Excerpts > Summer 2001
Kristin Herbert
Scenes from a Marriage, Cut

Scenes from a Marriage, Cut

Dear Diary: Today we will steal a magazine
from the lawyer's waiting room, then file
for a no-fault divorce: black ink, dotted
lines . . . (we'll never know

what was elided). So far, this will be the most
difficult day of my life; everything else
will be better or worse. I arrive first.

His smile is either brave or nervous. I don't know
how to react; I'm barely intact, myself.
I hand him a fishing magazine, a nice one.

Looks like we came to the right place, I say.
He seems immensely relieved to have something
pleasant to think about. He looks at my purse,

raises his eyebrows, wiggles them like live bait
on a hook. When the receptionist turns her back,
I make one smooth move for my purse and whoosh --

slip it in, the wet, the green, the whole
glossy apparatus -- fish and fast
water, whatever's real or natural and lies

below the surface of the floating
world. By now, we're deep in cahoots and acting
serious: two bipedal citizens, standard-

issue good people. Truth is, I need to confess
I love you, I don't want to go through with it.
But I don't. (I still half

regret everying.) The lawyer is young, plump,
regrettably stupid. He follows protocol, asks, what, where, when,
and so on, just the basics. We know each other's

answers, and for me, this is the sad part.
No children, no property, nothing
to disagree about. A generic case, the lawyer remarks,

casually, nothing to it but the paperwork.
Generic to anyone but us,
I snap. He blushes.
There is supposed to be animosity,

and I supply it: I hate him. What an idiot.
We sign. I feel like writing The End
in cursive, but this is only one

of many endings I will live through
and relive in my mind's dark theater.
I stand up, drag myself outside, and blink

hard. The sun shines like a huge
irony, warms the whole stunningly
unchanged world. I know that nothing

belongs to us, that nothing is anyone's
fault. But still, I want to know
how this happened and why, and if it will ever stop

being painful. I hand him the magazine,
say looks like we got away with it.
We leave in our separate cars. I hope

for our respective bests. Amen.

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