Each month, The Sun magazine offers fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and photos in a black-and-white format without advertising. Each issue includes provocative ideas from people of science, religion, philosophy, the arts, or a combination. Each issue also includes Readers Write, a feature compiling nonfiction submissions from the magazine’s readers on an intentionally broad topic. Occasionally I submit pieces for consideration. More often, I write essays on the topics too late to submit them.
This piece should have been submitted by December 1, 2014, for consideration for the June 2015 issue.
All through my childhood, I wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. I felt I didn’t belong, and if I didn’t belong where I was, I preferred to be somewhere I thought wouldn’t be so boring.
I wanted to get out of the common, ordinary life in the midwestern town I felt trapped me. I wanted be in a place that promised excitement and adventure. But I wasn’t brave, so I settled for finding someONE who promised to get me out of town, taking the traditional route of getting married so that those around me–parents, neighbors, teachers–expected that I would follow my husband wherever he went.
My husband picked a place as far away from my small, midwestern hometown as it was possible to go without getting on an airplane or a boat–Berkeley, California. I felt as though I had passed through a magic doorway that offered escape.
But life with my adventuresome husband didn’t play out quite like I had expected. In less than three years, we agreed we weren’t happy, and he decided we should separate and divorce. I didn’t object, so that is what we did.
It was about as simple a divorce as one could get. We had no home, no property, no children. I kept the apartment; he took the tent. I kept the car (and got the payments and insurance bills to go with it); he took the bicycle. When he walked out the apartment for the last time, I felt my magic door slam shut.
Even a simple divorce isn’t without pain. For the first year after we separated, I got very little sleep. Dreams interrupted my sleep, dreams that involved me chasing my ex or being chased by him. When I was chasing him, I sensed that I wanted to catch him in order to inflict some physical pain. When he was chasing me, I couldn’t seem to move my legs at all, somehow keeping just ahead of his outstretched arms. I woke up each morning more exhausted than I had been before my head hit the pillow.
Then, for the following year, he disappeared from my dreams. Rest returned.
He reappeared in a dream a year later, this time at a party where we were both guests. I took him into all the rooms and introduced him to the other guests, as my friend, not my ex-husband. There were no chase scenes. And I woke up with a smile.
That dream impacted me so strongly that I wrote my ex a letter to tell him I felt whole again. He wrote back and said he had also gotten through the negative thoughts and memories he carried with him when he left our apartment. He invited me to travel to the farm where he was living so he could introduce me in real life to the people he lived with.
I never made that trip. The next week I received a job offer that brought with it the opportunity to live and work half way around the world–in Tehran, Iran. While no physical door prevented me from embarking on that journey, I know that last dream broke a metaphysical barrier that would have held me back from the excitement and adventure the job offer promised.
2 thoughts on “Readers Write-Doors”
I like this writing exercise of yours, Sandra! I, too, grew up in the Midwest (a suburb of Chicago, actually), and felt I didn’t fit in and needed to escape. Even when our family moved to a suburb of Cincinnati during my senior year of high school, I still felt like the weird outsider. It wasn’t until I moved to New York for a summer job — and then transferred to a university there — that I started to feel like I was building my own life, and free to live by my own rules. Isn’t it funny how we feel we must physically escape our past?
Thanks for your thoughts, Laura. What strikes me most, on reflection, about my desire for an exciting, adventurous life is that I wasn’t a brave enough child to take part in such activities. Now I realize I COULD HAVE lived an exciting and adventurous life back in my home town. What I bring to a place is more important than what the place offers. But nonetheless, I managed to find some pretty exciting places to life where my life was almost common, dare I say even boring?