Divorce Dreams

Perhaps you have wondered about the night life of a middle aged divorced man. Here it is.

He rolls over, in an empty house or apartment or a buddy’s couch, and he notices that the clock radio on the end table says 3:26 AM. He has not slept yet and he realizes that this is going to be another one of those nights from which he slides into the next day without sleep and continues on into the next night until he loses track of waking or sleeping or day or night, but just continues the one thing he has been doing relatively successfully for years, that is, work.

Thank God for work, he thinks, tossing the sheet off his sweaty body; if it wasn’t for work I would be sick, or dead drunk, or dead. Work presents him with a destination around which to organize his remaining energy; he has to show up there, just as for so many years he had to show up for his family until it was decided that he was no longer significant to the group of people around whom he had organized his life. At least something, work, stays the same. He shows up and does what he always did. In a way, he wishes he could just get up out of bed and have the day begin at 3:30 AM because no matter what time it is he wasn’t going to have a family, and he wasn’t going to sleep, so he may as well work.

Thinking these thoughts he becomes drowsy. He turns over and rearranges his head on the pillow.

Then he thinks about the judge; the judge who with a stroke of his pen separated him from his home, his life savings, and, most crushingly, his children. The judge, of course, thought he was doing a good thing, getting rid of the father, because like most judges he was trained to believe that fathers are bad, or unnecessary, except as sources of money. Maybe the judge’s mommy had hated his daddy and so for every father, and every family, the judge destroyed he thought he was being a hero for his mommy. Or maybe he just knew which way the political wind was blowing and wanted to keep his comfortable job. There’s nothing wrong with that. But he knew one thing; there was no way he could continue to pay the money that the judge ordered with the stroke of his pen, so, no matter what he did or had done, one day he was going to jail.

Now he was fully awake again, staring at the ceiling, the blood pounding in his temples. He wondered what jail would be like, whether he should go there now, at 3:48 AM and bang on the gates to be let in so he could get it over with. It was weird because he had himself been the victim of violence in the marriage, he had held the family together, and he wondered if, one of those times when she had beaten him and left an injury, he should have gone to the police or the courts. But, even though more and more research is showing that men are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence, he knew that nobody would want to listen. The domestic violence organizations, housed at the very courts that decide his family’s future, will not provide service to male victims. Males cannot be victims. Males are only perpetrators, known to professionals in the field as “perps.” The researchers who discovered that much domestic violence is carried out solely by women, who the man had listened to at a recent conference, refused to describe female assailants as “batterers.” Only men can be batterers, they said, because female violence doesn’t really hurt men.
Men, they so much as said, like to be beaten and stabbed and threatened and, most importantly, they deserve it.

The man, as he lay there in bed, thought that it was true that he had believed that he deserved it as he knelt before his ex-wife, his hands covering his head, and she punched him and kicked him, meanwhile screaming obscenities. He thought he deserved it because he was a man, an imperfect man, who had done wrong things himself in the past. So he had taken a couple of aspirin to cover the pain and gone on. Eventually she would forgive him for doing whatever he had done to make her mad enough to beat him, and then they would get to the good times. And if he went to the police he knew it would be over, there would be no good times, his family would be done. What he didn’t know, he realized as he stared at the ceiling, his hands behind his head, what he hadn’t known at the time, was that his family was done anyway.

He glanced over at the clock; 4:12 AM. It wasn’t so much that he was angry about being beaten, or losing all his money and possessions, or going to jail, as he was sad about the kids. He had held them and changed their diapers and walked with them in the night and played with them and given them showers and dressed them in the morning and now they were gone from him, gone forever. It was just too big for him to swallow, but he knew it was true; they were gone forever. They understood that their mother and the judge and society somehow believed that their father was bad or useless or both, and they knew on some deep level that they would have to learn to live in a fatherless world. Kids do what they have to do to survive. They need to be on the winning team, and the winning team was the mothers and the feminized judges. He felt sad about the intimacy they had lost, and wished he could have those years back, and he wished he knew how to cry. But instead he smiled, laying there in the dark, remembering about his child sleeping on his shoulder after he changed his diaper. He had appreciated them at the time, as best he could, but he wondered if he had appreciated them enough. Only time would tell. And only time would tell whether the judges would let him be there to see it.

He sighed, and turned toward the clock; 5:12 AM. Thank God, he thought, time to get up at last, and go about another day.