This is a story that dates back to 1996.
It was a busy afternoon at work, and I was getting ready to leave. I smiled at the thought of a nice warm summer evening ahead of me, with a promise of relaxing bath, and a book, perhaps. As I was about to step outside a dog-grooming parlor, where I worked, I caught a glimpse of the last customer opening the door. However, it wasn’t a last minute hurried shopper, but my very own husband, Christopher. I smiled and raised my eyebrows to express my surprise at his unannounced visit. He simply said he came to pick me up on his way from work, and that he was taking me to eat out. Still puzzled, as this was rather unusual for him to act on the spur of the moment, I grabbed my purse and we drove to a restaurant. As we were passing the streets, I started wondering about the reason he was inviting me to a dinner. I glanced at him and observed a rather forlorn look, an odd expression on his face. His hands were slightly trembling, and this got me really worried. He looked as if something was eating him. I couldn’t contain myself, and asked him to explain what was going on. His only answer was that he would tell me later.
We entered a restaurant, which appeared to be one of these fancy ones with the perfectly white starched tablecloths, and a golden glow of candelabra. The music was playing softly, and a delicate aroma of damask roses filled the air. Scattered around were the tables with couples holding hands; and here and there I could hear some subdued voices. As our waiter sat us at a table, I observed Christopher’s hands clutching a glass of water as if he wanted to break it. His hands were slightly shaking. I looked at him, met his eyes shortly, but he averted them, and stared into a distance.
The silence was poignant and painful. All sorts of thoughts were racing through my mind. I found myself going through gazillions of possible scenarios. One of them was that he contracted a terminal illness, and his days were numbered. I even had a glimpse of myself nursing him till the last day of his life. Another thought, that crossed my mind with a lightning speed, was that he joined the army. A ball of fear started swelling in my throat.
Finally, he cleared his throat, and quietly whispered, “I am in love with another woman.” Next, he added meekly, “I want a divorce.” His shoulders were hunched and he wouldn’t meet my gaze.
The time stopped and my universe came to a standstill. My heart paused, too. I was utterly shocked. This was the one and only thing I wasn’t prepared to hear. For what seemed like eternity, I looked inside my heart, to determine what it was feeling. I was stunned to realize that it was numb, and the only things that concerned me were the legal, and financial ramifications of this sad situation. I didn’t feel any pain, sadness or disappointment, just the shock and the disbelief that this was happening.
Then, I had the most astounding, and profound experience. I closed my eyes for a moment, when all of a sudden, I saw a huge imaginary white banner displayed in front of my eyes with the most surprising message. It read “FREEDOM” in capital letters. An odd, and unexplainable sense of excitement filled me. In fact, I was elated, in spite of the fact that I just found myself on the verge of the unknown.
All this was happening while the music was playing quietly in the background. No other person in the restaurant heard the exchange that went between the two of us. That is when I understood his rationale behind choosing this restaurant. He knew I wouldn’t throw a fit in a place full of people, and so elegant. He really was scared of my reaction, probably expected a scene, a big messy scene with lots of tears and bitching. Instead I was calm.
“Here it is,” I said, as I took my wedding band off my finger and send it rolling across the table. I watched him catch it, and noticed an expression of relief and astonishment on his face.
With this simple act I concluded our five years of marriage.