Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crazy Came Knocking and I Didn't Even Reach for the Handle on the Barcalounger

How do you know when when you've left Divorceville for good?

Maybe it's when there's absolutely nothing you miss about your ex anymore. Maybe it's when you read a fabulous short story about the break-up of a marriage and you think to yourself, wow, what an amazing story--I'm going to send it to my ex-husband--and then you stop yourself and say, nah...why would I want to waste an envelope and some cool stamps with pictures of bonsai trees on them to do something stupid and crazy like that.

Joshua Ferris's short story "The Fragments" in the April 29th issue of The New Yorker is a heartbreaking chronology of the disintegration of a marriage. The narrator's wife is a  busy New York attorney and, through a crossed-signals cellphone connection, he learns that she's cheating on him when he hears fragments of her conversation with another man. "That night, Katy came home later than usual. He feigned sleep. With the lights off, she tiptoed into the bedroom, making no effort to wake him. He wanted to give her an opportunity to say something, he wanted her to say something, but she slid in lightly and was soon asleep. What hurt more--her peaceful sleep or the silence that preceded it?"

 As the narrator stumbles through the ensuing days unable to confront his wife, unable to work, unable to call a friend, and unable to confront his distress, he takes in the fragments of other people's conversations. Through these disjointed eavesdroppings on the communications  of others, Ferris weaves a sort of surreal narrative for a narrator who's too flattened to think his own thoughts.

When Katy calls the narrator after staying out an entire night, he hangs up on her and then hauls himself up from the sofa. "He walked through the apartment. He'd done this two nights in a row. He was sick of doing it. Everything that was 'hers' hurt one way. Things that were 'theirs' hurt differently. The last thing he wanted to have to do was sort and divide it all."

In the end, the narrator goes to the window and calls to passersby to come up to the apartment and take whatever they want. Later, as Katy approaches the apartment building, "She recognized the polka-dot roller bag that the first man was pulling behind him. When she reached the landing, he was standing in the open doorway, going through their wedding album with another man."

Yes, that's how it is.

How it was.

While I never gave away The Someone's stuff, I might have if I'd thought of it. But when I packed up and moved out of the house he wanted to keep for himself and his new wife, I did take all the blank CDs and the Sharpies. Crazy, right?


Ms. Moon said...

When everything is taken, you scramble for everything you can.

Suz said...

I am going to have to read this one
Sounds like he nailed it
sounds like great writing

Elizabeth said...

I love that Joshua Ferris -- his book about the man who started walking and couldn't stop still haunts me. I can't remember the name of it right this second, but I highly recommend. And now I'll go plow through my New Yorkers and find this short story. I'm glad that you're here telling US about it and NOT the ex.

Andrea said...

I want to read the story too, but I have to say that every time I read that this man wanted to keep the house for himself and his new wife, I find it so upsetting on your behalf, but I also remember that those two people could not possibly get a happy marriage out of doing something like that. Life just doesn't work that way. They might get something - rooms and each other - but they don't get "marriage," let alone a happy one.

stephanie said...

I want to read that story.

When I left my house, I tried to just take what was mine, but that was hard to do. Even now, a year later, I have all these odds and ends. I have one of his art pieces. I didn't want to throw it out and I, didn't want to keep it. I'm giving it to a mutual friend. I guess that's the middle ground.