Brenda began fantasizing about divorce. She confided in her mother.
“JB’s a good guy,” Cherise told Brenda. “Concentrate on his good qualities. Tell him how wonderful he is. Praise him when he does something nice. Men love that.”
Brenda listed JB’s good qualities. He didn’t lie, not even about little stuff, like their boys’ ages when purchasing tickets to museums or theme parks. He never ogled other women. He supported the family financially. JB was faithful, honest, and a decent provider. She concluded that she was an ungrateful bitch. She’d catch herself bashing him for not helping with the kids, the house, then remind herself that he was faithful, honest, and a good provider. She tried being more selfless and loving. She tried replacing negative thoughts with kind ones. So what if JB glowered when she asked him to clean the gutters and whipped rotting leaves on the ground. So what if she saw Blake watching TV with his dad instead of JB helping with homework as she cleaned up dinner. She focused on the good and told herself she didn't have anything to be unhappy about. There were homeless people, people dying of cancer, she had it good. But negative feelings and thoughts kept floating in.
The problem, Brenda eventually decided, was she didn’t respect JB. She’d lost respect for him when Therese, who’d become a good friend of hers, was dying.
Therese was feeling lethargic, achy, sickly. She developed back pain, chest pain, and had trouble breathing. JB’s sister, Leslie, took Therese, a smoker with emphysema, to a general practitioner. Chest X-rays and lung biopsies were ordered but came back inconclusive because of Therese’s emphysema.
Therese’s health deteriorated. Early one morning, Therese called Brenda. “I’m slipping through the cracks,” she said. “I’m going downhill and no one is helping. No one is giving me answers.”
Cancer had not been mentioned. Brenda struggled with bringing it up. “I know of a good oncologist who treated my friend’s mom for lung cancer,” she finally said. “They thought the guy walked on water. Do you want to see him?”
“Yes,” Therese sighed with relief.
Brenda called the doctor. She booked the first available appointment. It was in two weeks when JB, Blake, and she would be in Sweden. Brenda called Leslie and told her about the appointment.
“Where do you get off making a doctor appointment for my mother?” Leslie growled. “Where do you get off telling me what to do? Who gave you that right?”
“Your mother,” Brenda said, taken aback. “She called me this morning very upset. She wants to see an oncologist.”
“You have no idea what’s going on. We’ve got this handled. Stay out of it.”
Brenda called Troy, JB’s brother. She pleaded with him to take Therese to the oncologist. He said he would.
JB, Blake, and Brenda returned from Sweden. Therese had been moved to a nursing home. She was on anti-anxiety meds and antibiotics for a possible lung infection. She had not seen the oncologist.
“Leslie Dearest put me here,” Therese said when Brenda visited her.
Brenda told JB they needed to get Therese out of the nursing home and to a cancer doctor. JB stared at her blankly. Brenda repeated herself. JB stared. Brenda got in JB’s face and screamed, “You have to get her out! We have to take her to the oncologist!”
“My mother is dying,” JB blurted. “I’m going to have to live with my siblings and I’m not going against them.”
Brenda staggered. She scanned JB’s face. “This is who I’m married to,” she thought.
Therese died of lung cancer without having been treated by an oncologist.
Brenda grew to dislike JB more and more. She condescended to him, thought of him as a coward, struggled to find compassion but couldn’t.
JB and Brenda completed their relationship workbooks. Once they were done, they reverted back to they way they were. Brenda told JB, “There’s no intimacy between us. I feel like a piece of meat. I don’t know who you are.” JB nodded and looked at the floor.
Brenda told JB to see a therapist or she was leaving. JB started seeing a therapist even though he didn’t want to. He told his therapist about Brenda. He said she didn’t love him anymore and treated him like an idiot. He asked how he could change her back. His therapist kept poking into his childhood, ignoring his goals. JB got frustrated. His parents didn’t beat him or physically abuse him. They were screwy but who’s parents weren’t? He needed to fix Brenda. She kept complaining about needing intimacy, to connect. Sex was intimacy and connection. If she’d get into fucking him again it’d solve everything. He wouldn’t have to lead a double life. His double life was stressing him out. But it was exciting finding women on the Internet who wanted to cheat. Sexting with them was arousing. He loved the anticipation of booking hotels, the climax of sealing the deal. Should he tell his therapist? He decided not to.
JB’s and Brenda’s marriage kept sliding downhill until it finally dropped off the cliff it was headed toward and smashed. I know. I’m Brenda. And I kept a journal. Here it comes.