Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Clean Again--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, January 7

     This morning started like most mornings. I woke up at three a.m. feeling coated in filth with my mind spinning on ways JB violated me, or might violate me. I pushed my thoughts away, focused on positive things, but found myself back in the hole. It’s like I’m at war inside. And I start beating myself up for staying married too long.
     A few years ago I found a page from an 18-year-old Esquire magazine I’d written on and ripped out. I was sitting at our kitchen island overlooking the family room in our Chicago house watching JB snore in front of the TV and drinking my third or fourth vodka when I wrote it.

     “You’re undemonstrative. The only time you touch me is when you want to fuck. You never get excited about anything. If I didn’t speak first, we’d rarely converse. The only time you tell me you love me is during sex. You bury your nose in a newspaper or magazine and walk around with a sour expression. You pout whenever I ask you to do something. This is my dream. Is it yours?”

     I’d been miserable for twenty years. I told myself our boys needed a father at home. I made a gratitude list of the world’s cities I’d enjoyed because of JB’s job. I was grateful JB didn’t order me around and tell me what to do like some of my friends’ husbands did. Some of my friends’ husbands weren’t having sex with them anymore, so I tried to appreciate the attention I got from JB, even though it had gotten creepy.
     JB and I had gone to Spain right before our marriage blew. One night, the conference we were at hosted a lavish dinner at a posh Toledo estate. As we ate, JB cut off his colleagues in conversation and finished their sentences for them, just like he did with me. I mostly stared at my plate, occasionally catching the eye of one of his peers. I excused myself and walked to the bathroom, which was a long walk from the courtyard we were dining in. I stayed a long time. When I returned, after-dinner drinks were being served on a veranda. One of our dinner companions walked over and kept me company. I could hear JB blustering behind me, clearing his throat copiously.
     Was JB’s throat clearing a tell? It had started about five years ago. Why hadn’t I seen any clues? I’m not a denier. I face things. Last summer, before our trip to Spain, I’d told JB I was happiest when he was away on business.
     “I haven’t been able to kiss you for six years, haven’t you noticed?” I asked. “I can click off and have sex with you, but I can’t kiss you.”
     JB looked like I’d slapped him.
     JB never cuddled me, even when we were dating. I’d spooned my way to sleep with my other boyfriends, but I’d picked JB. I was a cynical, selfish, jaded little writer and being intimate and vulnerable was not a goal of mine. Then I got sober and realized how badly I’d screwed myself.

     “After you meet with your attorney tomorrow, please give me his contact information so I can forward it to my lawyer” I texted JB. “I hope we can make this go quick and easy. Your dirty laundry (the material stuff) and art are on the porch for pickup. The sketch of Blake is his and he wants it. I'd like to keep two pieces: the one over the mantle that your mother didn't paint, and the large one by the window seat that is mounted on slate and had to be professionally bolted to the wall.” 

     “Hope you are doing well,” JB responded. “Yes, meeting tomorrow. I'll give you his details once I've officially retained him. I'm not interested in any further delay at this point. Everything you say else seems fine...happy to let you keep those pieces.
     “Not official yet, but I have rented a very cheap house. Sean may be staying with me for a little while, which would help with rent, but I am going try (sic) to convince him to go back to his family. I had a long talk with Mary Kate yesterday and I don't want to be an enabler of breaking up that family. I've done enough.
     “The place isn't much from the outside but it's nice inside, other than some needed work in the kitchen and bath. Got a free month's rent to cover some of the labor I'll have to put into it. It's old and small, but cozy. It is in a nice area and will be a safe place for the boys to come visit.
     “I would like to take some spare furniture if that is OK with you. There is some stuff in the basement I could use. Extra dining room table, coffee table and some chairs. I would probably want to come get it in the next week or so. Let me know if that's ok and how you would prefer to handle.
     “I will have a check for you this weekend. I can send it home with Blake.”

     “There’s a wicker table and couch in the garage you should take,” I answered. “Come by Saturday at noon and Blake and Tom can help you move the stuff to Troy’s. I'm sure you can fit quite a bit in Blake’s 4 Runner.”

     “Thanks. That sounds good. I think the boys will be staying with me at Troy's Friday night, so it should all work out well.”

     “Forgot about Friday. You could come by at 3, load up while it's light, and go.” 

     “Sounds good.”

     I got lost in my thoughts. I saw JB smirking while setting up Ashley Madison dates while I was in the room. I saw him smirking while he had sex with other women. I saw him smirking when he returned. I saw him smirking as he reached for me in bed. I saw myself killing him. My murderous rage rattled me and I scared myself out of it. Maybe once we’re divorced I’ll feel clean again.

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