Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Homicidal Thoughts--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, December 22

     I left a recovery meeting this morning and ran into Kat in the parking lot. We chatted under a brilliant blue sky and golden sun in the freezing cold. I admitted I was having homicidal thoughts about JB.
     “Only tell a select few people,” Kat laughed. “You’ll freak people out.”
     She’d know first hand.
     “What you’re feeling is normal,” Kat continued. “It’s a process. It’s very physical. But you’re going to be great. Your life is going to be wonderful.”
     “I know my life is going to be wonderful,” I said. “I absolutely feel it. I’m excited and have beautiful stretches of gratitude. I’m happy I’m getting out, getting a fresh start. Then I find myself daydreaming about doing horrible things to JB, like stomping on his neck and watching him die. I feel anxious all the time. Like every cell in my body is vibrating.”
     Kat looked up at the sky. “What’s that? Is that a . . .”
     “A bald eagle!” I shouted as it flew directly over my head.
     “I’ve never seen one here, ever.”
     “I’ve only seen them in Wisconsin.”
     “It’s a sign. It’s a great sign for you.”
     “I feel it,” I said, my eyes filling with tears. “I really feel it.”
     Kat hugged me. “I’m going to look up eagle in my spirit guide book and tell you what it means.”
     I’d scoffed at Kat and her Native American spirit animals book. Now I couldn’t wait to find out what it said. I didn’t wait long before I got an email from Kat saying eagles are signs to get laser focused on bringing about change. They symbolize opportunity, protection, freedom, action, focus, determination, vision, and power.
     I knew it was true.
     Later, George and I met for dinner at a Thai restaurant. George wanted Thai and I considered suggesting something else since anything to do with Thailand makes me squirm now. But then I thought maybe eating Thai would help me move forward. I walked into the restaurant and George and I gave each other pecks on the cheek. George and I’ve known each other from recovery nearly ten years. He has a quick mind, a kind heart, and kind eyes. He’s a therapist. But there’s a darkness to him.
     “I see myself doing violent things to JB,” I told George. “I see myself killing him. I get off on the rage. I’m putting bad energy out into the universe and I’m scared it’s going to boomerang on me. Cause and effect. This is my opportunity to face why my marriage exploded, look at my part, transform into a better version of myself. And I’m blowing it. I have all this rage. I keep pushing it away but it rushes back.”
     “You have to let yourself go there,” George said. “Do not beat yourself up for it. What you’re feeling is normal. Let yourself feel. JB abused you. He violated you. You are human. You need to let yourself feel that.”
     George stared into my eyes with sad eyes. He hurt for me. I took his hand. I squeezed it.
     “Thank-you,” I whispered, trying not to cry.
     “I’m going to hear a piano player with a woman I’ve been dating,” George said.
     On our way out of the restaurant, George placed his hands on either side of my face and kissed me tenderly. He kissed me again. It was warm and loving. It felt wonderful. George drove off to his date and I drove home. As I drove, I remembered two moments when JB and I had begun dating. JB and I were laying on the living room floor at a friend’s house smoking a joint, and JB and I were sunbathing on North Avenue beach. JB had stroked my arm and looked into my eyes. Both times I felt queasy. I pushed away my feelings and thought, “What’s wrong with me?”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Have Visions--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Friday, December 21

     “Hi Brenda,
     “I am going to pick up Tom around 1 tomorrow if that works for you,” JB emailed. 
     “As for the documents, as I said, I'd appreciate if I could respond right after Christmas. I need a little more time to think.
     “As I read the waiver, it seems very one sided. Read it and ask yourself if you'd sign it as written in my shoes. I am not completely opposed to sharing counsel and am all for saving money, but it has to be impartial for me to be comfortable. Right now it doesn't feel that way. 
     “Also, filing says we've been separated for 6 mos which we both know isn't true. Did your lawyer say that is common practice? 
     “I have been making a list of what items are important to me and which I don't care as much about. Assume you are doing the same. I'd be happy to discuss with you informally but if you'd prefer to wait and do so formally I understand. 
     “Have you told the boys that you've taken this step? It would be helpful to know since I'll be seeing both this weekend.
     “See you tomorrow.”

     “The boys know we're getting divorced,” I responded. “Having Tom from 1-9 is fine.
     “The waiver is worded that way because I hired the lawyer. It's boiler plate.
     “The living separate and apart: we've been living separate and apart for the entire time you've been committing adultery. Here’s what the attorney wrote when I asked her about this.
     ‘The separation date does not reflect the actual physical moving out date, rather it is the date the marriage became dead and normal cohabitation ceased. This would include adultery as one example of abnormal cohabitation. The law requires the marriage to be over for 2 years but reduces the time to 6 months under irreconcilable differences with a signed waiver from both parties. You may continue to live in the same house while the marriage is dead. There is no waiting period for adultery.’

     Matt began texting me about how miserable he is in his marriage.
     “Go to therapy with your wife and get brutally honest,” I responded.
     “Or have an affair.”
     “Affairs are for liars and cowards.”
     “You think? How about cheaper than a divorce.”
     “Not in the long run.”
     “Well, just can’t confess.”
     “You really don’t want to talk to me about affairs and not confessing.”
     “I know. Sorry. Don’t judge me please.”
     “I have visions of slamming the base of my palm up JB’s nose and watching him die.”
     “Wow, I better stay away.”
     “Don’t let you and your wife get where I am.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sorry For The Consequences--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, December 20

     I taught my last public yoga class. My clients treated me to a lovely brunch, gave me thoughtful presents, and I soaked up the goodness because I'm meeting JB later and handing him divorce papers.
     At seven p.m. I pulled into the parking lot of a local coffee house—the same coffee house JB and I sat in when we were working on our relationship workbooks. JB was sitting at a corner table. He waved me over. I walked up to the counter, ordered tea, and JB quickly walked up behind me, ordered coffee, and paid for both. His face was ashen.
     JB and I sat down. I placed a plastic grocery bag on the table. JB eyed it suspiciously. The bag contained three Christmas cards from JB’s high school friends and divorce papers.
     “I brought you some correspondence,” I said.
     “I need to say this before you say anything,” JB said rapidly. “I’m sorry. I’m going to tell you exactly why I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was unfaithful. I’m sorry I betrayed your trust. I’m sorry that I hurt you. I’m sorry that I hurt the kids. I’m sorry that I put our family in jeopardy. I’m sorry I put your health at risk. If there’s one thing that bothers me more than anything else, it’s that. I’m sorry that I was selfish and reckless. And I hope at some point you can forgive me.”
     “I forgive you and want a divorce,” I said, sliding the bag over to him. “Divorce papers and a few Christmas cards.”
     JB pulled the Christmas envelopes out of the bag. He pulled the divorce papers out of a manila envelope. “Is it a no-fault divorce?’ he asked.
     “I hope we can save money and use the same attorney,” I said. JB had dug a large debt hole. My mother was paying for my lawyer because there was no loose cash. I showed JB where to sign if he chose to waive his right to counsel and file for a court appearance. “My attorney can file the appearance for you, take the money out of my retainer. It’s $206. I’d like this to be as cheap and quick as possible. The retainer was $4,000.”
     “I’m not going to sign anything right now. I’m going to need time to look it over, think about if I want to sign over my right to an attorney.”
     “If you don’t like how things are going, you can hire an attorney any time. It’s not set in stone.”
     “I was hoping we could meet a few more times, have a few more conversations, talk about this, maybe go for counseling.”
     “I will never trust you. Our marriage is dead. There’s no going back.”
     “You realize this will change the way we live, our standard of living.”
     “You bet.”
     “Look, I know how you feel.”
     “You know how I feel? How do I feel?”
     “Uh, you’re hurt. You’re angry.”
     “You have no idea how I feel. You think I could live with you after this?”
     JB hung his head.
     “I turned myself inside out the last several years trying to make our marriage good. All the while you were fucking whoever you could dig up.”
     “I know. I’m so sorry.”
     “How were you able to live like that?”
     “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I disassociated. I disconnected.”
     “Disassociated? Disconnected? Fuck your psychological drivel. What did you disassociate from, disconnect from?”
     JB looked down at the table. “I don’t know.”
     “Was this was one of your passive-aggressive moves? Were you sticking it to me?”
     “Well, if I’m going to peel the onion and really look at what I did, that might be part of it.”
     “Did it make you feel like a man? Powerful?”
     “No, no it didn’t.”
     “You’d be at home on Ashley Madison, sexting with women, arranging to have dates, come upstairs and rub on me?”
     “I guess that happened sometimes.”
     “You’d go out and have sex with women and come home and have sex with me?”
     “No. That never happened.”
     “For years you were sticking your unprotected dick in skanky women then coming home and sticking it in me. Do you think I would ever let you stick your dick in me again?”
     JB sat there looking gray and jowly, like Droopy Dog. I couldn’t stand the sight of him. I pulled my coat on.
     “I’m sorry,” JB said. “I know that doesn’t begin to cover it, but I’m really sorry.”
     “You’re not sorry for what you did. You’re sorry for your consequences. Your key doesn’t work anymore. I changed the locks. When you pick up Tom Saturday, I hope you’ll have those papers signed.”
     I drove away, pulled into the garage, and sat there for a long time before walking into the house.
     “How did it go?” Blake asked.
     “I gave your father divorce papers. I asked him uncomfortable questions. I watched him squirm.”
     “Hmm,” Blake said.
     Blake and I stood looking at each other.
     “Well, I’m going to meet Chad,” he finally said.
     “I’m going upstairs.”
     We hugged. Blake left and I got into bed, turned on the TV, and checked email.

     “You said you think I am not sorry, just sorry for the consequences. I understand why you think that, but it isn't true. The way you described my actions today was chilling and difficult to hear because you vividly described the depth of my betrayal. My actions have been reprehensible and they do eat at me every single day. I have thrown away a wife and family that has always loved and supported me unconditionally and I have responded with reckelss (sic), selfish behavior. There is no explaining or excusing it. I have to live with it.
     “My regrets are enormous, and they will burden me forever. I will always love you and care about you, and I hope over time we can become friends again, as hard as this may be for you to imagine right now.
     “Please don't think of our marriage and years together as a waste or a fraud. It's not true. Life is a lot more complex than that and you and our marriage has (sic) always mattered a great deal to me, even when I was doing terrible things. All the good times were very real to me and we brought two amazing kids into this world.
     “I will not resist or delay your desire for a divorce. I accept that I have done too much damage and I appreciate your forgiveness.
     “However, I do need more than 2 days to think about whether I want to sign away my right to consel (sic). The document doesn't seem to give me the right to change my mind. It's Christmas time, and I think we can take a few days to think and process and revisit this next week.
     “Merry Christmas and I am so, so sorry for what has become of us.”

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Find Dead People All The Time--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, December 17

     I taught yoga, made dinner, and casually told the boys I was having our locks changed. I worried that locking their father out of the house would make them feel creepy, bad. I told them, “I’ve been uneasy about our house’s lack of security for a long time. A locksmith is coming in half an hour to change our locks and put deadbolts on the doors.”
     No reaction. Good.
     Kurt showed up and started changing the locks. When he was done, I mentioned I’d been friends with his brother in high school. Kurt’s brother, Devin, came out as gay after I lost touch with him. He got married before same-sex marriages were recognized, got divorced, and drank to excess. His ex found him dead and bloated in his apartment.
     “I’d meet Devin for drinks sometimes,” Kurt said. “We’d be talking, getting along, then his friends would wander in and he’d pour on this flaming gay act. He could never be regular with me. Be himself the whole time.
     “My dad had a hard time with Devin being gay,” Kurt continued. “Devin invited us over last summer for a barbecue and I should have known something was up. We got there and everything was going well, then some guy showed up wearing something like a diaper. He was skin and bones and had sores all over. He was either dying of AIDs or a meth addict or both. He was sashaying all over the apartment. More guys showed up. The gay pride parade was that day. My poor father was sitting on the couch. I’m sitting with him. Everyone’s looking at us like they hate us. Devin was a big storyteller, so who knows what he told them. I got my dad out of there and took him home. That’s the last time I saw Devin.
     “He wanted to be buried next to my mother. The two of them were close. He used to say she was the only one who understood and loved him. He always talked about how he wanted to die. He was so fucked up. He was trying to get AIDs from his boyfriend. His boyfriend wouldn’t sleep with him because he was sick. Devin wanted to get it and die with him. I told Devin, ‘It doesn’t work that way. If you get it now, he’ll still go before you.’
     “His ex found him dead sitting in a chair in front of the TV with a six-pack next to him. He’d already had one and was working on another. He was fat. Probably had a lot more to drink before the first six-pack. He died of a heart attack.
     “My father is willing to put Devin in his cemetery plot next to my mother, but his ex won’t give us his ashes. Every time I ask to meet him at the apartment he tells me he can’t deal with it. I know it must have been terrible finding him dead. I find dead people all the time.”
     “You do?”
     “I get called to open doors to homes and find dead people inside. Happens a lot. I’m used to it. I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry for venting.”
     “I’ve been venting, too, lately. It helps.”
     Kurt nodded.
     He left and Tom asked, “Did the locksmith give you extra keys?”
     “Yes, but you’ve already lost two.” Kurt warned me not to give Tom a key because JB would get it. “You’re not getting one. I’ll leave the door open if I’m not home.”
     “Okay,” Tom said, disappointed.
     When Blake got home from the gym I slipped him a key.
     “I hope your father never puts you in this position, but if he asks, please don’t give him a key.”
     Blake gave me a withering look. “Really? That’s insulting.”

Saturday, March 11, 2017

He Doesn't Seem The Type--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, December 16

     My friend Rachel is friends with a locksmith named Kurt. I called Rachel and left a voicemail saying I was divorcing JB and needed my locks changed. Rachel, a big phone call screener, called back immediately.
     “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I just, I can’t believe it. I never thought JB was like that. He doesn’t seem the type.”
     “No one can believe it, including me. And I lived with him for twenty-one years. It’s creepy. Disorienting. I trust nothing. It feels bad.”
     “You should definitely change your locks,” Rachel said. “Are you worried he might do something?”
     “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know who he is. I don’t know what he’s capable of. He throws tantrums. Like, I’d be cooking and hear something crash by the back door and a burst of muffled swearing. I’d go to the door and find JB hyperventilating over a computer he just smashed or a broken phone on the floor. The boys have seen him wringing his hands over things like a gas pump not working right, or a bad golf swing.
     “A counselor at Blake’s high school was killed by her ex. He drove to her house and killed her, the kids, then himself. Everyone thought he was a nice normal guy.”
      “I’m calling Kurt right now,” Rachel said. “I’ll give him your number.”
     Kurt called me right back. He’s coming over to change the locks tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'll Keep The Guns In My Room--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, December 15

     Kent and I had breakfast and I told him I was having nightmares that JB might flip out: kill me, himself, our children. Blake had brought the subject up. I was in the basement doing laundry and noticed our shotguns were moved. Blake walked into the basement and asked if I thought we should put the guns in his bedroom.
     “Put them in my room,” I said, not needing to ask why he was suggesting it.
     When my father was alive he’d given Blake and JB shotguns, had them take gun safety classes, and took them hunting.
     “They’d be better off in my room,” Blake said. “I know how to use them. You don’t.”
     “If anyone pumps buckshot into Dad, I don’t want it to be you. I don’t want you anywhere near this.”
     It made me sick we were having this conversation.
     “We only have two shells,” Blake said. “The guns are unloaded. I’ll keep the guns in my room, you keep the shells. Okay?”
     The expression on Kent’s face grew increasingly alarmed as I shared this conversation.
     “You need to change the locks,” Kent said.
     Matt told me to change the locks, so had my attorney. She told me that if I wanted to change them, I should do it before I got in front of a judge who’d tell me I couldn’t. I hadn’t changed the locks because I didn’t want to push JB over the edge. But I was rattled enough to change them now.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

We All Like Abuse--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, December 14

     “I’ll let you know when I want to talk face to face,” I texted JB this morning. “When can I expect specifics from Stephen? Should I email him? Blake is working tonight. Get Tom at 6.”

     I went back to texting with Matt. We were figuring out dinner plans.

     “JB wants me to yell and scream at him,” I texted Matt.

     “We all like abuse I guess,” Matt responded. “Will you spank me? Or would that show you have feelings for me? I’m not trying to be insensitive. Just trying to make you smile.”

     “You could hire someone special for that. Ask JB.”

     “You are not being nice now. I am not him and please don’t see me as him.”

     “It’s a sore spot.”

     “Well if you don’t approve of what I’m doing I understand but then maybe we should cancel tonight because I found that to be kinda a rude statement to say to me.”

     “And I found your statement rude and insensitive. Let’s cancel.”

     “Okay. I was joking and you know it. I’m not on web sites picking up women. I think I’ve been a very good friend to you. You shouldn’t compare me to your husband who did what he did to you. Guess I’ve been dismissed. I’m not trying to be insensitive, just trying to make you smile. Guess that got overlooked. You sure throw a friend out pretty quickly.”

     “Thank-you for cheering me up over the last two weeks. You made me feel better. But you and I are walking down an unhealthy path and we both know it. I have to step off. I really hope you find happiness. I really do.”

     “I disagree and I’m happy but thank-you. Wish you well. If you need help let me know. If you have a change of heart about tonight let me know. I was joking and trying to make you smile. If not, it’s all good.”

     A new text popped up.

     “Does Blake not want to see me?” JB asked.

     “Take that up with him.”

     “I just need to talk to him. Enjoy your day. I'll let you know when Stephen responds.”

     The phone rang. It was my sister. I didn’t want to talk to her. The day I told Trish about JB, she’d pounced on her sons the moment they got off the school bus and told them. My mother fed me that tidbit. My children didn’t have the details at that point and I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell Tom. Trish’s boys are fourteen and eleven.
     “How are you doing?” Trish asked cheerily.
     “Mom said you told your kids about JB,” I said curtly.
     “Oh, well, yeah, uh,” she stammered. “Uh, well, I had to tell them Uncle JB wasn’t coming for Christmas. You know. I mean, he’s always there for Christmas and, uh, I couldn’t not say anything and then have him not show up and them wonder where he was. You know. They would have been like, ‘Where’s uncle JB? He’s always here for Christmas.’ You know. So I had to tell them because he wasn’t coming. And then when I told them he wasn’t coming for Christmas they asked why and I told them you were getting divorced. And then they wanted to know why you were getting divorced so I had to tell them. You know. He’s always been around and they kept asking me why you were getting divorced so I had to tell them.”
     Trish retold this many more times getting more lively and upbeat with each retelling. I didn’t say a word.
     “Mom said you don’t seem like you want to come to my house for Christmas,” Trish spat.
     “I’m picking her up and driving her to your house,” I said cheerily.
     “Oh. Well, how is everything going?”
     “What did the lawyer say? What are you going to do?”
     “File for divorce.”
     “Did you talk about money? Are you going to be able to stay in your house? What kind of settlement do you think you’ll get?”
     “Time will tell.”
     “Well, I can see you don’t feel like talking so I’m going to let you go,” she snapped. “Have a nice day.”
     Trish hung up on me. I stared at my phone. A text popped up.

     “That school shooting in CT gives me the chills…” JB wrote.

     Piss off.