Friday, February 11, 2005


My marriage ended so that my ex could win a fight.

I was offered the opportunity to take on a pretty big project for work. It would be high profile, remunerative, and a career breakthrough in many respects.

The only drawback was that it required me to travel briefly to the Persian Gulf. This was in April, two years ago.

And you see, there was this invasion . . .

Lucy strictly forbade it. She explained that I was a big blonde target for those who hate Americans, and in case I was too stupid to notice it, there was a war going on.

I argued that I would be far from Iraq, in a very safe area. I explained that while this was a unique opportunity, I would not have considered it if it was remotely dangerous.

While I researched the trip with the State Department and elsewhere, she phoned everyone we know, begging them to talk sense into me.

I heard it from my parents, from her family, from her friends . . . all warned me that I was a complete idiot for considering the trip.

While my research indicated there was nothing to be concerned about, hysteria erupted all around me.

Frankly, I resented it. I’m a smart and well-traveled grown up. If I am saying this trip will be safe, then people should listen rather than point at their televisions and panic about the stupid blonde whistling his way into a war zone.

“If you do this,” Lucy told me, “we are finished!”

Well, I had heard that before.

She regularly declared we were “finished.” She declared it during each of her pregnancies, she declared it when we were shopping for a new home, she declared it when I forgot to call a house painter, she declared it when it rained on a camping trip . . . pretty much any stress could prompt this outburst.

I went on the trip. I was in no danger whatsoever.

When I returned, she told me to sleep on the couch. I made it plain that I was going to sleep in my bed, and that if she didn’t want to sleep with me, she was welcome to the couch.

She stormed downstairs.

She would live on the couch for the next three months.

She refused to talk to me. She refused to respond when I spoke.

She behaved as horribly as she could—which was very horrible. The kids were freaked that mom and dad were so angry.

As in the past, I tried to wait out her fury. I tried to talk to her. She told me it was over, and I should move out.

One night, we made love. She was high, I was drunk. We were dead tired of fighting. I hoped this was a breakthrough.

It wasn’t. She had other plans: the marriage was going to end, and it would be my fault. All she needed was a good reason to end it.

She told me I was not a family man. She told me this as I did the dishes, having just given my daughter a bath.

She told me I was obsessed with work. She told me this as I made dinner after work, having arrived home a little after six.

Lucy told my mother she was certain I was having an affair. My mother said she very much doubted this.

One night she sat down and said she was ready to confront me with evidence of my affair.

“I would be very interested in seeing that,” I said.

She explained that she had been through my papers, scoured my computer, checked my phone records, and been through my wallet. She produced the following:

A post it note with a woman’s name and a phone number.

A card for a massage parlor.

A card for a bath house.

I laughed in her face.

“The phone number is for someone at my job. You’ve met her. Call her if you like; she will remind you that she’s gay.

“I have visited that massage parlor once, and if you will recall, I recommended it to you when your back was out.

“And as you know, I used to really enjoy going to the Tenth Street Baths, but I haven’t been in years, since the kids were born. It is a legit bath house, and has been for over a century. Please use that card and visit it yourself.”

She never found her weapons of mass destruction, but she would have her war.

A work-obsessed philanderer would be someone she could divorce with no one blaming her.

Her bad luck that she was cursed with an affable husband who was a good father.

The situation became untenable. The kids were suffering as a result of this feud. I finally agreed to live elsewhere until this blew over.

I left home on Independence Day.

Lucy’s mood brightened immediately. She was friendly and cheerful. She was happy to be rid of me.

I moved into an apartment without furniture and tried to make sense of this.

“Do you think she’s a lesbian?” my mother asked.

I have no idea what’s going on, I told her.

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