Never//Ever

Today I bought compression gloves with the fingertips cut off. I have had major hand issues ever since I took the “definitely not a typing class” typing class last summer for the accounting degree which I couldn’t afford to finish at the community college which is now sending me collection notices because the guy in charge of my military spouse scholarship seems not to have applied said scholarship money to the very semester which ruined my hands. They’ve got copper in them, the gloves do, apparently, although where and for what purpose I couldn’t say.

I am no longer a military spouse. Technically I still was, last summer, so that shouldn’t be the problem.

It’s a desperate situation, trying to force myself to write something, anything, with such a ready-made excuse as “but my hands don’t work.” For a while I had the previous administration to blame, as I could so easily tell myself I could not write about a given topic because my opinions would not reflect kindly on the people, or more specifically the person, who was *checks notes* the Commander-in-Chief, although fortunately his competency in that area proved so lacking that even he seemed to stay as far away from any military-related decision making as possible. But now he’s gone, and the politics are still here, and even if he weren’t gone whatever comments I might make now couldn’t get anyone in trouble because my ties to that world are no more.

But goddamn it, we were still technically married last summer, so just pay the community college bill you promised to pay, already.

A few years back, I lived with a woman who decided to end things with me with four months left on our shared lease. This was not an easy time in my life. I was working two jobs to support our one-bedroom, graduate-school lifestyle because that graduate school was in northern Virginia outside of Washington D.C., where the only thing more inflated than the rents are the egos (please bear with me while I figure out how to talk politics again). Finally that summer, with the lease expired, I fled back to Ohio, lived with my best friend for a year while I licked my wounds and fought to get back into my previous graduate school, determined to finish that costly MFA and write a good book and get it published and get into the world of fiction writers and stay put right there. By which I mean, no distractions, no deviations, keeping myself untethered and uncommitted, which seemed to me an essential component to life as an author of Really Good Books.

I accomplished exactly one of these goals. Got the MFA. Kind of went the other way on the rest of it. If writing itself was the ultimate challenge, I decided I could challenge myself even more, that it was not impossible to be a writer and a husband. And maybe it’s not, but I failed at both.

What’s worrying me now, what’s keeping me away from the page more than anything, is the fear that I cannot be both a writer and a father. Also, just, embarrassment. It’s fucking embarrassing to have a marriage fail, when you take into account all the people who supported you and well-wished and prayed for you, if that was their thing, when times got tough. I tried to wait it out, the embarrassment, thinking the sting of it would eventually die off, but it turns out embarrassment is like grief. It’s immortal. Never goes away. It gets older, you get used to it being around a little, other people stop talking about it after a while. But it’s always gonna be there.

The gloves are… odd. The compression is what I bought them for, not the copper, hoping whatever circulatory magic they might enforce would keep the sensation at bay of the bones trying to slowly erupt from the back of my hand (an area I’ve always called the “mlap,” which of course is “palm” spelled backwards). I don’t know that they’re effective in that sense, but they’re doing something. They create a sort of new locus of gravity, dead center palm-side and about an inch into orbit, instigating a slightly exaggerated cupping, as though I’m preparing to gently receive a newly-hatched bird. This is not physically preventing me from typing, but it is a bit of a mental hurdle to overcome. My hand (my right is the main problem) isn’t completely pain-free, but neither is the pain distractingly noticeable. Not that I’ve been typing much, of late, so I can’t be sure if the gloves are helping, or if I’ve just allowed the old mitts sufficient rest to heal a bit.

Did I mention we’re still living together? Because I can’t afford to move out? Or that I’m once again living in northern Virginia, where the only thing higher than rents are the— I mean,, more inflated than the rents—oh good, I screwed up the bad joke I already did once.

It’s not just because I can’t afford it. We made a conscious decision to cohabitate for a while for our son’s benefit, and then suddenly COVID, which I wanted to come off as being said LOUDLY but since it’s in all caps already I guess I have to tell you that I would’ve all-caps it regardless and have you retroactively imagine what the effect would have been. There are still advantages to both of us being here, in one apartment with him. But yeah, mostly it’s because I can’t afford to leave yet. Because while I did my due diligence and went out and found a job as quickly as I could that could support me, it’s not enough to also support a child. Daycare alone costs the same per month as our current apartment, and apartments around here don’t come a whole lot cheaper than this one. Not because this is a cheap apartment, by any means, but it’s in the same vein as all the others I’m seeing. Luxury-style complex, in-unit laundry, pool, workout room, they all have the same features. Sacrifice a little space, or find a little bit older complex, might save a couple hundred a month, but it would still be 150% of the house we rented in Pittsburgh for half the square footage, and no yard.

You guys, I really want a yard for Alex.

Okay. I said it, I got sad about it for a second, I’m moving on, it’s not something I can have here. It’s fine.

I’m droning on too long. Why am I even writing this, besides just to be writing something, what was going to be my point again—oh yeah. I’ve managed to land myself back in the exact position I did not want to be in, ever ever again, right down to the same area of the country. Living in a space that does not feel at all like my own. What lessons I learned from last time that would be applied here to make this situation more tolerable cannot be applied here, because what space I would carve out for myself in this shared apartment to make me feel safe, to protect as my own, cannot be carved out because a) it is small, and b) my son needs that space more than I do. He needs to have this place feel like his home more than I need to feel calm and secure and not like a permanent resident of a hostel.

I guess the larger point is this: it doesn’t matter that you have identified your opposition and labeled them as the enemy. That does not protect you from the forces that created that thing you oppose. I see so much vitriol and finger-pointing—you guys were too stubborn to wear a mask and now half a million people are dead (true), yeah well you guys canceled Dr. Seuss (also sort of true). It doesn’t matter. All the evidence in world does not grant you immunity from becoming the very thing you oppose. Proselytize and shout all you want to, it does not protect you. Only denial can do that, and only for so long.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that from the moment you draw your lines in the sand, life’s winds will do their very best to blur them over or outright erase them. The second you say to yourself, I’ll never turn into one of those people, than the gravitational pull begins. I’m not saying don’t have goals or mores, I’m just saying maybe get off your high horse once in a while, take a walk amongst the peons you’ve gotten so used to looking down upon. You could so easily be exactly like them. Prisoners. Drunks. Divorcés. British royalty. Are you so clever to see twenty steps ahead? Fifty? 10,000? To know how the decision you make today will affect all the rest of the decisions you’ll ever make? Or how many of your most deeply held convictions are contingent upon the most happenstance of occurrences from decades ago?

I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore. I shouldn’t have to be. It’s not like grief. It’s not. It’s just me adding a layer of mental anguish on top of grief, isn’t it. It’s unnecessary, maybe even displaced emotional effort, maybe I won’t be able to grieve my marriage properly until I can move the fuck out so until then I’ll just hide it and feel bad that I feel bad. I don’t know. I’m sick of it. I’m divorced. Maybe the last thing I ever wanted, ever imagined myself to be when I grew up, but I can’t fucking change it.

It’s me. This is me.

British royalty.

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