Illustrated by Cait Maloney
My wife of three years left me when she realized she couldn’t stop me from smoking. She hated the smoke that came out of the cigarettes. Over and over she reminded me that cigarette smoke reminded her of her abusive father, and abused mother, but my ears were shut to her pleas.
“Too much cigarette smoke might have spoiled my eardrums,” sometimes I think. She also hated the aftershave I love very much. It reminded her of her first boyfriend, who died in a demo. Activism brought food on his table. He had to be aggressive with his work, even if it meant burning himself up. He didn’t know he would actually burn himself to ashes. I had to change the brand of the aftershaves I used.
I love reading political books, especially if they deal with communism. My former wife hated communism books. She didn’t want to see my eyes above their pages. They reminded her of Stalin. Her grandparents died when he was in power.
She always wanted us to move to a smaller house in the countryside. The house I’m staying in was too big for her. One night of the full moon she was too hysterical. She wanted to spend the night in a motel. Sometimes I wondered whether the dark voices of her past echoed in the vast spaces between the ceilings and floors, which only she could hear.
My parents always told me to divorce her, but my love for her was too much. She changed the way I talk, dress, and think. I became more humble and more descent. She changed me for the better.
I couldn’t completely change to a man she wanted in her dreams, and she knew it. Change wasn’t my thing. The more I struggled to change, the more cigarettes I smoked. I felt like a fish trying to live on land.
We finally had to call it quits for us. She cried when I told her I gave up on us.
In the end, change was inevitable. We had to move on.