“Honestly, Lauren,” Ryan says, his voice now perfectly calm, “I did not want you to go with me. I haven’t wanted you to go someplace with me in months.”
It’s the truth. He’s not saying it to hurt me. I can see that in his eyes, in his face, in the way his lips relax after he says it. He doesn’t care if it hurts me. He’s just saying it because it’s true.
Sometimes people do things because they are furious or because they are upset or because they are out for blood. And those things can hurt. But what hurts the most is when someone does something out of apathy. They don’t care about you the way they said they did back in college. They don’t care about you the way they promised to when you got married. They don’t care about you at all.
And because there is just the tiniest part of me that still cares, and because his not caring enrages that tiny part of me, I do something I have never done before. I do something I never thought I would ever do. I do something that, even as I’m doing it, I can’t believe is actually happening.
I pick up the vase. The glass vase. And I throw it against the door behind him. Flowers and all.
I watch Ryan duck, yanking his shoulders up around his neck and ears. I watch Thumper jump to attention. I watch as the water flies into the air, the stems and petals disperse and fall to the ground, and the glass shatters into so many pieces that I’m not sure I even remember what it used to look like.
And when all of the shards have landed, when Ryan looks up at me stunned, when Thumper scurries out into the other room, the tiny part of me that cared is gone. Now I don’t care anymore, either. It’s a shitty feeling. But it beats the hell out of caring, even the tiniest bit.
Ryan stares at me for a moment and then grabs his keys off the side table. He swipes the water and glass out of his way with the shoes already on his feet. He walks out the front door.
I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know where he’s going. I don’t know how long he’ll be gone. All I know is that this might, in fact, be the end of my marriage. It might be the end of something I thought had no ending.
• • •
I stare at the door for a while after Ryan leaves. I can’t believe that I have thrown a vase at the wall. I can’t believe that the crushed mess of glass on the floor is because of me. I wasn’t intending to hurt him. I didn’t throw it at him. And yet the violence of it startles me. I didn’t know I was capable of it.
Eventually, I stand up and go to the kitchen and get the broom and the dust pan. I put on a pair of shoes. I start to sweep it all up. As I do, Thumper comes running into the room, and I have to tell him to stop where he is. He listens and sits, watching me. The clink of the pieces against one another as they hit the trash can are almost soothing. Brush. Brush. Clink.
I grab a few paper towels and run them over the area to mop up any remaining shards and water, and then I vacuum. I’m hesitant to stop vacuuming, because I don’t know what I’m going to do after I’m done. I don’t know what to do with myself.
I put everything away and lie down on the bed. I am reminded of when we bought it, why we bought it.
What happened to us?
I can hear a voice in my head, speaking crisply and clearly. I don’t love him anymore. That’s what it says. I don’t love him anymore. And maybe more heartbreaking is the fact that I know, deep down, he doesn’t love me, either.
It all clicks into place. That’s what all of this is, isn’t it? That’s what the fighting is. That’s why I disagree with everything he says. That’s why I can’t stand all the things I used to stand. That’s why we haven’t been having sex. That’s why we never try hard to please each other. That’s why we are never pleased with each other.
Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love.
What a beautiful thing to have been.
What a sad thing to be.
Ryan must have returned late at night or early in the morning. I don’t know which. I didn’t wake up when he came home.
When I do wake up, he is on the other side of the bed, Thumper in between us. Ryan’s back is facing me. He is snoring. It scares me that we are able to sleep during this sort of turmoil. I think of the way it used to be, the way fights used to keep us up all night and into the morning. The way we couldn’t sleep on our anger, couldn’t put it on hold. Now we are on the verge of defeat and . . . he’s snoring.
I wait patiently for him to wake up. When he finally does, he doesn’t say anything to me. He stands up and walks to the bathroom. He goes to the kitchen and brews himself a cup of coffee and gets back into bed. He is next to me but not beside me. We are both in this bed, but we are not sharing it.
“We’re not in love anymore,” I say. Just the sound of it coming out of my mouth makes my skin crawl and my adrenaline run. I am shaking.
Ryan stares at me for a moment, no doubt shocked, and then he pulls his hands to his face, burying his fingers in his hair. He is a handsome man. I wonder when I stopped seeing that.
When we got married, he was almost prettier than I was on our wedding day. Our wedding pictures, where he is smiling like a young boy, his eyes crinkled and bright like stars, were beautiful, in part, because he was beautiful. But he no longer seems exceptional to me.
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Ryan says, not looking up, not moving his head from his hands. He is frozen, staring at the blanket beneath him.
“Why?” I ask him, suddenly eager to hear what he thinks, desperate to know if maybe he remembers something I don’t, to know if he thinks I am wrong. Because maybe he can convince me. Maybe I am wrong. I want to be wrong. It will feel so good to be wrong. I will wallow in my wrongness; I will swim in it. I will breathe it in and let it overtake my lungs and my body, and I will cry it out, heavy tears so full of relief they will be baptismal.
“Because now I don’t know how we keep going,” he says. “I don’t know where we go from here.”
He finally looks up at me. His eyes are bloodshot. When he pulls his fingers out of his hair, they leave it in disarray, scattered every which way across his head. I start to say, What do you mean? but instead, I say, “How long have you known?”
Ryan’s face drops into an expression that isn’t so much miserable but, rather, lifeless. “Does it matter?” he asks me, and honestly, I’m not sure. But I press on.
“I just figured it out,” I say. “I’m just wondering how long you’ve known you weren’t in love with me.”
“I don’t know. A few weeks, I guess,” he says, staring back at the blanket. It is striped and multicolored, and for that, I am thankful. It will keep his attention. Maybe he won’t look at me.
“Like a month?” I ask.
“Yeah.” He shrugs. “Or like a few weeks, like I said.”
“When?” I say. I don’t know why I get out of bed, but I do. I have to stand up. My body has to be standing.
“I just told you when,” he says. He doesn’t move from the bed.
“No,” I say, my back now up against our bedroom wall. “Like, what happened that made you realize it?”
“What happened that made you realize it?” he asks me. The blanket’s stripes have failed to do their job; he looks at me. I flinch.
“I don’t know,” I say. “It just sort of flew into my head. One moment, I didn’t know what was going on, and then suddenly, I just . . . got it.”
“Same here,” he says. “Same thing for me.”
“But, like, what day? What were we doing?” I don’t know why I need to seek this information out. It just feels like something I don’t know—his side of this. “I’m just trying to get some context.”
“Just lay off it, OK?” Back to the stripes.
“Just be honest, would you? We’re clearing the air here. Just let it out. It’s all about to come out anyway, every last ugly piece of this. Just let it out. Just let it—”
“I’m not in love with another woman, if that’s what you’re asking,” he says.
That wasn’t what I was asking at all.
“But I just . . .” He continues. “I noticed that I am seeing them differently.”