Origin Story of a Divorce

An invisible marble forms
between repelling magnets.

I ask her to retell the story.
That Mother’s Day in the cafe
in Red Lodge, Montana when
she decided to divorce my dad.

He hit his new wife once, just as he hit me.
Careless, like swatting a fly,
picking it up by a wing, discarding it.
Matched polarities separate.

We sat at a four-top by the window.
I forget I was there, only five at the time.
I like the story better without me in it.
Only the sunlight through the salt shaker
sending bright pyramids across the table.

My wife doesn’t want me around,
he calls from the vacation condo.
Down the street, the restaurant
still serves dollar-coffee off laminated menus.
Some magnetic fields are unchanging.

I picture my mom sitting there alone–
maybe I remember it, if memory can last that long–
by the dish of individually wrapped jams,
sipping coffee and inspecting the freedom
under her fingernails. I take him out of the story:
his instructions to find a goddamn payphone
to call her father for a ride back to Billings.

Isn’t it ironic his condo is in Red Lodge,
she asks from her new house in Oregon.
She sends pictures of her rain-freckled windows,
the sky reflected upside-down in a hundred orbs.

My grandfather, alive then, pulled up to the cafe.
My dad walked ahead, packing distance behind him.
My mom paced with her stolen secret and my short strides.

He doesn’t know this story he co-authored
or Lenz’s Law on charged fields effecting movement.

This is where I like being in the story–
walking beside her, my hand tucked into hers,
touching that invisible marble of her future.

First Published in Gyroscope Review, Summer 2021 Issue

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