Monday, December 31
I got out of bed, grabbed my laptop, and pulled up my bank account. Last time I was at the bank, I’d opened a new checking account. I moved JB’s paycheck from our joint checking into my new account. I left enough money in joint checking to cover withdrawals that were in the process of clearing and removed overdraft protection.
Last week, I’d removed my name from credit cards JB and I shared or closed them. I’d close joint checking after the automatic payments cleared. JB had done me a favor cutting me off. I was severing ties that needed cutting. I opened my email account to tell JB what I’d done. I needed to go to the bank today to pay January’s mortgage and set up a new payment system. There was already an email in my inbox from JB.
“Happy New Year. I hope you and the boys have a nice time this evening.
“I would like to spend the day with Tom next Saturday if that works for you. And I will probably want to pick up a few things when I come get him. Basically more clothing and personal effects.
“I'm happy to see you if you want to watch over me while I am there. If you'd prefer not to see me, then we can arrange for me to come when Blake is there.
“Also, did you move the entire amount of my paycheck, save about $400, from the account today? I checked the available balance by phone this morning and it was about $400, but noted there was a direct deposition.
“I know you didn't like the fact that I am moving my check to my account but I did give you fair warning and assured you that I would give you the lion's share to live on, less what I need to get by. I even asked you for an amount that you thought would be fair. I would ask that you give me fair warning as well before doing something like tis (sic). Let's please not escalate this. I don't want this to be the War of the Roses.”
“I need to protect myself from you,” I emailed. “I have to start paying the mortgage in one lump sum at the beginning of each month. That begins tomorrow. I'll tell the insurance agent to send your car insurance statements to you, so give me the address. Once everything is taken care of, I'll close our joint account.
“Come by Saturday for Tom. I will have your things bagged on the porch. If you want to come in and scan for items I may have missed, Blake and I both need to be in the house, so find out Blake’s work schedule.”
“Thanks for replying,” JB wrote. “I'll split the next check with you and I got copies of our bank statements. I will estimate a fair amount to give you from the next paycheck.
“I think the drama and conflict is higher than it needs to be right now. I have every intention of taking care of you and the kids.
“Is there any way we can dial back the hostility? I think it's in our common interest to do so. You'll have the rest of your life to hate me, though I hope that will not be the case.”
“You served me right before Xmas, pressured me with artificial deadlines, changed the locks, took my money without warning (we could have worked this one out) and now you are going to stuff my belongings in garbage bags like I'm Amvets,” JB wrote. “And you seem to imply I am dangerous. You can't expect all this to make things go smoothly.
“Yes I made a move of my own, but I felt I had to let you know that I need money to live on too (sic). And the checks are made out to me, not you. And I gave warning and offered to work out a temporary funding agreement.
“I just think all if (sic) this isn't necessary or helpful. We'd probably be sharing a lawyer if you had handled this differently. Regardless of how you feel about me right now, it doesn't seem smart.”
“I trusted you 100 percent,” I responded. “You knew that and abused me. Right before Christmas you told me you had unprotected sex with multiple partners, gave me an STD, and admitted it was a passive aggressive way to stick it to me. You accumulated $27,000 in secret debt. Now you're trying to turn this on me? I need to pay the mortgage today. I'm taking care of business attached to a horrible situation you threw me in. I changed the locks because you laying on my bed when I’m not home makes me sick. I'm handling this in the most practical way I can.”
“I haven't forgetten (sic) who the bad guy is here. But we need to get through this. And I've been getting a little frustrated because I don't want this and I don't want it to be such a battle. Plus I am still left unable to pay basic bills which is distressing as hell. Let's just try to get through it as best we can.
“The passive-aggressive thing isn't really true, or at least it doesn't account for my actions the way you are suggesting. I know what I said to you. What I did had little or nothing to do with you and everything to do with depression, low self esteem, a huge capacity for denial, an incredible impulsiveness and compulsiveness that I struggle with daily, detachment. You tried to get me help. I never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to fix myself and our marriage.
“No excuses. The results are what they are, and yes the violation of trust is huge and unforgiveable (sic). I am sorry for it all, and will always be sorry.
“I'll be in touch as necessary but will otherwise respect your space. Happy New Year.”
Tom and I put the dogs in the car, drove to the bank, then headed to my mother’s. I settled Tom and the dogs at my mom’s for the night and drove downtown. Paul and I were having dinner at West Town Tavern, listening to punk bands at The Empty Bottle, and spending a platonic night at Swisshotel. Blake would be downtown as well, but partying with friends in a swanky condo.
I arrived at the hotel and called Abby. She was meeting us for drinks before going out to dinner with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
“I wish I was going out with you,” Abby said with a grimace. “My mother’s boyfriend is boring. He talks so quietly you have to strain to hear, and you don’t care what he has to say.”
I started laughing. “Can you get away after dinner?”
“My mother would get upset. Have you thought about drinking since finding out about JB?”
“I’m not drinking over that guy. I’m getting a new life. I’m excited about it.”
“That’s good,” she said looking at me analytically.
Paul walked in. He and Abby had a round of cocktails while I drank tonic and lime. Abby left for dinner and Paul and I took a cab to West Town Tavern.
“When’s the last time we ate here?” Paul asked.
“Five years ago,” I said. “We saw Hunchback of Notre Dame at Redmoon. It was the winter after my dad died.”
“I remember you didn’t want to go home that night. JB had been unsupportive when your dad was dying. It was eating away at you.”
“He never asked about my dad, visited him. My dad was really good to JB. I was just someone for JB to screw, someone who took care of everything. JB didn’t care how I was. He never asked how I was doing.”
“You gave me a bear hug before you left that night,” Paul said. “I couldn’t believe a little girl like you could hug so hard.”
“My dad and I hugged like that.”
The waiter set bacon-wrapped scallops on the table. Paul and I wolfed them down. Then came Paul’s lamb and my trout. For dessert, we each had a huge slice of banana cream pie.
There was a handful of old punk rockers like us at The Empty Bottle gravitating toward one end of the stage. The floor got more and more packed then the mosh pit kicked in. I was an old slam dancer. I wished I’d worn my twenty-year-old Doc Martins instead of high-heeled boots. I wanted to bash the feelings out of me.
Paul positioned himself between the mosh pit and me. He began shoving people who were flailing too close. My boot heels slipped around in beer. My ankles tipped. The music reverberated in my body and did a nice job annihilating my feelings. Smiling X-poppers careened into each other. I secretly wanted to pop some and join them. I smiled. I looked at Paul. Paul’s mouth was a rigid line. His eyes were darting around the crowd. His fists were ready to clock someone. We were standing near a short flight of stairs. I stepped up onto the first stair and pulled Paul up next to me.
“We won’t get pushed here,” I yelled into his ear. Paul nodded and relaxed.
My phone vibrated in my pocket.
“Happy new year Brenda,” JB texted.
“Happy New Year,” I texted back.
“Thanks. Hope you are having fun. Whatever happens I will always love you.”