Rarely are the events in our lives linear, rarely do they make much sense, but if we bend them a little, fold this bit back, bring this part to the front, artfully arrange the pieces not quite the way they fell, we can mold them into a narrative that not only makes sense, but is more flattering and props us up.
All the days of last week were warm and sunny, save one, and that was the day I got divorced. The hearing lasted all of six seconds, enough time for us to shuffle into the judge’s dreary office, exchange buongiornos, sit down, sign three sheets of paper, stand up and shuffle out again.
I blew off work for the rest of the day, ran some errands at government offices and met my ex for lunch. Naturally, in between our unabashed glorification of our children’s many miraculous accomplishments, there was some mundane talk about what went wrong and how we never managed to fix it. I had the salmon, he had the couscous, and then we went to buy some underwear for Ten, who is outgrowing everything he owns.
He looked a little sad when we said goodbye, but not terribly much, although he added, “Che peccato,” which means “Such a shame,” and I nodded, because until then, it had, indeed, seemed precisely that. But even as I nodded, I knew I didn’t mean it. Something had shifted in the six seconds in the judge’s office and, especially, over lunch. I rode off on my bike in the rain and started asking myself what it was.
For four years I’d experienced our failed marriage as exactly that – a shameful failure. And yet I’d never felt the least temptation to give it another try.
So it didn’t last the rest of the life of the one who died first, we did pretty well considering what we had to work with, and what we have now is far better than what we would have had if we’d forced ourselves to stay together to meet other people’s expectations of what a marriage is.
It was a nice little love story. And if I can write it so that it ends when he says, under the shelter of a portico, while I hold a bag of our son’s new underpants in my hand, “Che peccato,” the ending was just right.