For the past couple of months, every week or two I wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, tangled in the sheets, heart racing. It’s the same nightmare each time. I’m with my baby in a very fancy, very tall high-rise building. I step off the elevator on a random floor and set the baby down on the ground. I look away for a moment, gaze out the window at the spectacular view, and when I turn around he’s crawled back into the elevator alone. I yell his name, but it’s too late. The elevator doors close behind him and he’s gone. The rest of the dream I’m running up and down the stairs, going in and out of seemingly endless elevators, screaming his name and begging anyone to help me find my baby as they stare at me blank-faced. When I woke up from the dream last night I guess I had found the building manager and I woke myself up screaming Howard, please help me! Howard, help me!
I don’t know anyone named Howard.
I put on a brave fucking face. It’s a coping strategy I’ve been perfecting my whole life. And for the most part it actually works. It’s better to cope than to not cope, right? But the thing is, you still have to dream the dreams at night. And the truth is, I’m struggling. I’ve spent the better part of the past year in a state of constant, low-level anxiety. I’m distracted all the time. I backed my car into another car twice recently. My work is constantly interrupted. My lawyer’s hours are the same as my hours at my job, so whenever she calls I am always at work. And she’s never calling with good news. My ex fires off terrible emails to me all day long. It makes it very hard to get anything done. One morning I was so frustrated that I slammed my hand into the steering wheel of my car, and it still hurts months later. I should probably go to a doctor, but who could find the time?
It’s been ten months and my ex is still living in my basement. He hasn’t vacuumed the carpet downstairs since January. He’s still fighting me for custody of my children.
I’ll let you use your imagination about what that’s like.
I still have no idea when he’s going to move out. I desperately want him out of the house, but at the same time I dread it because at least right now I have my kids with me under my roof all the time. When he moves out, part of the time my kids will go with him. They’re eight and one year old. The thought of it sends me into a straight up panic spiral. And it’s very hard to do much else besides worry about it.
On top of that, when he’s gone I will have so many goddamned bills to pay on my own, it’s hard to imagine how I’ll get by when suddenly I have double the expenses. Here’s the thing that makes absolutely no sense about divorce. My ex and I both work, and make roughly equal amounts of money. Our income supported one household, and truth be told, it barely did that. Every month a lot of expenses wound up going on credit cards because what the heck else can you do. So now we have this situation where two incomes barely supported one household, and now those same two incomes are supposed to magically support two separate households. I’m not a mathematician, but that shit makes no sense. You don’t turn one apple into two apples, simply by cutting the one apple in half. And I think no matter how rich you are, or how poor you are, this is the hard reality.
I lay awake at night thinking, well, at least my car will be all paid off in a few months. If I can somehow float by until that’s paid off, things will at least be a bit more comfortable then. But that’s, like, $400 per month. I’m going to have to cover my entire mortgage alone. Pay my utility bills alone. Deal with home repairs alone. An extra $400 isn’t going to go far, especially when the car starts breaking down. It’s five years old and has 75,000 miles on it.
On top of that, I’ve racked up legal bills that would make your eyes roll back in your head. There’s this thing called litigation abuse, and I’ll leave it at that, and maybe you can imagine what has been happening.
Sometimes I worry I’m going to have to rely on my mom to help me out for awhile until, what, until I can find myself another husband? That’s a horrifying, infantilizing thing to consider. I’ve always worked. I’m forty-two years old. But I’ve got little faces to feed, and a mortgage to pay, and no matter how many stupid Excel spreadsheets I put together, I have no idea how I’m going to make it work.
And you know what else? My house is fucking WRECKED. My ex and I are splitting parenting time WITHIN MY HOUSE. When it’s my turn with the kids, it’s hard to waste it mopping floors and scrubbing toilets. When it’s his turn with the kids, I have to hide out at coffee shops and friends’ houses because it’s too fucking hard to be in the house with the kids and not interact with them. I finally hired a house cleaner and a landscaper, not only because the mess was really getting to me, but because I am petrified that if the house is a disaster then he’ll say I’m an unfit mother.
But that’s yet another expense to deal with.
I constantly worry about whether or not my lawyer is doing a good job. Is she overcharging me? Is she colluding with my ex’s lawyer to make this as expensive as possible? Is there something else we could be doing? I’m worrying about this shit CONSTANTLY, all the while trying to get my kids to play dates and check homework assignments and change shitty diapers and be on time to soccer practices. Because if I fuck up one little tiny thing right now, I will definitely be hearing from my ex’s lawyer. It’s maddening and sickening and horrifying. And I can’t figure out how the fuck to make it stop.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I turn on the tv. I got lucky the other night and happened upon my all-time favorite movie, The Outsiders. I love every freaking thing about this movie, from the Stevie Wonder soundtrack, to freshly-showered young Rob Lowe.
I love Johnny Cade’s earnest vulnerability. I love Darry, an old man at age twenty, cooking eggs for his younger brothers. I have a soft spot for Two-Bit and his enduring love for Mickey Mouse. But most of all, I love Cherry Valance, who tells Ponyboy that she could fall in love with Dallas Winston.
And that’s who I find myself thinking about when I wake up from a fever dream and turn on the TV in the middle of the night to try to push the bad thoughts away. The wild urgency, the flailing desperation of a guy like Dallas Winston. Sometimes you have taken all the hits that you can take.
Here’s a song for worried times.
Housekeeping (a thing at which I do not excel)
I hope that you have been enjoying this newsletter so far, although maybe you shouldn’t be enjoying it too much, haha. (Haha?). I have no idea how or when this thing ends, but it’s my sincere hope that soon enough there will be a newsletter titled “He Moved To Tijuana, I Got A New Cat. The end.” In the meantime, the D-Train rolls on.
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