While I was apprehensive about the visit, I desperately needed some of my mom’s nurturing optimism and my dad’s predictability. It hadn’t occurred to me when planning this trip that what I really needed was to get away. Not just get away from my job and commitments, but also to get away from the sadness I was feeling. My ex partner and I had separated nearly four years ago, and were divorced in two years later after being married for seventeen, yet we continued to live together until last month. So after twenty-two years, we were no longer roommates.
A year later I proposed to her on Tybee Island Beach, just a few miles East of Savannah, and she said YES! We were married the next summer on a hillside in Vermont. That’s another story. In our many years together, we rented, owed, or resided in ten different apartments or homes, and lived in six different states. Separated by three years in Maryland, we’ve lived in Maine for thirteen years. For eight of those years we lived here, in a gray ranch built in 1969, nestled against the woods and close enough to the ocean you can hear waves crashing on the rocks off Goose Rocks Beach and the occasional fog horn from Goat Island.
After a brief, yet rejuvenating visit with parents in North Carolina and a surprise round of golf, I returned to Maine so late on a Sunday, it was actually Monday morning. I did manage to steal a few hours of sleep before being rudely awaken by my alarm. While I was tempted to extent my weekend another day, I realized I taken Friday off, and thought it was best go to work, at least for part of the day. Over the previous few weeks my ex had been slowly moving out. Each day a few things from around the house disappeared, as if there was a thief who had their own key. While there was no ill will, it was strange and slightly painful to have things vanish with nothing to replace them, but empty space.
So that Monday, feeling slightly hazy and tired, I walked to the kitchen like a zombie and made coffee. On my way back to my room I noticed her bedroom was now empty. The bed, Ikea dresser and mirror, and white rug were all gone. I walked into the hollow space and looked around. For years this room had been our room, now it was no one’s. An abandoned crooked halogen lamp stood alone above a dirt stain left on the wall from our dog, who used to sleep in the corner. As I turned to leave, I noticed a stuffed animal sitting on the wire closet shelf. It was the monkey she had sent me from California during our first summer apart in graduate school, twenty-two years ago. We used to have nicknames for each other.