The Road Taken: Slipping Away

Did I say that? Did I really say that? Did I tell him I was married?

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how I got here.  I had all of two hours to think of what I would say if we ever spoke. And what did I do?  I told my Adonis I was married. MARRIED! Blurted it out, if you want to know the truth.

Or did I?

Drumheller Fountain provides stunning view of Mt. Rainier.

Only Karen, the instructor, was left in the room by that point and she was sorting through some papers. But when I said it, she stopped cold and looked up quizzically. Her eyes, demanding to know what was going on.  Maybe, instead of saying, “Married!” as I intended, I actually shouted, “Fire!”  I have no idea. Whatever I said, I was mortified and, yet, I was thrilled beyond belief.

He was just being polite, anyway. All that stuff about liking my work and helping me up. The way he reached out with one hand and touched my elbow with the other. He didn’t have to do it. He was just being a gentleman. A beautiful one at that. And, whatever it was that I did scream, didn’t seem to faze Rick at all.

Rick Kildare.  That’s his name. Just like that old TV show I used to watch when I was a kid. Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain. Handsome, debonair, Dr. Kildare. But Rick was just Rick. Rick Kildare. Mrs. Rick Kildare. Hmm…Wait a minute!

I’m still married. Why do I keep forgetting that?

Rick and I walked out together into the cool night that felt so warm. Sultry, even. I liked that word and made a mental note to use it in my next story. We were chatting. That’s all. Pinky swear, cross my heart and hope to die. Chatting. Actually, he was doing most of the talking and I was listening. Not listening very well, though, not in my stunned stupor state. Not yet believing that I was here. With him. Rick Kildare.

We meandered down paths, across the campus roads, while we talked about writing. Sometimes we walked closely and I could feel a burst of energy between us. I wanted to grab him and lock lips. But he was talking. Talking about his love for writing, a la Jack Kerouac. That’s who he found inspiring. On the road and all that. Rick told me about his dreams of traveling. First to Alaska, and then he’d see where he’d go from there. Or maybe he’d join the Peace Corps. He was young, I was young, and it was all so promising.

He carried a pen and notebook with him at all times and pulled it out to show me. He smiled gingerly—like that creepy Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, which I never liked. Until I saw Rick’s smile, that is. How divine! Stopping us in mid-step, he let me know that he planned to write about me and the moment we met.  I wanted to melt. Into a puddle, where no one could see me hyperventilating. Did he feel it, too? This thing happening between us, that I couldn’t put my finger on?

His voice exuded passion as he spoke of his writing, and for a moment something stirred in me. I was mesmerized. Captivated. Hearing about his love for writing reminded me of something that I had not felt in a long time. Not since moving to Seattle, anyway.  What was it? I’m not sure, but now his words gave me hope.  Yes, in that instant, I felt awakened and suddenly alive.

We reached the Drumheller Fountain on campus, from which, on clear days, you can see a perfect view of Mt. Rainier. At night, you can’t see it at all, but you can certainly feel the mountain’s ominous presence.  Sitting on the edge of the fountain in the darkness, Rick asked me what made me sign up for the class. He had been moved by what I had written, so quickly, so easily.  He couldn’t help but wonder what my plans and dreams were. His question stumped me.

I had been looking for something but didn’t know exactly what. The adult extension course catalog had arrived in the mail several weeks earlier, and I had been idly perusing it while watching the latest episode of Dallas on TV. Miss Ellie was giving J.R. yet another talking to, which I was sure he was bound to ignore.  As I turned the pages of the catalog, nothing seemed to interest me, more than watching Miss Ellie scold her grown son.

I turned another page and that’s when I saw it.  A description for a creative writing class. Which made me recall the creative writing class I’d taken in high school, and how much I’d loved it. I was always the first to raise my hand when my teacher, Miss Stern, would ask for volunteers to read their work. Now, seeing the creative writing course listed in the adult education catalog, made my pulse quicken. The timing felt right.

But I had no plans to write full time. This was just a hobby. After all, G was back in school, following his dreams. He’d been accepted into a graduate program at the university, so it was up to me to keep working and pay the bills. How could I explain that to Rick?

I looked at my watch and realized we’d been talking for an hour. I knew G was home and probably wondering what had happened to me, so I grabbed my purse and let Rick know that I had to leave.

“Can I walk you home?” He asked hesitantly. “Or maybe give you a ride on my bike?” He added with a laugh.

I looked at him. My sweet Adonis. So close and yet…I want to do this and yet. I started to leave.

“Tell me your phone number.” His voice sounded so sincere…and yet…

“That’s OK, I’m not too far from here,” I said a tad too wistfully. Then, trying to sound more carefree, as if it was all the same to me whether we’d meet again, I added, “See you later!”

As I briskly headed toward the north side of campus, along the path that led to the tree house I shared with G, my husband, I felt myself slipping. Slipping away.

Missed a chapter? Read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.

Songs in the Key of Divorce

When I was a kid I’d imagine a soundtrack to my life, just like the people in the movies. When Audrey Hepburn goes traipsing through the streets of New York, Henry Mancini‘s haunting melody, Moon River, follows her all the way to Tiffany’s. It’s the same for John Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, only this time it’s Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’.

So why not a soundtrack for me as I jauntily made my way through the streets of Flushing, New York? No such luck.  Henry Mancini wouldn’t give me the time of day. Ditto for Harry Nilsson. And forget John Williams. My Star Wars theme song just wasn’t in the cards.

But then something happened when my divorce was larger than life—consuming every waking moment—and haunting my dead-of-night dreams. Hands down, this was one of the most agonizing, unforgiving chapters of my life.

And so I invented my own soundtrack.  One created out of necessity, to help me cope and find sanity—and a bit of comfort, too. There are many stages in divorce and, lucky me, I didn’t miss a single one. So herewith are the songs that accompanied me during each of these phases:

Phase One: Shock, Denial  – Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You

Whitney Houston’s songs in The Bodyguard soundtrack got me through this stage. I was still having strong feelings for my ex, despite his shameless ways. I was still in denial that my marriage was over and my damn heart wasn’t ready to believe the worst, let alone move on. Perhaps, I needed Cher to yell at me to “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Sans that, Whitney voiced my emotions best.

Phase Two: Mourning – Carly Simon’s Coming Around Again

This was the period when Carly Simon’s songs from the film, Heartburn, became my constant companion. In Heartburn, Meryl’s character is pregnant and married to Jack Nicholson, a louse who cheats on her. Boy, could I relate! I wasn’t pregnant but, at the time, my youngest was still in diapers. A lot of the songs on this album are empowering, including my favorite, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, which is a twist on the childhood ditty. Coming Around Again gave me the kind of hope that springs eternal, representing my “I’m-a-survivor-like-Meryl-Street-in-Heartburn” period. It also showed me that the only solution to my divorce hell was the one that involved leaving my marriage behind, and moving on.

Phase Three: Rebuilding and S-l-o-w-l-y Moving On – Sting’s album, Ten Summoner’s Tales.

Can you believe I never listened to Sting before my divorce? Sure, I was familiar with The Police, but  Sting was already on his own and my marriage was unraveling around the time that this album came out. These songs put me in a different state of mind, making me feel like I was worth something. Sting’s music helped me rebuild my shattered self-esteem. Songs like, She’s Too Good for Me and Fields of Gold.

Phase Four: On My Own – U-2’s Joshua Tree

Pre-divorce, the only Bono I knew of was Sonny. But Bono of U-2 fame became my latest obsession after hearing a duet he sang with Frank Sinatra on, I’ve Got You Under My Skin. And boy, did Bono get under my skin, with his ultra sexy, bedroom voice.  I couldn’t get enough of this guy and then my friend Hellen, told me about U-2 and gave me the Joshua Tree CD. One play and I was smitten. Three songs made all the difference for me:  Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and With or Without You.

Phase Five: The Single Life—or to Hell with Being Married! – Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell II

Some may find this hard to believe, but during this time, I became a Meat Loaf junkie. Bat Out of Hell became my anthem.  Thanks to a gym I belonged to, where they’d play Meat Loaf constantly during some intense step classes, I became a dancing queen, finding new joy in my singleton life.  Best songs on this album include: I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That), Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire, and Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere).

The songs I chose to listen to became a part of my therapy and ultimately contributed to my healing.  So for all of you currently going through your divorces, or just thinking about it, now you have my “Divorce is Hell” playlist to add to your iTunes library.  Consider it my gift to you. Trust me, you’ll feel better.  And, you’ll also owe me one. So, you’re welcome.