2

“Woman. That shade of lipstick is fire. I hate the person you are when you’re with your S.O.”

“Girl. Your haircut is gorgeous. And your boyfriend is a complete dickhead.”

“Lady. Your eyebrows? On point. The man you are fucking? The worst.

I am drinking with a Stage Manager Friend. I haven’t seen her since before I left My Husband. (It’s been 123 days.) We have had 4 ciders each and we are brainstorming…or making jokes…or writing copy for a code we think should exist. A code that allows women to tell each other when they’re in terrible relationships in the understanding that no one is allowed to be mad at anyone for saying these things out-loud.

“I don’t know why.” my friend says, “but the eyebrows one is really resonating with me.”

We are both laughing pretty hard. The conversation is joyful, despite the fact that it’s something we both take very seriously. Something that has, in the past, made us both into versions of ourselves we don’t ever want to be again.

“Totally.” I say, “The compliments are something. There’s something about the compliments. But I also just wish we had a word.”

She nods. “Like a Lemon Law. But for The Sisterhood. Against The Patriarchy.”

I nod. “Precisely.”

The thing that’s tricky about this conversation, is that it’s not like nobody said anything. I have four distinct memories. There were more than four people who spoke up, but there are four interactions I’m tossing around in my brain

1. My sister writes me a letter when I get engaged. It is six pages long. “All I’m saying is give it some time.” she says, “Figure out what you want out of life first.” I am too deep in to understand what she is saying.

2. A month or so before my wedding My Husband loses his job and has a breakdown. A friend takes me for a two hour walk around Wrigleyville. “I hope you know you don’t have to do this.” she says, “You don’t have to marry him.”

“Yes, I do.” I say, “It’s just a bad spell. We’ll get through it.”

3. In the last year some things are going down in my personal life and my best friend starts in on My Husband. She gets four words in before I say, “Hey. Step off. That’s my marriage you’re talking about.” She stands down. But she looks at me differently for a few days.

4. Walking to the train with a new friend, he asks me how My Husband and I met, and I say “Oh…in college. We were in a play together. And he fell in love.”

He fell in love?” he says.

I look at him, confused.

“You said just said “he” not “we””

I don’t reply. There is silence.

“You’re not happy.” he says. It’s not a question.

My Stage Manager Friend and I walk out of the bar into a thunderstorm.

“Tell you what.” my friend says as she bundles up against the wind, “Let’s just agree, between the two of us that we’ll always speak up, and we’ll both actually listen. Every time either of us is in that place.”

“Yes. Yes. Absolutely.” I say, “But I’m probably going to compliment your eyebrows first. Just for safety.”

She smiles, “Word.”

 

1

On the way The Red Line a roll of paper towels floats out of a 2-story window, unravels a bit in the wind, and lands gently but directly on my face as I watch. If this had happened six months ago I might have had a series of thoughts such as “Why? Why today? How did this happen to me?” But not now. Now, as I disentangle myself all I can think is, “Yes. Good. This seems correct. It is weird. Unexpected. Messy. Immediate. The universe is handing me a metaphor. Nicely done Universe.”

I am 25. It is February. I left my husband a month and a half ago. The window I am underneath, disentangling myself from paper towels is exactly 2 blocks away from the apartment I am subletting for the month of February. My roommates are two vibrant theatre kids in their early 20’s who call themselves the RoPoHoePatro. They do a lot of shrooms. If I turn left and walk two blocks in the opposite direction I would be at the door of The Man I Had An Affair With. I left him a month and a half ago too. But I don’t turn left. Because even though I think he’d really appreciate this story, I also know he doesn’t want me anymore. Not in that way. And I don’t blame him. Because I am enough of a dumpster fire that I am standing here. Still trapped in paper towel. Thinking about two very different men I walked away from, of my own free volition. Becoming increasingly. Inevitably. Late for work.

I am 25. I have freed myself from the roll of paper towels. And I am going through a list that I have written out three times. One is pinned to my wall. The other is folded into my wallet. The third is in the front of my notebook.

  1. Get Up
  2. Take a shower
  3. Eat breakfast
  4. Breathe in and out. All day long.
  5. Go to work
  6. Be present. Concentrate. Breathe in and out. All day long.
  7. Eat lunch
  8. Go back to work
  9. Be present. Concentrate. Breathe in and out. All day long.
  10. Eat dinner
  11. Go to rehearsal
  12. Be present. Concentrate. Breathe in and out. All day long.
  13. Go home
  14. Go to bed.

Underneath the list. In my messiest cursive it says “It takes 21 days to form a habit. Eventually you won’t have to remind yourself.”

The hardest things to do on this list are the last two. But I’ve been managing. And the list is comforting.  Even if it’s been more than 21 days. Even though I can’t possibly know that it’ll be 94 days before I start, slowly, to throw away my copies of this list.

I am 25. I am getting a divorce.

I am 25. Concentrate. Breathe in and out. All day long.