This memory, as with most memories that evoke strong emotion, is a visual, visceral snapshot. We are sitting on a bench along Lake Eola near his law office, watching swan couples glide gently across the water.
It is 1987. I am wearing my pretty white Liz Claiborne dress. He is impeccably attired, as always, with the faint scent of Calvin Klein's "Obsession" cologne. We have been separated for maybe two months, three at most. He is once again indulging my endless need for contact and conversation, my latest attempt to relieve this incessant grief-ache that plagues me.
He is light years ahead of me on this road we're going down. He got the map way before I even knew we needed one. New home, new love, new life. He makes a joke, the last word of which is "underSTAN"?
Stan is his lover's name.
He is not an unkind person by nature, this soon-to-be-ex-husband of mine. Rather, he is a prisoner just set free from a 30-year sentence. The guards came in the night, with their clanking keys and heavy footsteps, and opened his cell door forever. And he left that prison with hesitant, uncertain steps at first, a newborn squinting in the sunlight of liberation, then began trotting, finally breaking into a full-bore sprint towards happiness. He has traveled so far and with such speed that I can barely see him anymore. And he clearly cannot see me. Because this joke, this lighthearted emphasis of his lover's name, cuts me to my core.
But he has no idea of the pain just inflicted. He is free. He is finally able to live as he is. And he is happy. How that joke lands on me doesn't even register. He has found the heart salve that I am so desperately trying to extract from him...while I am dying inside.
And on the peaceful noonday waters of Lake Eola, the swans, mated for life, glide away.