9. It takes a particular kind of courage to write from the heart, to pen a memoir. You have to be able to touch on the similarities we as human beings share, as well as tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. You have to develop your characters, set your scenes, pay attention to pacing, allow your voice to come forth. Sounds as if you’ve got all that going in the right direction, Monica — and living through this painful experience gives you the right to talk about it. Keep ‘em coming!

  10. Ditto, Susan! And man can you write, lady! Ooooh I’d like to give this G a piece of my mind… I can’t get enough of this story and really can’t wait until it’s published. Now about this camping trip, go onnnnn…

  11. Truly a fantastic post, Mon. You always leave me reeling and I thoroughly enjoy getting to know you better through your blog. Thank you for deciding to write your story so genuinely. : )

  12. I feel like screaming and saying: “Hey, this is so unfair! This woman has a small child and a baby and the in-laws to entertain for goodness sake, how can you be such a jerk? You SO do not deserve her, but what goes around comes around and you also will get yours moron!”

  13. Wow…I’m in the midst of a ‘D’ right now. It is suicidally awful. And I was the one who initiated it. I wanted my guy to work on some stuff. He chose to walk. And this was after 20 years!
    No kids. I’ve found it doesn’t matter how you arrive at D’s door. Your’s was a surprise.
    Ours was more a slow erosion. Yes, I am stronger You are,too, and the writing here is
    really riveting, strong and relatable. You give me hope I will GET BEYOND THIS somehow.
    I’ve been working on my own piece, a prose poem, for the past year. I call it the Divorce Diarist. I’m so glad I found this post…

    • Mine, too, had a slow erosion, but that was part of not seeing the writing on the wall. Thank you for reading, commenting and for your positive observations. I’m so glad my story is resonating with so many. :)

  14. Very compelling indeed. Hurts me just a bit only because I had similar writings on the wall that went unheeded. Somehow it’s quite helpful to read your page-turning story. Thanks.

    • Thank you! It feels good to finally get all this out. During this time, I used to wake up each morning saying to myself, Welcome to my Nightmare. That’s how my day would begin. So glad it’s all behind me now.

  15. Oh girl, been there, done that. You got one thing right, time heals all pain and wounds all heels. I can’t but wonder if all men are the same…the jury’s still out, but the idealist in me wants to believe there’s still a few good men out there. G sounds like so many men that have hurt women to no end. You give them the best years of your life and for what? In any case, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and funnier. I so enjoyed this installment, amiga. Looking forward to the next one!

    • That’s so true, Bella. So very true. Here’s to our empowerment and proving that we are, indeed, survivors! I don’t know what I’d do without this writing arena and without my blogger friends, like you. :)

  16. Such beautiful writing. For your sake I wish this was just a story and not what really happened. You deserved better. I’ve been there too. Only I was told, “I don’t love you anymore and I don’t think I ever did.” Fortunately, I was able to pull myself together and move on. I am looking forward to your next chapter.

    • Thank you! I took me several years to get over this and I’m really glad I did, for I’m much better off now. How horrible, what you were told. Divorce is like a war, a battle of the heart, so when we survive it, we’re all the better for it. ;)

      Thank you for stopping by!

  17. We are such strong, brave, cool, women aren’t we? I love that – divorce is a battle of the heart. It really is. For me, it is like looking at a stranger I have known for half my life.
    We’ve been separated a year and a half and he’s moved on. I’m trying to do it the best way for me, one step at a time, one day at a time, mourning the loss of the good parts, because there were many and moving on. I’m not dating. People get almost angry at me b/c of that.
    I feel like I’m really coming back to myself, enjoying my freedom, my writing and blogging and my Golden Retrievers. It feels good, really good…Happy Saturday all!

    • I know exactly what you mean when you say, “For me, it is like looking at a stranger I have known for half my life.” You wonder, where did the man that love you go? It’s as if you’re in a bad science fiction movie and an evil clone has taken over his body.

      But I do know that it takes a long time to heal from divorce. Just stay true to yourself and make sure to pamper yourself, too. Sounds like you’re already doing all the right things. Happy Saturday, to you, too! :)

  18. Thanks, Monica. I am trying (the pampering part, I mean) but of course there’s the financial side to di-vorce, too, which is it’s whole other set of problems! Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Please economy get better!!!!!!

    • Ugh is right! It’s hard, if not impossible, to make ends meet right now. But there are cheap, no cost ways to “pamper” yourself. What I mean is, it’s time to put you first. During my marriage, I didn’t do it. Now I’ve found happiness being on my own. There’s this fun blog that you might want to check out if you haven’t yet done so. It’s called, The Spinsterlicious Life, http://www.thespinsterliciouslife.com/. It embraces being on your own!

  19. This is making me a little sad=( I wish all marriages had a happy ending….I think the fear of hearing someone say they don’t really love me anymore after so many years of marriage is what keeps me from wanting to be in a relationship….

    • I wish all marriages were happy ones, too. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. :(
      The important thing is to find happiness wherever you can and though my life, my situation is not perfect, it’s good enough. I have so much for which I’m thankful, including the opportunity to blog and express myself here. It’s wonderful, don’t you agree? :)

  20. For any of the comments here, don’t extrapolate that to apply to all men or all marriages.
    There is goodness in all marriages. Always believe in the power of love. Even when it doesn’t end with a perfect bow wrapped around it, the package can still be full of surprises.

  21. Agree with everybody before me… I was left wanting for more. Great work. And I really appreciate that you take time to respond to each of the comments.

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