An Invisible Door Isn’t Always Imaginary
Sometimes you have to step through mental doors to get to the rest of your life.
This is written as a response to The Partnered Pen’s second writing prompt: “Opening the door. Whether a physical or mental obstacle we all have doors in our lives that we open or choose to remain closed. Use the phrase to inspire you.” Thank you, Kyrie Gray, for the suggestion.
The door appeared unexpectedly. At first, it was closed and locked. My husband saw it first. The more he thought about it, the larger it loomed. I imagine him measuring it, looking at the deadbolt, touching the knob and then stepping back.
And one day, on a business trip, he turned the deadbolt. She was so much like me. Only one year younger, also with two daughters. Also, with a husband.
At first, he tried to hide the door. He certainly didn’t breathe a word about the open lock. He said words like “I am unhappy. I need to figure things out.”
I opened my eyes and saw the door. I heard, “I am leaving you.” I eyed the deadbolt suspiciously but said nothing.
My sister didn’t see the door. She thought I was imagining it. “You need to give him time. He isn’t leaving you.”
I knew better, even then. I could see the door.
Months later, I received an anonymous manila envelope. My name and address were in block letters, written with a thick Sharpie. I thought it was something from one of my Girl Scouts. It looked like a kid’s writing to me. It wasn’t. I never discovered who sent it.
The moment I read the first page I felt that door blow wide open. The thick stack of papers were printouts of online chats. Chats between my husband and another woman.
Another woman who spoke of moving here from the East Coast with her two kids. June. They were coming in June.
My stomach spasmed. I ran for the bathroom. We were mid-way into June now.
I wasn’t an idiot. I had seen the door. I had watched it carefully. My husband wasn’t mentioning the D-word yet, but I could hear it whispered in the air. I had tried not to panic but took precautions. A few weeks before, I had cashed our income tax return and opened a personal checking account.
Some of the money went to an attorney. I wanted to know my options if the door opened.
I bought a kick-ass navy silk suit and a small capsule wardrobe suitable for an office job. My stay-at-home mom clothes weren’t going to work for a well-paid office job.
I had already written a tentative settlement agreement. I based it on one of those divorce kits from the office supply store. My best friend stored my new clothes and copies of all our financial documents.
I eyed that door and hoped it wouldn’t open. I told myself I was going to be embarrassed. I asked my best friend, my sister, my mother for advice. I wondered how to explain all these preparations to my husband when it turned out I overreacted.
Then the packet of printouts came. The door wasn’t my imagination. It stood open, waiting for us to step through.
In the end, I greased the hinges and put the door stop in. The kids were all that mattered when the chips were down. I got the house, minivan, kids, cat, and dog. I asked him politely to haul his old waterbed, gun cabinet, and recliner out of the house.
My life with my kids, post-divorce, was a strange hybrid of our old life and our new reality. We were in the same house, they went to the same school, but now they had daycare and I had a job.
The kids shuffled between our house and their dad’s new place. They had stepsisters and a couple of new dogs. They heard their mom and dad argue more. Wasn’t divorce supposed to stop the yelling?
That door leading to divorce had failure scrawled across it in black paint. After a year I looked closer. Someone had drawn a line through failure and written another word. A better word.
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