Here is me in my body thinking about what a fucked up week it’s been. In my body at a cafe spending the last of my spending money for the week.
Here is me in my body caught on that horrific display of hatred – even if it was to save face.
Here is me in my body pretending I’m not in my body at all, or maybe I’m not in my body. I don’t know anymore.
Just last Tuesday, the deans of this prestigious college, a middle-aged married couple, had a very public and very nasty fight.
She smashed his 550 Spyder with a tire iron as the advanced ballet class was walking to the parking lot after the showers.
The dancers were concerned. Diane was incoherent. They watched her bash the hood and the headlights. They watched her try to smash the windshield.
The crowbar bounced out of her hands and nearly clipped Raphael in the knee.
Diane fell down onto the pavement, her royal blue ball gown bunched up around her knees, which made her look like a young girl without a date for prom.
Yves and Sandra immediately rushed to soothe her.
Trin grabbed the tire iron and stuffed it into her duffel bag.
We’d never seen her like this before. Diane was the most composed, gentle, loving woman that most of us had ever met.
She was matriarch of the college, not just in name, but in our hearts – and the hearts of all the students who had come before.
Between gulping for air and letting sobs, Diane told us that she had caught her husband with a student at another school.
It was hard to believe at first. Sam and Diane had been together for over twenty years. They had built this college together.
Sam wasn’t the sleazy older man that freshman fear. He had never made us feel uncomfortable or suspicious.
Sam was our chosen patriarch. He commanded respect and shared his wisdom with joy. He had always been ready to step into Philosophy and English Lit classes if any of the teachers were ill. But he wasn’t the professor who invited us to his favorite bar.
He set clear boundaries without making us feel like it was because we were just kids to him.
Diane disappeared from campus after that and Sam made himself scarce.
Things weren’t the same and I know I wasn’t the only one who worried about what would happen to our college.
It wasn’t as if there was another college like it. We’d be split, that was for sure.
Dancers and creative writers would likely not see each other except for FaceTime if this college fell.
And then, when we were already on edge, Sam announced an assembly. He cancelled all scheduled classes. Everyone was to attend. No excuses.
I held Julie’s hand from the dorm to the main hall. She leaned her head on my shoulder and I put my arm around her once we’d found a seat near the back.
Sam didn’t look well. He had bags under his eyes. His face hadn’t been shaved in a few days. His suit jacket was rumpled, like he’d slept in his car and used it as a pillow.
Maybe that was my own story bleeding through. I remember when my parents split, my dad slept in his car for a week.
Sam fumbled with some papers up there.
Most of the girls wanted to know what happened to Diane. Would she be coming back, was she okay?
Most of the boys wanted to know if the college would be okay. Everyone cared about both Sam and Diane, but we wanted to know how deeply our lives would be affected.
We all expected Sam to give us answers in a calm and compassionate way.
“As some of you probably know, my former wife Diane has gone absolutely insane and accused me of outrageous and preposterous things.”
Julie squeezed my hand. Her parents had gone through a nasty divorce when she was nine and it still haunted her.
Her mother had eviscerated her father very publicly in their small town in a power play to gain the favour of people who would be making decisions about who to support.
Her father had retaliated using methods that were just as cruel and underhanded.
She didn’t really trust women or men, and whenever smear campaigns started, she felt horribly anxious. She saw through it all and it scared her.
Sam continued, not looking at the papers on the lectern. “That woman has gone too far trying to drag my name through the mud with her vicious lies. At first I thought she had gone full blown insane. I thought I’d have to put her in a mental institution for care, but her therapist believes every word she has spouted about this non-existent affair.”
The crowd murmured at this. The girls who had been through watching their mothers vilified in brutal separations reacted in anger.
One shouted, “How can you say those things about Diane? Maybe you’re mental!”
“That’s enough of that, young lady. If you cannot be respectful, you will be asked to leave.”
She stood up to leave. Several females left with her.
The females who stayed wanted to know what happened to Diane. Would she be back?
Sam didn’t have an answer.
The boys asked what would happen to the college. Sam’s careful, non-committal answers made their stomachs knot and fill with anticipatory dread.
We all went back to our dorms to process what could be happening. And for what? Because another man couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and shattered the heart of an incredible woman.
What was wrong with the world? Was there nothing good left in humans? Do we all grow up to stomp on each other?
We all process grief differently. And we all came from different family situations.
We all went to our separate corners.
The girls who wanted to do something for Diane gathered in the common TV room and the boys who wanted to protect Sam gathered in the common kitchen/games room.
Julie wanted to be alone.
I had to get off campus. In a daze, I walked toward the nearest coffee shop, half expecting to run into Diane herself to get the real story.
So far, she wasn’t bashing his character. So far, Diane had just had an outburst of rage after learning that she had been betrayed.
Somewhere deep inside, I needed at least one of them to behave responsibly and credibly.
But I didn’t run into Diane. And I found myself in a cafe alone with my mud, which is also the mud of the world.
Here is me pretending to be in my body. I know now, because I cannot feel anything.
I’m staring out the window caught on something that hasn’t quite surfaced yet.
The waves of nausea and dread are difficult to keep down. It takes most of my energy. What little energy I have left after the week it’s been.
And then, there it is. There I am, seven years old again, unable to sleep because my parents are fighting so loudly.
“You’re a fat, lazy pig. You’re purposely trying to ruin this family with your selfishness.”
“I can’t stand your shit anymore. Do you want to know what it’s like? Do you want to know the kind of thoughts that go through my head?”
“Why would I want that? You’re crazy.”
“I can’t be near you right now.”
“You’re always running away, you selfish bitch. I don’t care anymore. You could die for all I care.”
“I’ll leave. I don’t care if I have nothing. I’ll find a way.”
“You won’t make it without me.”
“Go ahead and leave, cunt. You won’t last long. I’m not going to pay for your funeral.”