Sitting in a Sears Auto Center, noticing a poster for a particular brand of brakes, I turned to my wife and, adopting the hyperbolic tone of a movie trailer announcer, loudly proclaimed, "Antonio Banderas IS Raybestos!"
Without missing a beat, Sue Ellen, rolling every r, responded, "Now, Antonio Banderas returns in Raybestos 2: The Reckoning."
I mention this exchange not because it was particularly witty (though it seemed hilarious at the time) but to give an idea what my marriage was like. Every quip had to be met with another, each one funnier or more elaborate than the last. We'd improv entire conversations in character, or suddenly start singing and dancing in the living room. It was like being trapped inside a mid-nineties Friends knockoff; everything we did--everything we did--became self-conscious and ironic. We were always on.
Which, as you might imagine, was exhausting. And doomed to failure--this month marks the ten-year anniversary of the spectacular, and spectacularly ugly, end of my marriage.
I'll skip all the details because, frankly, I don't want to remember them. The point is, there was a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, but also a gradual realization that Sue Ellen and I were the only two people in the world who knew exactly what went down.
So we started talking again, partly to work out some lingering issues, but mostly because we realized we still had a lot in common. We became friends, which is maybe all that we should have been all along. Friends can trade funny lines back and forth, but then leave it alone because they don't have to live together.
Time moved on. We met other people, and discovered the happiness we somehow could never quite provide for each other.
And I'm very happy now with Janie, who has absolutely nothing in common with Sue Ellen beyond their shared amusement at my insistence that I'm not obsessed with Star Wars. (I'm not, really. Try getting me started on Batman: The Animated Series and we'll be here all day.)
Whatever my obsessions are (for that matter, you can easily get me going all day on the greatness of John Carpenter movies or Mystery Science Theater 3000), Janie doesn't share them. That's okay, though; she has her own enthusiasms and interests. We can be together and still live our own lives, as long as there is love and mutual respect.
As for Sue Ellen and me, we still talk occasionally, but not so often or at such length. We had what we had, and it still matters, but not like it did. It blends into an increasingly hazy past, a fading that is perhaps the only constant in life.