Thursday, January 17
I woke up agitated. JB said he’d started cheating in 2007. That was the year my father died of cancer. I’d watched my father shrink into a pain-wracked skeleton and many mornings I woke up feeling life was meaningless, exhausting, and the thought of not waking up again was pleasant. JB would slide his hand onto my hip and rub it a couple of times signaling for sex. I’d steel myself, roll over, and do it. Sometimes. Other times I’d pretend to sleep. If I didn’t roll over, JB would sigh repeatedly and eventually stomp out of the room. He didn’t put his arm around me. He didn’t ask how I was feeling. He didn’t ask about my father.
“What month in 2007 did you start cheating on me?” I texted JB.
“I dont (sic) recall exactly... I think it was later in that year that I started going online (sic)”
“I'll guess late summer/early fall.”
“Right after my father died. The worst year of my life.”
JB didn’t respond. I was shaking. I paced the floor. I dialed Paul. I got his voicemail. I paced some more.
“Dishonorable soulless piece of shit!” I spat.
I dialed Tracy. I got her voicemail. I paced back and forth. I called my mother.
“Hi,” she said, “How are you?”
“Not good. Ever since JB told me he started cheating in 2007, it’s bothered me. That was the year Dad died.”
My mother groaned.
“I had to know when he started, so I texted him. He said it was late summer. Right after Dad died. Apparently I wasn’t paying enough attention to him that year.”
“Oh my goodness,” my mother said, her voice solemn and low. “Some people just don’t use their heads.”
“Don’t use their heads!” I yelled. “He’s a fucking sociopath, a narcissist, a sick twisted piece of shit!”
“He is sick,” my mother said. “Really sick. Twenty-one years down the toilet. What a shame, what a shame.”
“Twenty-one years down the toilet?” I shouted. “It makes me sick that I lived with him, let him touch me, had sex with him. He’s a creep. For years I told you I was unhappy. You kept telling me, ‘He’s a good guy, a good provider, a good father. Keep reminding yourself of his good qualities. Tell him how wonderful he is. Build him up. Men like that.’”
“I know,” my mother groaned. “I thought he was a good guy. Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry he turned out to be this way.”
“I hate him,” I snarled.
“Don’t let yourself hate,” my mother said. “Don’t let this turn you into an ugly hateful person.”
“Right now I hate the fucker.”
I ended our conversation and paced some more. I checked email. There was one from JB.
“I believe there are teacher conferences next week?” he wrote. “I assume you don't want to do these with me? I'll understand if you want to handle solo, but I hope you'll shoot me a note afterward to fill me in on Tom's progress. Ditto with things like report cards, etc.
“With the talent show coming up, please let me know what you are comfortable with in terms of how we handle these kinds of public events. I plan on being there for these as a general rule.
“I assume your mother may be there as well. I'd like to say hello to her but I know that may be difficult or unwelcome, so I would appreciate some guidance from you on what would make everyone the least uncomfortable. I have a lot of regrets and one of them is certainly how much I've disappointed your mom.”
“This is how you respond after our texts?” I wrote. “Who are you? What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“I didn't know what to say after your texts. Sorry is so insufficient. I feel horrible. And trying to explain or clarify anything only seems to make things worse.
“What do I see in the mirror? Someone who wishes like hell he could turn back the clock and erase what he's done but knows he can't. Someone who understands he has to keep his chin up and keep moving forward, because the alternative is wrapping a rope around his neck, and that would just be another in a long series of selfish acts.
“Since I've come clean about all my actions I've been answering your questions honestly and I'll keep doing so. I know it's painful and I'm sorry to put you through all this.”
He has to keep his chin up.