I lost the music in the divorce.
Not all of it; just the Beatles and the Smithereens, really, and to tell you the truth, I never cared much for the Beatles to start with. I thought they'd been absurdly over-hyped, analyzed to death by half-bright English teachers who would have been better off humping rifles in Vietnam, or learning something useful like phlebotomy. I was always more of a Stones fan, and later, grew to prefer The Who over both. All the hippie music that sounded better on acid - also gone. Didn't miss that too much, frankly.
"...then I realized...like I was shot...like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead."
- Colonel Walter Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
I think what really killed the Beatles for me was the drive back from Clearwater that summer. It was the last time my wife and I went there to eat at Johnson Brothers together. Johnson Brothers was a surprisingly good truck stop place just off the Interstate on the way to St. Cloud with a bakery to die for. These days, it actually would kill me, or at least mess me up quite a bit. Anyway, it was a place well worth driving forty-five minutes out of Minneapolis and back. Dinner was all right, but on the way back I tried to explain what was going on inside my head, how my heart was breaking at the way things were going, and I was almost in tears when she turned on the stereo in the Aerostar and stuck a tape in. It was a tape of Beatles music that she and her new boyfriend were working on, and she started singing along - and I shut up.
That's when I knew it was over, done, finished; all that was left was to call in the lawyers and do the paperwork. Brief the kids. They weren't stupid; they'd known something was wrong, badly wrong, all summer, even before I spent the night in the hospital with what wasn't quite angina. I had to prepare them for the shitstorm to come.
"I hung three days on a rod through my cheeks, living only through hate."
- Baron Erl Castiglianu, The Killing Machine, p.279
Hate was not an option. Hate was the enemy. Hate had to be ruthlessly suppressed, choked off, buried so deep nobody outside my skin could find it. Hate was weakness, because to hate someone, you must care what happens to them, and I no longer cared. This was the mantra I repeated to myself, drilling apathy into myself in a grotesque inversion of what the cadre had taught me in NCO Academy: "Act like you give a shit, and sooner or later it won't be acting any more." To show hate was to show concern, to make an opening through which I could be touched and hurt.
I was so tired of being hurt. You can only put up with emotional damage for so long, and towards the end I had stopped pulling my verbal punches, stopped caring if what I said was true, because I wanted her hurt. I wanted pain. I wanted revenge. If I was going to be desperately unhappy so that she could be happy, then I was going to pull her down into the swamp of despair with me. But I realized, in that flash of Kurtz-like clarity, that's what she wanted. She could always run crying to her doormat of a boyfriend, whereas I had nobody. Crying to the children was not an option I considered even for a nanosecond. All my friends were her friends too, or so it seemed in the beginning. The only option was to soldier on, show the hard face, and cultivate apathy like a poisonous plant. Fuck It. Drive On.
And it worked, tactically; between the apathy and the psych meds, I became a rock. She might rage and yell and curse me for things done or not done, but I was a rock. Strategically, it left me prone to drinking heavily for a few months, being horribly, nightmarishly detached during my father's funeral later that year, and being barely functional at work for the next few years. Right then, though, I didn't care about the long term, because getting through each day with the armor of apathy intact was hard enough.
Eventually, I could stop being a rock, and open up to other people about it. Eventually, I forgave her; monsters are what they are, and the Church calls us to forgive those who hurt us. Even the monsters. I was actually able to laugh when my mother told me about the CDs my ex-wife had sent her after the divorce. "Did you listen to them?" I asked after I was done laughing. "For what? I threw them away," Mom replied.
I haven't forgotten, though. There still isn't anything by the Beatles or the Smithereens on my Winamp.