I think it has to be a cruel joke of the universe that I’d been against marriage on principle for so long, and the one time in the past ten years I’d felt sure about marrying anyone, he died. And now, of the last five men I’ve dated (besides Jack), one is engaged and three are married (one as recently as last week). I want people to stop sharing these things with me, though I know they don’t do it on purpose. For some reason, they think telling me that “so-and-so got married at city hall to the woman he was cheating on you with” will inspire schadenfreude rather than a mixture of bewilderment (they were broken up, after he moved out while she was at work, and he sole her identity; what changed?!) and personal frustration at being in a place where I’m grieving so much over Jack that I’m back at the place where I feel about marriage how some other people feel about homosexuality: it’s fine for you, but I’ll pass, thanks.
I know I’ll one day take inspiration from the love I felt for Jack and the deep peace and comfort I felt when we talked about our wedding. Even after he relapsed the first time, the second time, I would lie in bed and calm his nerves and tell him I’d marry him tomorrow, in a heartbeat. I don’t know what changed after the third relapse, other than I was in New York when it happened, and when I’m there I feel a little stronger, a bit more capable. I’m certain that had I been in Chicago, I wouldn’t have seen things so clearly. But it was like crystal, the realization that the idea of marrying Jack, tomorrow, in a heartbeat, was something I’d been willing to do before, but not anymore. And once I saw that, I couldn’t go back to the place we were before.
I know I spend a lot of time thinking about these things, teasing them out in my mind. But what else am I to do? I know some people can look dysfunction in the face and find it irresistable, and others find it tolerable; I’ve been in both mindsets, and neither was any picnic. Most days I’m so very proud that I was able to change enough, as a person, that as much as I loved, and still love, Jack, I found the situation with him to be absolutely unthinkable. But most days that pride is also tempered by a deep sadness I feel over just having learned how to be strong at the very time when being weak would have allowed me to have a few more months with Jack before he died.
And I know no one can say how much more or less sadness would have come into my heart if I’d chosen to stay instead of leaving Jack, but I know that I’d have had more chances to lie in bed and be in love and want to marry him. My heart might have been broken a thousand times more than twice, when I cut things off and when he died. Or it might only have broken when he died.
I think the saddest thing for me today is knowing that, no matter what I had chosen, he’d probably still be dead. We still never would have married. The ring he had made especially for me would remain unworn, not because I hate it but because it’s so beautiful I can’t bear to be reminded.
I don’t want to hear about these weddings because I’m jealous of happiness, but because I’m jealous of being able to look at dysfunction and have it not be a good reason for walking away. I know I made the right choice. But sometimes I think I would have preferred to deal with the fallout of the wrong one than what I’m facing now.