Curtain Calls and Encores: The Art of Letting Go

We played our parts well. Husband and wife. Writer and muse. Safe haven and escape. As each year passed, the roles got more complicated, but we always kept up. Until, we missed one line and then another and then another until finally we’d forgotten the script and a re-write wasn’t in the cards. So, you exited and I remained center stage, squinting in the bright spotlight waiting for you to find your mark. I stood there until the houselights dimmed one by one by one.

Act One:

In hindsight, everything is clear. Days before the end of our marriage, my husband and I raced across the Ben Franklin Bridge towards Philadelphia’s theater district. Two tickets to see Esperanza Spaulding rested inside my sequined clutch. We were late, fighting Friday night traffic, and I was anxious. My stomach hurt and by the time we made it to the theater, I was ill. We stepped off the elevator into a black tie affair, the wrong venue, and headed back into the night to backtrack to the theater we’d seen a sea of afros and brown faces headed into earlier.

Rushing to make the show, he let go of my hand and left me to trail behind him tottering on my heels. He didn’t slow and he didn’t look back. In that moment I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know how wrong things were.

Act Two:

I find myself expecting sadness. It’s been like some sort of twisted comfort over these months. So familiar this ache has been, that when it is not there, I’m not quite sure how to react. I’ve become so used to waiting for the next slight, the newest bit of information, the sickening lows that now? I question when I go a day with sadness.

In bed last night, somewhere past 3:00 a.m., I stared up into the dark trying to quiet my mind enough to get a bit more sleep before the 6:00 a.m. alarm. My parents’ home was completely silent and I was the only one occupying it. My mother and father are off on a lovers’ trip to Washington D.C. and I have been alone for three days. I’ve taken this time to work on my literary journal, but I’ve also taken time to scream, cry, and battle God at the top of my lungs. Somewhere after midnight, I’d cried myself to sleep, but three hours later I was staring into the dark battling images that refused to let me rest. I turned over the last nine months in my head, all the good, the bad, and the ambiguous. I tried to read between the lines in e-mails I’d memorized, tried to analyze actions and non-actions, tried to will a different outcome. It all came down to this. My marriage is over. My best friend is gone. I have no place in his life. He has moved on and I have to do the same.

Act Three:

There were several reasons I pitched this column to For Harriet. When I came across the call for writers via Twitter, I’d just completed writing A Love Supreme and I was on the cusp of a suicidal winter. I’d reached the end of my rope and I honestly wanted to die. I had in no way hit rock bottom, but the time between December 2011 and the end of February 2012 were the scariest times of my life.

I wanted to write this column to have a voice. I needed someone to hear my side of the story, to see how I was impacted by infidelity, how my life was influenced by loving someone with depression, and if I actually went through with my plans I wanted there to be some record of why I felt compelled to end my life. I felt powerless among my husband’s popularity and social network. I didn’t believe anyone ever thought about me or my feelings. I felt utterly alone. Now I think my reasons for writing these essays have been filled.

End Scene:

August 3rd will mark nine months since my world shifted on its axis. The world is still wobbling, but I’m holding on. I imagine the divorce will be finalized within the next thirty days as my ex-husband (I have to get used to adding the ex) now has his half of the papers and my documents are sitting in a New Jersey courthouse. I imagine we will never see each other again and I can’t imagine under what circumstances we will need to speak on the phone. He has moved onto a new life, a new love, and God willing I will be doing the same soon. I still see the tragedy in this shattered life, what could have been. But you can’t live for should have beens, right?

I worried for a very long time after the first of these essays was published that people would question why I couldn’t keep my husband happy, why he felt the need to go outside of our marriage, and I carried that on my shoulders for months. I worried that the only image people would have of me was a sad, broken woman trying to force a man to love her. I got over that. I had every right to be sad, to be broken, to speak of what was going on. I needed an outlet. Again, I needed a voice. I needed a way to combat what I saw presented of me through another’s words and actions. I needed people to know I was an accomplished, talented woman. Part of me needed his acknowledgement. I desperately needed him to see his Amira, the same girl he met when he was eighteen who was now his wife at thirty. I guess I no longer need him to see me. I see myself. And I am flawed and I am imperfect, but I am me.

With all my railing against God last night, I never wished ill on my ex-husband. I wish only happiness for him. I wish him peace. I wish him clarity. If it’s not with me? That’s okay, as long as he gets it. I would like to think he wishes the same for me. I don’t know if he does.

All this being said? I’ve shouted until my throat is raw and I’ve said everything I’ve needed to say in this forum and about this topic. The world keeps spinning and I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will be okay. He will be okay. Perhaps one day we’ll be okay as friends, partners, something. For now? I’ll take my bows, step off stage and let the curtain drop.

Thank you for listening. I appreciate being able to share my heartbreak and my journey to self with those of you who’ve read. Take care.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Athena Dixon is co-founder/prose editor of Specter Literary Magazine, poetry editor of The Reprint, and a managing editor for Z-Composition. Her work has appeared both online and print and is forthcoming in several journals. She writes, edits, and resides in NE Ohio.

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