How to End a Marriage

by a contributor

Christine Hennessey

Be grateful you never had kids, but wonder who will get the dog. Wonder who the dog would choose, then realize the answer is neither. Dogs are simple creatures but they give what they get and your dog was the first in the family to go on antidepressants. Just living in your house, it turns out, is a form of animal cruelty.

You should have gotten a cat.

Speak in subtext only. Argue about small things – semantics, siblings, supper – and remain silent about all else. Complain to your friends but never your parents. Go to bed late, wake up early, fight over the blankets and, even in sleep, monitor your bodies so they never graze.

You should have gotten a bigger bed.

Your therapist says the problem is communication. That you need to talk to one another, to say what you feel and open your hearts. But your therapist doesn’t know that your chest is a cavity, cavernous and black. Instead, check out all the self-help books in the library, but read none of them. A bookstore is a commitment you cannot make.

You should have gotten a different therapist.

Remember, over a bottle of cheap red wine, how it started. The first dates, the coy smiles, the sex. Remember the time you went bowling and stole the shoes, the anniversary dinner you burned and ate anyway, the day you adopted the dog, a rescue that had been neglected and abused. Pause over that word – rescue.

Remember when your parents staged an intervention during Thanksgiving dinner and made you sit outside in the freezing weather, told you to act like adults and asked why you insisted on ruining everything for everyone? Remember how you stared at each other, refused to speak, until your hands got so cold you lost feeling in your fingers.

Wonder what happened. How something so good could get so bad, how years of not paying attention can turn someone into a stranger. Finish the wine. Pet the dog. Go to bed late, wake up early.

Christine Hennessey is a teaching assistant at UNCW and her fiction has appeared in LITForge, and The Molotov Cocktail.