On Sunday, July 16th, my husband of 3 years – but partner and best friend for 15 – told me after a nice dinner out that he no longer loved me and wanted a separation. The wine held back my tears as I told him it was going to be ok and that he deserved to be happy. Packing my things for the next few nights, I cried a silent, composed cry, believing in my heart that all would be fine in the next few days.
I drove to my mom’s house that night, brought up my duffle bag to the home I had been sad to leave just three years earlier, and slept on the floor – praying that morning would come fast. All would be right in the morning – wouldn’t it? But it wasn’t.
And not for the 36 mornings that followed.
And not, still.
And through it all, I knew I wanted to write. But where? And how? And since words meant everything, what would it be called? A friend – and fellow English lover – and I spent lunches and evenings texting about the perfect blog title. Maybe “On a Sunday” since that’s when it all happened. Then “How Was Your Day?” because my husband had stopped asking me that question. Then “Always” because of Harry Potter’s Snape and the engraving we had in our wedding bands. “It should be something you frequently say” my friend said. “I feel like you frequently say…can I have a side of guac.” There needed to be some laughter.
“We’re going to be having lunch one day and you’re going to say it and we’re gonna be like THAT’S IT.” Exactly. And so, when I found the name, I texted my friend who was the only person in the world who would tell me if it was it or not.
At exactly 8:00pm on the Monday of the Totality Eclipse (somehow that seems relevant), I texted the only person who would understand:
“So once upon a time for my scholar’s project I wrote a book called ‘If Only.’ A friend of mine just commented on my eclipse picture on instagram and said ‘once in a blue moon anything is possible,’ and without thinking…I responded ‘If Only.’ And somehow that gave me the type of feeling I’ve been waiting for.”
“Yes.” she responded. And then:
And there it was. My title. And I thought of the picture I had taken for the cover of that book. A picture of a mirror removed from the wall on which it once hung for years, now leaning on the floor against it. With the outline of the mirror still visible on the wall from where the paint faded around it. The premise of the story being that even if people are gone, there are memories of them that will last forever, like the faded outline of a mirror that is no longer there. And even that was perfect.
And for the past 36 days I have been telling myself “If only I was kinder…” “If only we communicated more…” “If only we had kept our promise to remember who we were when we first fell in love…”
Because when your world shatters around you and the mirror is taken off the wall, all you are really left with is if only.