Several times, over the years, you both fought about water glasses.
Well– fought’s a strong word. But he didn’t want things to be all matchy-matchy, or at least that’s what you understood him to say, and so the “we” of you mixed up the two full sets of glasses you owned (British-y pints and then ridged-style ones, tall, boring, but useful) out on the shelf and you gritted your teeth and forebore it– except on large-party occasions when you could get the rest out and have things look (to your eye) actually nice, instead of collegiate or poor or otherwise haphazard and not like a grown-up household.
This past weekend, when you went back to get the rest of “your” things that you’d packed (things you’d bought or brought into the marriage, things he’d have no use for, things you thought he just wouldn’t keep, the decisions were arbitrary in the end, but someone had to make them and if he expressed no opinion, well, that wasn’t going to be new and you’d at least asked him to set things aside that he’d like) you saw that now, for whatever reason you won’t ever discern because there’s no point in asking because this time, it would lead to a fight, your wailing about how you did not understand and why couldn’t he just talk to you— all the glasses out on the shelf, well, they matched.
It was that straw, something inside of you breaking for the last time. You’ve felt all sorts of things since you left, including despair and the predictable feeling that if he can’t love you, no one else will, a feeling he himself was patient and kind enough to help you get over– the hair of the dog, so to speak, the thing that makes you so ill also being the cure. How forbearing, caring, all of that stuff– of him to put up with you as you thrashed through it again, then talk the business of your mutual resettlement, the financial details after he’d calmed you down and reassured you once again of some kind of worth– but who knows what’s the truth of how well he’s doing behind his patient facade over the phone, and it’s not kind of you to keep asking him for that help.
They (the omniscient memoir and magazine self-help writing They, not to mention all those Divorce Movie Chicks, and yes, they are Boring Cliches, but they’ve still got it Right) do tell you (but you’re unable to hear until you do it yourself) that separating and getting divorced is like becoming widowed, except to your mind it’s perhaps in some ways better (you could reconcile) and in other ways, worse.
If you’re not going to get back together– if you’re going to decide to keep walking away, that the fact that the now-matching (and contradictory to the prior vehemently-held position) glasses represent along with so many other things some essentially unknowable core about this person that you’ve finally accepted you will never, ever get at (and must to be happy, and vice versa, because you have an essential need to be known)– then all you can do is collect your things and move on.
As part of this, though, you have to refrain from too much contact, even though your spouse is still there; no matter how you left it, you could send the present, make the phone call, write the letter– whatever it is. The relationship doesn’t (like in death) just continue in your head and heart to be grieved, fretted over, picked apart like a seagull dropping its food onto the rocks to dissect until there’s nothing left but the barest carcass; it also lives on in the other person, now living their life separate from you (and jolting you when you go back with your keys to pack more).
You have to accept (are forced to confront) that they can and do tell a different story of the same events that happened to you– both of you– and he has a right to his reactions just as you do. And while you have your reasons for leaving, good ones, ones you don’t regret even as you grieve all the things that you lost (his friendship, his humor, your history together– thirteen years and counting is a long time) and resettling yourself and finding a new place for yourself, much less whether there will be a place for anyone else is going to be astoundingly hard, and things will continue to come as a shock when things about him seem to suddenly change, like setting out glasses that match, even though you thought you’d both agreed he didn’t like them that way.
It might make you do something petty at the last minute, after the last box is done and you’re taking a last look before you close the door and hope like hell a new one opens soon. It might make you act with furious tears in your eyes as you take the pepper grinder you decided you’d leave after all; it was your pepper grinder in the first place; your father bought it for you for your first apartment after college, and if he’d wanted glasses that matched this whole time, what else hadn’t he said when you thought that you’d asked? (What else hadn’t you asked? Or asked the right way?)
You close the door anyway, put the pepper grinder into your tote bag, lock the damned door, and when you get back to the place where you’re currently staying (home is the place where they have to take you in when you ask and you’re also surprised to be happy to be there, to butcher poor Robert Frost), you put the pepper grinder out where you can see it. You’re not sure what metaphor it represents yet, but pepper is a preservative spice. The right memory will come along sometime.