Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Completely Clean--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, March 6

     I had my first phone call meeting with Yosef and he asked me what my Kabbalah goals were. I told him to purify my intentions, be as plugged into the divine as possible, and be a vessel for light to shine into the world.
     “Do you have any concerns?” he asked.
     “My divorce,” I said. “It feels like an enormous obstacle to my goals. I often feel sad for the man. I sincerely pray for him. And other times I visualize killing him.”
     “Those are our feelings,” Yosef said. “We’re not supposed to push them down or pretend they’re not there. We need to know that even in the darkest spots, the light is there. There is light to be gained from the darkest situations. We don’t punish ourselves, beat ourselves up for our feelings, we remind ourselves that light is there, too.”
     Our meeting ended and I drove to my appointment with my new accountant. My friend, Whitley, works for him and she gave me a big hug at the door before walking me into Jeff's office. I handed Jeff my tax forms. I’d emailed him the TurboTax returns JB filed the last six years and Jeff had last year’s return printed out and sitting on his desk. He began comparing last year’s tax forms with this year’s.
     “It looks like he took $28,000 out of an IRA last year,” Jeff said.
     I stiffened.
     “Did you know about it?” he asked.
     “You should ask him about it and get back to me.”
     “Let’s do it right now,” I said. I pulled my phone out, dialed JB’s number, and hit speaker. I set my phone on Jeff’s desk.
     JB picked up after one ring. “Hi,” he said cheerily.
     “I’m at the accountant’s office,” I said. “He has some questions for you.”
     “Oh, okay,” JB said. His voice quivered.
     “It looks like you pulled money out of an IRA last year,” Jeff said. “Did you?”
     “Yes.” JB’s voice shook.
     “What did you do with it?” I asked.
     “Paid debt,” JB said.
     “Have you taken more out besides this?” I asked.
     “No. That’s it.”
     “Uh huh,” I said and hung up on him.
     Jeff looked at me. “Look back at the other years when you get home. Look on line 16b. That’s where it will be if he’s taken out other IRA money. He took a big tax hit for doing this.”
     I sat there trying not to cry.
     “I’ll see what I can do, but you may owe something like $30,000 in taxes this year because of the buyout, too. Go see Whitley. I’m sure she wants to talk to you. Go see her.”
     Jeff walked me down the hall to Whitley’s office. I stood by the door. She scanned my face.
     “How did it go?” she asked cautiously.
     “Can I shut the door?” I asked shakily.
     “Yeah, shut it.”
     I closed the door and sat down. I began sobbing. Whitley came over and put her arm around me. I told her JB had stolen money, probably more than I knew about.
     “I can’t take anymore,” I cried. “I keep finding out more bad shit.”
     “It’s good you’re strong,” Whitley said. “You’re strong. You are going to get through this. You’re moving forward. It’ll be over soon.”
     I left Whitley’s office, got in my car, and angrily dialed JB. He didn’t answer. I drove home in a rage. Blake was in the TV room.
     “Hi Mom,” he said.
     “Hey,” I said and sat down on the window seat in the living room. I opened my laptop. I began looking at old tax documents. JB had taken out another $40,000. I felt sick. I dialed JB’s number again. He didn’t answer. I sent him an email.

     “You took $40,000 out of our IRA in 2009, $28,500 in 2011, and copped to $30,000 in secret debt. That's $100,000. Come completely clean.”

     I was shaking. Blake walked over. He started telling me about investment ideas. I snapped and said I didn’t want to hear it.
     “I’m sorry,” I said and started crying. “I just found out your father took $70,000 out of our retirement account.”
     “What an asshole. What a piece of shit.”
     Blake sat next to me and hugged me. I cried on him.
     “That’s it,” Blake said. “I’m done with him. I’m not going to that fucking game tonight.”
     “Oh Blake, I don’t . . .”
     “Stop,” Blake said. “I don’t want to see his face, hear his voice, sit there with him like everything’s fine. I can’t do it. It was hard enough going to the driving range and having dinner with him Sunday. All he did was make small talk, try to act like nothing happened. I won’t do it.”
     Blake picked up his phone and began texting. He told JB he wasn’t going to the Hawks game.
      “Why?” JB immediately texted back.
     “Funny,” I said. “I tried calling him twice. He wouldn’t answer or return my calls.”
     Blake snorted disgustedly. He began texting. “I just told him ‘I have 70,000 reasons why.’” Blake’s phone vibrated. “Dad just texted, ‘We need to talk.’” Blake began texting. “I told him, ‘I disagree.’”
     Blake and I sat on the window seat looking at each other.
     “I’m in the Twilight Zone,” I said.
     “At the end of the show people get out of the Twilight Zone.”
     “No they don’t. They’re stuck in their twisted realities.”
     “Well, Dad’s going to stay stuck. Not you.”
     I hugged him.
     Blake looked down at his phone. “Dad just said he’ll drop off the tickets and you could take me and Tom. He said he texted you, too.”
     I looked at my phone. “He did not. Let him drop them off. You and Tom can go. You could find a friend for your father’s ticket.”
     “I don’t want to go. I don’t want his tickets. I’m not going.”
     “Tell your father I’m already going to the game and he can pick up Tom.”
     “I’m calling Chad. We’ll go to the driving range, hang out on his campus.”
     Tom came home from school and Blake told him he wasn’t going to the Hawks game. He said he needed to go out with Chad to discuss business ideas instead. Tom frowned.
     “You’ll still have a good time buddy,” Blake said. “We have the rest of the week. Get ready. When you see Dad drive up, walk out the door. It’ll save time.”
     Tom went upstairs.
     “I don’t want to see Dad,” Blake said.
     “I know how you feel. I’ll be gone when he gets here. Please don’t let him in the house.”
     Blake snorted. “No way he’s coming in. I’m going to have Tom stand at the door and watch for him.”
     I hugged and kissed the boys. I drove downtown and pulled into parking lot K to meet Paul. I began checking email. There were a couple from JB.

     “The maximum debt I carried reached about $60,000,” JB wrote. “I paid off a chunk with the 40K (had to take a bunch out for tax so it was more like 30K), then the later 28K (about 22 after taxes) went to both pay taxes (about 9K) and further reduce debt. At that point the balance was whittled down to about 22-23K and it gradually climbed back up with interest over the next 2 years.
     “The origin of much of the large debt was when I was self-employed and I kept way too much of our income (for us, not me) and went into debt to pay taxes over those years. It started out as a few thousand and I let it compound over the years at high interest and made it worse with carelessness with business expenses and yes some with things I shouldn't have been doing but have already told you about. The latter was not the biggest factor at all, but it was part of it. It eventually grew into a monster. I borrowed from Peter to pay Paul until that was no longer an option and i got desperate.
     “I didn't have a secret/double life beyond what I have already confessed to you. Once it started to snowball I feared telling you because I was sure you'd throw me out. 
     “For tonight, if you like, I can give you the tickets and you can take Tom and Blake. We can tell Tom something came up with work. I can leave the tickets in my mailbox. I don't want Blake to miss the game because of me. Tom knows where the mailbox is.”

     Email number two.

     “I imagine you've at least considered the idea of hiring a private investigator. I actually think it would be a good idea. They don't miss much, and I can't remember every detail of what I've done. The ability to block things out is kind of prerequisite to the kind of behavior I was engaged in for all that time. I'm pretty confident he wouldn't find much beyond what you already know, but you will believe a third party more than me.
     “If you want to get some quotes and let me know what it entails, I'll consider contributing. I am sure the lawyer knows a few good ones. 
     “Think about it.”

          I stared at the last email. I reread, “The ability to block things out is kind of prerequisite to the kind of behavior I was engaged in for all that time.” I reread it. My head began to swim. I felt rage creep up my body. Paul called. He was in the lot. He told me to meet him at a specific door. I got out of my car, saw Paul, and waved at him. We walked to the stadium together and and took the escalator up to the restaurant. I told Paul about my visit with the accountant and JB’s emails.
     “What the fuck?” he said. “Does he have a gambling problem?”
     “I don’t know who he is. I don’t trust anything he says. He changes stories constantly. Now he’s saying he’s blocked things out, can’t remember. He said blocking is prerequisite to the behavior he was engaged in.”
     Paul almost choked on his food. He started roaring with laughter. The game started and we walked to our seats. Between the first and second periods, as the Zambonie smoothed the ice, I showed Paul JB’s last email.
     “Perhaps hiring a PI would be therapeutic for JB,” I said. “Help jog his memory. Shake him out of his amnesia. Because it’s all black for him.”
     “Yes,” Paul said. “I’m sure he had no idea where he was or where he parked when he was walking into those hotels. ‘Where am I? What am I doing here? What just happened?’ Paul held up his hands. “‘Blocking! Blocking!’ That’s what happened when JB walked in and out of those dens of iniquity. ‘Blocking! Blocking!’”
     We laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Paul shook his head.
     “I’d like to beat that piece of shit,” he said. “I hope we don’t run into him because I don’t want to do anything in front of Tom.”
     After the game, Paul drank a scotch and I had a tonic and lime in the restaurant. We waited for the parking lot to clear.
     “A guy can spend a lot of money on hookers,” Paul said. “I went to The Bunny Ranch in Vegas. My buddy won a bunch of money and wanted to go. I was married at the time. I didn’t do anything, but it was hard not to. They go after you. One hooker put her hand on my crotch and offered me a cheap hand job. I told her I was married and wasn’t interested. She offered to give me a massage and I told her, ‘Yeah, so you can get me all worked up and get me to go for it.’ Another one pulled her shirt off, walked behind me, and put her enormous breasts around my ears like earmuffs. I’m telling you, Brenda, you can walk out of those places thousands of dollars lighter.”
     Paul looked at me like he was my savior, my best bet. He shook his head and said, “You’re damaged goods now.”
     My stomach clenched. I felt sick. I felt angry. I began driving home. My phone rang. 
     “Hi Mom,” Tom said. “Where are you?”
     “Are you at home?” I asked.
     “Yeah. Dad and I are here and the house is all dark. Blake isn’t home either.”
     “I’m about twenty minutes away. I’ll call Blake and see if he’s on his way home. I’ll call you back. Stay with Dad until one of us gets there.”
     I called Blake.
     “Hey Mom,” he said cheerily.
     “Hey. Tom just called. He and Dad are sitting in front of the house. I’m about twenty minutes away. Are you nearby? Are you going to be out for a while?”
     “I wouldn’t be there any quicker than you,” Blake said.
     “Okay, have fun.”
     “That was a great game, huh?”
     “You watched it with Chad?”
     “Yeah. We hit some balls at the driving range, came back to Lake Forest, played pool with some guys, and watched the game. I’ll be here a while.”
     I pulled onto our street and didn’t see JB’s car. Maybe he’d decided to have Tom sleep at his place. I called Tom.
     “Hey, where are you? I’m home.”
     “We’re about to pull in front of the house,” Tom said. “I was thirsty so we went to Walgreens.”
     I parked the car beside the house by our backdoor. I saw JB’s car in my rearview mirror. I got out and Tom was standing next to my car. JB was gone.
     “Great game, huh?” I asked.
     “Yeah,” Tom said. “Guess where our seats were?”
     “The last row?”
     “Yeah. We were sitting up in the ceiling behind the Hawk’s goal.”
     “Well, you could see the whole ice.”
     Tom laughed. “Where were you?”
     “Second level, center line.”
     “I wish I could have sat there.”
     “Paul is going to try to get us tickets.”
     “Hope he can. I’m tired.”
     “Me too.”

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