NB: This was originally written to be read at Austin’s queer storytelling hour: Greetings from Queer Mountain, Episode 58: Moving Right Along
I’ve recently become estranged from my husband.
After 16 years, I asked him to move out, and now I’m moving out… and moving right along.
I’ve started dating (lol, but differently than the “open marriage” dating I was doing before husband and I separated… I think?). And I’m not saying I’ve found a new boyfriend or anything like that, but in the context of this story there is “A Guy,” and the story takes place in his SUV— and like, we can make fun of that because I left my queer anarchist crust punk bartender DJ husband and now I’m dating a Bumble & Bumble Broadway musicals Business Analyst II yuppie gay who drives a crossover and has questionable taste in music. It’s been a shift, for sure.
So anyway, there I was in his Honda, passenger seat, moving right along, and a song comes on the radio (which, first of all— the radio? like, who are you already, Guy I’m Dating? Why aren’t you connected to your Spotify?). And then something starts happening… The Guy starts singing along. And I’m like,
What the fuck is this?
Because not only have I never heard this thing, and not only is The Guy not scanning past it, but apparently The Guy knows all the words and now he’s sing.ing. Singing along to something my brain didn’t even recognize as music. Like, for the first minute I honestly expected it to be a commercial jingle. Call J G Wentworth! 877 Cash Now! is fully what I’m expecting this to be.
This is an actual “song” of some sort and The Guy is happily— HAPPILY— singing along. So I’m like, again, What the fuck is this?
You don’t know this? The Guy gasps, during an instrumental break.
And now the music is triggering something in me, and now I’m starting to get uncomfortable. And so, like, I know The Guy likes Miranda Lambert, and I honestly don’t know who that is, so I’m trying to figure out if this is that, but this song sounds at least a bit more masculine and less fun than what I’ve come to expect Miranda Lambert should sound like. Because if I understand my wine-drinking-by-the-lake friends correctly, Miranda Lambert sounds like music for a seven month anniversary in a cabin, but this sounds more like music for a first date at the Cheesecake Factory.
Abso-fucking-lutely not. I have no idea who this is.
It’s Ed Sheeran. he says, serenading me at the red light. — like “Ed Sheerhand” should mean something to me. I return a blank stare, more confused now than ever.
Who the fuck is Ed Sheeran? I say…
You don’t know Ed Sheeran?, The Guy asks…
Anyway, this goes on for a while, and he’s telling me about the whole catalog of someone I have absolutely no knowledge of, and I’m just fucking blank as fuck, until he asks me,
Well, do you like it?
… do I like it?
… do I like it?
And that’s when the panic sets in. Do I like this song? I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I still don’t know that I have an answer, and thinking about finding one kinda makes my head hurt.
But then I realize that a few months ago, when I was still with my Now Estranged Husband, I would have had an answer.
Or perhaps it’s that there would have been no answer, because the question never would have been asked. Estranged Husband never played the radio. He always had a curated playlist on his Spotify, or his iPod, or on a hundred CDs shoved in every fold of the seats and visors. And I learned years ago to defer to his music choices in the car, because he was usually the driver, and he had strong opinions on what to listen to (*cough, cough*).
And I’m the same way. I find music on the blogs, following labels, recos from friends, or whatever like that. And when I listen to “the radio”, it’s always the classical station (because I’m not playing Russian Roulette with shitty Top 40 in my aural landscape). So, no, none of those things has ever led to an “Ed Sheeran” in my presence.
So the question of “liking Ed Sheeran” has never come up. Until now, this music would not have even crossed my path.
But my path is different now.
I’m moving along it alone now.
Husband is Estranged.
I’ve left him.
I’ve asked him to leave.
We’re separated. We are separate. I am separating. I am coming apart from the inside. My heart isn’t working, it isn’t talking to my brain, it isn’t holding me together. I am spinning. I am spiraling. I am falling apart. I am separating. We have separated. … after sixteen years. … And I don’t know who I am without him.
I don’t know who I am at all.
Do I like Ed Sheeran? How the fuck would I know? I have just exited a world of kombucha and whisky and you’re asking me if I like this glass of melted ice water— What the fuck kind of question is that, anyway? How the fuck am I supposed to answer it?
I have built myself as one half of a pair; I have bent and twisted and folded the shape of my soul to fit within the pockets and peaks and valleys of his, and without him I am a signifier without a signified; no longer with my significant other, I lack significance without him.
—Moving right along, I’m still me.
I may not know who I am, but I must be something.
If anything, after years of discord, always at odds in minor and major ways, hundreds of moments where I’d go forward when he’d go right, I’d go around when he’d go under, always out of sync (until neither of us was going down when the other got it up)… If anything, I had lost who I was with him.
So now I’m on the path alone; moving right along, I’ll trundle through while I wait for my body to forget what his feels like. Apparently there’s shitty radio on this path, and I think it all probably sucks. I can’t wait to find out what else sucks, too, now that I’m without him.