Saturday, May 27, 2017

HIV--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, January 11

     I went to the health department and got an anonymous blood test to screen for HIV. My doctor had advised me to do it in six months, but I’d researched it and the health department said accurate results could be obtained now. I needed to find out. Get rid of the gnawing worry or plan for the worst.
     The waiting room was harshly-lit and crowded. I felt weightless, like a ghost. But I was intensely alert. I sat in a plastic chair looking at everyone in the ghoulish room. I felt sad for all of us.
     My number was called. I shakily walked into a counselor’s office and sat at her desk. She appeared to be about my age.
     “What brings you here?” Lourdes asked. “Why do you want to get tested?”
     I told Lourdes. She sat back in her chair.
     “My first husband cheated on me,” she said. “That’s why I divorced him. I’m married for the second time and, between you and me, I test myself for STDs once a year. I don’t know what my husband is doing. No one really knows what their spouse is doing. I don’t want to live like a suspicious spy so I get tested.”
     “You never truly know another person, do you?” I said. “The prospect of getting involved with another man freaks me out. I don’t want to realize one day that I’m with another stranger. I don’t want to look across the dinner table and think, ‘What have I done?’ ever again. I don’t want to continually worry I’m being contaminated with STDs. The guy I’m divorcing gave me HPV.”
     “It will probably go away, but you could get it from future partners because HPV is rampant in our age group,” Lourdes said. “There are over one hundred strains. It can be passed orally and cause throat and mouth cancer, too. That’s why it’s important for boys to be immunized as well as girls.”
     I walked down the florescent-lit hall for my blood test. I felt like I was getting smaller and smaller, like I could disappear. The phlebotomist stuck a needle in my arm and drew blood into a syringe.
     Back at home, I set out kitchenware for JB. I put his mother’s artwork on the front porch along with other bagged items. At three o’clock, JB showed up. He handed me documents waiving his right to an attorney. He started loading up his car. Blake began filling his Toyota with his father’s stuff and I sat in the living room trying to read “Time,” but my brain was numb. JB walked through the living room on his way to the kitchen.
     “I went to the health department and got tested for HIV today,” I said. “Have you been tested?”
     “No,” he said sharply and disappeared into the kitchen.
     Tom arrived home from school. He began helping his father. They packed as much as they could into Blake’s SUV and JB’s car and the three of them left.
     I drove to Angie’s. She and I hopped into the backseat of her friend’s car and the four of us drove to the city for Shabbat dinner at the Kabbalah Center. On our way back, Angie said, “There must have been a reason the universe had to hit you over the head with a two-by-four, you know?”
     Her comment stung. I thought about it. 
     “I had believed it was my job to elevate JB and our relationship. I guess the universe had to knock that out of me. It’s a relief to be off the hook.”
     Angie nodded slowly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spatter--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, January 9

     “Since all this has unraveled, I've done a lot of thinking and have tried to understand why I did all that I have done,” JB emailed. “What motivated me, what was going through my mind? 
     “I don't have all the answers and may never, but I think the simple truth is I was deeply depressed and I went looking for something that would make me feel better while allowing me to avoid dealing with reality. It snowballed into an (sic) pattern of obsessive and destructive behavior. There was an addictive quality to it all. My actions were reckless and my capacity for denial was epic -- denial that I was taking any serious risks or putting you or the kids at risk, denial that I would ever get caught, denial about the consequences of my growing financial irresponsibility.
     “Have I ever felt resentments toward you during the course of our marriage? Sure, who hasn't. But I know I was not motivated by a desire to hurt you or ‘stick it to you.’ My comment at Caribou was in response to your question in a tense moment, and I didn't really think about what I was saying. That has made this situation much worse by introducing malice into it, when that isn't what was going on.
     “My life has involved a pattern of behavior designed to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths. All this fits into that pattern. I'm determined to break the pattern going forward but it won't be easy, and I can't undo the damage I've already done.
     “I really, really do genuinely, deeply regret hurting you, and violating you physically and emotionally. I have a hard time living with the fact that you loathe me now when only weeks ago you were my loving wife. Now it's like I'm replaying a fatal car crash that I caused over and over in my head, imagining what I could have done to prevent it, but knowing that I can't undo the wreckage. That replay never stops.
     “I'm so sorry, and I don't think I'll ever stop apologizing to you.
     “I am going to write to you separately about our legal issues.”

      I can't absorb much of what JB writes. It’s like flowered wallpaper in a torture chamber. The details of what he’s done continue to change. They get worse and worse. The flowered wallpaper is supposed to hide the spatter? 

     “I need to fish or cut bait today/tomorrow. Hire the Lake Co. lawyer, find a Cook Co lawyer or agree to work with your lawyer.
     “From the research I have done and from the consultation I had yesterday, this is basically how it looks, in broad terms.
     “We divide the assets more or less 50/50. We could do this a variety of ways, but basically cut them in half.
     “I pay 20% of my take home as child support for Tom, until he reaches majority. This is defined by statute. Blake is of majority but I'd happily cover all his costs like insurance, petty cash etc. He and Tom would remain on my health insurance.
     “I pay you up to 30% of my take home as rehabilitative maintenance, as you try to put together a career to support yourself longer term. This would be reviewable at 3 years with the expectation that you take measures to become self-sufficient by then. I have been told worst case I give you half of my take home as combination maintenance/child support. And given your age, education, work history etc., it will be for some period of years but not permanent. Maintenance would be a fixed amount based on a percentage of income. And it would be reviewable if I lost my job or if there is any significant change in circumstance.
     “As for assets, there would be a process of evaluating and doing math…
     “I would want to have Tom live with me every other weekend and one weeknight per week (flexible based on travel, school requirements etc.) and 2 weeks during the summer. We can work out another arrangements (sic) as long as the amount of time is similar. I would have no restrictions on attending school or public events where Tom performs or is involved in any way, though I would always give you the courtesy of letting you know my plans. I'd like to stay involved with Tom’s band to the degree I can be helpful.
     “I would be involved/consulted on all major decisions involving his upbringing. I would want solid assurances that he will not be moved out of the state before the age of majority without my consent. I would want us to agree informally that if you go out of town I been (sic) given the opportunity to spend additional time with him. I hope we can work all this out amicably and in his best interest.
     “Blake is of majority and can decide how much or little time he wants to spend with either of us.
     “Finally, I was going to have to disclose this eventually.....Stephen has given me a final payout of $50,000 (they negotiated him down). No more checks. I have used some of the money to pay down some debts and pay bills like phone and office rent, and to pay rent and security deposit on the rental house, and some basic living expenses like meals, items for the new place. Since you took most of the last paycheck, this is what I've been living on.
     “I could stay with Troy a little longer but sooner or later I needed (sic) to have a home. I jumped on the cheapest place I was going to find. I can start moving stuff in this weekend and will probably start living there Feb. 1. Sean will stay with me month to month to help with rent in the short term. But I told him longer term I want to have the place just for the kids and me.
     “If your lawyer is willing to draft something that is similar to what I have laid out here, I'll sign the papers and get you the financial disclosure. I want to reserve the right to have the settlement reviewed by an attorney before I sign it. If you had a very different settlement in mind, then you should let me know that.”

     “I forwarded your email to the attorney,” I responded. “I believe we can work this out. I'll let you know what she says.”

     So, JB got the buyout check, which he says is smaller, and spent much of it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Karma--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, January 8

     I woke up feeling filthy again. I opened “A Thousand Names for Joy,” by Byron Katie. I read an exchange Katie had with a student who’d been betrayed by his girlfriend. He wanted his girlfriend to be different, and Katie helped him see that his girlfriend was exactly who she was supposed to be at that time because that’s who she was. Weirdly, I got it: JB was supposed to be who he was for certain reasons and learning opportunities were at hand.
     I’d believed it was my job to reshape JB, raise his consciousness, wake him up. I realized it was egomaniacal. I’d seen myself as spiritually superior. The last several years I’d been trying to strip away the garbage in our marriage and possibly reveal that we were soulmates. Indians in arranged marriages sometimes discovered they were in love. Maybe that could happen if I worked hard enough. Saint Brenda.
     I felt peaceful. I felt homicidal. I felt like I was going off the rails.
     My friend Angie met me for lunch. I told her I felt insane bouncing back and forth between gratitude and rage.
     “I’m putting bad energy into the universe,” I said. “I’m worried it’s going to boomerang on me.”
     “You’re human,” Angie said. “It’s tough being a human who’s trying not to be human. Your thoughts are normal. Anyone going through what you are would think about hurting their cheating spouse. But you’re not hurting him. You’re restricting. You’re not lashing out. You get light for that.”
     “Really? I keep worrying that this is an opportunity to transform and I’m blowing it. I’m worried my thoughts are bringing on bad karma. I visualize JB bleeding at my feet, coughing up blood while I kick him in the gut over and over and over. I feel violent.”
     “I’ve been there,” Angie said. “You’re doing your best to keep your side of the street clean. Don’t take that on. It’s too much. Just keep restricting.”
     “Maybe if I’d made JB feel more manly, more desirable, this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe it’s my fault.”
     “That’s not who you are. He knew that. He is who he is. He did what he did because of who he is.”
     I started crying. “I feel like he sprayed me with filth and I can’t get it off.”
     “What he did is in the past. It’s over and done with. Picture him and his filth in a crate hanging from a rope. Picture yourself cutting that rope. That’s what you’ve done. You’re not letting him continue. That would be filthy.”
     I drove to David’s house to practice yoga with him. David and his wife, Sherry, have become my dear friends over the years. As David and I practiced, I felt more peaceful. It felt like I should be paying him instead of the other way around. I called Lila on my way home and the darkness kicked back in.
     “JB stuck his filthy dick in me and he got off on that,” I said. “It’s eating at me. He put my health at risk. I want to smash the base of my palm up his nose and drive it up into his brain. I want to watch him hemorrhage and die. I see myself doing all sorts of horrible things to him. It’s awful. I feel so messed up.”
     “JB’s a narcissist,” Lila said. “You know what that is?”
     “I know the story of the guy in love with his reflection.”
     “Look up the clinical definition. There’s a lot more to it.”
     I looked up narcissistic personality disorder: “Excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige, and vanity.” That fit.

     “How did it go with the attorney?” I emailed JB. “What's our next step?”

     “It went fine,” JB responded. “If I retain him I will do so tomorrow. Wanted to sleep on it. I think maybe we should talk first. He told me that your handing me the papers wasn't proper service and changing the locks wasn't ok, and the venue should be Lake not Cook county. I'm sure you were advised otherwise but he was very confident on these points. I can talk tomorrow morning. But it has to be between us.”

     “I changed the locks because, after what you did, I can barely look at you. The thought of living with you, someone who violated me the way you did, literally makes me sick. You sprayed filth on me I can't get off. A bullet in my head is preferable to cohabitation.
     “I told my attorney I wanted to serve you the papers instead of having a sheriff knock on your door. I thought it was the right thing to do. Would you have preferred the sheriff?
     “It doesn't matter what county we file in. If you want to be difficult, make that an issue, insist on filing in Lake, you could do that. It would just mean we go to Waukegan instead of downtown.”

     “You need to know how much I regret all that I did and that I never wanted to hurt you, though I know I have. It kills me that I'm solely responsible for wrecking our family. Yet divorce is a process where we both end up worse off. We both need to understand that. I don't blame you for any of your actions/reactions. And ok regarding the service of papers, I appreciate it. I'm sharing what I am being told. I'll get back to you tomorrow with my decision.”

    “You never wanted to hurt me?” I responded. “How do you figure that?”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Clean Again--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, January 7

     This morning started like most mornings. I woke up at three a.m. feeling coated in filth with my mind spinning on ways JB violated me, or might violate me. I pushed my thoughts away, focused on positive things, but found myself back in the hole. It’s like I’m at war inside. And I start beating myself up for staying married too long.
     A few years ago I found a page from an 18-year-old Esquire magazine I’d written on and ripped out. I was sitting at our kitchen island overlooking the family room in our Chicago house watching JB snore in front of the TV and drinking my third or fourth vodka when I wrote it.

     “You’re undemonstrative. The only time you touch me is when you want to fuck. You never get excited about anything. If I didn’t speak first, we’d rarely converse. The only time you tell me you love me is during sex. You bury your nose in a newspaper or magazine and walk around with a sour expression. You pout whenever I ask you to do something. This is my dream. Is it yours?”

     I’d been miserable for twenty years. I told myself our boys needed a father at home. I made a gratitude list of the world’s cities I’d enjoyed because of JB’s job. I was grateful JB didn’t order me around and tell me what to do like some of my friends’ husbands did. Some of my friends’ husbands weren’t having sex with them anymore, so I tried to appreciate the attention I got from JB, even though it had gotten creepy.
     JB and I had gone to Spain right before our marriage blew. One night, the conference we were at hosted a lavish dinner at a posh Toledo estate. As we ate, JB cut off his colleagues in conversation and finished their sentences for them, just like he did with me. I mostly stared at my plate, occasionally catching the eye of one of his peers. I excused myself and walked to the bathroom, which was a long walk from the courtyard we were dining in. I stayed a long time. When I returned, after-dinner drinks were being served on a veranda. One of our dinner companions walked over and kept me company. I could hear JB blustering behind me, clearing his throat copiously.
     Was JB’s throat clearing a tell? It had started about five years ago. Why hadn’t I seen any clues? I’m not a denier. I face things. Last summer, before our trip to Spain, I’d told JB I was happiest when he was away on business.
     “I haven’t been able to kiss you for six years, haven’t you noticed?” I asked. “I can click off and have sex with you, but I can’t kiss you.”
     JB looked like I’d slapped him.
     JB never cuddled me, even when we were dating. I’d spooned my way to sleep with my other boyfriends, but I’d picked JB. I was a cynical, selfish, jaded little writer and being intimate and vulnerable was not a goal of mine. Then I got sober and realized how badly I’d screwed myself.

     “After you meet with your attorney tomorrow, please give me his contact information so I can forward it to my lawyer” I texted JB. “I hope we can make this go quick and easy. Your dirty laundry (the material stuff) and art are on the porch for pickup. The sketch of Blake is his and he wants it. I'd like to keep two pieces: the one over the mantle that your mother didn't paint, and the large one by the window seat that is mounted on slate and had to be professionally bolted to the wall.” 

     “Hope you are doing well,” JB responded. “Yes, meeting tomorrow. I'll give you his details once I've officially retained him. I'm not interested in any further delay at this point. Everything you say else seems fine...happy to let you keep those pieces.
     “Not official yet, but I have rented a very cheap house. Sean may be staying with me for a little while, which would help with rent, but I am going try (sic) to convince him to go back to his family. I had a long talk with Mary Kate yesterday and I don't want to be an enabler of breaking up that family. I've done enough.
     “The place isn't much from the outside but it's nice inside, other than some needed work in the kitchen and bath. Got a free month's rent to cover some of the labor I'll have to put into it. It's old and small, but cozy. It is in a nice area and will be a safe place for the boys to come visit.
     “I would like to take some spare furniture if that is OK with you. There is some stuff in the basement I could use. Extra dining room table, coffee table and some chairs. I would probably want to come get it in the next week or so. Let me know if that's ok and how you would prefer to handle.
     “I will have a check for you this weekend. I can send it home with Blake.”

     “There’s a wicker table and couch in the garage you should take,” I answered. “Come by Saturday at noon and Blake and Tom can help you move the stuff to Troy’s. I'm sure you can fit quite a bit in Blake’s 4 Runner.”

     “Thanks. That sounds good. I think the boys will be staying with me at Troy's Friday night, so it should all work out well.”

     “Forgot about Friday. You could come by at 3, load up while it's light, and go.” 

     “Sounds good.”

     I got lost in my thoughts. I saw JB smirking while setting up Ashley Madison dates while I was in the room. I saw him smirking while he had sex with other women. I saw him smirking when he returned. I saw him smirking as he reached for me in bed. I saw myself killing him. My murderous rage rattled me and I scared myself out of it. Maybe once we’re divorced I’ll feel clean again.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eyes Gleaming--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, January 6

     Tom and I snowboarded and skied Wilmot Mountain today with his band mates and some of their parents. We’d all joined the Snowbirds Club at the Wisconsin “mountain.” It was no mountain. I took the lift to the top and waited for Tom to ride up with his friends. Laurel, Terry’s wife, was sitting nearby strapping on her board. I skied over and told her I was divorcing JB. She looked shocked.
     “I, I don’t know what to say,” she stammered.
     “Yeah,” I laughed. 
     “I, I would have never thought he . . .”
     “Me either.”
     “I’m not going to tell Terry. He likes JB. I don’t know how he’d take this.”
     Terry sought JB’s advice on his and Laurel’s troubled marriage a number of times. JB had told me about it, eyes gleaming. It was the same gleeful look he got when he asked me about my mentally ill Aunt Edie. JB didn’t ask me about much, so his periodic interest in my aunt, who’d become increasingly paranoid and almost died last summer, made me uncomfortable.
     Six months ago, Aunt Edie had cut off communication with my mother and Aunt Lori. She also hadn’t been in church. My mother and Aunt Lori had driven to Aunt Edie’s house. Her car was there but the house was dark and silent.
     “She wouldn’t come to the door,” my mother said. “She wouldn’t let us in.”
     “Call the police,” I said. “Have them break in.”
     Aunt Edie believed the police were out to get her and surveilling her house.
     “I’m not doing that. Edie would hate me more than ever if I did that. I can just picture the hateful look on her face if I walked into her house with the police.”
     “So what! She’s sick. She needs help.”
     “If that’s how she wants to be, let her,” my mother said.
     I called the police. An officer told me they needed a court order to break in. I called the state’s attorney and was told they needed a written statement from Aunt Edie’s psychiatrist to issue the order. I called Aunt Edie’s psychiatrist. He said he’d write a letter. I was about to make a followup call to the psychiatrist when my mother called to say Aunt Edie’s next-door neighbor had noticed her lights hadn’t been on for days and her mail was piling up. He’d called the police. The police had broken in and found Aunt Edie hiding from them under her kitchen table. She was dehydrated and close to dead.
     Laurel stood up when her boots were strapped to her board. “Terry will find out eventually, but it will hit him hard.”

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ladies Man--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, January 5

     I went to a friend’s funeral. Sam was a former World War II Royal Air Force fighter pilot, a randy old man with a sparkly soul whom I met in recovery. He wore a permanent smile. He cast wisdom about like Tootsie Rolls. He kissed me every time he saw me and when he wasn’t looking, I wiped his wet kisses off. He was an old ladies man who died at eighty-nine. On my way home, I called Mary Kate.
     “Sean spent the night on the couch,” she said. “He’s being cold and distant and won’t talk to me. He said he can’t talk to me without our couples therapist and our appointment isn’t until the middle of the week. He left to go see his therapist this morning and said he was going to help that friend again. Brenda, I don’t know what to do. I love him and he won’t talk to me. I saw him through drug addiction. I’ve been there every time he cried. He used to tell me everything. Now I don’t know what to do. He’s shutting me out.”
     “However this goes, you’ll be okay Mary Kate. Okay?”
     I drove down my street and saw JB cramming garbage bags into his trunk. He turned, saw me, quivered, looked down at the ground, and slumped into the enclosed front porch to retrieve more bags. I turned down the alley and parked alongside the house. I walked around to the front. The boys were helping JB.
     “Hey,” JB called out trying to be cheery.
     I ignored him. “Hey Buddy,” I called out to Tom and hugged him and kissed the top of his head. “Are you ready to help Dad unload his things?”
     “Yeah,” Tom said and nodded. JB stood behind Tom. Tom shifted nervously. He glanced back at his father then at me. I hugged Tom again.
     “How was the funeral?” Blake asked, stuffing a bag into JB’s car.
     “Pretty emotional. A nice tribute.”
     “Who died?” JB asked.
     “No one you know,” I answered. I turned and went into the house.
     “Someone from meetings mom goes to,” I heard Blake say.
     JB and Tom drove away and Blake entered the house.
     “Well, that was awkward,” Blake said.
     I shrugged. “Let’s take down the Christmas tree.”
     “I have to shower for work. I’ll help you when I’m done.”
     “Want to go out for lunch, sushi?”
     “Sounds good,” he said.
     I stripped the Christmas tree of ornaments and lights. Blake threw it on the curb for garbage collection. I got back from having lunch and began sweeping up pine needles. Tom walked in.
     “Did you help Dad move his stuff into Uncle Troy’s’?”
     “Then what?”
     “We went to Ikea to look for furniture. Dad’s going to rent a two-bedroom house. He said he’ll get Blake and me bunk beds.”
     I started laughing. “Blake will love that. Did you have lunch at Ikea?”
     Tom nodded.
     “Swedish meatballs?”
     “Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. And I had frozen yogurt for dessert but it tasted like vanilla ice cream.”
     “Mikey and his parents are coming to get you in a couple of hours for his birthday party. They’re taking you to the Japanese steak house you like. Lets get your sleeping bag and your bag packed.”
     I ate dinner after Tom left and called Patty. She’d just come home from what she said was a “horrible Christmas” with her mom and sister.
     “The universe is conspiring against me,” Patty groaned. “I just got home from that awful trip, put my sweats on, got ready to relax and watch a movie, then my power went out. I got really upset. I called Kirsten and she said, ‘You’re getting in your car and we’re going to see a movie.’ I’m driving to Northbrook Court right now. We’re going to see ‘Promised Land.’ Want to come?”
     “I’ll see you there.”

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Garbage Bags--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, January 4

     “Hi Brenda,
     “I hope you are doing OK,” JB emailed. “Boys and I had a nice time at dinner last night. Blake mentioned I should put a list of things together....for right now, I'd just like some more clothes.
     “I think it makes sense to hold off on a big list until I am ready to move into a place. I am looking now. Trying to find a place that is reasonable and not a dump. Still working on it.
     “Once I do have a place, then I would hope for starters I could take some items of furniture. Perhaps starting with stuff that is in the basement, like the spare dining room table, the coffee table, some chairs...I'd like to minimize the amount of furniture that I have to buy. That green chair that I think my mom gave us I believe is in the basement and I'd like that as well.
     “We would also need to look at the artwork sooner or later. As I said, I'd like my mom's work, as well as the work she gave us, and the items of historic significance, which also came from her. I would like the crystal vase on the mantle. That has family significance.
     “As I have also said, if there are some pieces of hers you'd like to keep, let me know and I'll be more than fair. For example, the limogues (sic) are things you seem to like and I am happy for you to have them. My mom's sketch of Blake is meaningful to both of us, but I am happy to let you have it if you want it.
     “All the art work you've acquired during our marriage is yours as far as I am concerned.”

     “I gave your mother those Limoges,” I responded. 

     “That's right. Point is, you can have them. Troy, Pris, and family will be out of town on the 11th -- I'd like to have the boys over for dinner that night, and they can sleep over if they want to…Let me know if that will work for you.”

     “Fine with me. Schedule with them.”

     I emptied JB’s dresser and closet. I packed his clothes into 15 garbage bags. I threw in framed photographs he was in. I went into the bathrooms and started filling a bag with JB’s toiletries. I threw JB’s garbage bags on the enclosed front porch. I began cooking dinner. The kids and I ate and Mary Kate called.
     “Do you have time to talk?” she asked. She was crying. “I’m in a parking garage in Highland Park. I followed Sean. He’s with a woman. He met her in recovery. Back in October I found a bunch of texts. They were sickening. They were about how much they wanted each other, wanted to leave their spouses, be together. I confronted him about them. He spent a couple nights out of the house sleeping at different friends’ houses. He was crying and begging to come back, so I let him. We started going to therapy, but my trust was shot. The therapist told him he was going to have to really woo me, prove to me he meant business, earn my trust again. Sean swore that he wasn’t going to see that woman, Jillian, anymore.
     “I called Verizon to see if he was still texting and calling her. He was. I don’t want to live like this. A couple of nights ago, he checked his phone, jumped out of bed, and said he had to go help someone and left.
     “Tonight, I followed him when he left the house. The stupid moron is so in his own little world that he didn’t even notice me following him. He stopped at a townhouse in Highland Park and Jillian came running out the door all smiles. They stopped at Walgreens and Sean came out with a rose and kissed her. They drove off and I followed them. I think they’re having dinner somewhere. I want to confront them. Do you think I should?”
     “Go home and start throwing his stuff on the lawn,” I said. “I’m guessing you know JB and I split up?” Sean and JB were old high school friends.
     “Sean said JB cheated on you a couple of times.”
     I started laughing. “JB’s been on cheating websites for five years.”
     “Oh my God. He really took it a lot further than Sean.” Mary Kate sounded happier, like her situation wasn’t so bad. “Sean didn’t sleep with Jillian.”
     I stifled a laugh. Weirdly, I felt better that JB had meaningless sex with random women rather than falling in love.
     “I still love Sean,” Mary Kate cried. “I don’t want this. I want our marriage to work.”
     I suddenly thought of a gorgeous summer afternoon when JB asked me to meet him at a hotel. I wanted to be out riding my horse in the woods, not having sex with JB. But I said yes and met him in a dumpy business hotel with a cheap mattress covered in see-through sheets. I felt dirty checking in. I don’t know why it popped into my head as Mary Kate sobbed, but it suddenly became clear that I’d filled in for an Ashley Madison bang. Some woman had ditched JB and he'd called me. Mary Kate began blowing her nose while I envisioned myself standing over JB’s lifeless body bashing his skull in with a baseball bat.
     “You’re so strong,” Mary Kate sniffed. “I’m afraid to be on my own. Aren’t you afraid?”
     “I’d rather live in a tent than with JB,” I said angrily. “You and Sean have a lot of money. Half is yours. You’ll be fine if you leave.”
     “So you think I should confront Sean and Jillian?”
     “Do you need to confront them?”
     “I have to confront Sean. I have to show him I have proof. I’m pulling my car up next to his right now. When they walk in, I’m going to get out of the car and I’m going to introduce myself to Jillian and say, ‘Hi, I’m Mary Kate, Sean’s wife of 24 years. You’re a home wrecker. Do you like destroying someone’s marriage? Does your husband know what you’re doing? Well he’s going to know now. Nice rose you gave her Sean. I want you out of the house tonight.’ Then I’m going to drive away. You think that’s okay?”
     “Yeah,” I said.
     “Okay, they’ve got to come out soon. Thanks for talking to me.”
     Half an hour later Mary Kate called back. “I did it,” she said breathlessly. “When they walked into the garage I stood in front of Sean’s car. I said what I said I would. They denied they were doing anything wrong. They said they were helping a friend who was in trouble. Parking in a public parking lot, stopping at Walgreens to buy a rose, I don’t think so. Jillian just stood there with a smirk on her face. Sean’s trying to call me now. Do you think I should take it?”
     “If you want to.”
     Mary Kate took the call. She called me back. “He’s still insisting they were helping a friend. He’s on his way home. I told him I want him out of the house. How am I going to keep him out? He’s going to come in and he’s not going to leave.”
     “Throw a bag of his stuff on the front porch and bolt the doors.”
     “Yeah, I can do that. Okay, okay, that’s what I’m going to do. I gotta get going and get this done before he shows up.”
     “Good luck Mary Kate.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gut Instincts--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, January 2

     I met Tanya for coffee. “I would have bet my life that JB was faithful and honest,” I told her. “I should have known better. I should have known JB was capable of doing what he did. He’s passive-aggressive, a coward. I feel like a moron. I hate feeling stupid.”
     “Passive-aggressive people are masters of deception,” Tanya said. “They’re really good at holding up a fa├žade. You knew something was wrong. You felt it. You just didn’t know what it was.”
     “I thought I was a good judge of character,” I laughed. “I believed I read people well. What a joke. Guess I thought far too much of myself. I don’t trust myself anymore. That feels bad. Horrible. The best I’ve come up with is I have to stop rationalizing and explaining away uncomfortable gut instincts. And I’m not going to tell myself I’m a bitch for having negative feelings towards people who make me feel bad. I’m going to start looking at why I feel bad and uncomfortable around certain people.”
     “Does JB have any spiritual beliefs?” Tanya asked.
     “He’s lost, soulless. It’s all about him. It’s not about you.”
     I liked the idea of JB being soulless. Are sociopaths wired to have souls they can't hear? Is JB a sociopath? How could I have chosen him for a partner? It doesn’t speak well of me, or where I was twenty-one years ago when we got married.