We’d been there for more than an hour, nearly two, when she casually turned to me and said, “Did I tell you that my husband and I broke up?”
I turned to her, startled. My eyes big, my face frozen, I silently shook my head in response.
Her words were nearly drowned out by the noise in the room. We had been sitting in a sports bar with an important soccer game blaring from what seemed like 200 big screen televisions. The crowd was rowdy, especially two hours in. We’d all had a few cocktails by that point. And the game had been especially frustrating.
Still, she spoke quietly enough that the other friends at the table didn’t hear her, just me. I was to find out shortly that the others knew already, had known. I was the last to find out in our little group.
Her timing was beautiful. In that crowded, noisy room I couldn’t give her the third degree that would normally follow that pronouncement. I couldn’t ask her when it happened, what pushed her to make the decision, how he took it. I couldn’t ask her how she was handling it, where she was living (did he move out or did she), or how her family was reacting to the news. I couldn’t force her to answer tough questions.
I think that was the point.
She told me, in brief sentences, the bare basic details. And that will have to do, for now. I expect that, down the road, we will actually talk about this. But it’s not going to be anytime soon.
I’ve known her for nearly 20 years. One of the few friends I’ve kept from college, some years we are closer than others. I attended her father’s funeral and held her up during the funeral of her best friend. But I wasn’t at her wedding. I wonder now, five years later, if it was just that that was one of those years we weren’t that close, or if it was just the beginning of a long pattern that ended in tonight’s pronouncement.
Thinking about it, about the timing and the fact that she didn’t tell me until she literally had to (because someone else might have) I start to put things together. She’s been impossible to get this year. I’ve tried in vain many times to schedule a lunch or brunch. She’s busy busy busy, and never proposed alternate dates. But that’s happened before. Sometimes we go months and months between offline conversations, so I hadn’t given it too much thought. Now I know, though, that she was acquiring a new situation.
She’s told me, many times, that she and her husband have been together a decade. They’ve been married for half that time. In all those years I can count in single digits the times I’ve met him. I used to tease her that he was imaginary. The imaginary husband that’s only real in photos and hazy recollections. And we would both laugh.
The truth is that, for me, the pattern of what a marriage is comes from those within my immediate family. My mother, my sisters all have very traditional, old-fashioned marriages. They are a couple and rarely do things apart. If one attends an event, it’s more likely that they’ll both be there.
That’s not the case with my friends. Most of my friends have separate lives, separate friends from their spouses. They spend time apart and it’s not considered odd.
But, truthfully, not many of my friends are actually married. At least, not many of my close friends.
And so, I had a non-conversation about a pending divorce with a bar scene in the background.
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