Au revoir

It took three months from the date of my divorce for me to find out about it.

Having resigned to part ways in as good-natured a way as possible, Z and I had decided that lawyers would be unnecessary to the process. We DIYed the divorce with as much aplomb as one might’ve planned a wedding: we smothered our coffee table with stacks of forms and divided our possessions with an unerring eye for detail (e.g., Z kept our roll of stamps, while I pocketed our A4 envelopes).

Z also got first pick of any books I left behind. (Plus, I generously offered him my rubber duck collection.)

I also let Z have first pick of any books I didn’t feel like taking. (For some reason, he declined my rubber duck collection though.)

When time came to file, I swept our forms into a folder and took one Forever stamp (oh, the irony) from our his roll with me to the courthouse. The instructions had insisted on the necessity of this stamp as, once the divorce went through, the court was supposed to mail us a postcard saying “Congratulations! You’re divorced.”

Once I got to the court, however, I was informed no such postcard would be sent. The State had finally discovered the internet and would be e-mailing me instead.

As I slid the stamp back into my purse, the irreparably jaded civil servant asked if I had any questions. Almost as an afterthought, I asked how long it would take.

“About six months,” he replied, then paused. Scrutinizing me, he added, “Why — you in a rush to marry someone else?”

~

After filing in January, Z and I began slowly disentangling our lives.

In August, I finished up my Master’s degree and flew to France for a wedding. Being in the country without Z felt both strange and liberating. (Strange because my relationship with Z had comprised so much of my initial Francophilia. Liberating because I finally realized I could enjoy the country independently.)

Upon my return, I landed a job at a university in Boston. With a deadline to move out of  state, I grew increasingly concerned about our lack of a “Congratulations! You’re divorced” e-mail.

So I logged into the court’s website to check the status of our case. (I’d checked the site every couple of weeks, but it’d always said our case was in queue.)

Now? The case status read one mysterious word …

“Disposed.”

~

“Disposed?!”

I had no idea what that meant, especially since we hadn’t received any notifications from the court.

Had we fumbled the paperwork so badly the entire case got thrown out?

Perhaps our assigned judge had passed away or been fired (“deceased” + “deposed” = “disposed,” I guess?).

Or was this the last step before a decision was made? (Possibly the judge had been indisposed before, but was now “disposed” and ready to review our case.)

I knew I wouldn’t get any answers by staring at the court’s website, which looked like it’d been built on the Geocities platform of the late ’90s. With much sighing and muttering of anarchist screeds (why does the State have such a huge say in our personal lives anyway?), I dragged myself to the courthouse again.

~

That was how I found out I’d been divorced for months.

Even now that I’m living and working in Boston, Z and I keep in occasional touch. Though our relationship didn’t work out, I don’t regret the memorable chunk of my life it spanned (for what it’s worth, I decided not to change my name back).

Still, I’m moving on — exploring Boston, practicing yoga, and teaching myself Spanish. As part of that onward movement, I’m veering away from blogging to devote myself to other writing projects.

For those who have followed over the years, thank you for taking an interest in my misadventures on both sides of the Atlantic. I hope you’ve been tickled by my journey from bumbling expat to femme fatale (divorcées are necessarily femme fatales, right? — or is that widows?).

Either way, I love playing to type.

Either way, I love playing to type.

This is not goodbye (a word whose etymology stems from”God be with you,” and which I’ve always found needlessly grim). Rather, I’d say au revoir — “to the seeing again.”

I know I have more to live. Someday, I’ll have more to share.

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

A couple months ago, I went to an event at a local bookstore in Brooklyn called “Lucid Dreaming Night.” In the packed bookstore basement, three guys who’d co-authored a guide to lucid dreaming gave tips to the crowd on how to direct what happens in their dreams (à la Inception). I listened with detached bemusement, jotting down notes now and then, but upon returning home, my scribblings were soon lost behind a stack of bills, catalogs, and credit card offers.

For better or worse, I’ve gone from a teenager who avidly writes in her dream journal, to an adult immersed in the practicalities of everyday life. While there’s nothing atypical about that transformation, what surprises me is the extent to which I still find myself and others – young and old – tied to dreamy romantic narratives.

This is especially true when it comes to the topic of romance itself.

Cinderella in the display windows at Galeries Lafayette

Is it time to wake up from the fairy tale yet?

Often, at a certain point in getting to know someone, it comes up in conversation that my boyfriend is French. I divulge that he lives in Paris, and that he visits me on occasion. Just these basic facts lead many to believe our coupling is plagiarized from some scoff-inducing chick flick. And while I usually don’t correct that notion, the reality couldn’t be more different.

International long-distance relationships are like Cinderella stories in reverse. The romantic stuff happens at the beginning; then, when the distance kicks in, it’s a lot of maintenance work. Most of that work has to do with communication, something which is subject to the frustrating limitations of technology. In practical terms, this means I spend a lot of time staring at mysterious conglomerations of pixels which only vaguely resemble a human face.

In addition, I’ve frequently had to choose between catching some z’s and catching up with Z (couldn’t resist that one, sorry). Since we both work full time, there’s only a tiny window during we can chat on most days. If I’m home by 6pm (Z’s midnight), we can hang for an hour before he falls asleep. If I return a bit later, I might have to stay up until 1:30am (his 7:30am) for a brief check-in before he dashes off to work.

selfie in bed

I end up taking selfies in bed if he doesn’t pick up … At least the camera loves me, riiight?

Another issue I haven’t mentioned is the expense of being long-distance. I fully realize how privileged we are to be able to visit each other enough to maintain our relationship. Though Z bears the brunt of the cost, when he forwards me his flight confirmations, I cry a little inside calculating how many bottles of wine and burritos we could have bought with that money.

breakfast burrito

So many of these — SO, so many.

Even when we lived together during my teaching assistantship, life was far from a bed of roses. The constant anxiety of what I would do after the school year tore me apart. My work prospects in France were severely limited by the fact that my visa would expire with the assistantship itself. I was a nervous wreck who barely stepped outdoors, taunted by the wicked stepsisters of despondency and self-doubt.

So.

If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that what makes an experience worthwhile is not always the appeal of its narrative. The unnarrated hours are what make up the vast majority of our days, and – ultimately – they’re what count.

~

We finally got engaged during Z’s most recent visit.

Brunch at the Rabbit Hole

Obligatory happy couple photo (you’re allowed to roll your eyes — I know I would).

The next step in the story that you never hear about is the year (give or take) that it takes the US government to process applications to marry foreigners. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks filling out forms as well as printing out old emails and photographs to prove that we’re not in a fraudulent relationship. Whenever the immigration officials decide we’re legit, Z must fly over to marry me within exactly 90 days.

Or the coach turns back into a pumpkin.

While I’ve already started getting questions about wedding dates and where we’ll eventually settle, I’m holding off for the moment on thinking too far ahead. I know that no matter how rigorously we plan, no matter how lucid we try to render the future, there’s only so much we can control of our realities and our dreams.

tattou reve

“Is this forever?” is a question I posed to both my tattoo artist, and to Z. (The ink reads “rêve” — or “dream.”)