Dear Michael

You stayed at work too long. You always left the toilet seat up. You paid more attention to the TV than to me.

I’m sorry that I divorced you.

I’m still not sure exactly how you came to be. In truth, I had forgotten that you existed until a few years ago, when Mom pulled out an old picture of me from kindergarten. I’m standing by the family minivan with my favorite baby doll Kylie—our biological daughter—and Kylie’s miniature car seat. My chubby finger, covered in peanut butter and jelly, is pointing at some out-of-frame entity. My face, similarly chubby but a little cleaner, is contorted into the type of grimace that only an annoyed toddler can make. By my mother’s account, I was yelling at you.

For an imaginary husband, you had an uncanny ability to put yourself in my crosshairs. Even as a child, I didn’t know the definition of inside voice. You stayed at work too long. You always left the toilet seat up. You paid more attention to the TV than to me. I wasn’t a beleaguered housewife, but I played one.

Yes, it was extra work, but I still somehow found it within my capacity to set a place at the dinner table for you every spaghetti night, reminding you to hang up your coat on the coat rack when you came in the front door. Not content to slurp my pasta, I silently glared at you until you gave Kylie a kiss hello in her Cabbage Patch crib. It was unacceptable for a father to ignore his only child after work. She only saw you once a day.

Every time you would sigh, I would roll my eyes at my mother, expecting her to empathize with my predicament. She offered little sympathy—neither she nor my father were completely certain what had inspired this elaborate charade. To my parents, as I recently found out, my fake husband was a source of significant concern.

But intervention never came. Before my parents could even formalize a scheme, I divorced you. I was standing by the family minivan, waiting for you to open the door like I always had to remind you to do, but you weren’t listening. I told you again, pitch deepening to match my reddening chubby cheeks. But still nothing. In a final attempt to really let you have it, I dropped Kylie and yanked on my own door. As best I could I slammed the motorized minivan door shut. Just before it closed I yelled, “We’re done, Michael!”

That night, my dad came home and asked if Michael would be joining us for spaghetti dinner. I informed him of our divorce and continued eating.

In the following years, I forgot about you in favor of middle school crushes I chased around the jungle gym and the junior high jocks I giggled about at the lunch table. I only recently remembered our divorce, years after it was probably repressed to some far away corner of my mind where all eerie and absurd childhood things lurk. Although I don’t care to explore the rest of those memories, I write this letter today to say thank you, and that I’m sorry it ended that way.