Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Wuss And A Moron--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, February 4

     I spent the day with my friend Jason. He and his wife, Rita, are not doing well.
     "Rita is disrespectful," Jason said while we ate breakfast. "She talks to me like I'm a piece of shit. I've been talking to my therapist about it and she recommended either Rita or I move out for a while to figure things out. When I mentioned it to Rita, she threatened suicide and disappeared for two days to freak me out."
     Jason and I drove to the beach. The sand was covered in thick dense slabs of wind-sculpted snow. Broken chunks of ice floated on choppy Lake Michigan. We hiked up the beach. I'd been disrespectful to JB. I treated him like shit. I treated him like a wuss and a moron. I tried not to, but I did. It must have been horrible, painful for JB.
     The bottom had fallen out of our marriage ten years ago and I should have left then. We were standing at the top of the stairs on the second floor of our house and I was screaming at JB to stand up to his caretaker sister and take his critically ill mother, who was on antibiotics for a possible lung infection, to a cancer doctor. JB blurted his mother was dying, he was going to have to live with his siblings, and he wasn’t going against them. I stood frozen. I thought, this is who I’m married to. JB wouldn’t stand up for his mother. He didn’t stand up for himself. And he wouldn’t stand up for me. And I stayed. I stayed for security. I stayed out of fear. I was a wuss and a moron.
     I drove Tom to his guitar lesson in the afternoon and waited for him in the car. I called my old grade school friend, Sharon.
     “How’s life in Arizona?” I asked.
     “I’ve been very worried about you,” Sharon said. “I’ve been thinking that going through this divorce might make you want to drink.”
     “I’m not going to drink over that guy,” I laughed.
     “That’s so good to hear,” she said.
     “What made you divorce Mr. S&M?”
     “I got pregnant right after we got married. Jerry started asking me to do stuff I didn’t want to do, but I felt trapped. It got worse and worse. He was making a lot of money, we lived in a beautiful home, we traveled all over the world, we looked like the perfect couple. But he was never happier than when I locked him in a dog cage and peed on him.
     “When we were in public, Jerry was buttoned down and looked like a stiff. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted out and he started getting physically abusive. My friend came over one night and when she stood up for me, he pushed her into our kitchen island and bruised her up. I called the cops and got a restraining order.
     “He’s got a girlfriend now. I think he’s starting to show his true colors. They’re on again, off again. We were at the same restaurant and she asked me vague questions about strange behavior while we were both in the bathroom. But they go on these trips. There are things I miss.”
     “You don’t have to pee on him anymore,” I said.
     “No, no I don’t,” Sharon laughed.
     I called my mother. She’d left a voicemail asking me to call her and her voice had sounded strange. When she answered, her voice was low and ominous. I suspected her ninety-year-old friend, Pearl, had died. But my mother made strained small talk.
     “What’s going on?” I finally asked. “It feels like you have something to tell me.”
     “Well,” she said shakily, “it was JB’s birthday yesterday. You know I always call JB on his birthday. So I called him. The Lord impressed me to do it. The first time I called, he didn’t answer. I hung up. I called him back later. I got his voicemail and left him a message telling him that I was calling to wish him a happy birthday even though I was very disappointed in him. I told him I never thought in a million years he would do what he did. I told him he needed to find the Lord, that everyone needs the Lord in their life. I told him that even though I didn’t like what he did I still love him. I wanted him to know I didn’t hate him. A little while later, he called me back. I repeated what I said in the message. When I told him he needed to find the Lord, he said he’d give it some thought.”
     I was speechless.
     “Hello?” my mother asked. “Are you still there?”
     “I’m here.”
     “I felt impressed by the Lord to call him and say what I did. It was the Christian thing to do. I hope you don’t mind. Do you mind?”
     “Do whatever you want. Take him to lunch.”
     “Well, I’m not going to take him to lunch,” she said. “But the Lord impressed me to call him so I did.”
     My mother began nervously making small talk again. I sat there feeling numb. Occasionally my mother would ask if I was still there. I’d say, “Uh-huh.” Finally, I told her I had to go and hung up.
     I checked Tom’s homework. I told him to take a shower. I hugged and kissed him goodnight. I sat on the edge of my bed and started full-fledged sobbing. It was the first time I’d cried like that since I was a little girl, before I vowed never to cry in front of my mother because it seemed she wanted to break me, cure me of being myself, turn me into the perfect Seventh-day Adventist girl. I slid off my bed onto the floor and let myself go. Eventually I got up and texted my mother.

     “I can’t stop crying. I don’t want any explanations or excuses. Nothing you say will make this better so please don’t try to talk to me about this. You just need to know that what you did hurts bad.”

     I went to bed and cried some more. My text alert went off. I picked up my phone, turned off the sound, and tossed it on the floor.

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