I didn’t pay much attention to the two women who sat near me at dinner. They weren’t eating anything, but they sat talking quietly in the dining room. It was a slow night, so the fast food restaurant was almost empty.
One of the women stood — almost nervously — as a man came in to join them. He had the air of someone who liked to give orders and who thought he should be obeyed. It wasn’t a friendly meeting.
“Why is she here?” the man hissed angrily to the woman who was still seated.
“Holly asked me to come so she wouldn’t be alone,“ the standing woman replied in a tone that made it sound as though she was trying to avoid trouble.
The man sat at the table and I couldn’t hear exactly where the conversation went at first. The seated woman pulled some papers out from a manilla envelope. She pushed the documents toward the man without much explanation.
Everything suddenly clicked. Holly and the angry man were starting to go through a divorce.
Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Divorce Day. It’s the first working Monday of a new year and that’s when a lot of divorce proceedings apparently kick off. Some lawyers and therapists say it’s a myth, but others say it’s a very real thing.
Some say that it seems some unhappy married people are resolute about starting the new year by taking this step. Others say the spike happens because a lot of people don’t start the process until Christmas is over, simply because they don’t want to “spoil the holiday” for family members and especially for children.
I don’t know the details of what was going on — or why they had to meet tonight — but Holly was the one leaving him. I heard her call him Jack a couple of times. They were probably around 40 years old.
The woman who was Holly’s moral support had to go to her car to get something. Holly looked down at the table, then she looked outside as though she was looking for her friend. She didn’t seem to want to look at Jack. She didn’t seem to want to say more than she had to.
“You said you would never leave me,” Jack abruptly said without context. “You’re supposed to be mine, no matter what happens.”
Holly finally looked up and seemed to meet his eyes.
“Nobody should have to live with what I’ve had from you for seven years,” she said. “You’re a bad husband and a worse father. I can’t take it. I deserve better. I know that now.”
“You knew who I was when you married me,” Jack said. “You didn’t mind it when all your friends thought I was the great catch from a rich family. You worshipped me.”
Holly was quiet for a long moment.
“I’ve grown up since then, Jack,” she said. “Your childish ways seemed funny then. I thought being married would make you mature. I’ve matured and I’ve changed. I thought you would change, too. That sounds dumb now, but I really did.”
“But you knew who I was and you promised to stick with me,” Jack said with anger. “You promised. You can’t leave me.”
“We’ve been through this,” she said.
Holly started to say something else, but she stopped.
Then the other woman came back inside. She had a small box that she handed to Jack, who took the box without opening it. Then the two women stood to leave.
“You said you wouldn’t ever leave me,” Jack said again. He sounded angry, but he also sounded as though he was accustomed to the woman obeying him. It wasn’t clear whether he was upset that his marriage was ending or that Holly would no longer obey him. He looked at her almost like one might look at a toy that had stopped working.
The two women got up and left without much else being said. Jack sat there watching them as they got into a car to drive away. Then his phone rang.
“Hey, Jessie!” he said brightly. “Yeah, I’m through with the bitch. I’m coming your way now. I already got a bottle of wine and I’m ready for some lovin’ from you, little girl.”
Jack was still on the phone as he walked out. He wasn’t skipping a beat as he went from one failed relationship directly to the next. Some people never learn from their mistakes.