Saturday, March 10, 2018

Loving The Sinner--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Tuesday, April 16

     I pulled a double shift on the Master Gardener hotline today and during my morning shift, I let my partner, Evelyn, grab most of the calls as JB, my lawyer, and I emailed back and forth getting our divorce agreement ironed out.
     “We go to court in eight days,” I told Evelyn. She looked at me quizzically. “He was on Ashley Madison for five years.”
     Evelyn’s eyes misted over. She looked like she’d seen a ghost. “My father disappeared,” she said. “I’ve worked on forgiveness a lot. Forgiveness is more for you than the other person. You don’t want your life ruined. Were you having sex with your husband?”
     That was icky. I get that icky question a lot. Maybe women want to believe screwing their husbands makes them infidelity-proof? It’s a question that leaves me feeling defensive and wounded.
     “I was having sex with him,” I said, hating myself for telling her.
     “You can understand when a guy isn’t getting any, or has a sick spouse. And the sick spouse thing is yucky, but you can understand it.”
     I stared at Evelyn, repulsed. 
     “I’m very Catholic,” Evelyn continued. “My mother had trouble divorcing my father even though he abandoned her. She had to wrap her mind around the belief that he actually got the divorce by doing what he did. My brother is a big grudge holder and won’t speak to our father. He doesn’t speak to me now, either, because I started talking to our dad.
     “I went to see my father and forgave him,” she continued. “I’m practicing hating the sin but loving the sinner. I feel sorry for him. He lost all. He’s living in a dinky apartment in Florida cut off from his family. My mother resents that I reached out to him, that I have a relationship with him now.
     “He just disappeared one day. He was retired and taught Tai Chi. He met friends every day for coffee. He had a huge social network. No one knew if he was alive or dead. No one knew what had happened until he sent me a postcard saying he was in Florida. Eventually it came out that my mother’s best friend, who had moved to Florida a year and a half earlier to live with her wealthy mother, was having an affair with my father. He moved there to be with her. My mother told me my father is impotent, so it’s an odd situation. They live separately.  Is JB sorry, remorseful?”
     “Sorry and remorseful for his consequences.”
     “There is something very wrong with him,” Evelyn said, staring at me like I should hang in there and fix him.
     “He can fix himself if he wants to,” I said. “I don’t have special powers to change other people.”
     Evelyn’s expression darkened and she dropped her head, deep in thought. Thank God our shift ended. Evelyn left and Dina walked in. I checked my email and researched gardening answers for Dina.
     “Sorry,” I said, explaining my situation.
     “My friend got divorced after spending most of her life with her husband, too,” Dina said. “He’d been having an affair for years.”
     “I used to believe partners knew, on some level, that their spouse was unfaithful,” I said. “Those who didn’t were deniers or stupid. I got that idea in my twenties watching an Oprah rerun late at night after boozing it up with my friends.” I started laughing. “I had no clue JB was cheating. So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to see if I did on some subconscious level.”
     “My husband travels a lot,” Dina said, looking troubled. “He always tells me I’m na├»ve, that I have no idea what goes on in hotels at conferences. Before I had kids I traveled for work. Guys would hit on me. I’d tell them I was married and they’d ask, ‘Happily?’”
     “I got that, too,” I said.
     We looked at each other like we’d tasted something bad.

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