Ex-Husbands – Shasta Grant

Ex-Husbands

1.
An altar dedicated to her first. Framed black & white photographs, Navy medals and certificates, a pressed rose. A file full of letters sent after their divorce that I stole when she wasn’t looking. How are you? The weather here in Florida sure is nice. I should give these back to my grandmother but how to do so with admitting my crime?

He left when my mother was five years old. Came home from a hunting trip and threatened to shoot them with his rifle. That dead deer draped over the roof of his car. The sound of his boots on the walkway, the car door slamming. At dusk he drove past fields of Maine potatoes. But all that’s forgotten now, in the past. Let’s not talk about that.
What remains: the myth of a great love. The war hero. He did the best that he could, she says.

He drank himself to death. Died alone, in Florida. Where the weather sure is nice.

2.
No devotion to the second, who loved thick blocks of feta cheese, floating in plastic deli containers filled with water. Fried smelt, those tiny little fish, placed on paper towels to soak up the grease. Black & white photographs found in his bureau drawer: her standing barefoot on his shoulders, his hands behind her ankles, keeping her steady; sitting on the bumper of a big black car, foreheads pressed together, eyes locked.

A kitchen forever in a state of renovation. A Greek family that she says wouldn’t accept my mother: that blonde girl bad! He called my mother kori mou. My daughter.

For almost two decades after the divorce, he asked: do you think she’d take me back?

He couldn’t remember any of us when he died.

3.
A name in an arrest report, one of many for my mother. May 8, 1983. No officer, he’s not the baby’s father. Another arrest report dated July 1, 1983. Spouse’s name: divorce in progress.

One envelope with his last name attached to my mother’s first name in the return address, postmarked 4 Oct 1982. Her familiar handwriting. Nothing inside, empty. It’s addressed to my grandmother, as if that would have stopped me from reading the letter. I open it and shake it anyway, trying to read the air that tumbles onto my desk.

He accepts my friend request on Facebook. I wait awhile before sending him a message. I make it clear she’s long dead and I don’t want anything from him.

How old are you now? Are you sure you want to know about her life? Yes, yes, I do. Tell me everything. Tell me now. Start from the beginning. Don’t leave out a thing.

But I move too fast, like I always do. I mention the baby that wasn’t his. Or was it? He doesn’t write back.

4.
A marriage certificate, still in its manila envelope, found among my mother’s files. Return address stamped: Office of Town Clerk, Stowe, Vermont. Date of marriage: June 20, 1992. Under “father’s name” I see the Navy hero and in this way he attended his daughter’s wedding from the grave.

One letter with his last name, her first. Purple ink. Postmarked 18 Feb 1993. The back is stamped: Grafton County Department of Corrections. Tonight is President Clinton’s first speech. If you could have voted, who did you want? How did your cheerleading competition go?

I Google his name, thinking he may be kind, he may tell me what I want to know. He married her while she was waiting for a trial date (two bullets: one to the chest, one to the left ankle). Who marries a woman prison-bound for shooting her former boyfriend?

An obituary: he died fourteen years ago. Struck by a vehicle on I-89 while aiding a stranded motorist on the side of the road. A hero. Volunteer fire fighter. He enjoyed camping, sculpting, drawing, golf, skiing, dancing, feeding wild birds and caring for his plants. He will be remembered for always giving to others.

Survivors: a first wife, a daughter, a fiancé, a father, mother, maternal grandmother, sister, four brothers. No mention of my mother.

5.
No altar, no black & white photographs, no photographs at all. No roses, no letters. All left behind. No scraps of paper to be parsed over, examined. No evidence.

A Facebook message at Christmas after ten years of silence. A mysterious box of “personal effects” he found in storage from when we moved across the country together. No, no, he will not tell me what’s inside. Do you want it? Yes, yes. Come and get it, he says.

A trophy, he says. Other things too. He can’t go into details. No, no. Keep the cheerleading trophy. Keep the whole damn box.

Let’s not talk about it anymore. Let’s pretend none of this ever happened at all.
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