What I remember most about the day Angela told me she wanted a divorce was the color pink.
We strolled along Navy Pier, a day like any other. No. That’s a lie. Us crawling free from the dusty cubby holes of our daily lives didn’t happen very often. She always had some event to chaperone at the school where she taught. Or a date with her book club, a group of middle-aged ladies that could discuss Flaubert and the latest Nora Roberts in the same breath.
I always seemed to have a deadline looming. A publisher moving up a release date. A library or bookstore that wanted me to read and sign books. Or a group of characters who wouldn’t let me go without at least finishing another chapter. Some nights the red digits on my office clock would blare a bright twelve, and I’d swear if not for the darkness peeking through my blinds it meant noon instead of midnight.
So our stroll on Navy Pier, past the Haagen-Dazs, in our thick coats and scarves, leaning against a biting wind, was anything but ordinary. Yet it felt peaceful, civilized, a new beginning rather than an end. Until we reached the pier’s end.
She turned away from Lake Michigan. “I’m in love with another man. I want a divorce.”
I saw ten years of complacency, of dependability, of a life I counted on–no matter how mundane or miserable–slip away.
I reached out as if to take her face in my hands and plant a final kiss on her lips. My hands, however, slid past her cheeks. I didn’t know what I was doing until I had her neck in my grip, my thumbs pushing into the center of her throat.
Her face, turning pink while she gasped for air. That’s what I remember most.
She turned away from the front window of the Disney Store. It took a second, then I saw the recognition in her eyes.
How long had it been since I saw her last? I tried to remember as throngs of holiday shoppers flowed behind me to their various mall destinations–Sears, J.C. Penny, The Gap.
She didn’t look the same. I had imagined she would age horribly, stress carving lines at the corners of her eyes and lips. Instead she looked younger, as if five years without me had done some good.
I smiled despite the clear memory of pink.
Her eyes ticked from side to side, trying not to look at me. She was afraid, I realized, and knowing she had every right to be didn’t make the sudden heat wafting from under my collar any cooler.
“I have to go,” she said and rushed by me.
I grabbed at her elbow. A mistake. But I’d done it, I’d meant it, so I committed to it and hung on.
She tried to tug free, jerking her arm like a bent chicken wing. Her face grew a deep pink, threatening to go red. “Stop it.”
My cheeks burned. I let go of her arm and turned to the storefront window, trying to catch a glimpse of myself. My reflection was only a shadow playing over the happy yellows, blues, and reds of the window’s display–a mound of stuffed Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto clones arranged like a piled army. Only a hint of sad pink in the polka dot ribbon on Minnie’s head.
When I turned back to Angela, I caught a glimpse of her through a gap in the crowd. I thought about chasing after her, telling her how sorry I was. Things were different now. I had a son. A new wife. We’re happy.
I shuffled into the Disney Store instead, picked out a Minnie. I fingered the pink polka dots on her ribbon as I strolled to the register. I had a son, but he wouldn’t know the difference between a Minnie and a Mickey yet. Did it matter if I got him the girl mouse and not the boy?
On the drive home I notice the setting sun had turned part of the sky a brilliant shade of pink.