The end of the marriage happened in stages, but really we just stopped talking. For most of our last year together we lived like strangers – polite, formal, even respectful on the surface; but boiling with anger and ready to kill each other underneath. The atmosphere in our tiny house was lethal. It was very hard to be there unless you’d fortified yourself with alcohol as I did (and as our charlady did too), or locked yourself up in your workroom, as Werner did. Jofka breathed in that poisoned air, but was so doted on by us and everyone who encountered her that hopefully it didn’t harm her too much.
How did it actually end? We were on very different schedules. Werner had flown to New York where he’d been for awhile on an assignment. I decided to join him. Maybe in a different atmosphere things would flow better? Yeah, right. So I packed up the baby, who was now two, left the house with a suitcase full of summer clothes and my typewriter, and got on a plane. Little did I know that I would not set foot in that house again till I needed to assess what was going on there thirty years later.
If I thought things would be better with Werner, I was sadly mistaken. Between us were gripes, hostility, exasperation. The marriage was broken. We agreed that I would stay in New York for the summer and he would return to London. We would both think about what we wanted before we communicated again.
I wanted out, I knew that; but along with “out” came tremendous guilt, unhappiness, and dislocation. My parents had rented a house in East Hampton (this was back in the day, before East Hampton became the trendy cluster fuck of stores, galleries and restaurants it is now) and I spent the summer there, talking to my father and trying to figure out how to end my marriage. I couldn’t talk to my mother – the last thing she wanted to hear about was the dissolution of my relationship with Werner. So with her I maintained an uneasy silence while I considered my options. Return to London? My father strongly counseled me to let Werner stay in the house. Move back to New York? Bad idea, since it would’ve meant living with my parents. In the end I decided – for the interim – to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I had a number of friends, one of whom had offered me a job as a writing instructor in the prison system. If this sounds like a crazy idea, it was. I had been out of the country for eight years, I knew nothing about the population I was going to teach. I was emotionally raw and frightened. And I was the custodial parent of a two-year-old. What a mess.
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