Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Did You Wear A Condom?--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     Tuesday, November 27

     JB left the house this morning and sent me this text.

     “You were right to say yesterday that I haven't earned your trust. I need to clear the decks with you of all the stupid things I've done. The stress of it all is taking a toll. I want to be a better husband, father and man. I've got a ways to go...”

     I read JB’s text several times. I felt dizzier with each read. I put my phone away. I’d deal with this in person. I sat for what felt like a long time feeling ill. Then I mentally shelved what was going on. I began working on the novel I was writing then left to teach a yoga client. When I got home from yoga, JB was making spaghetti for dinner. Tom, twelve and in sixth grade, hopped in the shower after dinner and I walked over to JB who, as usual, was sitting at a computer.
     “What do you need to come clean about?” I asked.
     JB swiveled in his chair. He nervously glanced at me then stared at the floor.
     “I fooled around when I was in Thailand,” he said. JB’d been in Thailand a few weeks ago. “I don’t know why I did it but I did it. She was from Australia. She was there for the same conference. We were drinking in the bar. She invited me back to her room and I went. I don’t know why I went but I did.”
     “You had sex with her?”
     “Did you wear a condom?”
     “Yes. But she gave me a blow job.”
     That was weird. Everything he said felt odd and prefabricated.
     “Did you have sex with anyone else?” I asked.
     “No. That was the only time.”
     “What about debt? We were talking about money before you said I was right not to trust you. Is there debt you need to tell me about?”
     “No debt?”
     I walked away. It felt like I was gliding. I slid into our bedroom and stopped in the middle of the floor. I smiled. I walked into my closet. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want JB seeing I was happy. I pressed my palms together, looked at the ceiling, and whispered, “Thank-you.” I started giggling. I put on my serious face and walked out.
     “I’m going for a drive,” I said. “I need to process this.”
     I pulled away from the house not knowing where I was going. I wanted to talk to someone but didn’t know who. Paul. I’d call Paul then buy myself a present. I pulled into a shopping mall parking lot. I turned off my car and froze. I was paralyzed. Eventually I pulled out my phone and dialed Paul.
     Paul and I have known each other thirty years. He and I’d gone out to dinner after my father died of cancer and I told him, “Not once did JB ask about my dad. He never asked how I was either. Hospice put my dad’s hospital bed in his living room. I was sitting on it feeding him cherry Jell-O and he asked, ‘Is JB ever going to come see me?’ I couldn’t breathe. I made up some excuse and changed the subject. When JB walked through the door that night I screamed, ‘Are you planning on seeing my father? He's fucking dying! He’s been so good to you and you don’t give a shit!’ JB stood there like a mannequin then said, ‘Oh, well, I was planning to go this weekend.’ I don’t like him Paul. I don’t like JB at all.”
     Paul’s phone rang. “What’s happening?” he answered.
     “JB cheated on me.”
     “No. No fucking way.”
     “Yes fucking way.”
     “How do you know?”
     “He told me.”
     “He told you?”
     “He told me.” I started laughing.
     “Well, it’s good you’re laughing, I guess.”
     “I can leave him,” I said. “Seven months ago I hit my knees, told God I couldn't take my miserable marriage anymore, and said, ‘Give me a sign and make it perfectly clear if I should stay or if I should go.’ I get to go now. If I’d gone to Thailand with JB instead of Spain, he wouldn’t have done whatever the fuck he did. I’d still be stuck. JB wanted me to ditch his business trip to Spain and go to Thailand instead. Thank God I didn’t.”
     “Well, congratulations.” Paul laughed. “Hey JB, thanks. I get to hang out with your wife more.” 
     I walked into the store. The world felt surreal. I glided around and picked out a grey merino wool sweater with tiny white buttons running up the sleeves. A sales woman began ringing me up and my text alert went off.

     “I'll stay in Tom’s room tonight,” JB texted.

     Tom had moved into Blake’s room after Blake went to college. I crawled into the middle of my bed and stretched out. It felt weird, but good weird.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bank Statements--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, November 26

     I started the morning looking at bank statements online and getting increasingly agitated. JB made more withdrawals from our personal account for business expenses—something I’ve been yelling about for years. He pays back some of the money, but not all. He tells me his employer has cashflow problems and can’t reimburse him on time.
     The company JB works for purchased the company he used to work for. We owned shares of the purchased company and we're supposed to get a buyout check every month. The checks show up erratically, however, and the amounts JB deposits are almost always smaller than they’re supposed to be. Cashflow problems, JB says.
     I heard the front door open and JB’s footsteps on the stairs.
     “What are you doing home?” I snapped.
     “I forgot my thumb drive.”
     “I’m looking at bank statements. How many times do I have to ask you not to dip into our personal money? We’re always short. I don’t have enough to pay bills.”
     “I don’t have time to talk about this. I have a meeting. I have to go.”
     “This makes me sick. I don’t trust you.”
     “I have to go. We’ll talk about this later.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In The Beginning... IV ("Thank You Ashely Madison" intro excerpt 4)

     Brenda began fantasizing about divorce. She confided in her mother.
     “JB’s a good guy,” Cherise told Brenda. “Concentrate on his good qualities. Tell him how wonderful he is. Praise him when he does something nice. Men love that.”
     Brenda listed JB’s good qualities. He didn’t lie, not even about little stuff, like their boys’ ages when purchasing tickets to museums or theme parks. He never ogled other women. He supported the family financially. JB was faithful, honest, and a decent provider. She concluded that she was an ungrateful bitch. She’d catch herself bashing him for not helping with the kids, the house, then remind herself that he was faithful, honest, and a good provider. She tried being more selfless and loving. She tried replacing negative thoughts with kind ones. So what if JB glowered when she asked him to clean the gutters and whipped rotting leaves on the ground. So what if she saw Blake watching TV with his dad instead of JB helping with homework as she cleaned up dinner. She focused on the good and told herself she didn't have anything to be unhappy about. There were homeless people, people dying of cancer, she had it good. But negative feelings and thoughts kept floating in.
     The problem, Brenda eventually decided, was she didn’t respect JB. She’d lost respect for him when Therese, who’d become a good friend of hers, was dying.
     Therese was feeling lethargic, achy, sickly. She developed back pain, chest pain, and had trouble breathing. JB’s sister, Leslie, took Therese, a smoker with emphysema, to a general practitioner. Chest X-rays and lung biopsies were ordered but came back inconclusive because of Therese’s emphysema.
     Therese’s health deteriorated. Early one morning, Therese called Brenda. “I’m slipping through the cracks,” she said. “I’m going downhill and no one is helping. No one is giving me answers.”
     Cancer had not been mentioned. Brenda struggled with bringing it up. “I know of a good oncologist who treated my friend’s mom for lung cancer,” she finally said. “They thought the guy walked on water. Do you want to see him?”
     “Yes,” Therese sighed with relief.
     Brenda called the doctor. She booked the first available appointment. It was in two weeks when JB, Blake, and she would be in Sweden. Brenda called Leslie and told her about the appointment.
     “Where do you get off making a doctor appointment for my mother?” Leslie growled. “Where do you get off telling me what to do? Who gave you that right?”
     “Your mother,” Brenda said, taken aback. “She called me this morning very upset. She wants to see an oncologist.”
     “You have no idea what’s going on. We’ve got this handled. Stay out of it.”
     Brenda called Troy, JB’s brother. She pleaded with him to take Therese to the oncologist. He said he would.
     JB, Blake, and Brenda returned from Sweden. Therese had been moved to a nursing home. She was on anti-anxiety meds and antibiotics for a possible lung infection. She had not seen the oncologist.
     “Leslie Dearest put me here,” Therese said when Brenda visited her.
     Brenda told JB they needed to get Therese out of the nursing home and to a cancer doctor. JB stared at her blankly. Brenda repeated herself. JB stared. Brenda got in JB’s face and screamed, “You have to get her out! We have to take her to the oncologist!”
     “My mother is dying,” JB blurted. “I’m going to have to live with my siblings and I’m not going against them.”
     Brenda staggered. She scanned JB’s face. “This is who I’m married to,” she thought.
     Therese died of lung cancer without having been treated by an oncologist.
     Brenda grew to dislike JB more and more. She condescended to him, thought of him as a coward, struggled to find compassion but couldn’t.
     JB and Brenda completed their relationship workbooks. Once they were done, they reverted back to they way they were. Brenda told JB, “There’s no intimacy between us. I feel like a piece of meat. I don’t know who you are.” JB nodded and looked at the floor.
     Brenda told JB to see a therapist or she was leaving. JB started seeing a therapist even though he didn’t want to. He told his therapist about Brenda. He said she didn’t love him anymore and treated him like an idiot. He asked how he could change her back. His therapist kept poking into his childhood, ignoring his goals. JB got frustrated. His parents didn’t beat him or physically abuse him. They were screwy but who’s parents weren’t? He needed to fix Brenda. She kept complaining about needing intimacy, to connect. Sex was intimacy and connection. If she’d get into fucking him again it’d solve everything. He wouldn’t have to lead a double life. His double life was stressing him out. But it was exciting finding women on the Internet who wanted to cheat. Sexting with them was arousing. He loved the anticipation of booking hotels, the climax of sealing the deal. Should he tell his therapist? He decided not to.

     JB’s and Brenda’s marriage kept sliding downhill until it finally dropped off the cliff it was headed toward and smashed. I know. I’m Brenda. And I kept a journal. Here it comes.