By Day Two after The Departure, several things had happened. First, the dog was suddenly willing to spend more time indoors. My daughter, on the other hand, was suddenly unwilling to sleep in her own bed and moved into mine – so although the dog was sleeping better, I was not getting much sleep at all.
Also, we changed the locks.
I received several text messages and emails from The Departed, demanding a discussion about “practical matters” and insisting I buy him out of his share of the house, and I started to reach out to friends for attorney referrals. I started reaching out to friends just to say hi, missives that usually began, “Sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long …”
I met one friend for coffee a couple of nights after The Departure, and on my arrival at Starbucks, wearing clothes she’d seen before on a body that had gained at least ten pounds in the month before, she announced, “Oh My God – You look great!”
I was sleep-deprived and utterly baffled.
She went on.
“I’ve never seen you happy before.”
A few days later, I emailed another acquaintance, sending her some pictures I had promised long before, and explaining the delay: “We separated.”
She replied, “Oh no! How terribly sad and lonely for you!”
And then it hit me, less than a week after The Departure: It was the first time in seven years that I didn’t feel sad or lonely.
In the weeks that followed, friends I never knew I had rushed in to fill the vacuum that had previously defined my life – it always felt empty, but I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t seem to connect. I came up with a lot of reasons, of course, but was never able to solve the problem.
The cleaning lady came, and also insisted I had lost weight, or bought a new shirt, or something. I told her what had happened; I had to – she was surely going to notice the lack of laundry and sudden abundance of closet space* in the master bath. She hugged me and said, “Thank God. That was not a man. He did nothing but sit there. And he made you so sad.”
Another day, I had lunch with a lady from the DAR – an older lady who I don’t know very well, who wanted to thank me for some help I had provided. I told her about The Departure, expecting to hear an offer to pray for me or perhaps a lecture on the sanctity of marriage. Instead, she said, “I was wondering about you ever since that night we were at your house when you were helping me. He came into the room a couple of times to talk to you, but he did not speak kindly to you. It didn’t seem right – it didn’t sit right with me.”
Everyone, it seemed, had a story to tell me or a thought to offer. I had thought that we were just like other people, and moreover appeared to be, because nobody can see what goes on behind closed doors, right?
And then, without warning, he left, and I was happy.
*Here’s something they don’t tell you in all those relationship books: single people have twice the closet space of married people. And it’s freaking awesome.