Karen Rivers

a murmuration on rotten island.

Karen Rivers

A long time has passed now, so things should be better.  And in many ways, they are.   They are and then they are not again.  It isn't something that's easy to talk about because people confuse how you're not able to get over the new details with you not being able to get over the thing itself that happened.

The loss.

It isn't the loss, not the way that most people would probably assume.

It's the details, people. 

The old details:

The Christmas party.  His hand on her bare back.   Your eyes meeting her boyfriend's eyes.   Both of you, looking at the hand.   

The way you'd been sitting at dinner, talking about your pending City Hall nuptials.   Your words still hanging in the air, frozen, like a warm exhalation on an ice cold day.   Those same words, now falling in shards of ice all around you, plinking like diamonds on the restaurant floor.

The way the girl giggled.   The way she rolled her eyes.

This new detail:

Now she is in your children's lives.   


"I choose not to suffer," you repeat to yourself, when you think you might be listening.   You think of Buddhism.   You think of leaves floating down a river.   You think of birds, swarming in huge flocks, flowing like water across the sky.  A murmuration.   

You think of the word murmuration, and how it sounds like exactly what it is:  surprising beauty, the soft strength of feathers and the sound of air being pushed downwards by a thousand different wings.

You go to the woods while the kids are with their dad and this girl, and you look very closely at beautiful things.   Trees and leaves.   The way the clouds unfurl.  The footprints of elk in the mud.   "Choose not to suffer," you repeat.   You watch the salmon struggling upstream.   The way the sun filters through the moss growing on a hundred tree trunks.  The way shadows languidly stretch into the undergrowth.

You are choosing not to suffer.  

And yet suffering occurs, against your wishes.

Time heals all wounds, right?  Or at least it fades them to scars:  The dress.   The hand.  The broken words, crunching under your favourite high-heeled shoes.  

And everything that came before that.  And after.

Those scars are old.   Established.   So much a part of you that you no longer notice them first thing when you wake up, or last thing before you sleep.

But now:  the girl's hand holding your children's hands as they walk away into the forest.

Does she ever stop taking, this girl, who wanted wanted wanted and got?  (The boss, power, and more than she bargained for, no doubt.)

This thing that she got, it also comes with your children.  

You choose not to suffer. 

Oh, stop.   Read a book.   Write one.   Do something else.   Knit.   Paint.


You can't.

She giggles and rolls her eyes.  

She giggles and rolls her eyes.

She giggles and rolls her eyes.

She gets high.


It is this part of divorce that hurts the most:  the sharing of your children with people you with whom you have no desire to share.  With people who are, for lack of a better word, unsuitable

It is this part that will tear you inside out.   It is this part that scrapes your insides raw and wakes you up in the middle of the night, heart racing, awash with sweat.

It is also this part of divorce that no one talks about.   Because it isn't supposed to be like this.  It's supposed to be downright pleasant, everyone still "friends", everyone still OK, laughing about the bullets they dodged, making scathing jokes about 'all men'.  It's supposed to be sharing Christmas dinner, everyone with their new partner, framed in a photograph.  Laughing.  Playing a board game.   Having a drink.  Celebrating.  

And the kids moving between them as easily as birds, migrating on a simple path.   Back and forth.   Weekends and Tuesday nights.   

Or maybe that's just how it is on sitcoms, where no one's feelings run any deeper than 1/4 of an inch.

At bedtime, we read a story called ROTTEN ISLAND.   The kids love the line drawings, the monsters with their jaggedy teeth who live on an island where it is boiling all day, and freezing all night; where every wind is a hurricane and the volcanoes shoot poison arrows and lava and two-headed toads; and, where the loathing grows on twisted vines, spiked with thorns and shards of all the broken things.

The monsters thrive on their hate for each other.   Their hatred is what keeps them alive.   They love their hate.

And then somehow, a flower grows.   And the beautiful thing that grows there does not, in fact, make everything better.   It actually makes the monsters hate each other even more, until ultimately, they destroy each other.   And, of course, their demise creates fertilizer for the ground, and more flowers grow.  And eventually the island is awash with flowers, punctuated by the dormant, lush volcanoes, surrounded by the turquoise blue sea.

It looks like St. Lucia.

In there somewhere, there is a metaphor for me, my ex-husband, the girl, and my children.

Find it.   Let me know what you discover.   


Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.