I met my husband on my way home from my divorce. It was early in the morning and I felt irrevocably broken. After we signed the papers, my ex-husband shook my hand and pulled me in for one last hug. He said, “you want to grab a hotel so I can give you a proper send-off?” I thanked him for the offer but politely declined, hoping my disgust was not visible. I met my mother on the docks where she’d agreed to meet me. She was standing in a cashmere sweater and an oversized hat. Taking a drag from her cigarette she looked at me, appraising as she always did. I never measured up. She did not take my hand; our shoulders did not touch as I stood next to her on the docks. I wanted to let go, to let the tears flow but not in front of her, never in front of her. Then she put her arm around me, a rare display of warmth, and I told her, “mama, I feel like such a fool.”
She pulled me into a hug, placing my head on her shoulder, and stroked my hair. “Oh, no sweetie you aren’t a fool.” I clung to her like she was the only thing that was left. “You’re a failure.” She clarified.
I pushed away from her embrace and looked up at her. The tears that had been running down my cheeks had abruptly stopped falling. “W-what?”
“This will follow you around for the rest of your life. You’re a divorcee. It’s a permanent stain on your record and it can never be undone. The only way you’ll ever find love again is if you can find someone who is as broken as you are.” She laughed bitterly, “Good luck with that.” She tucked a strand of my stringy brown hair behind my ear. “I wish you’d use conditioner. Or anything.”
I got in my car and drove. There was no destination in mind, just drive until I felt something again. A part of me wanted to turn my car into oncoming traffic or a building. I’d plead insanity and get locked away forever but I didn’t. Instead, I ended up in Tarpon Springs, driving down by the bayou. I wanted to see the manatees. If I could just see the manatees, I’d be okay. That’s when I saw him: the man that would later father my two girls. Standing outside his house with some serious stubble, hair a mess, broken glasses askew on his face, in nothing but a pair of Yellow Submarine boxers staring up at a window from which clothes were falling. I pulled up to the scene real slow and noticed I wasn’t the first to arrive. He was shouting up at her, something like, “oh real nice Ellen! No- Not that one I just had it dry cleaned!” The woman looked out the window. Satisfied with the mess on her front lawn, she slammed the window shut. The man in the Yellow Submarine boxers turned to the crowd, dazed. They dispersed immediately all trying to play it cool as if they had all happened to be out on their lawns at that moment for unrelated reasons. I pulled up my car beside him and asked him if he needed a ride. He did not say a word as he stepped into my car, clutching a bundle of his clothes. He shut the door and we drove away.
He said nothing for miles. I asked him the usual questions: what’s your name, are you going to mutilate my corpse and dispose of my dismembered body parts in random dumpsters throughout cities in the county to ensure my murder never gets traced back to you? But still, he said nothing. He wouldn’t even tell me where to take him so I started driving towards a local hotel. Finally, I asked why she threw him out, and in a low whisper, barely audible he said: she killed Admiral Halsey. I asked him to repeat himself, thinking surely, I misheard him.
“She KILLED the admiral. I know she did.”
My first thought, after years of watching too many detective series, was that we needed to get to the police and we needed to report this. I was excited about the prospect of being involved in the caper.
“Wait. Did you say, Admiral Halsey?” I asked.
The man nodded.
“Like…from the Paul McCartney song?”
“I named him after it. He’s my cat.” He said irritated at me for not catching on quicker. “That vile woman murdered my cat, I KNOW she did.”
Here’s the part of the story where I should have gone, you know what? I’m out. This guy is unhinged and I do not need him in my car. Did I mention that I would later marry this man? I drove him to his office where he had a murder investigation spread out on his wall with red yarn, crime scene photos, and pictures of the late Admiral Halsey in a bow tie. I sat in his office for the better part of an hour listening to his deductions. You know what? I think she did kill his cat and I was going to help him prove it.