Monday, February 3, 2014

Chapter One: Discovery: November 2009

Please start reading my divorce memoir from the beginning.

(All names are changed)

November 19, 2009

Something crazy—stupid, maddening—happened to me today. I’m so confused and hurt—angry. I feel like I’m hovering outside of myself and I don’t like what I see. It’s surreal. I’m writing about it so I can make some sense of it. Sense?

Let me start at the beginning of this newest anomaly in my marriage.

As I stood in the kitchen this evening, I heard the garage door go up. Jerry came home early from his business trip. I was just about to leave to meet my friends at the theater to see the second Twilight movie. We’d all bought tickets online and I was running late.

Jerry came in the door, spotted me, put down his briefcase, and trod directly over to me as I stood at the counter. He put his arms around me and hugged me in his socially-awkward way, hardly touching. The tentative, uncomfortable embrace didn’t inspire me to hug him back but I mustered a pat.

I calculated. It had been more than three years since I’d felt that man’s arms around me. I can’t remember the last time he touched me at all. It felt so awkward and immediately put me on my guard.

There was that time, about two years ago, at the shore after his charity bicycle ride. I had just fĂȘted him with noisemakers and picture-snapping as he crossed the finish line. Afterward, we walked on the boardwalk and I put my hand in his. He didn’t look at me, he just kept walking. His discomfort transferred, like an electrical current, from his limp hand to my hopeful one. Before fifteen seconds passed—I counted—he dropped my grasp to scratch his nose. He walked ahead of me, like he didn’t want anybody to know he was with me.

That all transpired in my head in a split second as he held me in the kitchen.

Not sure of the situation, my first reaction was to protect myself, possibly from some type of drama.

When Jerry pulled away, he gripped my arms, looked down at me and said, “I choose you,” then gave me a strange smile, as if feigning good will.

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “I decided I love you and want to be married to you.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. “Well, you are, so . . . ?”

He said, “I have a lot to tell you,” and took my hand and led me out of the kitchen into the family room.

I told him, “I’m on my way out,” and pointed to the door with my free hand.

“No, we have to talk,” he said in his commanding, uninviting, way.

He plopped me down on our new love seat and sat cattycorner from me on the couch. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but I resolved to listen. It seemed important. I wondered if he got a raise. Was he going to finally take me on that trip he promised me three years ago? I inwardly warned myself not to be optimistic.

Good thing.

He said, while on his business trip to Texas, he met with his old high school girlfriend who lived in the Dallas area.

What? Her again? It’s been almost twenty years since I heard him mention that name—that woman. I can’t even utter or write her name.

He said she got in touch with him through Facebook back in August and he told her he was going to Dallas on a business trip.

August? In a split second I remembered one day he asked me how to “friend” someone on Facebook. He said she got in touch with him? I bet he got in touch with her. And I told him how to do it.

He said she invited him to come meet her family. They made plans to meet for dinner: Jerry, herand her husband. But, lo and behold, she came by herself. Why am I not surprised?

Jerry said, “I didn’t know she was going to do that.”

Yeah, right. That just proves how stupid he thinks I am—knowsI am.

He gave me the whole story I had heard the last time he met up with her at their twentieth high school reunion. She was abused by her step father; he almost killed her; she came to school with a black eye. Blah, blah, blah.

He actually started to cry as he told me the story. His chin quivered as he spit out the words, trying to hold back the tears. I wasn’t moved. I mean, if he thought I was going to be stirred by his emotion toward another woman . . . I sat in dazed stupor, not believing what I saw or heard. This, from a man who prided himself on never crying? Infuriating.

Inside, my emotions were agitated, out of control, thoughts racing. I felt out-of-body, screaming, crying and pacing the floor. My head pounded.

Yet, I sat there on the love seat, not moving, as my inside voices and emotions raced around me. I only, calmly, said to him, “I’ve heard this story all before, several times.”

Bewildered, he didn’t believe I could possibly know it. He just stared at me, scrunched his nose and said, “What do you mean?” His memory’s like a sieve.

To prove it, I started adding to the story he just told me about her abuse. His eyebrows lifted as his eyes widened, like he had never heard it before and I was a liar. Such a farce.

I stopped my account and stayed silent as he continued.

“She has lupus and is on disability.” He felt so sorry for her. He could barely talk for his emotions and his hand came up to his heart as he caught his breath.

I suffer from lupus—caused by living with him, the loose cannon. Does he feel sorry for me?

“She’s in pain all the time.” He looked at me for commiseration.

I’m in pain all the time, too. He doesn’t acknowledge it. I was seething inside; holding in my ire.

He paused, choked up, looked at me, and said, “And she’s an artist. You should see her work. It’s beautiful. Her husband is a photographer and he takes pictures and she paints them.”

I couldn’t hold it in. I barely caught his gaze while he sang her praises. I pointed to myself and tapped my chest, as if to remind him who he was talking to. I blurted out, “Jerry, I’m an artist.”

My words caught him off guard, as if breaking his reverie. Shooing me away with his hands, he said, “I know, I know, but you should see her work. It’s just so. . . beautiful.”His voice caught and he put his hand up to his mouth.

He always said he didn’t see any point to my artwork. Told me I was just showing off. My heart hurt as I listened to him. I wanted to cry myself, but I was too angry.

The talk continued about her.“She said something that surprised me. She asked me if I was ever sorry I didn’t marry her.” He looked at me immediately. “I told her no.”

I didn’t feel assured. Did he think that would pacify me? I was already way too deep into exasperation and anger.

Jerry had told me about her when we began dating. It was uncanny how much I looked like her, he had said. After they broke up, she got pregnant and asked him to marry her, because she didn’t want to marry the father, an older man. Jerry refused. He had to go to college to avoid the draft. She ended up marrying that guy and Jerry was relieved. At least that’s what he told me. He never saw her again—until his twentieth high school reunion. That was almost twenty years ago. He dated her for one year—forty stinking years ago—and he’s never gotten over her.

I didn’t go to that reunion because I had just had a baby, but I urged him to go with his friends. He came home and told me she was there. That’s all I heard about for awhile—how she barely looked older; she still had her figure; she divorced her first husband and married again.

I found out later from his friends’ wives that he danced with her all night. One of the women pulled him aside and told me she said,“Jerry, you need to stop dancing with her.”

“Why? There’s no harm in it.”

“I’m telling Patsy.”

Jerry scoffed at her and went on dancing.

She did tell me.

He told me he composed a letter to her, before computers and email. I talked some sense into him about how inappropriate that was. He agreed. That was the last I heard of it.

I don’t remember how much time Jerry said they spent together at the restaurant in Texas—two hours, three hours—hours—but she persuaded him to come to her house for dinner the next evening to meet her husband. He said he told her he would feel weird doing that.

I thought, I hope he’s not going to tell me he actually went to their house.

He did.

“I almost didn’t go,” he assured me, looking me straight in the eye, squirming. He said he met her husband and was taken by the way her husband was so solicitous toward her, getting her something to drink, making sure she was comfortable in her chair.

I wish Jerry felt that way toward me.

Jerry does do things for me, but in a condescending way. He would put the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer, then tell me, “There. I did your laundry for you,” making me feel inadequate as if I didn’t do it right or fast enough.

He said, “Her husband kept looking at me, with suspicion in his eyes.”

Uh, yeah. I sat there looking at him with suspicion in myeyes, too.

“I left because I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t even stay for dinner.”

I bet her husband wanted to kill him. If she came to my doorstep, I’d probably want to kill her, too. What is the purpose? The motive?

Then, as if addressing my thoughts, he said, “I want you to meet her.”

My mouth dropped open. I felt blood rush up to my neck. My ears were hot. It felt like someone just sucked the air right out of me.

Not noticing my obvious discomfort, he continued talking. “I want you to see how much her husband loves her and I want us to be in love like that.”

I balked, shaking my head and getting up from the love seat. He took my hand as I was walking away and pleaded, “I want us to take a vacation and go visit them. I know you’ll like her.”

I pulled my hand away and said, “Do you hear yourself? You want me to go to Texas to meet your high school girlfriend and you want me to like her?”

“That’s what I want us to do.” He crossed his arms and stuck out his chin. I think he really thought I would give in and go.

“I’m not going to use my vacation days to go meet your high school girlfriend. If I’m using my vacation time, I’m going to go visit my kids—our kids—not her.” Livid.

His expression—mouth falling open, hands upturned—showed me he couldn’t believe I wouldn’t want to go meet her—so I could see just how wonderful she is.

Exasperated. Nobody’s home, I thought about his addled brain.

I sneered at him and spit out, “And I’m surprised you would use your vacation to see her and not your kids.” That really hurt me. He wasn’t even thinking of his family. Just her. Totally infatuated.

I sat back down on the edge of the love seat and rubbed my aching temples. I looked at him hard, demanded eye contact. “If you ask any of your guy friends if they think it’s cool for you to take your wife all the way to Texas to meet your high school sweetheart, they’ll tell you it’s not cool. It’s crazy.”

Again, the scrunched up nose. He didn’t believe me. “Really?”he asked.

The look I threw back was his answer to that. More exasperation.

He whined. “I know you’ll like them.”

My shoulders fell. It was useless to go on. I have given up on dreaming about romance with that man. I told him before, being in love with him is a Catch 22. I only get hurt in the end.

Seeing me crestfallen, he said he would prove that he loved me by doing things for me.

“You already do things for me, Jerry,” I told him, dejected.

“I’ll do more. You’ll see. I’ll prove to you that I love you.”

I figured his doing nice things for me, or proving that he loved me, would last about two weeks, his usual amount of time to do things he resolves to do.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. My mind wanted to run with my body out of the house. I was glad I had somewhere to go.

I bolted up from the loveseat. “I have to leave. I bought a ticket online to see a movie and I have to go now.” I figured telling him I already spent the money would get him off my back. He’s all about money.

In a hurry, I gathered my coat, purse, and keys. I turned back for a moment. “Think about it. What if I asked you to take precious vacation time to go meet one of my high school boyfriends? How would you feel?”

I looked at his face. I could hear his thoughts say, “It’s not the same.”

All he said was, “I can’t believe you’re leaving.” He got up and followed me, then stopped to yell, “I’m trying to have a conversation aboutus and you have to go to a stupid movie.” He threw up his hands.

“I already bought the ticket,” I called over my shoulder before I stumbled out the door, letting it slam.

A conversation about us? A conversation about her. Fuming, I remembered his tears.

I got in my car and drove toward the movie theater. I played back what just transpired in my mind to see if I had acted on impulse or—

I beat my hand on the steering wheel. “That idiot!” I shouted inside the car. “I can’t believe he did that! Of all thestupid . . .”

Shaking the wheel, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I kept replaying the scene and repeating what an idiot he was—as loud as possible—all the way to the theater.

I don’t remember the movie. I didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t want to go home. I said good-bye to my friends, drove around, taking the long way to wherever I was going. I needed to bounce this off somebody, but I could think of nobody I wanted to tell.

Who do you go to and say, “My husband just traveled all the way to Texas to see his high school sweetheart? Yeah, they’ve been corresponding since August.” August!Three months!

Part of me wanted to hide it and not let anybody know my husband was so incredibly stupid and, surprising, the other part of me wanted everyone to know.

Then I doubted my feelings—maybe I was too hard on him.

No! I’m going to own up to my feelings. I’m hurt. I’m embarrassed he did that. I’m humiliated. What does her husband think about this? Oh, who cares about them?

When I got home, Jerry was in bed, asleep.

So, now I’m writing down my thoughts in a journal document—with a password, no less. I always say I have nothing to hide, but this raw writing needs to be protected, guarded. Vitriol dominates my thoughts. I’m hurt and confused.

Writing will be cathartic. Journaling helps me gather my thoughts and I will have massive sorting out to do. That is a fact.

A whole new nightmare has begun. Who am I kidding? My married life has been nightmarish almost from the time we made our vows.

Have I really lived like this for thirty-two years?

. . . to be continued

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