By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Their casual attitude calmed me down considerably. It was just divorce, after all. Scary, yes, but I would get through it and come out the other end new and improved. When Dan told his family I wanted a divorce, they were convinced I was just trying to avoid rewriting my latest script. I thought this was extremely funny but not at all true. And just to prove them wrong, I finished my rewrites before we even divided up the china.
I got back from Miami, and Dan and I began the unpleasant process of sleeping in separate rooms, reviewing where it all went wrong and putting the condo on the market. He jokingly blamed MTV for our divorce, since I had been working there for the past year. I jokingly blamed the Cubs, since they, of course, hadn’t played well for the past year.
Dan and I didn’t need a lawyer, because we weren’t contesting anything. We would sell the condo and split the profits, if there were any. We each took a bookshelf. Dan would take Ruby and pay me for half of her. And I, of course, would keep Spork, who had been my cat pre-Dan.
As we were packing up our divorce documents, I started telling Dan some story, and he said, “We aren’t married anymore. I don’t have to feign interest.” And the reality of the situation hit us. We were doing the right thing by not fighting to keep the marriage together. There were no kids. No reason to live in misery year after year. Better to cut our losses now and never look back.
The plan was, Dan would move out once he found his own place in Venice, where he really wanted to live. And I would stay in the condo until it sold. A few uncomfortable days later, he signed a lease, and his best man came over to help him move out his chair and bookcase and Ruby. I didn’t mean to be home for this but timed it a bit wrong and walked in just as Dan was walking out for the last time. He gave me a knowing nod and said, “Well, bye.” And I said, “Bye.” And Dan was gone.
I slowly walked around the now half-empty condo in a daze, feeling like I was in purgatory. Everything was in flux. It wasn’t my home anymore, but I didn’t have a new one. I would be legally divorced soon, but technically wasn’t yet. I was on the precipice of a seemingly momentous birthday, but wasn’t quite there. This overwhelming feeling of transition was paralyzing, and I just stood in the center of the living room and stared at the blank walls. And then I glanced into the kitchen and saw the garbage.
Dan had been taking out the garbage for years. It was my least-favorite job, and one he naturally adopted once we moved in together. Maybe I’m setting women back 20 years by writing this, but taking out the garbage is dirty, smelly, unwieldy and, plain and simple, a man’s job. And all of a sudden, it hit me: From now on, I was going to have to take out the garbage myself.
Before I understood what was happening, the tears welled up in my eyes, I crumpled to the floor, and I sobbed. This was the second time I cried during my entire divorce process.
I wasn’t really weeping about the trash, but about the death of my relationship. But it was much easier to concentrate on the garbage. So after a few minutes of self-indulgent keening, I picked myself up off the floor, marched over to the garbage, pulled the bag out of the can and bravely took it to the dumpster down the hall.
After tossing it into the stinky dumpster, I felt a surge of accomplishment. I thought, If the worst part of divorce is taking the garbage out, I am going to be just fine.
That week, I bought myself a new TV, 2 inches bigger than Ruby, and named it Stringer Bell. I was on a Wire kick. I frantically cleaned the condo so it would be spotless for the hordes of people who came to the open houses. And I marveled at myself in the mirror. I had effortlessly lost 15 pounds.
One night, a few days after Dan moved out, I met Michelle for drinks at a bar off Pacific Coast Highway. A strange phenomenon occurred as two newly divorced 29-year-olds watched the sunset. We both saw each other’s eyes for the first time in years. We stared at each other in amazement. We were independent. Unchained. Free. Ready to make a whole new set of mistakes in our 30s.
For my birthday, I decided on a small lunch with close friends, afternoon shopping with my sister and mother, who had flown into town, and, in the evening, a big party at a bar with lots of acquaintances. I didn’t drink much, and was in bed by midnight. The whole thing was anticlimactic. But I fell asleep that night as a 30-year-old who knew I would never again be unhappy on someone else’s terms. I would only be unhappy on my own terms.
And with that thought, I slept soundly.