The List 

I had my list of reasons on standby in the back of my head. Like a wallet full of condems, I kept them there ‘just in case.’ If ever there was a chance that I could feel like staying, I would quietly recite my list of reasons in my head.  

1. He didn’t hold me when I needed him to. When I had delivered a fetus into our bathtub, he should have held me. He didn’t. I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I just wanted him to hold me. I was emotionally and physically drained from the ordeal. I was sore and numb at the same time. I only wanted him to hold me, nothing more. He yelled and dismissed me. He complained about the dirty dishes. He told me to get out of bed and clean the kitchen, while my uterus was still spilling out of me, tears still wet on my face.  He made me feel hollow at a time when I needed to feel solid.  

2. He scared me. My anger rises slowly, like a burning piece of paper under a magnifying glass. It takes a while to get going, but when the flames rise up, they engulf the paper completely and all at once. His anger was like rogue bottle rocket ricocheting through a house. I never knew what he was going to hit. I never knew how far he would go. I only knew to get the fuck away from him when his passions flared.  His temper was unpredictable and abusive.

3. Instead of supporting me, instead of building me up, he criticized me and shot down my dreams like enemy aircraft. He didn’t believe in me. He treated me like some sort of fast food burger that he had to settle for because he couldn’t afford a real meal. He treated me like a mistake, like I was a karmic punishment.  

4. I did the same to him, and that hurt just as bad.

I never really loved him, and yet I did and still do. There’s another list too. The list of reasons why I stayed for as long as I did. The list of all the things he got right.  That list is just as long as the other. But for a long while now, no matter how hard I strained my eyes, I couldn’t read it.  I didn’t want to.  I still don’t want to.

Old Friends 

Last night, for Christmas Eve, my ex husband stayed overnight. I had invited him to stay on the couch so we could share the experience of Christmas morning with the kids. We have had a pretty amicable divorce, going on six years now. We often have dinner together while swapping kids. We go sledding together as a family. He even bought my grandmother an 80th birthday card last week and showed up to her party.

Since we split up in 2010, I have been very proud of the friendship that we have cultivated for the purpose of coparenting. I have not thought of him romantically since we stopped sleeping together shortly after the separation.

 The past several years have been a bit of a roller coaster. There have been times of grace and friendship, and brief moments of bonding over our common experience. There have also been times of screaming at each other and massive amounts of doubt and mistrust. He has held and comforted me while I cried. He has also been the one to make me cry.  He has looked down on me and up at me and every other way to try and assign his opinions to me.  I have done the same to him.  

The friendship that we have is rare. It is born from a mutual love for our kids.  It is one of the most interesting relationships that I have ever experienced, a post-divorce friendship.  I think of him now, as a brotherly type figure. He is my family. This man created children with me and watched them hatch out of my body. We grew up together and then watched our babies grow up together. We went through miscarriages and funerals together. We shared nieces and nephews, holidays, our home. We shared our bodies exclusively for a decade. But that sexual attraction died immediately for me when he gave his heart to my replacement before we had even filed for divorce. Watching this woman swoon over my family, just months after I tore it apart, was really hard to do. The very mention of her name felt like a punch in my guts. I felt so betrayed by him, that I lost all romantic interest. Even after they split up a year later, my feelings for him remained platonic.  He had skipped right over the friend zone and landed directly into the bro zone.  Last night was different.  Last night a peculiar remembrance of the way we used to be came rushing back out of nowhere.  

All of a sudden, I had begun to remember all of the good stuff that I had buried in my grief after we had divorced. I had been so busy villianizing him in an attempt to grieve him, I had forgotten about the parts that kept me holding on for ten years.

When things were bad, they were absolutely horrible. But when things were good, they were fucking beautiful. That’s when it felt like nothing else mattered. Last night kind of felt like nothing else mattered. The heartache, the divorce, the fights, the two hundred miles between us, none of it mattered.  All those harsh memories took a back seat to the good stuff.  Steamy nights making love in front of our fireplace. The excitement of watching our daughter ride a two wheeler for the first time. Rushing through the courthouse in Toledo because we only had fifteen minutes to get married before they closed.  Last night, we were those two beaten up old souls who remembered a comfort in each other. Well, I remembered anyway. Who knows what he was thinking.

Last night I watched him cuddling with our daughter on the couch while we all enjoyed a couple movies and the nostalgia of Christmas Eve together. I couldn’t help but to be attracted to him. I sat there staring at him and having flashbacks of the night we conceived that child in his arms. It could have been the Mercury retrograde. It could have been the urge to rebound after a recent break up from an asexual man. It could have been my hormones raging nine months into a celibacy bender. But I wanted to invite him into my bed for the first time in five years. And I could not get those thoughts out of my head.  

I am certain that after watching my ex boyfriend fall lightyears behind in being a father figure to my children, it was a sight sweeter than sugar to see my children so loved and cared for by their very own dad. It was the sexiest thing to me anyway, watching him fall so naturally into our world. He is so natural at fitting in with us, because he is a part of us. He is our family. This is something I could not see until after I had failed at trying to replace him.

We put the kids to bed and he offered to pour me a drink. Drinks lead to smoking a couple of bowls and some awkward conversation. We hadn’t hung out like this, just the two of us in years. We had a pretty good buzz going on, and our conversations tilted from the kids to the past.  It was a bittersweet moment.  That’s all we really have in common anymore…the kids and our past.   

We had been free to go our separate ways, and we went as separately as we could. He moved south, I moved north. He lives in a very dense suburb of Detroit, I live miles away from civilization. He works out every day, I’ve gained forty pounds. He still listens to that god awful techno music. I still listen to my old acoustic folk jams. But we are deeply connected through our past and the shared experience of growing up together. There’s an unspoken bond that has not gone away.

It felt really good to feel a connection with someone again, after the passionless relationship I had just escaped.  I’ve compared my feelings about love lately to the feelings an atheist has about God.  I walked away from the last guy feeling incapable of forming a connection.  So it felt really amazing to feel something again.  Even if it was just a quick remembrance of a connection that must stay buried in the past.  I am so very thankful for the brief night we spent together as a family. I remember how it felt now, and I remember it was real. I remember that even though it wasn’t perfect, I once loved someone so much that I called him my husband. And that crazy little moment of seeing what could have been if maybe things were different, had given me more hope than I had felt in a very long while. Not hope for a reunion with him, ultimately we had been through irreparable damage.  But hope that one day I could feel connected to another person like that again. I wonder if he felt that too.  I wonder if he has ever felt like that before.

I have so much gratitude for my broken little family and the guy whom I still call, “friend.” I  know that this strange little relationship is one that I sometimes take for granted on the outside.  But deep down on the inside, I treasure it more than gold.