We decided to separate on July 30th, which meant the decision cleaved the summer in half, dividing it into the Before and After that now defines our family’s story. The difference is noticeable when I scroll back through the old photos saved on my phone. In the photos from the first half of the summer, there we are – sitting cross-legged on the lawn at a friend’s 4th of July party, roasting s’mores with the boys on a camping trip, clinking glasses in front of a restaurant on what we did not yet know was our last “date.”
Sometimes, when I look back at the photos, I get momentarily confused, like I am waking up from a dream and need a moment to sort out what is real.
Did we make a huge mistake?
Hadn’t there been good times?
Was it all some sort of elaborate charade?
Had we been trying to trick people into thinking our life was better than it was?
Did we do such a good job that we’d even tricked ourselves?
When I am fully awake in my new reality, I know the answers. No, and no, and yes, and no, and… well, I don’t think we fooled anyone in the end. But the photos didn’t lie.
We had a beautiful life. And also, sometimes it was ugly. We weren’t trying to pretend we were something we were not. We were just trying to figure out what we were.
The good times were real. The love was real. And also, it had to end. It can feel nearly impossible to hold all of those thoughts in my head at the same time. But all of them are true.
The photo above was taken of the two of us on July 28th, just two days before we split up. (It’s now cropped.) I took it on a Saturday afternoon, not long after I’d gotten home from taking our older son to a birthday party. My husband had stayed back with our younger son, who was napping. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I’d had fun at the party, and as I’d walked the few blocks home our neighborhood seemed to be bursting with bright colored flowers and people chatting and laughing.
I remember feeling happy, lighthearted.
My husband was on the couch when I got home, and I plopped down next to him, leaned back against his chest and, holding out my arm, snapped a few pictures of the two of us. I had recently discovered a filter on my camera that turned the background black and white and out of focus, but kept the subject crisp and clear. I’d become a little bit obsessed with the way it made the world look, so perhaps that is why I decided to take those shots that day.
In all the photos, our living room is a haze of black and white behind us. In my favorite shot, he is leaning down and kissing the top of my head and I am smiling up at the camera. Both of us are in sharp focus. But in the last picture, the camera has mistaken him for part of the background and the edges of his body are dim and blurry, as if he is fading away.
It was the last photo ever taken of the two of us. After that, there are no more photos of us on my phone. After that, he was gone.