The divorce was messy.
Well, maybe that makes sense, when the marriage was no less messy. I think it began a
little bit before the day of the wedding. I think the wheels were already turning by time I stood under the apples in the park in the white dress. They turned for four more years before we knew they just couldn't turn another circle.
It began with screaming, hurling abuse in public: a battle that spilled out onto the street and woke neighbours within a two-block radius. It was liberating and exhilarating, even as much as hearts were being broken, as much as it was grey with ash and ending.
“I wasted six years of my life on you!”
“Worse! I wasted six of mine on you!”
“Yeah, well, fuck you! Get out of my house!”
“Get out of mine!”
But of course, there was no yours or mine, that house was a dream we'd dreamed together. We'd spent two years searching for it. And not half-heartedly – we searched hard. Old. Flaking. Overgrown. It hid its light under a bushel. But half an hour of walking around had been enough to reveal that light to both of us. We looked at each other, said “this one”, and in the ensuing years nailed and painted and carpeted it into the home it was supposed to be. Neither one of us owned it more than the other.
“I don't ever want to see you again! Ever! I don't want to see your car drive past my window!”
“Yeah! That's my new route to work! And I'm burning every picture of you I've ever taken!”
“Burn away, baby! Burn away!”
'Irreconcilable differences' is to put too mild an interpretation on what we had. That was why they sat us down with lawyers, staring sullen across a table at each other. We'd spent all our fury by then, so we were civil. We sat beside our respective lawyers, well-dressed enough that we didn't really look like ourselves. Good – because we didn't have to sit across the table, seeing the past, dredging up the pain.
“Half each.” The first lawyer tentatively laid it out.
Simple. Clean. Tidy.
But fifty-fifty wasn't at all tidy. Money in the bank – no problem. Shares, bonds – done. We each of us had a pension scheme with hardly anything in it – no brainer then, resolved. A car each – fine. A laptop each – plain sense. The house was far more painful. There was no realistic way to split that one in half – if I'd had a chainsaw I'm not sure I could have answered just yet as to what I would do with it. There was no alternative but to sell and split the proceeds. Hearts broke again, but we agreed.
The furniture was full of treasures to be competed for. We each had our favourites – the big screen TV: that should go to him; the antique fishing trophies (good riddance); the sleek, new black X-Box. I wanted my tools; I wanted the little round dining chairs I'd looked so hard for – and the table that went with them, and I wanted the maroon-and-silver chequered bedspread. We both wanted the DVD collection, we both wanted the books – and the cherry-varnished book-shelf they were stacked on. We both wanted the bed. We both wanted the excessive, luxurious fluffy rug that covered the living room floor. The green-and-blue dinnerware had been given to us by his mother – but he didn't even like them, didn't give a crap about them, so where was the sense in wasting them on him?
“You want them out of spite. You know you do.”
“If I wanted stuff out of spite I'd take your slutty pink nightie.”
“You'll take my fist up your ass!”
“And I'll like it.”
The lawyers intervened about then.
I got the dinnerware, even the gravy boat. He got the coffee table. I got the pink nightie – though I felt as if I wanted to burn it right then. But no, you'll find yourself a replacement, and I'm sure he'll appreciate you having kept it.
He said “Fine. But I want Andrello's”
“Why the hell should you?”
“Who found it?”
“I knew about it. You're so full of shit.”
“I want Andrello's” A fine Italian restaurant where we'd had so many romantic dinners.
“If you get Andrello's, then I get the bookshops on Kyde street.”
The lawyers lost interest about now. Why not? It's not as if there was much point in drawing up documents for what wouldn't hold up half a second in court. They didn't get it. It wasn't as if we could both take a romantic date out to Andrello's on the same night. How romantic was that going to be?
“And can you avoid the bus stop at River Road?”
“And shopping in the Mall.”
“No. You avoid it.”
“I'll take the mall at the south end, you can have the north.”
“I want Kibble Roof though.”
“Because I like their garlic bread.”
“Not my problem.”
“You hate garlic bread. And you got Andrello's.”
“As if you'll find anyone to take you to either.”
“Shows what you know..... You can have Kibble Roof. I'm taking the fudge shop.”
“Go ahead. Figures. That's what happened to your waistline anyway.”
Two lawyers restrained us gently. They were both getting paid for the hour by this. I think one of them was surreptitiously reading a book on her phone.
“I get the movie theatre.”
“Then I get Tuesdays.”
“Fine. But I never want to see you on a Wednesday or Thursday.”
“I get the walkway by the Melting Pines.”
“Then I get Failed Rock Beach. All the way along.”
We'd travelled a lot in our youth. We had our favourites. Why blame us for thinking ahead?
“I get Sydney. And Melbourne.”
“That so? Then I get Ireland.”
“It's a whole blood country!”
“You got Sydney and Melbourne.”
“Fine. You get Ireland. And Scotland. I'll take England and Wales.”
“I'll have the Americas. Wait - shut up - I'm still talking. You can have Africa, and Europe.”
“Except for Mexico. Except for New York”
“So long as you stay out of Paris.”
Five years have passed since that day. Our deal might be silly – okay, batshit crazy – but I've honoured it. And I keep track, he seems to honour it as well. Huh, well we always had our favourites.
I think I'm keeping to the deal, riding in on the bus to a small town somewhere in Australia – too remote to have a name that anyone will know. Too small to have anything to do with our deal. Favourites are fine, but you have to try new things sometimes.
Walking into the bar, I'm not as surprised as I should be to see him there. And he's hardly changed at all. I mean there's differences: he's changed his hairstyle, there's a thread of grey here and there above his forehead, he's filled out a little. I don't know what I'm doing glancing down at my dress like this, checking out my own figure, fixing my hair. He's seen me, and he waits just that little moment
before he smiles at me, and waves, lets me know it's okay to come over.
“You look good.”
“You do as well.”
It's somewhat uncertain if we can risk a little hug. We do. The world doesn't explode. His face is rough with stubble, his cheek's warm. I remember the smell of him – unchanged.
“We never did carve up Australia.”
“Not really, not thoroughly.”
“Crazy kind of a long shot though.”
“You're not kidding.”
“Do you mind if I sit down?”
“Yeah. Course. Yeah, I was going to ask you to.”
“Can I buy you a drink? You know, old times' sake.”
“Yeah. You do.”
When he smiles at the waiter, when he gestures him over, when he takes the time to ask him about his day, to toss back and forth a few lines of chit-chat, it reminds me that he's always had that thoughtful streak in him. When he turns back to me, it's that quirky little smile that hooked me on him in the first place: “So,” he's leaning forward, lights catching in his eyes, “how've you been?”