By Isaac Anderson
We are always reasoning from the seen to the unseen. – Emerson
The dissolution of a marriage is holographic, legible from many angles.
This I remind myself two winters ago in January 2012, while eating dinner at a college in western North Carolina with a philosophy professor whose wife of eleven years has recently left him. It’s only our second real conversation, but we’ve hit it off. We sit in a booth in the dining hall, empty except for a couple white-uniformed kitchen staff. Pop music, something forgettable, plays overhead.
He explains: While she was in Bosnia last fall researching for her PhD, she seemed detached, hard to read. A trick of geography, he thought, maybe stress. Until October, when she called to say she’s having an affair with a married man, a man he’s never met. Now she lives in Sarajevo and he lives here.
I, meanwhile, have never met her. I arrived on campus a few weeks ago to teach a nonfiction class for the spring semester, after which I’ll return home to Kansas City. I’m here to listen, I remind myself, not to apportion blame. Blame is none of my business.
Her parents, with whom he speaks often, just came through town on their way to a time-share on the coast. They’re heartbroken, he says, but not resigned. They express hope in their daughter’s eventual return, hope that she’ll wake up one morning to a kind of epiphany, decide her marriage is worth salvaging.
He wants to believe their prediction—he’d move to Bosnia if he thought it would matter. But their optimism has not rubbed off.