Karen Rivers

the making of a mix tape.

Karen Rivers

I didn't expect to need music so badly.  

I make a mix tape on iTunes.   Sad songs reassure me.

I scour the internet for songs that fit exactly and I can't find the right one and it doesn't matter and I'm busy and the kids need me more than ever right now and I shouldn't be here, on my bed, listening to sad songs, as though I'm sixteen and my boyfriend has just left me to join a seminary (which did actually happen to me once, a long long time ago.)

This time I'm a grown up and my boyfriend was my husband and he left me to be with someone who is not me.   The opposite of me in every way.   I did not see it coming.   I cannot add him plus her together and make an equation that works.      

On one level, I know it is not her fault, it is his.  Mostly his.  

But it is also hers.  

She has just turned 24.  Slightly more than half his age.

I didn't expect to be spending so much time doing math:  When we started our family, she was still in highschool.  When he married for the first time, she was three.  

I didn't know I was a person who could be knocked sideways by these waves of bitterness while I stand next to my bed, folding laundry that still contains his socks and carelessly left-behind jeans.   

I add bitter music to my mix and I feel better, briefly.   Vindicated by angry songs.

He left with just three suitcases, leaving me to clean up the rest of the mess.  His mess.  Crumpled underwear on the floor.  A dirty towel left in his unmade bed.   Enough belongings to fill a truck.  I am still constantly tripping over his things, everywhere.   An empty bottle of wine left where I can't reach it without a chair.  A lighter in the clothes dryer.   

It's not fair.  I want to list my grievances so that everyone agrees, "You are right.  He is wrong."  Or maybe I just want them to say, "You are happier now."

And in some ways, I am.   

I search out survivor music.   Music that says, "I was broken and now I'm fixed."   Music that says, "I am fine without you."  Music that says, "It's OK now."

Sometimes it works.

It's all such a cliche that I half-expect someone to say, "Oh, just kidding!" and maybe Ashton Kucher will leap out from behind the living room curtains and shout, "You've been punked!"

There is no one behind the curtains.   There is no one here but me.

I add the saddest song I know, the one I know would make him hurt, at least a fraction of how much I hurt when the kids say, "When is Daddy coming home?"  

And it becomes the title of this chapter of my life.