How could I turn back now, though? Everything was in place. This was supposed to be the year. In fact, wed been trying to get pregnant for a few months already. But nothing had happened (aside from the fact thatin an almost sarcastic mockery of pregnancyI was experiencing psychosomatic morning sickness, nervously throwing up my breakfast every day). And every month when I got my period I would find myself whispering furtively in the bathroom: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me one more month to live ...
Id been attempting to convince myself that this was normal. All women must feel this way when theyre trying to get pregnant, Id decided. (Ambivalent was the word I used, avoiding the much more accurate description: utterly consumed with dread.) I was trying to convince myself that my feelings were customary, despite all evidence to the contrary such as the acquaintance Id run into last week whod just discovered that she was pregnant for the first time, after spending two years and a kings ransom in fertility treatments. She was ecstatic. She had wanted to be a mother forever, she told me. She admitted shed been secretly buying baby clothes for years and hiding them under the bed, where her husband wouldnt find them. I saw the joy in her face and I recognized it. This was the exact joy my own face had radiated last spring, the day I discovered that the magazine I worked for was going to send me on assignment to New Zealand, to write an article about the search for giant squid. And I thought, Until I can feel as ecstatic about having a baby as I felt about going to New Zealand to search for a giant squid, I cannot have a baby.
I dont want to be married anymore.
In daylight hours, I refused that thought, but at night it would consume me. What a catastrophe. How could I be such a criminal jerk as to proceed this deep into a marriage, only to leave it? Wed only just bought this house a year ago. Hadnt I wanted this nice house? Hadnt I loved it? So why was I haunting its halls every night now, howling like Medea? Wasnt I proud of all wed accumulated the prestigious home in the Hudson Valley, the apartment in Manhattan, the eight phone lines, the friends and the picnics and the parties, the weekends spent roaming the aisles of some box-shaped superstore of our choice, buying ever more appliances on credit? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life so why did I feel like none of it resembled me? Why did I feel so overwhelmed with duty, tired of being the primary breadwinner and the housekeeper and the social coordinator and the dog-walker and the wife and the soon-to-be mother, and somewhere in my stolen moments a writer ...?
I dont want to be married anymore.
My husband was sleeping in the other room, in our bed. I equal parts loved him and could not stand him. I couldnt wake him to share in my distresswhat would be the point? Hed already been watching me fall apart for months now, watching me behave like a madwoman (we both agreed on that word), and I only exhausted him. We both knew there was something wrong with me, and hed been losing patience with it. Wed been fighting and crying, and we were weary in that way that only a couple whose marriage is collapsing can be weary. We had the eyes of refugees.
The many reasons I didnt want to be this mans wife anymore are too personal and too sad to share here. Much of it had to do with my problems, but a good portion of our troubles were related to his issues, as well. Thats only natural; there are always two figures in a marriage, after all two votes, two opinions, two conflicting sets of decisions, desires and limitations. But I dont think its appropriate for me to discuss his issues in my book. Nor would I ask anyone to believe that I am capable of reporting an unbiased version of our story, and therefore the chronicle of our marriages failure will remain untold here. I also will not discuss here all the reasons why I did still want to be his wife, or all his wonderfulness, or why I loved him and why I had married him and why I was unable to imagine life without him. I wont open any of that. Let it be sufficient to say that, on this night, he was still my lighthouse and my albatross in equal measure. The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didnt want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.
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