“The struggle is real and the pain is real.” – KS
“But when I got to page 53, interest was sparked, and emotions swelled. I was caught in the eye of a livid typhoon, but didn’t mind so much. It was thrilling.” – KB
“I don’t consider myself a fast reader, but the pages were turned so quickly I was reminded of books like Ender’s Game and the Harry Potter series.” – GW
“This is a deeply personal, emotionally toiling, near-memoir that does an astounding job of depicting the range of human emotion that surrounds life, love, anger, joy and despair.” -R
“I read books to escape reality, as I’m sure most people do. With this book, there was no escaping it.” – GC
“But the fact is that reading purely to escape is childish to me. I read and I write to go deeper. I want to feel more, feel it more intensely, and feel it for longer. Escape from this thing called life? Never. More. More, more, more.” – PD
“The book is all heart though. Of that there is no doubt.” – DK
Simon Pastor believed he had never been hurt before. By the time he found himself in an uncontrolled cycle of hurting his wife, he realized that was not true. He felt his wife had hurt him. Then he hurt her. And hurt her. And hurt her. Finally, he divorced her. But that didn’t stop the hurt.
The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor is an explicit look at innocence and hurt. It is not about innocence lost, but about innocence never had. It is about the most destructive kind of hurt. A shameful tale of his descent into madness, The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor offers an unencumbered look into one man’s failed marriage and failed divorce.
Looking back, I am certain that in his last months with us Simon Pastor was aware that his journey’s end was nearing. Those of us closest to him have since discussed the sadness his eyes betrayed no matter how large his smile during those last few months. And I, especially, feel a heavy burden because he once told me that when I tell his story (“and tell it you must!” he’d implore) that I need to get it right, that I need to share everything. In honor, then, of Simon Pastor’s wishes I have chosen to write this book. His will granted me access to everything of his, including his laptop and phone. I have, of course, taken dramatic license with some parts of his story, but when you read a text exchange or email exchange, know that it is verbatim, typos and all.
Men get stuck. Simon Pastor was no different. Like every man he reached a turning point which defined all actions thereafter. Unlike some men, however, Simon fell prey to this moment. It overwhelmed him. It consumed him. And eventually it killed him.
Trauma is usually found within these turning points. I say trauma to emphasize the sheer shock of the event and its aftermath. Combat is the trigger for some, the senseless unexpected death of a loved one for others. For Simon, the event was his divorce.
When men are confronted by these moments, they respond in one of two ways. Either they grow or they get stuck. And I don’t mean to imply that men have an equal chance of responding in either of the two ways, not at all. Most men get stuck. Most are not equipped with the skills and tools necessary to deal with the trauma. Poor Simon wasn’t.
“Simon, here, is a virgin,” said Brian. “He’s holding out for his one true love.”
Simon was, in fact, a virgin. But this did not make him any different from the rest of the eighteen year old college freshmen in the dorm room. The dorm room’s dominant feature was the two twin beds lofted into the air by homemade wooden stands, which made the shape of an L in the corner. The room’s current tenants each hung bed sheets from the ceiling in order to conceal any co-ed sports that may or may not occur on the beds. This was standard practice among the dorm’s residents. The beds being in the air also created more space for the young men to come together for intimate conversations. In the case of Brian’s room, this room, a love seat was under one of the beds. Two more 1950s style wooden desk chairs and one crummy bean bag chair completed the room’s seating arrangement.
“You laugh,” Simon replied, “but I actually did sign a ‘True Love Waits’ card once. With others, I walked it up to the front of the church during a special service and everything. A public vow between God and I. You ever made a commitment to anything higher than yourself before? Any of you?”
It’s what we loved about Simon. He was honest to a fault and all heart.
“That depends on your definition of high, Simon,” Chris offered to a general laughter among the guys.
Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Simon took a breath.
“Is it on my back? My forehead?” he asked, pretending to wipe off a mark. “Why is it everywhere I go this is the most frequently discussed thing? No, I haven’t had sex. Yes, I’d like to save myself for marriage. And yes, I’m proud of this and could not care less who knows. But I do hope that we can someday talk about something, anything, else,” he lamented. “How about Josh? He was so drunk he pissed on his own computer the other night. Isn’t that interesting?”
General merriment accompanied Josh’s inadequate rebuttal.
For Simon, college was infinitely better than high school in every way save this one. In high school, while every boy talked about having sex, only a select few had actually gained carnal knowledge. In college, however, Simon soon found himself in the minority. And given the general lack of responsibilities that come with attending American universities, everyone soon knew.
He once shared with me, though, that almost to a man, when in a one-on-one conversation, the guys would admit that they respected him for his decision. I knew I did. It was not difficult to see why. Simon believed in principles. He believed in virtue. And that is rare.
Simon was no saint. It will become abundantly clear that he had a nasty brutish side. And we must never forget, of course, that he was first and above-all human. I say this to introduce the idea that he found himself approaching his twenty-fourth year of virginity with a tiresome weariness. It had been years since he attended a church service and despite plowing through books on religion, the memory of the why of it all was fading.
The fall after he turned twenty-four Simon learned that his friend Kurt was getting married. Kurt asked him to be his best man and Simon figured he may as well learn how to dance for the occasion. He first heard Kerri’s name as the dance studio’s receptionist told him who his instructor would be.
“We do private lessons on Wednesdays, so Wednesday night at 8pm you’ll be with,” the woman paused as she checked the instructor availabilities, “you’ll be with Kerri.”
“Kerri. Got it. Great. See you then,” Simon said. “I hope she’s hot,” he thought, after hanging up the phone.
He had scheduled lessons with high hopes of impressing the bride’s single friends. Simon happily admitted to anyone who would listen that the many ballroom scenes within the recently finished epic War and Peace had a hand as well.
For some men a woman’s smile is the most visible memory of first seeing her. Others can’t forget her eyes. Many find themselves drawn to a woman’s unadulterated laugh. Simon never forgot Kerri’s posture. Arriving a few minutes early for the lesson, he saw a woman who he hoped would be Kerri. She was walking from left to right when their eyes first met. She was expecting him, but didn’t expect him. The way Simon recounted it, she froze solid upon sight of him—her slender neck almost breaking in the violence—though Kerri would coyly never admit to being overly impressed with her future husband that day. He confided to me that he knew in that moment that she was the one. When I pressed him to explain how he knew, he admitted it was very primal. He said that he could just tell that she would give herself to him. Kerri was like that. Her body housed her spirit but was never very good at concealing it.
Too soon, Kurt’s wedding had come and gone and the dance lessons lost their relevance to Simon’s ambitions. Over the duration, however, Simon and Kerri had become quite close. As is often the case with new love, neither of them wanted to stop being around the other. Simon simply ccouldn’tbelieve he had found a female that he’d like to have as a friend.
Simon had an uncanny ability to focus on a goal. Since signing that blue oversized “True Love Waits” index card, he viewed all available women as potential wives. Despite viewing marriage as an undesirable institution, he saw no value in befriending a woman who would someday choose another man. If he was going to spend time with a woman, he concluded, it had to be one he wanted to marry. And here she was, slightly tipsy, leaning against his car outside of the restaurant that he had taken her to after his last lesson. Not having any experience to aid his assessment of the unfolding drama, he returned to his safe place—honesty.
“Well, unless we’re going to go somewhere else, I think this is it, Kerri,” he struggled to say.
“Nope, I have no place to be,” she said.
“Oh. It just seems like you’re,” he paused, searching for the most accurate word, “waiting for something.”
“I guess-,” she began.
“Plus, aren’t you cold just standing out here?” he interrupted.
“-I was going to say we could go make out in your car,” she said, laughing at his genuinely surprised reaction to her suggestion, “if that’s okay with you.”
“Hmm,” said Simon as fear swept over him. Simon had never really made out before. But it sounded fun.
“Okay. Give me a second to open your door though. It doesn’t work from the outside,” he said, consciously moving as slow as humanly possible so as to not give away his excitement. Any restaurant staff still cleaning up inside who by happenchance had been peeking out at the scene would have thought Kerri had put a time limit on the offer Simon moved so fast.
Once inside the car, it didn’t take Kerri long to conclude Simon was in uncharted territory, and she laughed as she told him as much. He, in turn, loved both parts of that. She was perceptive and unafraid. Only later did he remember she was also a little drunk. By the end, Simon had told me a hundred times if he told me one time that he always wondered how the relationship would’ve played out if it wasn’t so late, if they weren’t far from both their homes, and if it hadn’t have been that time of the month.
As amazing as the evening had been, Simon was too much a boy scout to not regain control and come up for air.
“Call me when you get to your place. Drive safe,” he said.
Playfully pulling him towards her car, she managed to convince him that just a few more shivering kisses wouldn’t hurt.
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