He thought it would be better if he weren't a painter. If he were a writer or a filmmaker, he could write about their last year. But even that would be difficult because there wasn't the drama of most novels or movies. He didn't want to write a novel with characters, he only wanted to write about them, the two of them.
He'd written when he was younger, and he thought now that maybe he could again. There wouldn't be the gritty realism of some writing, with drinking and drug-taking, recklessness of all kinds and a chaotic relationship suddenly exploding. There weren't going to be scenes in which they yelled at each other in front of their daughters, blaming each other, and though versions of these things had happened, they were always more sober than what appeared in certain books or films. There wouldn't be a literary location, there would be no New York, no Europe, no Greece, no Paris. Just two people who had been confined by the structures and technologies of their modern lifestyles, who had also been confining themselves and each other. He wondered if he could write not the scenes but the minds that experienced these things. Maybe he would ask her if she approved of him writing about them, and maybe he would ask her if she could help him get it right?
After his wife had asked for space, he had packed a bag and driven from South Carolina to Ohio to stay with his parents. He stayed there a week, then stayed another three weeks with a friend. He remembered driving home to Ohio, crying while listening to Bonnie Raitt's, then Bon Iver's cover of Bonnie Raitt's, "I Can't Make You Love Me" on his phone. Could he write the mind, he thought, that experienced being at his parents' house in Columbus, where he cried in the kitchen over breakfast, suddenly, mid-bite, just crying? His mother had got up from her chair and rubbed his back while he cried into his plate of scrambled eggs, as if, once again, he was a child, which he knew he was in that moment. Maybe that was a painting, he thought now, in a series of paintings titled Divorce, and the subtitle of this particular painting would be Crying Over Eggs. Could he write any of the moments in which he thought of his wife at night and masturbated and cried, unable to finish masturbating due to crying, and then just crying holding his penis, but then sort of getting turned on again while thinking of moments when he and his wife had been together, of her body, the particular curve of her thighs, aching for those moments again, to be with her again, and masturbating more, about to finish but unable to because he would remember what he had done: moments when he had neglected her, hadn't really heard her, hadn't been there for her in the ways he could've been. He recalled pathetically crying in a hotel room three blocks from their house, holding himself while crying, trying to just simply cry. He recalled being disgusted that it took some effort to actually do that, to simply cry. It made him want to cry now. Could he write that had cried in a hotel room three blocks from their house where his wife and daughters were living? Could he truthfully recount that he was crying at the clearest loss he'd ever experienced? A loss of a certain way of life. A loss also of a certain way of being. He didn't know if he could write that, let alone paint it, in an honest way.
He'd hated the thought of losing something about himself as much as he hated the thought of losing them. He hated that he had thought so selfishly, that he had been concerned with what he was losing, and now, equally, he didn't like thinking about writing it. He also knew that under all that, under all that he disliked about himself and the situation and the overwhelming sense of loss, he had also had the clear feeling that something was happening. There was some excitement mixed in with all the sadness.
He couldn't write that, that he had been excited that something was happening to him. That something was happening to her, too. It was terrible, but they were alive, wildly alive. As though he'd been birthed into some new body that finally felt and sensed and experienced in a real way, and he both liked it and hated it.