descend the vultures

People are vultures — drawn, circling, to the wreckage. Sometimes without even realizing it.

At cocktail parties, public gatherings, all kinds of social occasions, people want to ask me, press me about my divorce.

“Are you okay?” one of them will ask meaningfully, leaning in close to suggest a safe haven in which for me to confide, despite the fact I’ve neither seen nor heard from said personage for at least the past year.

“Yes,” I reply. “I’m fine, thank you.”

“No, really…?” one will surely persist, as if he is my very best friend, and has endured relationship challenges of comparable magnitude, and this public place is an appropriate venue for this type of intimate discussion.

“Yes. It’s a transition, of course, but we’re adjusting,” I’ll say, offering up what I hope will be enough information so that I can change the subject directly. Blah, blah, blah…I have talked with genuine confidants until my face is blue and have no further interest in this topic. Truly.

Others around us are laughing, sipping, glasses clinking. This “friend” will continue to push with various probing questions or statements, e.g. “It must be really hard, what you’re going through,” until eventually, a glassy tear pools in the corner of my eye and my face begins to crumple into what I can only imagine is the same contorted, pained expression I’ve seen countless times as I’ve looked, weeping uncontrollably, into the bathroom mirror, wondering to whom that miserable reflection could possibly belong. I am fighting to stem the tears, fighting a losing game.

And then this well-intentioned fool will pull out the comforting words and pat my arm or embrace me, full of the triumph of finally getting through to me. “I’ve never seen you cry,” he will say, as if my tears are a trophy. He’s won.

Jesus, I’ve spent half of the past fucking decade in tears! Breaking down in public places, among strangers, in a conference room with my boss, when a co-worker makes a generous gesture. And I’d really like to be done crying, thank you. Or at least to spare myself some embarrassment by limiting breakdowns to the privacy of my home. If that’s okay.

People are vultures. They’ll circle the wreckage looking, waiting, watching, craning their necks to see what they can of the wreck, hoping for a glimpse of blood or severed limb.

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