Living in the DMZ


Today I reserved a lovely one-bedroom suite at a lodge in Colorado, with a gas fireplace, two-person Jacuzzi, and a mountain view, the latest piece of the typical puzzle of how my girlfriend and I ever get to see one another, living as we do 2000 miles apart, both with kids. And then, driving home from work, I got the last piece of the puzzle, and along with it, at last, a sense of elation.  I figured out the excuse.

The excuse. The reason why I can’t take the kids on that Monday night is not because I will be flying back from Denver – that would be the truth. That kind of truth means revealing even more truths to my ex-wife, the worst of them being the existence of a girlfriend. I’m not ready for her questions and so, no, I won’t be on that little porch in Colorado, with a cup of coffee, in my bathrobe. That weekend, I’ll be home, in Massachusetts, doing nothing. And that Monday? Gee, I have to fly to Ohio for a work thing and won’t be home until very late – can we swap nights?

Although I moved out over a year ago, I still feel like I need to prevent my ex-wife from knowing that I’m happy. Right now we live in a divorce DMZ. Though the fighting is over, we’re still clearing away bodies. We’re suspended in time between what happened and what’s going to happen next. It’s not like she can take anything else from me, out of spite, if she knew. It’s just that it’s – unseemly, like dancing during wartime, or “grief sex” after a spouse dies. You can’t be too happy too fast. Unlike actual death, though, in a divorce, the departed still lives. I see her or talk to her many times a week. Dancing feels, at best, awkward. At worst, it’s like saying to the departed that you don’t matter, and that you never mattered.

As much turmoil and bitterness as we went through, I have no desire to hurt my ex. I don’t want to be that guy having a fabulous vacation with a woman he’s crazy about, leaving his ex to stew about what went wrong and to wish that he would die so she could at least use the life insurance policy to buy some nice jewelry. I’m trying hard to maintain some kind of a relationship, but a large swath of myself has to remain off-limits. I can be “friendly” but I can’t really be honest – not really.  Not about this.

So I’ll go to Colorado, but I won’t text pictures to my kids. When I call to say goodnight, I will have had just an ordinary day. I won’t tell them how much they’d love these mountains. I won’t bring back little shampoos for my daughter.

But I will be happy to talk to them, maybe a little happier than usual. I may laugh, from the belly, about something my son says. I’ll be listening more closely to everything they say, and they will hear that.  For now, maybe being “more” with them is all anyone needs to know.


About David

Prone to musing and to being prone. Father to two, writer, engineer.
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6 Responses to Living in the DMZ

  1. what a difficult place to be in. i really felt how conflicted you are. time is what it takes… and hopefully your ex finds happiness of her own. it does make things easier. good luck.

    • David says:

      It’s my fondest hope that she find happiness — I can see how much that would help the situation. Now if I could just deal with this long-distance thing…

  2. christi74 says:

    Honesty is so, so tricky. I hope that you will share the photos with your kids someday.

    • David says:

      Indeed it is. I grew up with the dictum that “honesty is the best policy” and its opposite, “what a tangled web we weave,” and I have to say I’m pretty much covered with web right now. Showing them the pictures one day would mean telling them I lied to them — maybe one day they’d understand, I don’t know, but it would certainly make the pictures much less impressive. Anyway, thanks for commenting.

  3. Right when I think I’ve got something figured out, here comes the most justifiable and benevolent reason in the world to lie about something. Why is life so complex?

    Your concern for your X is genuine. Your writing feels like glass, high quality and clean. I’m glad you’re happy and doing what seems right. I have a phobia of lies, though. I just get a feeling that they’re dangerous in ways I don’t understand – ways that have nothing to do with getting caught or not.

    Maybe I need a vacation to Colorado. 😉

    You’re a good man, dude. That’s the bottom line.

    • David says:

      Loved your comments! Especially the idea that lies might be dangerous in ways you don’t understand. I get that, but never quite thought of it that way — or rather, I think it’s a peripheral sense that’s obscured by the more elephant-like potential complications of getting caught. It’s like buying a gun (I don’t have one, but only imagining here) — you may put it in the gun case, locked, unloaded, but somewhere in your heart, you would kill. Or rather — it’s like a lie is a loaded weapon, a buried mine, and it’s somewhere uncomfortably forgotten. It may never go off, but there’s something about its potential that seems dangerous. Very cool observation!

      And yeah, regardless of all that, everyone needs a vacation in Colorado 🙂

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