Gone Girl

I took a writing course at Rice where the instructor explained that real life couldn’t be strictly followed as the script for a novel. Real life, she contended, is “too messy” which is why the closest any writer can get is to say their novel is only based on true story.  Blog writing, of course, isn’t constrained by such conventions and is, in actuality, the ideal canvas for capturing all that messiness of real life.

If my life were a novel for instance, then Ashley and I would’ve met, fell deeply in love, and overcome crushing obstacles together on our way to a satisfyingly romantic ending. In reality, however, my life is a blog with buckets of greasy, smudgy messiness that ruin the chance at a pristine story, and in this version Ashley and I are no longer together.

The first question is naturally, “What happened?” And the answer is, I don’t exactly know. Answers tend to come with reflection, and after nearly six months since she left, I’m still flailing through continuous waves of anger, grief, and confusion. There’s no guarantee I’ll wash up on the shores of understanding either. Weeks of on-going counseling have reminded me that the best I can hope for is that those waves will eventually subside into a calm acceptance that will let me move on.  

At the moment, though, I can’t get past the dubious fact that I now have two failed marriages to my discredit. One was bad enough, but given the circumstances, it can easily be understood. A second divorce, however, signals a trend, begging the immediate question: “What’s wrong with that guy?” I know that’s always been my first thought. Multiple divorces are reserved for chronic womanizers, shallow celebrities, and intolerable assholes. None of those characterize me, yet here I am.

Why did she leave then? Things always seemed so great between you to. And things were great until we made the move from Houston to be with my boys. The transition and ensuing hardships inflicted a toll on every aspect of our lives including our relationship. Even so, I always assumed we’d work through it. “Just a rough patch,” I thought, but the unrelenting doubt in Ashley’s voice as if she were still trying to convince herself that she wanted to be here compounded by the constant guilt I felt over taking the girls away from their father (I’m not allowed to write about the girls anymore, but this is a point I’m not going to ignore), fed into an undercurrent of frustration over their collective unhappiness.

Not that there was anything wrong with the way they felt, it’s just that there was nothing I could do to fix it. Worse still was the inescapable thought that I was the cause of it all. It's a terrible and frustrating thing to see your wife and children miserably unhappy and not be able to help them. Last spring that frustration spilled from its container.

After another public Facebook post by Ashley lamenting her life in Indiana, I told her that if she’d be happier back in Houston, then I’d rather that than her be so constantly miserable. Fear is largely to blame in my motivations behind saying this. I was afraid leaving was exactly what she wanted, and I needed to know. I just wanted her to be happy. Hardly a fight was put up.

I regretted saying it then, even as I still do now. I begged her repeatedly to change her mind which lead to a string of hopeful conversations and an attempt at counseling. Yet despite Ashley’s assurances that it would only be for a year, the plan to return to Houston remained, and the moving truck was loaded by the time school let out a few weeks later. Shortly thereafter. once she had settled into her new apartment, the marriage suddenly teetered, then crumbled into oblivion like a house tumbling down a rapidly eroding cliff into the ocean.  

I’m not going to elaborate on the circumstances behind this. I have nothing to hide, but to do so would only open up the potential for a public battle of he said, she said. This would serve nothing as I have no desire to openly discredit Ashley or her feelings in such a way. She has enough to deal with personally without further aggravating the situation, and this is not about convincing people to take sides. What's more, doing so would also likely unleash the Pandora’s Box of emotion I have struggled to keep under control over the past five months. Even to express how much I miss Ashley and the girls carries with it the same risk, and that would be irresponsible of me in either case.

I will, however, address the accusations that have been made against me. Simply put, they are entirely untrue. That's not to imply I am totally faultless by any means. I was insensitive at times and said hurtful things in anger I wish I could take back, but the smoke screen that's been fabricated against me has inflicted wounds deeper than any I’ve ever experienced. That people choose to believe them saddens me all the more, but I can assure you there's more to the story than what has been told. There always is. My hope and consolation is that time will eventually reveal the actual truth. It can’t come from what either of us says, but rather from what we do and how we live our lives going forward.   

So where does the story go now? Ashley is already using her maiden name again, and has sold off her ring. The papers have been signed and will be filled shortly. In the meantime, I’m stupidly left to contemplate the mystery of how seven years of marriage, most of them happy ones, can come down to an emotionless formality on par with canceling a magazine subscription. How, and so suddenly?

One thing, though, is clear: She’s gone. 

This will be the last I ever mention Ashley or her daughters

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