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Beginning of the End-Part I

Women’s intuition. In 45 years, I can’t say I ever had it.

I don’t know if the connection from my spirit to my gut has disintegrated with life, but it’s non-existent.

Trust my gut? There never seemed to be a need for that. Maybe it was because I always did what was right, did everything that was expected of me. I planned for everything because everything had to have a plan. I didn’t have to rely on fate or some internal compass that guided my footsteps. My parents instilled values in me, told me where I needed to go and how to get there. I didn't have to think too much about the direction of my life because it was pretty much outlined for me. High school, college degrees, marriage, career, kids. No other order would have been acceptable.

Yet, next month would have been 20 years of marriage had I possessed some women’s intuition.

I honestly don’t know how I missed the signs. I mean, how could I have been that blissfully blind? I never, not once suspected that there was trouble in my paradise.

Sure, our marriage was not the same as it was 20 years ago. Or even 10 years ago. 5 years ago. But different doesn’t mean bad. We worked hard to get to where we were, raised our sons, and just fell into a routine. I did miss how we used to be, but this was just the lull, the space where we were just coasting. I figured that once our baby boy went off to college and we were empty nesters, we could get back to being Angela and Clayton who fell in love 25 years ago.

Yet, I missed everything, every sign, every conversation, every quiet moment that led to my husband telling me that he was not happy. That he wanted to leave, no that he was already gone emotionally, and he was planning to take his body with him in the coming weeks.

After I finally found my tongue, when words finally formed after the way he punched me in the throat, I asked questions. A lot of questions.

When did he realize he was unhappy? What happened to us? When did our marriage fizzle out for him? Why was he giving up? Why weren’t we making plans to fix us? Why was he just ending it?

My mama taught me to only ask questions I truly wanted the answer to. Because when I went looking for something I would surely find it. And I was truly unprepared for his confession.

“An…I never meant for this to happen. It wasn’t planned but…I met someone.”

He…met someone? How do you meet someone when you’re married? How do you meet someone when you’ve been with someone else for 25 years?

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I needed details. I needed to know it all. He refused at first, telling me the details were unnecessary, tried to spare me. But I pushed and pushed and pushed until the sordid details of his affair came to light.

I listened intently, nothing happening around me, nothing moving, nothing else existing but his words, and my comprehension that was not up to par.

They met at work, he was a dean at a college, she worked in the bursar's office. They’d been seeing each other for close to a year…and they were in love. He was so in love that he was willing to throw away, dump, discard years of marriage, two kids, vows, goals, dreams, memories, our lives for her.

Did he consider our sons, Clayton, Jr., and Tylen? What were we supposed to tell them? How could he be so selfish that he would abandon his sons for his side chick?

More questions because I was desperately trying to understand how he didn’t consider his children, how his sons were not a priority in his decision, what his leaving would mean for them.

“I did think about them, Angela. I can’t be the best father, the best man if I’m not happy.”

He was twisting the knife in now, at my request, for needing to know the details.

I’d finally run out of words, Clay’s admission ruminating in my spirit. He was unhappy with me, our lives, our sons, our marriage. And leaving me, our lives, our sons and our marriage was the X of the treasure map of his happiness.

I had to leave the room; I was aware of my feet moving from the tile floors in the kitchen to the hardwood floors in the hall to the carpet in our bedroom and hyperaware of my body. The shallowness of my breathing, the thumping of my heart, the way blood was flowing away from my brain, the cloudiness of my vision, the way it sounded like I was hearing underwater.

Initially, I was blindsided. How were we experiencing two different marriages, him unhappy and me…content? Slowly, very, very slowly I got flashes, moments that were obvious but were pushed away from my consciousness.

The “family” vacation that was planned for nearly six months, but Clay deciding at the last minute he couldn’t go.

Tylen asking why Clay always seemed to be at work, missing some of his games.

CJ not asking me about his daddy when we talked.

The way Clay and I moved through the house quietly, even when we were alone.

I couldn’t remember the last time we’d been on a date.

Our conversations were not loving or caring. They were practical. Dinner, what we needed from the store, why our light bill went up, when my car needed to be serviced.

I racked my brain, literally tried to catalog my thoughts, and could not remember the exact date or how long it had been since we’d made love. I surmised it had been months.

The realization took my balance, my knees buckled, my breathing slowed down, I was almost certain I was about to pass out. He checked out, a long time ago, and I didn’t see it.

I chalked it up to life, work, stress. But it was all right there. His unhappiness was in my face, sleeping in the bed with me.

And yet, I missed it all because my women’s intuition was broken.

Actually, I didn’t even need my gut, intuition, or a sign. It was just obvious. I knew. Had no choice but to know. It wasn’t deep down, it wasn’t hiding below the surface. I knew he was unhappy because I could definitively say I was not exactly content with where we were either. I had an obligation that had to be met. I was a wife and a mother and that trumped everything else, even my own feelings of being dissatisfied. All my life my mama drilled the responsibility of duty into my head. I had a duty to marriage and motherhood above all else. But I assumed that because I made vows and chose to honor them, my husband was doing the same.

I assumed that if he was unhappy, if he felt neglected, if he had unmet needs, he would be an adult and tell me.

I assumed that for better or worse meant for better or worse.

Instead, my assumptions resulted in this…his admission that not only was he unhappy, but he was doing something about it. Just not with the woman he vowed to spend forever with.

“Angela, I promise I never meant for this to happen. I didn’t plan for it. I never went looking for it. I never meant to hurt you even though I know I did. And I’m sorry.”

He left quietly, never crossing the line between the hardwood floors in the hallway and the plush carpeting in our bedroom. His voice held sincerity, but his apology was a single raindrop in the Atlantic Ocean. It had no effect on the turmoil brewing in my heart.

An hour later, I was still sitting, replaying the conversation back in my head, thinking, considering. Analyzing every word, his body language, the things he wasn’t saying.

Hubby: I’ll give you some time then we can discuss the specifics. Bank accounts and whatnot

The text came through on my watch, bringing the reality of this situation, the specifics as he called them, to the forefront of my mind.

We had to separate our lives from each other. The life we built from seemingly nothing. The cars, the starter home we now rented out, the home we were in now, investment accounts, the furniture. This house has five bedrooms and only me and Tylen would be in the house now. In a few months, it would be just me because Ty had already been accepted into eight colleges, three on full-ride athletic scholarships. Did I need all this room? Would he object to me selling? CJ was in the military and less financially dependent on us, but when he came home, he’d need a place to lay his head. Maybe I needed to look into a smaller place.

And Ty was a senior…what would the separation mean for him and his financial aid? And what about filing taxes? Who got to claim Ty at this point in the year? And what if…what if Ty wanted to be with his daddy rather than me? Could I trust that she would treat my son the way I do?

So many questions floating around, so many unanswered because I never considered a life where I wasn’t with Clay. I never had to go through what-if scenarios because, for 25 years, 20 married, he’d been here, present, a father, a husband, a lover. And now, I was losing my stability.

The uncertainty rose up in my throat and I had to rush to the bathroom. My dinner, my fear, my sadness, my unbelief in the toilet, flushed unceremoniously with the push of a button.


Three months later, I was still living in a state of disbelief. Clay moved out, claiming he was not living with her, yet, an emphasis on yet, which meant that was his plan. He moved out, but not before having what I believed was going to be an incredibly tough conversation for Ty.

But it wasn’t. He didn’t ask a lot of questions because the state of our marriage was obvious to anyone who was not in denial. Also, probably because in his friend group, Ty was the only one with married parents. Our separation was similar to what he experienced with his friends. Clay assured his son that he would still be here, he was just a phone call away. Ty said he was ok, opted to stay with me to finish out his senior year and that was that.

CJ was similar. Both of my sons inherited their father’s masculine façade, hiding their emotions behind the guise of manhood. Unlike Ty, CJ did ask how I was feeling and of course, I would not burden my children with my emotional baggage; I told him I was fine.

And on the outside, I was. I went to work, did my job, smiled, kept myself together, maintained all of my appointments, portrayed everything as the status quo. I put so much time and energy into maintaining my image, never showing a crack, never letting the world know that my heart was gutted that it drained me.

I was in bed nightly by 8 pm. I started taking melatonin because I could not fall asleep, but now, I was so tired from pretending my heart was still whole, sleep came easy. I never confided in anyone, never let anyone know that I failed at marriage, how I failed to keep my husband happy. I had some girlfriends, but I didn’t want to talk about the way my marriage fell apart. Thinking about it was draining, talking about it would be emotional suicide.

I ran myself ragged, staying busy, staying occupied, staying in motion because any moment to myself, any silence, in downtime, my mind raced. Even if I knew Clay was unhappy, I did nothing to fix it or even try. Nor did he tell me he was unhappy. And I didn’t tell him I wanted things to be different, how they used to be. Marriage had highs and lows, my mama warned me. This was just a low. We moved in our marriage like strangers, which was a far cry from who we used to be.

When we first started dating and in the first years of our marriage, we were truly happy. We’d been friends first, moving into dating when we started spending more time together, just the two of us, outside of our friend group. I could honestly say that even before I realized I had feelings for him, we were friends, incredible friends. Our love blossomed, our friendship grew, and we planned our lives, we created the future we wanted for ourselves and our sons.

Somewhere along the way, the friendship faded, the love faded. Forever came a lot faster than I anticipated.

I was settling into my new life, one that I didn’t ask for. It was forced on me and without much choice, I had to adapt or be crushed by it.

And for all intents and purposes, I was fine. To the untrained eye, everything was the way it had been before my husband told me he’d fallen in love with another woman. Bills were paid, my car got serviced, I made all my hair and nail appointments, I went to work, I battled elementary school students and teachers with fairness. I kept it together. I refused to give anyone the inkling that something was off. I thought my eyes were a dead giveaway. I thought the sadness that took up residence in my body was obvious in my eyes. But I was giving an Oscar-worthy performance, and no one was none the wiser.

Coming home Tuesday night, there was an envelope on the kitchen counter with my name written on it. I knew it was Clay’s handwriting. And from the weight of the envelope, I knew what it was.

Divorce papers.

I hesitated to open it, unprepared for it. But something, perhaps, naivety convinced me that it could be anything but that. Being separated was one thing, but staring at the paperwork that would dissolve our union sickened me. 20 years ago, our names were together on our wedding invitation. Angela and Clayton cordially invite you to share in their special day…has somehow morphed into Clayton Hudson, plaintiff vs. Angela Banks Hudson, defendant.

We were reduced to paperwork, plaintiff and defendant.

The papers felt heavy in my hands and the stack dropped to the counter. Had it not been for the clip holding them together, they would have been spread all over the kitchen. That would have been an accurate representation of my life, a mess of divorce papers all over the floors I picked out with my husband. Instead, I kept it together, much like the thick, black binder clip holding the fate of the rest of my life.

Without reading or giving much thought to what was in the papers, I dug a pen out of my purse and signed. Clay told me he would not object to anything I wanted, wouldn’t make this harder for me. That’s the least he could do, he surmised. We agreed to no lawyers other than for the legal aspects…investment accounts, the house that I had not made up my mind about selling, the rental house. Child support was a non-factor; if Ty needed something, we would take care of it. We’d come to an agreement and even though he’d proven to be untrustworthy, I believed everything was in order and as we discussed.

But the next day at work, I felt my façade cracking. No longer could I move like I wasn’t affected. Those papers made it real, made him leaving more of a reality than him not being in the house with me anymore. Because without the papers, there was hope. At least I thought there was. We didn’t communicate about us, our issues, where we went wrong. I didn’t have to talk to him at all because our sons were old enough to talk to their father without me. So, in my mind, he just needed some time, space, to work through his unhappiness. Maybe then we could breach the subject of how to fix us.

The divorce papers proved there was nothing left of us, and I couldn’t deal. My world had come crumbling down and emotionally, I lay at the bottom of the pile of confusion, hurt, and denial. I told my principal I was not feeling well and went home. The house felt big and spacious, but also tight and confining. Everywhere I went in the house was a memory, a reminder of what lay in the kitchen, signed and ready to be filed at the courthouse.

I couldn’t stay here.

I paced to the hall closet to retrieve an overnight bag and thought better of it. Grabbed my large suitcase. I started throwing things in. Clothes, undergarments, toiletries. Not even bothering to fold them, just throwing them in haphazardly. I changed out of my business casual slacks and blouse, slipping on lounging pants and an old field day t-shirt from my school. Traded in my flats for flip-flops. I lugged my suitcase to my car, struggling to hoist it into the trunk.

I went back in the house to get my charger and turn off the lights. I slid into the driver’s seat and clicked on my seatbelt. I pushed the button to open the garage and for the first time contemplated where I was going.

It didn’t matter nor did I care. As long as it was not here.

I blasted the air as I searched for locations. I could drive somewhere but decided I wanted to get away. And checking travel deals, there was a deeply discounted flight to Miami leaving out of Atlanta in a few hours.

Miami in April? That was a recipe for healing. Or at least forgetting.

With flights and hotel secured, I ordered an Uber to get me to the airport. Just before take-off, I started to panic. It was almost too late to change my mind, so I didn’t. Instead, I sent two texts.

Ty: Hey baby. I needed a few days away. I’ll be back next week. I’ll Zelle you some money. I love


Clayton: I need time to process. I am out of town. Check on Ty.

The texts were cryptic and devoid of any real details. I knew they had questions, and I was not ready for answers. I turned on airplane mode before I was instructed to.

Lying in my hotel room at the AC Marriot in what was actually Dadeland and not Miami was…I did not have the words to describe how I felt. I felt free, less restricted than I was in my house, but I didn’t feel the relief I expected. I reluctantly had to turn off airplane mode to secure an Uber to the hotel and I had a couple of texts, two from Ty, one from Clay, and one from my principal.

Ty asked where I was and how much I was going to send him.

Clay asked if I was ok which was a stupid question considering I jumped up and ran to Miami because he served me with divorce papers.

My principal checked on me and I lied and told her I had a stomach bug and would be back next week. I didn’t like lying to her, but it was better to tell a white lie than the truth: My husband was starting a new life with his mistress.

Much like I was at home, I needed to keep busy. Sitting still too long invited my thoughts to run and skip in ignorance and question why this was happening to me.

The hotel was connected to Dadeland Mall, so I went to the food court, indulging in a burger from Shake Shack. I walked around the mall, purchasing body wash and lotion from Bath and Body Works and a Coach purse and tennis shoes that I had sent to my house. The sun was setting, and the weather was a pleasant 75 degrees. I had the wherewithal to pack a bathing suit, even before I knew where I was going, so I put it to use.

I rode the elevator from the 6th floor to the 2nd where the pool was located, stopping to get a drink before heading out to the pool. I hadn’t made up my mind if I was going to get into the pool but there were small, covered cabanas on the right side of the pool. I settled into the second one, drink in hand. I exhaled and took a sip, the alcohol not working fast enough. I disregarded the straw and took big gulps from my glass. Immediately, I was at the bar again ordering two more.

It was strange that at home, I was not a big drinker. I partook for special occasions, but I never had to drink to have a good time. But now, the alcohol was soothing, taking the edge off and giving me a moment to forget everything.

I was alone for a little while until two men, a woman, and a little girl came out to the pool. The little girl, who was probably about 6 or 7 was so excited to get into the water, she could hardly stand still while who I assumed to be her father placed inflatable armbands on her and the woman secured her beaded braids into a ponytail. The woman and the other man sat on the edge of the pool while the little girl and her father played.

It took about 30 minutes for me to realize the man playing with her was not her father, but her uncle, and her parents were content to let him be in uncle mode while they relaxed. I watched them, their interactions were easy, fun, free. They were so comfortable, I couldn’t tell if the uncle was the brother of the mom or dad. But they were having a good time and I couldn’t help but feel the twangs of jealousy that coursed through me. I’d never get this experience with my husband and kids again. Any vacation we’d take would be just me and my kids.

With that thought, I went back to the bar for drinks four and five. I was two gulps into drink number four when I realized I was intoxicated. I wanted to get up and go to my room, but I was too nervous. I was not sure I was going to make it to the elevator and up to my room without making a complete fool out of myself. But I had to try.

I gathered my things and took two steps and had to stop because the entire roof was spinning. The next thing I knew, someone was flanking my side, helping me to stand.

“Hey, are you ok?”

The man, the uncle was out of the pool and steadying me, making sure I didn’t fall. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Because I thought I was talking but no words were coming out of my mouth.

“Jeremiah, I got her.”

I barely took note of the woman who was now on my left side. After a little back and forth that I couldn’t make out, the man made sure the woman had me and he held the door open for us.

“What floor are you on, hon?” she spoke in a slow draw, making me believe she was just visiting Miami much like I was. Or the alcohol just made her sound distorted.

“Six.” I slurred.

“Are you alone?”

I nodded and even though I was clearly out of it, I was alerted to the gravity of the situation. I got sloshed, wasted by myself. And this could have been bad. Really bad. The thought panicked me.

“What room?”

“Ummm…” I couldn’t remember. Luckily, I still had the key in the sleeve and the woman got me to room 611 safely. She opened the door and helped me to bed.

“I’m going to get you a bottle of water. I’ll be right back.”

I heard her voice, but the room was spinning so my comprehension was out the window. When she returned to my room, she startled me, but I couldn’t put any effort into doing anything about it.

“Here you go, hon. The water is on your nightstand along with your key and phone. Please be safe, ok?”

The woman lingered for a few moments. Words swirled around but the alcohol had them trapped in my mouth. My nod of ok seemed to satisfy her and she left. I drifted off to sleep only to have to find my way to the bathroom to rid my body of all the alcohol I drank. I almost inhaled the whole bottle of water the woman left me.

Now that I was sober, well, almost sober, I was regretting my decision to come to Miami. No… was regretting my decision to come to Miami and get wasted. My decision-making was suffering, I was not in the right frame of mind. I wished that the woman left her number so that I could properly thank her for making sure I made it to my room unharmed.

I climbed back into bed, ignoring all texts, not wanting to talk to anyone because I’d truly scared myself. I drifted back to sleep and when I woke again, it was almost noon. I’d just come out of the bathroom when there was a knock on the door. Assuming it was housekeeping, I yelled that I was fine.

“Hey, it’s Syn. From last night. I just wanted to check on you.”

Embarrassed, I contemplated what I could say to not seem so…immature, getting sloppy drunk alone. But I needed to thank her.

“Hey,” I greeted opening the door. Where I looked like I’d been run over by a truck, the woman, I think she said her name was Syn, looked like she was ready to paint the Miami streets with flare. I don’t know what her plans were for the day, but her green wide-leg linen pants and yellow, pink, and green halter fit her frame like a glove. I was self-conscious, pulling my bathing suit cover over my body; I’d never taken my suit off. “Thank you for last night. I was out of it, and it could have been…I’m usually not this irresponsible. I’m just…”

“No need to explain, hon. I just wanted to make sure you were good. Since you are here alone, would you like to join us for a late lunch?”

She spoke so sincerely, so kindly, so peaceful, that I found myself saying yes, even though I was unsure. Part of it was I needed them to see I wasn’t this type of woman, I didn’t behave like this, and I needed them to see me in a better light. Strangers or not.

We agreed to meet at the Cheesecake Factory which was in the mall I was in yesterday. With plans in place, she left, and I stripped off my bathing suit and took a shower.

The standing shower had two shower heads, a rain head, and a detachable shower arm. I stayed in the shower for almost 30 minutes, alternating between the gentleness of the rain showerhead and the strength of the detachable one. I emerged from the shower wrapped in a towel, letting the steam escape. I went to the window, my view overlooking the pool and the parking lot to the mall. I watched cars and people walking, lost in them because I didn’t want to think about me and my life.

Yet, it was all that was on my mind. And I didn’t want it to be. Once again, I was at the mall, wandering around, shopping, snacking, looking, and finally getting a pedicure and manicure. I’d been alone with myself and my thoughts for too long and I was desperate to have someone to interact with, to give me something else to consider, to talk about, to wonder.

Promptly at 3, I was in front of the Cheesecake Factory as were Syn and her family. We made proper introductions and were seated. Syn, short for Synnise, and her husband David were the parents of Olivia who was six, and the spitting image of her mother. The uncle was Jeremiah, David’s brother. The group was in town for a funeral, David and Jeremiah’s grandmother. They were from Chicago and rather than come down on Friday for the funeral on Saturday to turn around and go back on Sunday, they came early to relax, take in Miami because even though the brothers were from Miami, they did not get a chance to come back as often as they wanted.

I enjoyed the conversation, offering my condolences on their loss, and smiling at Olivia’s interaction with her father and uncle. I surmised Jeremiah had no children because of the way he doted on her. And as much as I wanted to avoid what was glaringly obvious, he was attractive. Very attractive. He reminded me of Larenz Tate, a combination of his characters from The Inkwell and Love Jones. He was confident but unintentionally funny, seemingly for Olivia’s benefit.

But when the conversation turned to me, why I was in Miami, the relief of not having to talk about the life I left back home, was gone.

I wasn’t sure if it had been the months of carrying the burden of my marriage ending alone, by choice, but nonetheless, alone, or if I was not too concerned about these strangers knowing all of my business. But I finally told someone that my marriage was over.

“Just signed divorce papers yesterday. 20 years gone with the stroke of my pen. I hopped on a plane to get away, to process, to…figure out the next chapter of my life,” I said casually as if I was discussing the vast menu of the restaurant.

“Oh no!” Syn gasped. We were seated together in a booth with enough room that we were not close. Her hand reached for mine under the table and squeezed. “I am so sorry. I hope that you find some peace.”

David nodded in agreement, Olivia was oblivious with her dad’s phone. I locked eyes with Jeremiah and was immediately uncomfortable under his gaze. It wasn’t pity or sadness, it was genuine concern. It was intense and overwhelming.

Sensing I was not ready to divulge details, Syn steered the conversation to something lighter, less heavy. It was so smooth, that I almost forgot I barred my soul a few moments earlier. We talked about the weather in Georgia and Chicago. The latest headlines. We talked about my kids and Olivia, Syn asking how I accepted CJ’s choice to go into the military. We talked about our upbringing and how even though we were raised in different eras and different places, we seemed to have the same parents.

My lunch company was a great distraction, my meal was filling, and I had to admit my moment of honesty, though not totally vulnerable, was necessary. I wouldn’t discuss the end of my marriage while I was here or over text. But I realized that sharing would free up some of the clutter in my thoughts. And in my heart.

I had friends. Girlfriends that I could rely on if need be. We were all busy moms and professionals, so our conversations were not always frequent. Talking was a feat but getting together was even harder. When I returned home, I planned to send out some dates and see who could come lighten my load.

After lunch, we parted ways. They were going to be with family, and I had…nothing to do. I thanked them for a good time, and we parted ways. I found a bench in the mall and Googled things to do around me. I knew I was going to do a boat tour today, but before booking, I went back to my room so I could semi-plan some things to do.

Over the next couple of days, I took advantage of Miami being abundant in activities. I didn’t overwhelm myself, didn’t pack the day with non-stop action. I always planned everything because…well, I don’t know why. I just liked to know what was happening and plan for it.

I went to South Beach and Key West. I took the Little Havana food and walking tour. I went to Superblue Miami which was an experience. I occupied my days with things to do and spent my evenings eating dinner, watching movies on Netflix, ignoring some texts, lying to others.

Ty texted to check in and I kept our conversation light, reiterating I’d be back in a few days.

My principal checked in as well, and I told her I was still not 100%, but better.

My mama called because she wasn’t much of a texter, and I told her I was at a work conference. She admonished me for not telling her because I usually let her know when I was out of town.

A few teachers texted bidding me to get well soon.

Clay called and texted, asked how I was doing. I ignored him and I was on the verge of blocking him altogether because really, what did we have to talk about? We separated our lives, our finances. We didn’t need a go-between to make sure Ty got what he needed. CJ was pretty self-sufficient and not even living in the same state as us. His concern for me was of no importance to me.

I was scheduled to fly back home on Monday, choosing to avoid the Sunday travelers. It had been a long time since I’d had this much downtime. The lack of responsibility was good for me. I was moving past the need to keep busy although I wasn’t quite ready to address my feelings head on just yet.


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