I’m a fatalist, but not a patternist. I don’t really buy the whole “God has a plan” idea, or at the very least I don’t think that god’s plan, if there were a god who had a plan (as opposed to no god, or many different gods, or some amorphous godlike force whose plans are totally unintelligible to us, or some amorphous godlike force that is itself totally unintelligible to us) can be understood logically.

But it does often seem to me that there is a hidden order, or some kind of pattern, into which our lives fall.

This week I had a dream about Shannon. I don’t remember it well — that morning was a rushed one, as every morning when I haven’t prepped with what seems an inordinate amount of late night lunch-making, clothes-selecting, house-cleaning and such is — and by the time it resurfaced in my head, it was twenty-four hours old. But two things about the dream stand out: Shannon was dying, but not yet dead; she was there; and she had something she wanted to tell me that I knew I had to get around to hearing before she went.

Classic, I know. She died and I’m here and her kid went away with her ex and her dad is still living across the street and I didn’t get to say goodbye. Of course I’m dreaming she had something to tell me. But I don’t know: for one thing, my dreams tend to be alarmingly prophetic. I’m not going to tell you about the precognitive dreams I had about deaths and divorces, because then y’all might start emailing me hoping for a direct line to the oracle. And I’m no oracle; my dreams are rarely clear. But when they are clear, they tend to be quite strikingly relevant.

Anyway, so I had a sense of lingering unfulfilled duty to Shannon for the last couple of days. I thought about the plans I’d made — I want to plant a tree to remember her and make a wire dragonfly, sort of a totemic animal for her, to hang on it. I want to have her daughter over for a playdate. I was pretty sure none of these were what my dream referred to.

Today was K.’s first day since last Sunday. I was wondering if he’d be late again, but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t. For one thing, the last few weeks had been so egregious that pattern had to break. For another, he’s not going to just drop off; it’s not his style. Slow erosion and inconsistency is more his style; as my stepfather would say, “he’s always an hour late and a dollar short,” but he does eventually show up and he does have the other $2.99. So it’s hard to completely give up on him. And sure enough, he came walking up the steps right at noon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about K. lately. My friends say I’ve been sounding better. My friends say, in fact, that I sound great, and I’m pretty sure they’re all breathing sighs of relief and raising vodka shots to each other thinking ‘thank GOD she’s not calling us every day crying anymore!’ I mean, I love my friends, and I know they love me. But we all have our own dramas, right? And I’m sure it gets old, listening to your jilted pal moan over the loss of some dude you never really got to know anyway and are now convinced was a total loss.

Anyway, I have been doing better, at least in the ways that can be observed. And yet “doing better” is a strange phrase, one that seems almost to mean that I am succeeding at distancing myself from my own life. For example: music. I have several songs on my player that remind me of, or refer to, K. One of them is “I Thought I Held You,” by Wilco; the other is “Nobody Knows Me,” by Lyle Lovett. Both invoke the closeness I thought we had and the betrayal or abandonment of it. And for the last few weeks I’ve been skipping over them in the player, going directly from MC Solaar to more MC Solaar, which is safe ground because it is never plaintive and never specifically about love, but more about how ridiculous social behavior and mores are. I’ve been listing to a lot of Solaar and precious little else in the car, which I guess is good insofar as it’s probably safer not to drive while sobbing.

But this week I managed to listen to both of those songs. Not without a little catch in the voice, it’s true, but without falling to pieces. And I made a semi-jesting list of qualities of the ‘ideal man’ and circulated it on Facebook. And I told some people that I thought I should go out on a date when the divorce is final, which may be very soon as we’re filing on Wednesday and asking for a waiver of the ninety-day waiting period. And, after I’d complained about the prospect of spending ten days with K.’s family in Hawaii this June (family reunion; the kids should go, and the grandparents are of course adamant that I’m family too, more power to them; the fact, however, remains that it’s going to be my first interaction with the extended family since the split and there will be side-taking, unwarranted and -wanted judgments, and tactlessness, and it’s probably going to be frustrating for me from an interpersonal perspective), a friend of mine came forward with the contact info of a friend of his on the island, with the idea that I could slip away for an evening. I’m now thinking that might be a good plan for at least half the evenings there, and might keep me sane enough to stand the loneliness and the frustration/irritation and the humiliation (yes, humiliation; I don’t like it, but I feel it) at being there in my status as K.’s cast-off wife and potential Antagonist to the Family Interest. Particularly when they find out my thoughts about the name thing.

So anyway. I’m normalizing. I’m coping. I’m acting like a person who has perspective, who is healing, and who doesn’t find the idea of sleeping with someone not my husband scary and abhorrent. And Ron told me that she knew a guy who sort of fits my idea of the ideal man, and did I want her to introduce me?


But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see K.

My feelings about him are complicated and cause my stomach to start jumping about twenty minutes before he’s due. There’s the fear he’ll not show. There’s the fear he’ll be late. There’s the fear of how the kids will take to him. And there is the personal sense of dissonance: K. is not the person I expect to see. He looks different, he acts different, he smells different. He is puffier about the face. He is scrupulous about never brushing against me, as I am him. He is messy-haired. And the look in his eyes is unfamiliar to me.

Right now, writing about it, I’m wishing for a cigarette more than I have in the two weeks since I haven’t smoked. It is umheimlich in the worst sense of the word. What was homely, familiar, lovely, safe is now unrecognizeable, and yet eerily the same.

Ron says that K. is dead and I am dealing with a zombie. That sentiment rings true at times like this. And yet I am careful — I try to be careful — not to let my feelings of alienation from him color my observations of how he is with the children.

Anyway, today K. showed up on time. He was puffy and unkempt. He was also apparently glad to see the children. I found myself thinking that maybe once a week is perfect; maybe that’s the amount of time that causes him to actually appreciate his afternoon with them. We’ve done three times a week and twice a week, and it just seemed like he viewed it as a chore; perhaps this new interval, should it become permanent, would at least allow him to be happy to see them. On the other hand, it also sets him up as something of a rock star, and I don’t much care for that: the weekend dad who, when he shows up, is flocked to by children showering affection and looking for approval. They should be able to depend on him more. He should have to be present enough to — to put it baldly — become pedestrian.

Anyway, today things were going pretty well. Thing Two was happy to see K., and Thing One, despite having told me he didn’t want Daddy to come, seemed eager to play with him. K. got coffee and Thing Two finished her eggs. I set Thing One up with a game. All seemed proceeding well, so I went to get ready to go. And just then, there was a knock on the door. It was Shannon’s father with her daughter, Hana, wanting to drop her off to play.

I should explain that Hana is almost seven and has a forceful personality. She can be great with Thing One, who’s half her age; she can also be easily offended and combative. And the last couple times, before the wake, they saw each other, there were some clashes. And of course right now she’s probably not at her best. So I told John that we were happy to have her, that K. was there but that I’d stick around to get everyone settled, and that I’d have him call when it was time for her to come home.

That delayed my departure a bit. There was game-playing to be managed, skirmishes to be broken up, faux pas to be smoothed over (Thing One had the bright idea to say, “Your mom died!” to her, which she took pretty well, considering), and personal space to be managed. There were rules to be set and fruit leathers to be distributed. There was my own checking in and noticing and comforting of Hana, including the worrisome fact that she seems to have gained quite a bit of weight, and was never a skinny child — he dad is quite overweight (Shannon was not, and part of their divide always seemed to be that she fell on the health nut/raw foods and he on the Jack-in-the-Box side of the spectrum) and I worry that she’ll be allowed to grow up unhealthy.

Anyway, it finally seemed OK for me to go. During this time K. had absented himself from the child management and gone out to smoke a cigarette. I know he’s not overfond of Hana, so that’s one thing; another is that he maybe doesn’t want the challenge of having to manage a sometimes contentious playdate. But there it is: that’s part of parenting, too. I felt that I was observing something: he was happy to see the kids, more playful and connected to them than he had been, but when Hana stepped in, he disconnected again, seeming put out at the concept. You could almost see the cartoon bubble above his head that read, “not in my job description!”

But I did make it out, an hour later. And I stopped by Hana’s and talked to her ex-husband and father, who were both there, about the set-up (that K. might not be the most competent at managing the dynamic and might bring her home) and also about her news: that she and her dad would be moving into the place across the street, where she’d lived with her mom and that John, her grandfather, had been in the process of closing down and moving out of.

Apparently there was a roommate/childcare swap share her dad had set up that wasn’t working out. And apparently they needed somewhere else to live. And the apartment across the street from us, where Shannon had lived, is roomy and affordable and in a community full of parents (mostly single moms) and kids, all of whom Hana knows. I think it’s a great idea. Hana’s dad said to me, “It’s going to be hard since I work nights, but we’ll definitely have a good support system.” And I thought, maybe that’s what Shannon had to tell me: that there is still work to be done here, more actively than perhaps I had envisioned or, if I am honest with myself, wanted. Maybe I have a bigger role to play. And maybe the glancing connection Shannon and I had before she died will turn out to be just a part of the story.

Maybe. But it’s a story I’ll always be telling Shannon, without words.

There’s me being cosmic. It happens.

Hana’s dad also asked me how I was doing. I told him that K. and I were filing for divorce this coming Wednesday. He said he was sorry, and that four years ago it was him and Shannon doing the same thing. I told him that it seemed as though K. had just disappeared, and also that I felt like I was pulling all the strings because K. didn’t want to — that I had had thoughts along the lines of “what’s the minimum the kids can see K. and still feel they have a good relationship with him,” and that I hated having those thoughts, but at the same time, K. seemed neither able nor especially willing to be the equal parent I had always hoped he would be, and instead seemed like a pretty negative role model. He sympathized, saying, “It sounds like he’s scared. Of all of it.” Then he said that Shannon had wanted to be the primary parent and he had wanted to share equally, and that they had just, before she’d died, gotten to where Hana was with him three nights a week.

At the wake, John had told me that he’d been unimpressed with Hana’s dad for a long time, but had grudgingly allowed that he had been there every afternoon after school (because he worked nights and Shannon days) for Hana and had been a pretty involved dad. And now he’s moving in with his ex’s father, at least for the time being, and, in a very real way, into his ex’s life and surroundings and support network. He will, I imagine, be sleeping in the room where she died.

There are all kinds of models. I don’t know who K. will turn out to be, as a person or a father. I don’t even really know where he is right now, though if pressed I’d say that he’s up for 10-15% parenting his kids and doesn’t want to deal with the details of their lives, like playdates or relatives or social events or the like. I don’t know where he’s going as a person, though I have felt, not just for a little while, that part of this whole shift is that he is letting go of the self-image and ambitions that he crafted when I met him, and which bound us together — to be someone who created things and who was a powerful force for that, making and doing in an elemental and essential way, in the world; his new ambition, as he said to me in December, “is to own a bar. I know it’s not much of an ambition, but that’s my ambition. That’s all.” And so it seems that the furniture of his life is bar stools and a track between his sister’s house and his job, with stops at the movie theatre and the smoke shop, and that he works long, plays a bit after, is tired, and has no room or energy for anything else.

If I sound dismissive or belittling, I don’t feel so. I am just increasingly reminded that the K. I see now, the life he is making, is not the K. who married me or who shared my ideas and ideals. Maybe he never was. Maybe I was too much the leader. Maybe he needed to grow up by himself. Maybe, maybe, maybe. It makes me sad to mourn that man whose own — I thought they were his own — future plans I also loved and respected. His constancy and his ideals were a huge part of what bound us together. In a week he revoked his allegiance from me; I don’t know how long it took for his ideals to lead the way or to follow suit.

So yeah. I’m supposed to go on a date. I’m supposed to escape to witty adult company in Hawaii. I’m able to retain composure while Jeff Tweedy sings, “I thought I held you/by the hand…”. And I’m seeing double right now because of the tears.

I am the master puppeteer, and I never wanted to be. And K. is, perhaps, just a tired young man who hasn’t realized that dragging himself out of bed a little earlier, planning a little better, seeing his children a little more, would have immeasurable benefits for them and him.

I understand tired. I was up all night Friday after Thing One climbed in bed with me, then threw up all over. I was up last night taking Thing Two to the E.R. and then waking up to make sure her head injury, though apparently mild, wasn’t worsening (it didn’t).

And I am tired every time I have another “first since,” every time I go or do or see somewhere or one or thing that I last experienced with K., in my life with him, in the life that belonged to us both. I am tired of pulling that invisible carapace over my head and greeting the world with a gaze that does not betray the last time I did this or hear it or saw it I was a woman who loved a man and had committed her life to him. A woman who was loved. A woman who held and was held, who believed and was believed in.

Now I am a woman who doesn’t know what to believe.