Kaleena Madruga received a BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. She lives in Chicago. Website: kaleenamadruga.com
Emily Sweet is a Fucking Idiot
I hadn’t asked my ex-husband about her. I had just asked what he had done with his wedding ring. I remember quite clearly that I had not asked him anything about his dating life at all.
I must have been feeling romantic on the day I bought my ex’s wedding ring because it was more expensive than mine. It was a black ring made of tungsten carbide and the jeweler told me it was an indestructible material.
I was very worried about money and I thought that maybe I could take it back and sell it and get some money for myself, unless he had lost it, which was what I was expecting.
He agreed to meet me at some no-name restaurant downtown that was closer to his new place than mine which was annoying but I didn’t say anything. I showed up ten minutes late on purpose but he still wasn’t there. I stood outside and smoke two cigarettes. I had a manilla folder filled with legal jargon stuffed uncomfortably under my right armpit.
You smoke now he said to me as he lumbered up the street. He lit his own and I rolled my eyes. He asked me if the place was okay and I shrugged. Is there an ideal place to sign Dissolution of Marriage paperwork? How should I know.
My ex-husband had blocked me on all social media platforms and blacklisted my phone number. It had taken me a few months to get him to agree by email to meet me. I felt very odd seeing him in person since he had become nothing but a blank page in my mind, something I could never get close to or work on or change.
I stared off into the street thinking about the rules of the Dissolution of Marriage form. The form basically stated that no one in a failed marriage is at fault and both parties have agreed to amicably part ways without the use of a legal team, as long as there was nothing to be split and managed. Since we’d had nothing when we got married and less than nothing now, this made the most sense. My dad kept telling me to get it annulled but that’s only for people who marry a family member or get tricked into getting married. I had unfortunately been a very active participant in the events that had led up to this day. But none of that was bothering me. What was bothering me was the no one at fault part.
Where is Uzi, I said and my ex-husband said home. Uzi is his six-pound chihuahua that pees on everything. I took way better care of Uzi than he ever did and sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night expecting his teeny shaking body to be at my feet.
He didn’t hold the door for me as we walked inside. We grabbed a tall table near the bar. I ordered a pinot grigio from the waitress because I was drinking all the time then and he got an Arnold Palmer and said something about how he wasn’t drinking on the weekdays anymore.
I laughed in this very mean way and his body straightened. He was facing the door, aligning the entire left side of his body with my eyesight. No normal person would ever sit like this, especially due to the structure of the chairs we were sitting in, but I knew he did it so he didn't have to look at me.
I’m really taking better care of myself these days, he said and I said fine. We were quiet for what felt like a long time.
He brought his paperwork out. My dad said it’s better if we compare everything and make sure we’re on the same page. I opened my folder and shoved my finger at the top page, proving that I had already filled everything out and didn’t need any help.
He swallowed and brought all of his unsigned, unorganized papers into his lap.
Well let me know if you need help with anything, I said and then grimaced right after. I reminded myself to be hard. To be meaner, to stay mad so I wouldn’t cry.
Afterall I didn’t cry when I found the messages on his phone or when I confronted him in the shower. I didn’t cry on the silent drive to work or when I sat at my desk for eight hours pretending like it was a normal day. I didn’t cry at any of our counseling appointments, and I didn’t cry when he stopped showing up to them. I didn’t cry when I was in the waiting room at the clinic alone after I used my last viable credit card to terminate the pregnancy or when the nurse asked me three times if there was someone at home who would be there to take care of me and I lied and said yes all three times.
He was furrowing his brow, probably reading the same sentences over and over and signing his sloppy signature, reminding himself to use his real name and not his stupid stage name.
You remembered to spell your name right, I said in a bitchy voice and sat up a little taller. I felt good.
I should really get it changed on my passport or something he said. It was confusing at the Bangkok airport.
When did you go to the Bangkok airport I said and both of our faces fell. Oh. My stomach tightened like I was about to take a punch.
We just went as friends he said and I told him I didn’t care and looked at my papers until the words started getting blurry.
The thing was that I knew about his indiscretions by the time we had taken our trip to Thailand. I wasn’t really surprised he had taken his platinum-dyed rebound to the same place we’d gone on our honeymoon, but I still felt like screaming.
At the end of the day the tickets hadn’t been refundable and we spent so much time and effort planning the trip, it would have been a total waste. I was the one who picked the location because I loved elephants so much and had always dreamed of seeing one up close. Sitting in that restaurant I’d felt like I’d actually never loved anything in my life.
We had wanted to go right after the wedding but ended up putting it off almost a year because he had been working on a movie for Amazon Prime that no one was ever going to watch.
We had only been separated eight months and he had figured out a way to go on another trip to Southeast Asia with this new woman. I didn’t know very much but I knew that her name was Emily Sweet which is a stupid name and I knew that they’d gone to Briana and Jeff’s wedding even though it was my name on the invitation, and probably my name on the place card setting at the table.
His packet was about halfway signed and I had nothing else to say or do so I asked about the ring. It used to be his favorite thing. He refused to take it off even when he was performing. He would absentmindedly drum it on bar counters and tables, causing people to think he was being intentionally rude or impatient, which he is. I remember putting it on his finger and it was just a little bit big and he laughed and said he’d grow into it. My pathetic little ring was sitting in a drawer in my room making a joke of me and my life. My insides felt like they were being crushed by a tractor.
He cleared his throat and I could see that his eyes were glossy. Me and Emily made a box of all our stuff he said in this strained way.
Whose stuff I asked even though I knew the answer.
Our stuff. Mine and yours he said. He said something about it being cathartic and I immediately got upset all over again because I had assumed he didn’t even know what that word meant.
I dug my nails into my thighs and attempted to pull myself away from grief the way a kid hoists themselves out of the deep end of a pool without stairs. I hated him and I hated her too.
I hope you get to meet her, he said. I think you’d really like her. My hair was screaming and my nails were making little crescents in my thighs and my jaw was shaking but I still didn’t cry. I thought about throwing my wine in his face, but I picked it up and drank it instead.
I had wanted to start a fire in the restaurant that day, but I didn’t do anything because I never do anything. I didn’t even find out where the box lives, this box with the ring inside it. I don’t know if it’s a centerpiece on a table or collecting dust in the back of his closet.
I realized that it didn’t matter what had happened to the ring because nothing was ever going to matter with us. I prayed that someday all of this wouldn’t bother me so much and I wouldn’t be humiliated or feel the need to constantly hold my bones together inside me.
I let a buzzing white noise surround me as he continued to tell me how kind and supportive and intelligent and understanding Emily fucking Sweet is. I think he might have said I'm sorry to me at some point...sorry for what? I didn't respond. I just kept looking outside and wishing I had someone else's life.
I remember thinking how inconceivably unfair it was that he had someone and I had no one. He would go home to his bleached blonde Emily Sweet and shivering dog and he would move on and keep moving. What was I going to do?
I was sitting there thinking about the women in my life, the ones I knew so well and the ones I thought I did — the ones I’d only seen through a small screen in my hand. I couldn’t understand how we’d all been so bad to each other, how we had managed to cause each other so much pain from these close and far away places. I wanted to find stupid fake blonde Emily Sweet and shake her shoulders and tell her what a fucking idiot she is. That he’ll never change and he’ll do it to her too.
I remember thinking about my own mother, who was nowhere to be found during this bleak and terrible and shitty time in my life. I thought about how ridiculous we all are, women. How we’re just groping around in this dark room hoping to latch onto some semblance of love and justification and safety. I don’t know where that all comes from but I wish so much that I did.
When I drove home I let a few tears fall from my eyes but only for a little bit. It felt nice to let myself finally be dissolved.