Unmarry Me, page 21
Her car is a two-door Mercedes. It’s the blackest, shiniest car I have ever seen, it has beige leather upholstery, and the number plate is LENNY. Lenny?
‘Where’s your credibility now? Unmarryme is over.’
Ahead of us, Charlene’s lane becomes parking.
Driving is one of those activities where it’s good to pay attention. If she doesn’t look at the road she’ll smack into the line of parked cars. Maybe she’ll concertina one car into the next, broken headlights, broken tail-lights, repeat. I’d pay to see that.
‘Charlene, look where you’re going.’
She slams the brake and the car jolts to a squealing stop centimetres from the parked car. The popping bam of the airbag is amazing. ‘You meant that!’ She pushes the airbag away from her face, which is now red from the blast.
‘That’s the difference between you and me, Charlene. You would have let me hit that car. I stopped you. Now, fuck off.’
I keep walking. I’m still shaking inside but not as much as when I hurtled out through the studio’s double doors.
‘Ruby!’ Todd pulls up next to me in his mum’s car. In the back seat are his parents. He leans across and opens a door. ‘Come on, get in.’
‘We’re so glad to finally meet you, Ruby. I’m Tori and this is Dave. We don’t think it’s as bad as it seems. Have a look on my phone.’
Tori has burn scars on both hands.
‘The internet doesn’t rest, does it?’
‘We put it up,’ Dave says. ‘The sound is not brilliant, but you’ll see. Turn the radio off, Todd, so Ruby can hear.’ Todd drives and I watch.
The video goes from when I sat down to after I left. The Mars Bar, Mandy’s puzzled look, Charlene taking the microphone. My face. Mark sitting on the couch picking flowers out of his hair. He stands up and Tommo, who is also standing, passes Mark a handkerchief. Mark wipes his face, pockets the handkerchief and says something to Tommo. Tommo smiles. Mark steps back, his right elbow rises then his fist plunges into Tommo’s stomach.
‘I’ve never seen Mark punch anyone,’ I say. ‘He’s good at it. Not that I care. He’s gone, I’m divorcing him for real.’ I hand the phone back to Tori. Nobody says anything about me wanting another divorce and I take the quiet as agreement, or not wanting to start a fight.
‘Am I driving you to work, Rube, or taking you home?’
Work. I hadn’t thought about work. Damian saw the whole thing and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. ‘Home, please.’
‘Your boss came up to me after. He said he had a feeling you wouldn’t be in today and he said to tell you he’s ordering more T-shirts. Also, strangely, he offered me a job.’
Okay, I’ve lost Mark but I have my work. It is as it always was.
‘Will you take the job, Todd? I hope so.’
‘We’re so proud of him,’ Tori says.
Mothers always say things like that. My mum told strangers how proud she was of us all the time: in the supermarket, at her ceramics class. Later she told the nurses, specialists, the chemo guy.
‘Do you reckon my mum would be proud of me?’ And that’s when I cry, again.
‘Todd, can you pull over, please? I want Ruby to sit in the back with me. You don’t mind do you, Dave?’
We swap seats and Tori wraps her arms around me. I hold her tight and bawl into her neck. Her grey hair gets up my nose like Mum’s used to.
‘Of course your mum would be proud of you.’ She talks softly. ‘Your sister is proud of you, we all are. You didn’t see Peta. She marched up to that Tommo man and slapped him in the face. He had the reddest handprint on his cheek. We chanted, Sack Tommo, Sack Tommo. I doubt anything will happen but it was motivating.’
‘What did Mark do?’
‘After he punched Tommo, he spoke to your sister, gave their little girl a cuddle, and left. He was crying.’
He was crying? So he should have been.
‘Did you grab my bag, Todd?’
‘Sure did, it’s in the boot.’
‘Thank you. Thanks for everything.’
The car is warm, I’m still snuggled into Tori’s side, and she’s warm too. We’re on the freeway heading home; the road hums under the tyres; it’s soothing. I can’t keep my eyes open and I don’t try. The last thing I hear is Todd’s mum navigating.
‘Todd, she’s asleep. Let’s take the long way home.’
When you don’t know for sure, you retrace your steps and try to pinpoint the moment when the cracks began to appear. That’s why I’m watching my wedding DVD again, not for old time’s sake, but for evidence, a clue.
Three days ago we were getting happily unmarried and today I’m looking for a garden-variety, I’ve-had-enough-of-your-shit divorce. At least we’re ahead in separation time.
Nothing should have gone wrong, not going by our vows. Mark talks about my crazy ideas and I talk about letting him in on them. The vows were meant to be our blueprint for success. My laptop pings an incoming email but it’s been doing that for days. I’ll look later if I feel like it. The only one I bothered with was from Keith and Cath, who said they were in Alice Springs and that they love us both. I replied, I love you, too. I’ve told everyone else to leave me alone for a while.
‘Are you sure, Ruby? We could go for a ride.’
‘I’ll ride by myself, Jus.’
‘Are you sure, Ruby? Celeste is missing you.’
‘Peta, tell her I love her and I’ll see her soon.’
‘Are you sure, Ruby? What about unmarryme?’
‘Unmarryme is its own thing now, Todd. You don’t need me.’
There’s a knock on the front door. I press pause.
Through the peephole I can see the pizza guy. I open the door, and a waft of kilojoules and calories and cholesterol hits the air. I delivered pizzas when I was at uni, and between getting lost, no tips, and my hours being cut back, it was the worst job I ever had. I take the pizza. I have the money ready, plus a little more. ‘Thanks,’ I say.
‘No problem,’ the driver says. ‘Thank you.’
‘Ruby?’ For a second I think the pizza guy’s back, but I know and used to love that voice. ‘I followed the pizza guy up the stairs. Can I come in?’
‘Sure,’ I say, after all, I haven’t told him to get lost in person yet. ‘I have some of your gear. It will save me the trip.’
‘Can we talk?’
‘Talking is what we’re doing now, Mark.’ I drop the pizza onto the coffee table. No plates, no cutlery, I’m not making dishes so he can offer to wash and dry them, try to stretch this out. He does that. He must have read somewhere that women get turned on by their men doing housework. In their underpants, maybe.
‘Can I have a slice? I haven’t eaten.’
‘Ruby, you’re being awfully agreeable.’
‘I’m getting it done.’
Mark nods at the TV. ‘Is that our vows?’
‘You know it is.’
‘How come you’re watching it again?’
‘Because. What are you doing here, Mark?’
‘You won’t answer your phone.’
‘It’s in the fridge.’
‘So I don’t hear it. Obviously.’ It’s in the cheese compartment and it has a million missed calls and thirty thousand unread text messages. When I’ve finished having my hissy fit I’ll probably chuck my phone in the bin and start over. ‘Sit, I’ll eat, you talk,’ I say.
We sit opposite each other. He’s on the couch. I’m on the coffee table. I’m not really protecting the pizza, it just looks that way.
‘I never meant to lie to you. Well, I did at the start. Lying by not saying. I don’t get a choice on what I work on, Rube. I’ve worked on other matters that were difficult for me. I manage that by recognising that at least it’s being worked on by someone who cares about the outcome.
I swallow my mouthful. ‘They’re worse than bigots.’
‘That’s a bit strong, Ruby. Obviously, I was hoping you’d never find out. It was hard keeping it from you, bloody hard, because you wouldn’t let it go. And then unmarryme took over. Work got busy and I almost forgot my involvement.’
He’s still holding his slice of pizza, hasn’t had a bite. ‘It was business. My job. We’re both trying to make a difference. And we are in our small ways.’
‘It would have made a difference to me if I’d known. Even if I’d known ten minutes before we went on. I could have had an answer for Charlene. It would have felt a whole lot less like being hit by a bus.’
There’s a GIF of the moment I learn the terrible truth. I don’t remember putting my face in my hands. Sad face, hidden face, sad face, hidden face.
‘Tell me about it,’ Mark says. ‘The thing is, I’m a bit weak. You know that, and sometimes you use it to your advantage. I like a quick resolution, Rube. There are days when I’m all about the path of least resistance. I never told you how hard it was for me to change jobs. It wasn’t because of learning a new system or meeting new people; it was because of what people might say. I didn’t want the fuss. You helped me with that when you pressed send on my application. I’m not sure I would have, Rube. I could still be there in a job that was going to kill me.’
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘I remember you were worried, but I thought it was because of the drop in pay. You could have told me the real reason and I would have still been there for you. Vows, remember.’
Mark eats his pizza. Three bites. I always said he had a big, deep mouth. That’s why I never shared drinks with him. There’s a GIF of Mark punching Tommo in the guts. He’s lucky it was such an ambush and the issue is hot, otherwise he’d probably lose his job.
‘But I don’t think I can get over it, Mark.’ Such a sad thing to say, my nose wants my face to cry. ‘And I’m used to life without you now.’
I stand up and wipe my hands on my stretchy elasticated pants. It’s meant to be a signal: I’m done with you; I don’t care if I wreck my clothes, oily handprints are nothing in comparison to you, so get out.
‘I made a mistake. If I had my time over, I’d tell you everything. I’m sorry, Rube,’ he says, crying. ‘It was business not personal.’
‘It was personal to me.’ Fuck it, I’m crying, too. The lump in my throat burns, my jaw feels like it’s on fire, and I’m tingling from my shoulders to my fingers. My body wants to stay married, obviously, but my body doesn’t always get what it wants. If it did, it would know Daniel Craig a whole lot better.
‘Rube, come on. All I did was provide support so a decision could be made. It wasn’t my decision.’
I close the pizza box. Show’s over. ‘Anyway, Mark, thanks for dropping by. Don’t forget your stuff, it’s in the hallway. And I’ve downloaded the divorce papers. Here you go.’
‘You mean it? We’re getting a divorce.’
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘You lied to me, humiliated me and, worse, you kicked unmarryme in the guts.’
‘Ruby, you humiliated me every step of the way. YouTube, speed-dating, but I stuck it out. You might want to revisit our vows, Rube. Look again.’
‘Can I have your keys, Mark?’
‘Happily.’ He unclips them, chucks them onto the couch. Now he’s being agreeable. In one quick move, he fishes out the dog tags, pulls them over his head. Our rings land on the couch next to the keys.
Damian has kept his distance in the weeks since what has become known as the Hypocrite Incident. I’d like it better if it was known as the Burnt by Commercial Television Incident, but names—nicknames, names of momentous moments—turn up out of nowhere.
I’ve tried to talk to Damian once or twice; I even sat on the sofa and waited for him after lunch yesterday, but he had some excuse about a meeting with the leader of the State Opposition. Flimsy.
Still, this morning he came to me. ‘You know about the breakfast tomorrow?’
‘Sure.’ I’m not the unmarryme figurehead anymore, but I keep up. ‘It looks like it’ll be fun. I hope the weather holds.’
‘You’re coming, right?’
‘Damian, I’ve got too much to do here.’ I wave at the folders, and folders, and folders on my desk. ‘The gala is only two weeks away. I’ll come to the next one. Promise.’ ‘I really don’t think you have a choice, Ruby. As the founder of unmarryme, you need to be there.’
‘Who’s going to this?’ I wave again at the folders. ‘You?’
‘We start at seven. We’re expecting a crowd. As this is the first unmarryme event sponsored by Poverty Project, you are coming.’
‘Yes, sir.’ I roll my eyes.
‘And Ruby, I know you’re emotional, tired, busy, we all are, but if you could dial back the teenage angst…’
At least I didn’t swear at him. Justine has started her gap year from her marriage and moved in last weekend. Every second word I say is ‘fuck’. I know because Jus is so sick of it, she’s secretly taped me and plays it back over dinner.
‘Fucken bloody stairs.’
‘Fucken books. How many fucken books have you got? You’re not fucken staying for fucken ever you know.’
‘Fuck, ouch, my elbow. Fuck.’
‘Where is the fucken soy sauce?’
‘Fucken people who let you divorce them.’
‘Fucken Mark Boyd.’
‘Fuck you, Mark.’
‘It’s revealing, isn’t it?’ Justine says, and turns it off.
‘Oh yeah, so fucken revealing,’ I say and take another dinner roll.
‘That recording expresses how stuck in a rut you are with your vocabulary. And also that some part of you, your swear gland by the sounds of it, hasn’t given up on Mark Boyd just yet.’
‘I think it shows that you are a sneaky bitch and it’s going to be a long, long, long, long year. Now eat your dinner.’
That night, in bed, Justine holds me while I pretend not to cry.
Is it two bars pregnant, one bar not pregnant? No, it’s one bar pregnant, two bars not pregnant. Isn’t it? Fuck it. I re-read the box. I don’t understand. I’m a capable person. But my hands are shaking and my brain is tagging its favourite eighties songs in alphabetical order. I would never have used the test had I not told Justine my period was late.
‘It’s probably stress,’ I said. ‘I’m pretty stressed. Work, the gala, and this bloody unmarryme breakfast tomorrow. You.’
I could see her mentally ignore the ‘you’ part.
‘Yes, it could be stress,’ she said. ‘It could be the Mark situation.’ She disregarded the face I made. ‘But you should get a pregnancy test so there’s no doubt.’
‘I’m not spending twenty bucks to tell me something I already know. They’re expensive. I know because I’ve bought them for The Girls.’
Justine brought a pregnancy test kit home with her: ‘I spent the money, now go take the test.’
Back in the lounge room, I point the box at Jus. ‘This is all your fault.’
‘Ruby, you’re nervous and they can be confusing, settle down. I’ve used them one or twice. The last time Stuart vowed to have a vasectomy, but he hasn’t done it yet.’
‘That’s great, Jus. If you accidentally have a baby, some unplanned day, you can call it Vas Deferens. I looked up the definition: “What do you mean you don’t have a condom?”’
‘You’re so funny you should be in show business.’ She’s sitting at the dining table, highlighting pages, pink, yellow, green, a star here, an exclamation point there. I don’t know how she keeps track. And don’t ever believe a writer when she says she won’t take up much room. Yeah, right. Books, folders, clippings, computers, sure, writers take up no space at all.
‘Can you loo
‘Of course,’ Jus says. ‘If you put your pants on.’
‘Oh.’ I’m wearing an extra large unmarryme T-shirt, one of the cool black ones. She can’t see anything, the T-shirt reaches mid-thigh, but I’d feel the same way if she wasn’t wearing undies in the lounge room. ‘The stick’s on the toilet cistern. Can you look now?’
‘Let’s give it another ten minutes.’
‘Shit. Really?’ I say. ‘What do you want to do with the longest ten minutes of my life?’
‘Let’s watch your wedding DVD again.’
The DVD is at where Mark and I turned it off. At the vows. I never did re-watch them like he said I should. I’ve watched them fifty thousand million times. What new thing did he think was going to be revealed?
Justine rewinds to the start of the vows.
Mark talks and I talk. He says all the stuff about how he’ll try not to be messy, but he won’t always be successful, how I’m the beans in his coffee. Yeah, I know.
And I say, ‘Mark, I promise to slow down a little, bend a little, and make the big decisions with you, because that’s marriage. Boydy, you’re the apple in my love-struck eye.’
On this viewing I listen.
‘I promised to bend a little, Jus, and on our wedding anniversary I messed that right up. I blindsided him with a divorce, made him do it, all because I thought I valued marriage so much. I valued the idea and not the reality. I mean, I should have asked him. Why didn’t I just ask him?’ I moan.
I’ve stopped breathing.
This is one of those life moments.
‘I have to get him back, Jus. I’m the beans in his coffee, he said so. I mean, what’s he going to do without me?’
‘Yes, I know. It’s utterly mind-blowing. But more than that, what are you going to do without him? He’s the only person in the world who can keep up with you. I mean, if you had a garbage chute I’d have snuck out days ago.’ Jus gets up from the couch. ‘I’ll check the stick.’