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General

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please,” I answer, thankful to be distracted from my thoughts.

“How do you take it?”

“Do you have soy milk?”

“Yes, organic.”

“Great, lots of it then and no sugar.”

“Are you sure? We have stevia and other sweeteners, too.”

“Thank you but no, just soy milk.”

My lawyer’s assistant comes back in a few minutes with my cup of coffee. 

“Jasmine will be just a few more minutes, let me know if you need anything else, okay?”

“Thank you, James.”

He smiles and head back to his desk. I lean back in the fancy office chair and look around me. The perfectly polished conference table, the top-of the-line spider phone, the tastefully curated framed pictures on the wall next to me, the meticulously clean glass wall into the office, and the skyline view of the city all confirm what I already know. Everything here is overachieving, from the soy milk (organic!) and the sweeteners selection all the way to Jasmine’s retainer. 

I watch James answer the phone, write something down, briskly walk over to Jasmine’s office. Sometimes he just sticks his head in and pops right back out, sometimes he walks in for a moment before going back to his desk. He sits upright, answers quickly, smiles cordially. He’s always nice to me. I wonder if everyone that he speaks with feels like me? Is everyone whose call James answers terrified for their life, one mean comment from melting down, but stringing along thanks to James’s pleasantries?

Then again this is where we got our pre-nup as well–I wonder how much of their businesses is that. Yet perhaps that’s equally unbearable. I remember us. Feeling all cute as we went back and forth about why we didn’t need a pre-nup. What a ridiculous idea, we laughed and made out as counsel looked on. How cynical, I sat on your lap when I signed. Oh no, we were only getting it because my mom insisted because of her sister’s business….We didn’t care. We could sign it, we could burn it, made no difference.

I remember I was so certain. It wasn’t even a question in my mind. I had never known anything in my life as clearly as I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Even with my manager brain, always thinking of every possible scenario and creating contingencies, when I made myself consider that maybe it wouldn’t all be butterflies and rainbows for eternity, I was certain that worst case scenario we could figure it out together, seeing that we were reasonable adults.

Yet you got so mean. I never knew someone’s personality could shift upside down so quickly. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone warned me, but then there it was, lashing out at me, always hitting where it hurt the most. 

You told me you were ashamed to be with me–the way I looked–around your family and made us leave your uncle’s birthday party early with a non-sensical excuse. This despite the fact that everyone in your family has always been beyond warm and friendly to me. You told me that they were just being nice because they had to and secretly hated me and resented you for putting them in that position. This because I had short hair and didn’t wear make-up: the same way I was when we fell in love, when you praised my disregard for societal beauty standards and called me sexy. 

When I reminded you of that, desperate to make some sense of the situation, trying to preserve some dignity and sanity for myself, you told me that I don’t get to have those things as we were married and I stripped you off both of them in front of your family.

“By not wearing make-up?” I was at a loss but you thought I was mocking you and spent the rest of the weekend upset at me. I still don’t understand why.

You made it abundantly clear that I was no good and it didn’t matter how hard I worked, how much I tried, how little sense your complaints made, or how much they did not align with the person I married.

You were the first person I felt comfortable to just be with. I didn’t feel like I had to prove myself as better than I was. I didn’t feel like I had to constantly keep one-upping myself in conversation and fellatio. A few weeks after we met, we drove to the desert in your truck and we spent so much of the time just lounging on the truck bed, looking at the sky. We talked about what we wanted from life, about what we didn’t want. 

The moment I remember the most is when I woke up next to you on the third day. That’s when I felt it so clearly, like a cloudless sky in the desert. I was so genuinely content to lie there next to you, not doing anything, not saying anything. I realized I didn’t care what time it was or even what day it was. It felt like eternity and the most fleeting flash at the same time and I wanted to make it last forever. 


“How does it feel?!” Candice is yelling over the music. Before I have a chance to answer, Lynda and Gisele come up holding a tray of shots. Candice reaches for one but they pull the tray away.

“It’s for Carol!” Lynda cries out and then leans over to whisper in Candice’s ear, who then nods and looks at me. Gisele is yelling something but I can’t hear her, which I mime to let her know. She gesticulates at the tray, at me, then at the tray again--to no avail. Then Candice leans over to me.

“Minefield!”

“What?”

“It’s a minefield!” 

“Is this some metaphor for divorce?” I ask under my breath. I know what the drink is.

“What?” Candice sticks her head even closer to mine, trying to hear.

“You didn’t have to do that,” I call out to Lynda.

“Well we wanted to. We’re celebrating! Here’s to your freedom!”

“That’s gonna be a few months, if I’m lucky,” I say, thinking they can’t hear me again.

“Hey! Don’t talk like that! You moved out! You’re free!” Candice yells and raises her arms above her head in a celebratory dance. 

“Less talking, more drinking!” Gisele exclaims.

I get up and look at the tray of 9 shot glasses of clear liquid in front of me. I haven’t done of these since college but I remember they’re fun. As I throw the first shot into my mouth, it occurs to me that I didn’t ask what booze and ratio was. Is it three, four, or five shots of vodka, gin, tequila? 

No time to think now! I throw one back after the other, not pausing to taste or think. The trick is to just swallow and move on. 

It’s vodka...five, oh thank you water, ...six… seven...oh no, I hit two in a row. I feel it coming up and pause, and Lynda pushes a bucket in front of my face but I’m able to keep it down! I still got it!

I finish the minefield and yell out in celebration. I am alive!


A few hours later we are at a diner, stuffing our faces with french toast and all manners of fried potato. Another time honored tradition of ours that we’ve badly neglected since college. 

“Wow, this was the best night ever. I’ve missed y’all. Can you even remember the last time we were together like this?” Gisele asks, as if reading my mind.

“I think it was Carol’s bachelorette,” Candice says.

“Yeah, I think so, too,” I agree.

“Wow, that was was what, three years years ago?” Gisele asks.

“Almost four,” I say.

“Wow, we’ve come full circle,” Lynda says and I laugh.

“Now one of y’all needs to get hitched so we can hang out again,” I tell them.

“No offense but watching you drown in that marriage hasn’t exactly been a good advertisement.”

“Oh come, Candice, Chris was just an asshole. You can’t write off the whole idea.” Gisele counters.

“Um, actually, I can. None of us saw what an asshole Chris was until well into the marriage.”

“I did, I never liked him,” Lynda says.

“Whatever, Lynda, hindsight’s 20-20,” Gisele rolls her eyes.

“Seriously though, screw that guy! What do you think, Carol?” Candice turns to me. “Will you do this again?”

“I’m not even divorced yet, maybe let me take a breath before I take another husband?!”

“We all know people who move straight in with their next guy when they leave their husband,” Lynda shrugs.

“True, but I can’t see myself doing that. I need to figure out who I am again.”

“No, I think you need a hot rebound. Ladies, we messed up! We gotta do this again next weekend and get a stripper!” Gisele is very excited by this idea of hers.

I laugh but I’m not convinced. “That sounds fun Gisele, but I what I really need is to figure out how to trust my own judgement. I honestly thought I’d spend the rest of my life with Chris. That even if things got bad we could work through them because I thought I knew him and he seemed like a genuinely nice, good person, a reasonable adult. Look at me now. Didn’t even last four years. Thank god we don’t have kids, but I really believed it was forever.”


As we stand outside the diner waiting for our rides, the sun is just starting to come up, and the sky has that exact same shade I remember from the days spent with you in the desert. Oh Chris, I can’t even look at the sky and not think of you. You’ve defined my world for so long and showed me a new way of feeling and thinking. I can’t unknow or unfeel that. But you nearly destroyed me in the process. I don’t think you meant to–that’s perhaps the most heartbreaking part….


“Carol?”

“Carol?!” I snap back from my thoughts to see James tapping on my shoulder.

“Yes, sorry James, what’s up?”

“Chris just called. They’re going to be delayed. Jasmine is ordering lunch while we wait. Here’s the menu if you’d like something.”

Hard to know if I’m genuinely calm or just resigned but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it’s some power play of yours but even if it is, so be it. You’ve put me through so much and somehow I’m finding the strength to get up and walk away from you, from us. To be my own person again. So I hope you enjoy whatever you’re getting out of me eating lunch at my lawyer’s office. It’s the last thing you’re getting from me. I order a falafel plate and lean back into the chair, waiting.


May 23, 2020 03:56

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3 comments

Ross Buckner
15:23 May 29, 2020

As part of the new critique circle, I was assigned your story. I'm glad I was. The passages where the narrator spoke to her soon-to-be-ex reminded me of The Light We Lost. The story took a nice and wide circle from the lawyer's office and back again, making stops in her recalling happier old times with Chris and happy present times with her friends. The transitions were a bit abrupt and I had to go back to get my bearings a few times. Minefield is a great title - the drinks and marriage itself. I wasn't aware of the drinking game - I guess...

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M Solarova
11:14 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you so much for reading and your thoughtful comment! I will definitely take a look at the transitions as I make further revisions. You make a good point. Yes minefield is a drink for truly special occasions but it is fun :)

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Adi Raber
09:37 Jun 04, 2020

Hi Em, I really enjoyed reading your story! The start was intriguing, I was curious to know what had brought the narrator to this setting that you described so well. I loved how Carol is speaking to Chris in the second person but telling the rest of the story in the third person. This really illustrates the mix of emotions Carol feels towards Chris and the difficulty she's having in accepting that he's not who she thought and hoped he was. I thought it was an accurate representation of the type of dialogue we might imagine ourselves havi...

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