Saturday, August 19, 2017

I Can't Look Long--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, February 10

     I want JB to hurt worse than I hurt. It’s poison. I know it. But it’s how I feel. Anger knots my stomach. It squeezes my heart. My brain releases anger chemicals. Chemicals I’m so familiar with they feel like home. My insides harden. Every cell in my body vibrates. A head-rush comes on. I get off on it.

     “Please drop off a check when you bring Tom home,” I emailed JB. “Post date it to the 15th if you need to. And please don't bring me gifts, amends-making or not. I gave the flowers to a friend.
    “I feel deep disgust when I remember things we did during the five years you were on Ashley Madison and running up debt. I try to look at you. See outward clues of things I should have seen. See the narcissist inside you. But I can’t look long. It’s like seeing vomit on a sidewalk.
     “The years I spent telling you I didn't like the way you touched me but let you have me while my skin crawled. I believed you’d been put on my path for a reason. That I needed to become more selfless, try to elevate our relationship into something beautiful. I hung on two threads: I believed you to be faithful and honest. It was my mantra. My gut told me there was a boogeyman in the room, but I couldn't see him. 
     “You have no idea, and you never will, how deeply you damaged me. I don't know if you're capable of caring beyond the fact that this probably hurts your feelings.”

     I felt a sharp pain on the left side of my chest after I hit send. It persisted. I wondered if I was giving myself a heart attack. I wondered if I was being punished for sending a mean email.
“For the past two months I have done almost nothing but think about what led me to do what I did and why, and why I didn't follow your example to become a more self aware, good person, with integrity, who connected with you on a real level, with honesty,” JB emailed back. “You may not believe this but I actually really wanted that more than anything. Yet I did everything to undermine it. 
     “I don't have any good answers. I do understand that I didn't merely cheat on you or hide things from you, and I didn't merely miss opportunities to connect with you. It was so much worse that than (sic). Your trust in me was complete, and you sincerely tried to build a real relationship between us. Why I didn't honor that with my fidelity, full attention and effort is beyond me. It makes me shudder. It makes me wake up in the middle of the night. I'm really struggling with it. 
     “So now I make these lame friendly gestures that I know you'll bat away, just hoping maybe one day you'll loathe me a little less than you do now. I realize this comes from a selfish place. Me wanting you to like me again. I'm trying to recognize these patterns in myself more clearly now. I'm not claiming to be a transformed man, but I am seeing myself more clearly, (sic)
     “I actually want to know how you are doing. I never really ask because I am afraid of the answers, or worry that the question will stir up fresh resentments. But I wonder all the time how you are doing and what I could possibly do to make things better for you. 
     “I get that you think I am a massive creep. Maybe a sociopath. I understand why you think this of me. My actions were narcissistic and yes, creepy. It's painful to acknowledge this, but it's the truth. 
      “I am feeling a lot of intense emotions these days. Yes, some are of the self-pitying variety, and I am fighting those. I recognize I don't deserve them. I feel regret. I feel remorse. I feel empathy. I also feel an intense grief over the family that I destroyed. It's as if someone died. And I'm the killer. 
     “It may still be too soon, but eventually we should talk. Maybe best in the presence of a third party. I just feel like we both would benefit from this. 
     “I'll bring you a check today. I will need to post date it. Glad you had a nice birthday. I really am.”

     I felt my heart soften. Maybe JB was transforming. I hoped so for his sake. For our children’s sake. I checked the time. It was still a few hours away from JB dropping off Tom at one. Tom and I were supposed to ski and board our last Snowbirds session of the season. I’d forgotten and agreed to play in Tanya’s drumming circle this afternoon and I’d registered us for a Kabbalah class tonight. I called Laurel. She said she and Terry would take Tom boarding with them if it didn’t start raining.

     “It’s raining on the slopes and we’re not going,” Laurel texted me later.

      I texted JB. JB offered to keep Tom another night. I said thanks and drove off with Tanya to bang on Nigerian drums for an hour-and-a-half.
     The woman leading our drumming circle moved us around to different drums and kept changing our individual rhythms. I fused my beats with seven other women. Our drums were talking to each other. I listened to the other drums and my rhythms melted into the whole. It was beautiful. I focused on my own drumming and I’d get offbeat. I smiled. It was a metaphor for my life.
     Tanya and I left for Kabbalah class and I introduced myself to Yosef, one of the speakers, because he’d recently been assigned to be my Kabbalah teacher. He was a tall, dark, blue-eyed, handsome Israeli who lived in California. I would have been interested in him if I didn’t have an aversion to holy types. I waded into the world’s wisdom traditions just so far, grabbed pearls, and jumped out when human muck began floating around. The last thing I wanted was to be in a headlock taking a pounding from a Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, the Vedas, a Torah, or Zohar. I'd already lived through that.
     Yosef began speaking. He said that if we cry out from a place of truly wanting to change, a gate would open for us. He said that when we’re in pain and ask for more, because it’s the exact opposite of trying to escape or shut down, we’ll get the help we need. He explained that when we’re confused, we need to pay attention to details and do the work required. He said everything is built off thought, so think big. And if we want to increase our happiness, we need to live in the consciousness of sharing.
     “You’re going to fuck Yosef,” Tanya said during the drive home.
     I started laughing. “He is good looking.”
    “You’re going to be fucking him.”
    “He’s probably married.”
     “If he's not, you’re going to fuck him.”
    We both started laughing and couldn’t stop.
     “That’s the hardest I’ve heard you laugh in a long time,” Tanya said.

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