It was her that said it.
Jesse is well aware of the current state of his marriage: complete downward spiral. Every corner he and Celeste turn, another argument waits to greet them both. They can’t decide on dinner anymore without getting at one another’s throats. She pulls the blanket too far over to her side of the bed, he finds himself cold, agitated, and not seeking her warmth. He sends one too many texts or says something dumb in an email, and she finds herself rolling her eyes, leaving herself completely unresponsive until she has to see him at home.
All of the things they used to find endearing about each other are now points of tension.
He’s not dumb and neither is she, but they’re both so stubborn that they won’t admit fault. They won’t bring it up at all-- it makes the multitude of problems worse. Celeste handles it in her own way-- she works longer hours more days a week at Popform, goes out exclusively with Beth and doesn’t say anything when she doesn’t decide to come home, spends all of her time near Jesse micromanaging him into the state of almost success she so desperately wants him to be in. For himself. Not for her. Of course. Of course.
And Jesse in his: he sleeps in his studio most nights, he’s smoking cigarettes again, he’s not working, he’s spending all of his money on shows and drinks at shows, and he’s become second-hand obsessed with Skillz’s plan to distribute methamphetamines now that weed is legal and dispensaries are both open and killing his business. He can see Celeste is dealing with it, but she’s so far away that it feels like there’s a film between the two of them. She’s visibly more tired. She wears her glasses more than her contacts-- migraines, he knows that. His fault. The bags under her eyes have gotten to be noticeable but he won’t say anything about them. She doesn’t say anything about the paint under his nails, the graphite smudges on his cheeks, or the way he wears his good sneakers to any formal event.
The fire between them has gone out completely, leaving a trail of ice in its wake, and neither of them know how to mitigate the frostbite that comes as a side effect.
It’s not until Celeste loses a resource for an article that she’s writing that she dives into her laptop’s search history. She clicks through a few pages unceremoniously, half recognizes a few of the articles, but none of them are the one she’s looking for. She thinks it’s been deleted and goes to close out of the tab from her browser, and this is all routine.
Until it’s not.
Jesse has her laptop password, this she knows. He has a program downloaded for his tablet that he uses for commissions (on the rare occasion he gets them) and for that reason, they have a jointed profile on her Macbook pro. Celeste and Jesse mutually trust each other to be nothing but faultlessly faithful and so far, nothing damning has come up. But it’s there in little black letters: a few google searches not made by her, on April 14th at 5:02pm, that catch her attention.
how to know if a relationship isnt working anymore
how to get the spark back in your marriage
does couples counseling work
It hits her then that this isn’t a small problem. It’s no longer beneath them, no longer something they can both ignore until it just gets better, it won’t just go away, she’s not making this up, he’s not being more immature than usual, she’s not being too critical or suffocating-- Celeste and Jesse have, for the first time, encountered a mountain that they can’t conquer together.
She decides on April 26th that she can’t actively ignore it anymore.
He joins her on the couch per her request and she offers him a glass of wine. He can feel it-- the pent up rage, annoyance, disappointment; the anticipation of a conversation filled with hard truths that will rock his stomach into tomorrow. He ignores the niggling pain starting in the lower end of his ribs, wills himself to smile at her, and takes the glass. It’s cold.
“I’m sorry I’ve--” his words start, but she’s quick to overlap him, and that shuts him up completely. Like always. Another spurt of ice to his veins.
“I think we should get a divorce.”
Whatever he was expecting, that wasn’t it. Her words slam into his chest and he feels like he’s at Space Camp Canada again, waiting for the nausea to physically spill out of him after the day’s anti-gravity exercise. It doesn’t happen-- the pain has nowhere to go. It sits in his stomach, screaming curses at him about everything he’s done wrong or everything he could’ve done or said to avoid this conversation. The burn sidles up to him doesn’t leave, running hot up the back of his neck, over his cheeks as he searches every crevice of his brain for anything to say. He can’t come up with anything. He can’t even look at her.
The first thing he does is laugh.
It’s his way of handling things. He’s at a loss for words, an anxious mess, his brain isn’t working. She knows that. She fucking knows that. But it adds to the burn, the freeze, the dry spell their marriage has unfolded into in the last six months. Jesse has always been this way. He can’t have a conversation with her. She said she wanted a divorce and he laughed.
He could never match her intellect. Will never match her intellect.
On the other hand, Jesse can feel the weight of her mental beration. He feels her recoil against his side, watches her fingers tighten around her wine glass-- for a second, he’s afraid that she’s going to break it. Her jaw sets and her green eyes glaze over with anger-- at him, no less-- and this conversation has moved away from having any redeeming qualities.
The room is tense. Every sound being made seems to bounce off the walls, off of every framed photo of them, ricochets off of the 5 year anniversary wine that Beth and Tucker had so lovingly gifted them (that now sits as decor on their bookshelf). Complete silence has never felt more deafening and when Jesse doesn’t think it can get worse, it does.
“I think… we should get a divorce.”
Her tone doesn’t reflect her body language. She’s hopelessly pissed at him and he knows it. He’s upset with her and won’t say it. His head hangs past his shoulders and he hasn’t even touched his wine-- the glass is sweating against his palm. He’s wasting her time not answering her. This time, he doesn’t laugh. He swallows everything he wants to say and the words fuel the burn at the bottom of his ribcage, setting fire to his lungs. When he exhales, he half expects there to be smoke. There isn’t.
“Maybe now isn’t--”
“No, Jesse,” his name sounds awful from her mouth and he hates it, he hates it so much more than he’s ever hated everything, it sounds like a siren that’s attempting to alert the entire world that something is very wrong, “if we don’t talk about it now, we’re never gonna talk about it.”
Harsh truth number one: they don’t do very much talking at all anymore.
Instead, it’s almost like they’re playing hide and seek, only neither of them care all that much about finding the other. It’s an active avoidance-- Celeste making excuses to stay late at the office, Jesse working his creative hand to the bone until he can’t feel anything but uninspired-- and it’s a game they’ve gotten good at. Without realizing, they’re both playing to win, competing only against one another for a prize that’s… this.
“We don’t talk at all, C,” he reasons. Celeste knows that he’s not wrong-- but it’s not her fault that he doesn’t communicate. She hasn’t been talking either, but the last thing she wants is for this to be her fault. This is on him.
“You never come in the house anymore. I don’t see you to talk to you.”
“Yeah, because you’re never home. It’s like you don’t want to fix this,” Jesse retorts. He’s quick to the punch-- it’s evident in every way that at least this part of the conversation has been rehearsed time and time again in his head. He’s precise and fast, he knows what he wants to say, and his mind has itself made up on words in record time.
Harsh truth number two: part of her doesn’t want to fix this.
It happens within the same vein of the part of her that still isn’t yet convinced that they have a problem at all. She eyes him and sees remnants of the Jesse she fell in love with-- the Jesse he still is-- and for a minute, the flames in her heart flicker. His kind brown eyes, the way they dote on her even now; his broad shoulders, and how they wrap around her on particularly hard nights; his biceps, tense from holding in so much anger. She re-examines his face and sees her Jesse, the Jesse that six years of marriage has made him: the same, but she can’t stand it anymore. Stupidly in love with her. Always touching her, trying to band-aid emotional wounds that his immaturity had opened. Her Jesse, annoyingly out of touch with the working world, riding the tail end of a freelance artists’ pipe dream.
The flickering flame fizzles out. She’s cold again.
“And you don’t want to grow up. I can’t have a grown up conversation, Jesse, with someone who can’t handle a grown up conversation.”
His jaw sets. His brows lower and the wrinkles in his forehead are more prominent than they were before, when his face was at rest as much as it could be, and would be for the rest of the night. He doesn’t have a comeback for now-- game, set, match, Celeste. When it came to this, she always had the upper hand.
Harsh truth number three: his success doesn’t-- and won’t ever-- look like hers.
“You’re not even arguing that. Right. Okay,” Celeste continues, shaking her head in disdain. He feels small. For some reason, Jesse recounts every time he’s felt this way, and it’s always because of a conversation like this, always with her. She’s talking for the both of them and he doesn’t know if he should chime in, or if she’s taking care of that part. He shifts.
“I applied to that job, I just haven’t heard back yet,” comes an unusual defense, his eyes lifting to meet hers. Celeste thinks of the way her movements are all certain and pointed; she moves with a purpose. Jesse’s every move is calculated within the moment, questioned even after his decisions are solid and already out in the world; he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
“Because your resume is so small--”
“My portfolio is huge,” he cuts, his eyes narrowing at her in a rare show of irritation. It’s not often that Jesse will get hostile and if he does, he apologizes immediately, most of the time. “And not everyone is going into office work, Celeste, okay? It’s harder to find jobs in a creative field--”
“Because it’s not realistic, Jess!”
The conversation has taken a severe detour-- something about their relationship had, once again, come back to be all his fault.
Jesse deflates. Right now, he’s over it. His hands rub over his skin and catch on the edges of his face, his palms folding like a mask over his mouth and his nose. His wine glass has been discarded and forgotten about. Celeste sips hers casually, like she’s making a point. He exhales.
Silence, again. The quiet kind. Before, it was so loud, thumping against him like it would never let up on his chest. This kind was the worst kind of silence-- conquered silence, one that he didn’t get to break. He nods.
“Okay,” he says after a few minutes.
For the first time in six months, Celeste and Jesse agree on something.
“Divorce,” Celeste says, her bravado all but leaving her.
Both of their minds are made up-- it doesn’t make sense for them to stay together. They’re best friends but they’re not compatible anymore. She wants different things, her path is already paved. He has no idea what he wants and he’s opting to build his road himself.
The phrase Celeste and Jesse forever that had driven them both since their freshman year of high school hangs in the balance with a new weight. There has never been a truer statement, ask anyone who knows them-- they’ve been in love since the day they met, a true testament to the opposites attract law that seemed to fuel the rest of the world, but for some reason, didn’t quite work for the two of them. Celeste and Jesse forever, carved into trees, written in the snow in sticks and with freezing fingertips, written in the sand, inscribed into gold-plated necklaces, shown through a series of hand movements, printed on wedding invitations, frosted onto a cake.
The same way the earth changes, the phrase does-- with each changing season the novelty fades and Celeste and Jesse forever becomes more of a hopeful prayer than an exclamation, a desperate attempt to cling to better days, to past ways of being, and love lost while time changed and they couldn’t keep up.
They go to bed in separate rooms. Separate buildings. He sleeps exclusively in his studio and she swears she can hear him laughing, from time to time, at whatever he has on TV when both of their windows are open.
Somewhere, a supercut of their relationship exists. Showcases the good, the bad, the middle ground; the pre-marriage jitters, the drunken nights spent sharing kisses and sharing water bottles, the hazy mornings where neither one of them can will themself to untangle from the other, the afternoons spent working quietly side by side on respective projects, the evenings where Jesse would lay his head against her chest and silently watch her figure out a crossword puzzle.
Jesse visits that version of them often. Supercut Celeste and Jesse exist in his art, in his head, in his dreams. In high school, on their marriage certificate, six months ago, in the distant future.