Saturday morning began like all the others since the divorce. Still half-asleep, I rolled over towards what had been her side of the bed not truly conscious of the fact that she was gone. At least the drowsy sense of panic only lasted a second or two before my brain fully rebooted for the day. The worst aspect of the situation was now just the unending silence making the house seem like a tomb.
Kathy let me keep the house in the
divorce settlement, quite the consolation prize for a failed
marriage. As a kid, I would stay with my grandparents for a week or
two during summer vacation. In the afternoons my grandmother would
makes us lunch and we would both sit in front of the television and
watch game shows.
I enjoyed this time with her and we
would talk about the various constants and how some succeeded where
others failed. We would also laugh at their reactions to the contests
the host put them through. Of course, the big winners at the end of
an episode jumped around frantically as the off-screen announcer
listed off the various prizes, cash, and trips they were taking home.
As the closing music played the host and the big winner would then
cross the stage to the glamorous models standing next to the various
prizes or posing in front of the elaborate displays showing the
exotic tropical destination the lucky guy or girl would enjoy.
For a brief second or two, the camera
would flashback over to that day's runner-up contestant. He or she
would still be standing behind their assigned podium with a stunned
and dismayed look. The announcer would then quickly say that the
runner-up, meaning the loser, would receive a year supply of
Rice-A-Roni for their troubles. That's how I still felt, I got the
house while the woman I loved had moved out and taken up residence in
one of her parents' fancy downtown condos.
I laid there in bed for a minute
feeling the loneliness closing in and again started thinking about
getting a dog. Kathy was severely allergic to dogs, something that I
had accepted when we married. Kathy also hated the sight of dog shit
when we went walking in the park. The offending dog and its lazy,
irresponsible owner could be long gone but she acted like we had
stumbled across some disgusting alien monster struggling to free
itself from its slimy birth pod.
Getting a dog was a definite
possibility. My parents and former in-laws still chatted and even had
the occasional Sunday brunches even though blood loyalty to their
children had strained their sickly sweet friendships. As the eggs
benedict and mimosas are served I can see my ex-mother-in-law asking
the perfunctory question about how was I doing. I can then see my mom
answering in an equally offhand manner that Steven had adopted some
mutt from the shelter. The two couples would then smile and maybe
even laugh a little then go about their usual, more important
Just for shits and giggles, I then
imagined my former mother-in-law telling Kathy sometime later that I
was destroying the house she had so perfectly decorated by bringing
in some furry mongrel to chew up the furniture and shit all over the
carpets. Kathy's hatred for dogs went beyond simple allergies, it was
more based on her belief that any animal would destroy or spoil her
masterwork of style and balance.
After talking with her mother,
Kathy would then fret for days before finally calling me at work to
ask about some item of hers she couldn't find and that was probably
still stored up in the attic. During our stilted conversation, she
would mention that she heard I had adopted a dog. And I would
casually mention that yes, I had a dog and that it had unfortunately
laid some turds in the living room and foyer but that you couldn't
really see the stains. The tone in her voice would then drop giving
away the fact that she was upset.
It took several more minutes but
eventually, I did get out of bed and went through the motions of
taking a shit, showering, and shaving. Yes, I also brush my teeth, no
need for tooth decay to interrupt my post-divorce malaise.
Coffee was the next goal and with a cup
of steaming hot good stuff in my hand, I opened the kitchen window
shades and looked outside. It was pouring rain, the skies were a dark
gray pretty much guaranteeing it would stay that way all day. The
lawn desperately needs cutting but the rain was making any yard work
impossible. I'm sure the Home Owners Association wouldn't see it that
way but since the divorce, I didn't give a fuck what they thought.
Still, I needed something to do for the
morning before pet adoption places opened. Then it occurred to me
that Kathy did have a huge amount of junk stored in the attic. While
her condo overflowed in luxury and comfort, storage space was at a
minimum. I had agreed to let her keep the crap here, mainly out of
some ridiculous idea that she might realize her true feelings and
come back to me and her precious house. It might be fun to look
through the vast amount of stuff she couldn't part with but yet
didn't want in her new home.
That was eighteen months ago and before
I learned about Chad. When Chad entered the picture I wondered for a
few days if the suddenness of Kathy's decision to end our marriage
was because they were having an affair. That they would stay apart
for over a year before announcing their relationship. I looked into
the matter and learned that Chad had never stepped foot in Atlanta
until his company transferred him here. It was Kathy's sister, Jenny,
that confirmed to me that they hadn't made the beast with two backs
until well after the divorce.
Jenny had always liked me and after we
bumped into each other at a coffee shop told me that it was true love
at first sight for the two. It was at a work-related party and
apparently, Cupid's arrow had a direct hit on the two on the first
try. Jenny then laughingly confided that they were soul mates because
they were both extreme compulsive-obsessives.
Climbing up into the attic I was sort
of stunned at the amount of stuff she left behind. Being the last
survivor of our failed endeavor I didn't have any reason to visit the
attic. My extraneous crap was all down in the extra, unused bedroom.
Looking things over Kathy's boxes were
of course labeled and neatly organized like toy soldiers. Poor Chad,
I hope the bastard was truly in her anal-retentive league. I opened
the box labeled books and wasn't surprised to find a collection of
hardcover and paperback novels arranged in neat order, like puzzle
pieces. It wouldn't have surprised me if Kathy had organized them
into some sort of secret code like something from a Dan Brown ancient
The selection of books did seem unusual
for her. They ran the gambit from the typical romance novel, spy
thrillers, to science fiction and even horror. It was almost bizarre
on a certain level. Other boxes had papers from college, clothes that
I never saw her wear, and even pictures from her family that had to
date as far back as the 1930s.
Several hours passed with me going
through every box. As her now ex-husband it was wrong for me to go
through her stuff. One box even had love letters to a high school
sweetheart that was now some high-level advisor to a US senator. This
guy's existence was old information, Kathy told me about him while we
were dating. But as I read the ancient letters that were sent during
their junior year of high school I discovered the old boyfriend had
admitted to her that he was bi-curious and had a crush on some guy on
the football team. I found this revelation hilarious since this old
boyfriend worked for the right-wing asshole from Texas.
After going through the last box I was
suddenly overwhelmed with the thought that everything here made up
the entirety of Kathy's life. There was even a copy of our divorce
papers. But the one group of items missing was anything from our
almost six years of marriage. No box containing pictures of our
wedding, various vacations, or mementos two stupidly in love people
give each other. It was a true gut punch to think that down in the
spare bedroom I had a box storing all the birthday cards she gave me
from the time we meet till that last year of marriage. Other boxes I
kept had all the pictures I took of her, including the topless one
she posed for on a beach in Puerto Rico.
That's when I noticed one last box in
the corner. It wasn't labeled but when I picked it up I heard items
sliding around. I lifted the lid off and saw five leather-bound
journals inside. I picked up one and flipped through the pages, it
was filled with her expertly neat handwriting. The leather cover of
each journal had the year embossed in gold so it was easy to see
where they began. The last one had the year she asked me for a
I flipped through the pages of that
last journal to find the last entry. Sure enough, it was dated the
day Kathy called me at work asking to meet her at the deli I liked
Sitting on the floor of the attic I had a sudden flash
of the emotions I felt as Kathy calmly told me in that deli she had
hired a lawyer to draw up divorce papers. There wasn't any need for
marriage counseling nor talking, she wanted a divorce. It would
happen one way or the other and it would be best if we parted on
Some would say I was too shocked to
agree with anything but I said yes to everything. I agreed to the
divorce and didn't make a scene as my world collapsed. Kathy left a
few minutes later leaving her lunch order untouched. Like a
moron, I stayed behind and ate mine as if nothing weird had happened.
I even left a tip on the table for the waitress as well as Kathy's
untouched order. I'm sure the waitress asked me whether or not I
wanted it packed up to go but I didn't hear her.
But now with these journals, I know the answers will be in Kathy's exact handwriting. Still sitting in the attic feeling the sweat pouring down my face and body, part of me knew I wouldn't like what I read.
That the answers I deserve would come
That same part of me said I should quit
right there and forgot everything I had already seen. But it was too
late for that, I was a true graverobber who had disturbed the ancient
tomb and let loose all the cursed spirits.
I took the box down to the living room and began to read.