Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Not All Guys Are Like Me

Friday, February 22

     I walked into Panera five minute late for meeting JB. He was delivering tax forms to me and I was delivering the latest divorce papers, but he wasn’t there. Odd. JB was always early. I sat a table and pulled out my phone out to see if JB had texted to cancel. I looked up and saw JB swaggering toward me.
      “Hello,” he said, like I was a work buddy. He hung his coat on the back of his chair and handed me an envelope. “It’s the next check. It’s postdated March one.”
     “Thanks,” I said, putting it in my purse. “I’ve been wondering why the IRS came after us for unpaid taxes the past few years?”
     “They calculated that I owed them more money than I calculated we owed.”
     “Were you hiding money from me?”
     “The government knows how much you make. You can’t do that.”
     “Buy-out checks, bonuses, things you ‘forgot’ to tell me?”
     “No, nothing like that. I just didn’t pay enough.” He handed me his income tax forms along with a list of expenses. “I’m still waiting for forms from the buyout.”
     I took the papers, glanced at them, and put them in my purse. I slid JB’s mail in front of him. “There’s also this,” I said slapping an overdue parking ticket and police report on the table. “Do you remember getting this?”
     JB stared at the police report. He nodded without lifting his eyes from the table.
     “Why didn’t you pay it?”
     “I didn’t think it was due.”
     “You were parked on Magnolia at three a.m.”
     “It’s not what you think,” JB blurted.
     “If I were screwing an Ashley Madison date and got a ticket, I’d have paid it right away. I wouldn’t have wanted you to see it. Were you rubbing my nose in it?”
     “It’s not what you think,” JB repeated.
     “Match.com?” I asked and smiled.
     JB grinned like we were sharing a joke. “Look. I got really drunk that night and crashed on someone’s couch.”
     “You didn’t have the decency to spare me this. Nor do you care what Tom sees. He’s seeing match.com pop up on your computer every time he uses it.”
     JB’s grin faded a bit, but he maintained it.
     “Tom says he sees you on dating websites all the time and it bothers him. He asked me to tell you that. He says when he types www, dating websites pop up and women poke you.”
     JB’s head sagged.
     “I’m guessing Tom’s seeing you work both ends. Dating websites and Ashley Madison.”
     “No. I haven’t been back on that website.”
     “You’re not working hard to find as many receptive vaginas as possible?”
     “I haven’t been back on Ashley Madison. And Match isn’t like that. It’s not a hookup site. I wake up in the middle of the night scared I’m going to be old and alone. So I’m working Match aggressively.”
     I stared at JB, astonished. I started laughing.
     JB grinned.
     “Keep your computer clean for Tom,” I said. I slid a packet in front of him containing a divorce settlement and custody agreement. “Look these over. If you have any questions or concerns, tell me. The more we hammer out, the less I pay the lawyer. You shit on me for years, so I’m hoping you’ll do the right thing now.”
     “I want to be generous,” JB said. “I don’t need much to live on. I’m comfortable where I am. I’m really sorry you’re in this position. I’m really sorry about everything.”
     “What exactly are you sorry about?”
     “I’m sorry I did what I did to the kids?” JB asked. “Ruining the family? I’m sorry for what I did to you?”
     I stared at him. He wanted to know if these were the right answers. I smiled incredulously. “And you kept doing it. For five years.”
     “I know,” JB smiled back.
     “How did that feel? How did it feel walking into the house and seeing me after cheating?”
     “I felt bad,” he said, still smiling.
     “But not really, because you kept on doing it.”
     “Like I said, I compartmentalized. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how it worked. But it was like two completely separate things. I would come home and see you and the kids and want to be a family man. I’d stay off for months but then I’d eventually drift back. I’ve always had these impulses. But somewhere down the line I lost impulse control. I used to think of myself as being honest, having a moral compass. But I lost all impulse control. I just started doing whatever my impulses told me to do.”
     “And you lost it when my father was dying.”
     “No, I wasn’t meeting up yet.”
     “You were sex messaging, whacking off, lining people up.”
     JB’s head sagged and he nodded.
     “Tom has been remembering things. He said every time he used the desktop after you were on it, the computer history was wiped clean and he thought it was weird. While the boys were watching TV, you’d sit in the TV room behind your laptop on that side chair with your back to the wall. Did you get off on having computer sex with our sons right there? With me popping in and out of the room while I cooked dinner?”
     JB was still smiling. “I can’t explain it. I don’t know. Everything was so compartmentalized.”
     I forced myself to stare at JB. It was hard to look at him. I searched his face for a conscience.
     “Not all guys are like me,” he said.
     My stomach lurched and I sat back. I forced myself to look at him longer. Tears rose up in my eyes. I blinked them down. “You’re repulsive. Out of all the things you could have choosen to do, this is your activity of choice.”
     JB looked at the table and nodded. He looked up. “I know you think I’m a sociopath, but I’m not,” he said, still smiling.
     “I’ve been looking for something. A glimpse of a soul. But there’s nothing. Your eyes. They’re glazed and empty. Kind of demonic.”
     JB looked at his hands.
     I wanted to see JB cry. I wanted to see he had feelings for someone other than himself.
     “Your facial expressions,” I said. “You’re smiling.”
     “I’m smiling?” he asked.
     “I was cringing.”
     “Your body language is cocky.” I got up from my chair and pulled on my coat. “There’s nothing more to say. I’m leaving now. I’m going to the counter to get dinner for Tom and me.”
     I ordered Tom his favorite chicken noodle soup and myself a salmon salad. JB was picking Tom up in forty minutes and taking him to his house for the weekend. I glanced at the table where we’d been sitting. JB was gone.
     “Sounds like you have a cold,” I told Tom as we ate. “Good thing I got you chicken soup.”
     “Yeah,” Tom said and cleared his throat. He grabbed his napkin and blew his nose.
     “When did you start getting sick?”
     “This morning.”
     “You know it’s best to start supplements right away. Why didn’t you tell me?”
     Tom shrugged.
     “Take these,” I said, putting chewable echinacea tablets in front of him. “I’ll put some in your bag to take to Dad’s. You need to take these three times a day, right?”
     “I know,” Tom said. Tom looked down.
     “Are you okay going to Dad’s this weekend?”
     Tom nodded. “Yeah. When’s he coming?”
     “Any minute.”
     “You know what band I’m getting into now?” Tom asked.
     “Oasis,” he said and smirked. I wasn’t an Oasis fan, but JB claimed he was.
     “Listen to them at Dad’s,” I said and laughed. “Listen to better music when you’re at home.”
     “I have two homes.”
     “Yes. Yes you do. It’s cool having two homes, huh?”
     “Yeah,” he said weakly.
     The doorbell rang. Tom put his coat and shoes on. We hugged goodbye. Tom and JB got into the car and Sonia walked up my front stairs. She and I were going to see the movie “Argo.” Minutes later, the doorbell rang.
     “Dad’s car won’t start,” Tom said. “He’s walking over to the neighbor’s to get a jump.”
     “Hang out until the car starts,” I said. I checked my watch. I didn’t want to leave JB with access to the house.
     “We’ll wait,” Sonia said sternly and gave me a worried look. “We can change plans.”
     JB rang the doorbell. He said his car started. Tom and I hugged again and we all walked out the door. Sonia and I drove toward the movie theater.
     “JB’s a conman,” Sonia said. “He spent years working out a system. A way to present himself to the world. Conmen are very smart. Too bad they don’t put their intelligence to better ends. What you’re dealing with would do a lot of people in.”

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