top of page

How to Leave a Marriage

by Heather Hall

Start slow. It isn't upturned in one swoop. To break it completely takes time, takes badly adhered carpet tape, a slight trip when walked across, an upwards furling no matter the effort to stomp it down again. It will resemble nothing, in the beginning, the space between you at the dinner table, the pork chop pushed around on its plate. It will grow. The indifference to the controversial duvet cover; how once it mattered when he brought home a bright green one, the worst shade of green green can get. Now it is just a blanket, strewn horizontal, and nothing is left, not even your disdain for it. It is the slow migration to the guest bedroom. You’ll pin it on the baby, at first. 


It is the relief of his absence under the duvet, where you will no longer have to examine his face, finding every stupid part of it, wondering how anything that stupid could have gotten by you. It is the rage of every dirty dish, every dried cornflake smothered by the sponge, every sock that came out of the dryer by itself, looking about, shrugging. The sock that looked into at other sock, made the slow sad decision to at once drop into the unknown whooshing of a machine, closed its eyes and fell free. 


The remembrance of fights. All the doors slammed: front doors and screen doors and car doors and eventually the door that holds all your innards together. Maybe not a dead bolt, but not far from it. 


The dread of the dinner party. His carefully crafted exclamation point- the same story and same sighs between and the same big laugh at the end. All a lie. The joke approaches and you dread its landing. Grimace. Look down into your drink. 


You lie in bed and imagine all sorts of women in all sorts of positions in all parts of your house. You imagine walking in and faking horror, able to walk out scott free. You imagine being consoled, arms wrapped tight around your shoulders, an inner excitement of careening into the abyss. The longing for anybody else; how longing can crack a person in half. 

2 kids. 8 years. Trapped the way grout is trapped. A straight line with gunk coming out.


You’ll start with sorting which books belong to you, mostly the good ones. You’ll lose half of what you came with to get the whole of you back.  You’ll call lawyers to get advice and one will send a letter in the mail and he’ll open it and squint into you as if you've not been dragging a body around.  This is when it becomes difficult because this is when he’ll buy flowers and take his medication and try that new restaurant and all of the things you've been asking him to do for years but by now its too late, and all you can do is shake your head no.


This is when the phone will start ringing and Aunt Nancy will say that he's sorry and Aunt Patty will say that kids of divorce don't do as well academically and your dad will ask if you are sure and all you can do is nod your head yes.


It will take months of explaining what has broken inside of you, how you have become a lost sock in the dryer, and he will eventually concede to your unwillingness to fix it. The refrigerator will be the last thing to be cleaned out.  You will keep the green duvet cover and feel a fondness for that strange hue of green.

About the Author

Heather went to Pratt Institute and has been published in various anthologies. She has recently been making video essays for Triquarterly. She likes shows about jail.

bottom of page