Thursday, June 17, 2021

Rainy Day Revelations



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 discussions.

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.

Yeah, whenever I decided to get my ass out of bed I would look online for the biggest dogs up for adoption.

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 conspiracy novel.

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 divorce.

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 for lunch.

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 friendly terms.

Sitting in that booth waiting for our order I felt the pit of my stomach sink into a churning, sour abyss. I looked at the woman who I loved more than anyone in the world numb from the shock of her words. There was no denying the reality of the situation. It was totally unexpected but I knew it wasn't some nightmare, it was real.

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.

I never got any answers from Kathy as to why she ended it. And I'm sure if I had forced the situation and demanded them like some macho guy from the movies she would have refused. Her only response would have been a look of disappointment and heavy sighing like a parent might give to a slow child.

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 with pain.

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.


The Bug said...

OK that was EVIL - you have to post the rest of the story immediately! Unless it's just a cliffhanger & then I officially hate you. Ha!

Jeff said...

Yep, where is this going? What secrets are buried in the journals. You have us interested.

The Armchair Squid said...

Wow, that would be hard. Facing the honest truth often is.