“I’m just an asshole. You’ve always been there for me. I blame myself.” Those were his own words spoken into a text message. Those were perhaps the only honest words coming forth in a long time and the last honest ones. Kindness with a twist?
What I learned in the last years was that I was stronger emotionally than my husband, but not strong enough for me. He confessed he was not strong. He is the person who feels weak and impotent in the face of adversity and pain and dissatisfaction. He doesn’t know what to do with his feelings and sometimes does the wrong thing. Perhaps I shouldn’t blame him for that weakness. I really wish I didn’t and could say I understand. But I feel as if that weakness led to betrayals of his first wife and now me and his banishment of his brother. It kept him from being able to lend the support needed for his children. He contributes money instead that he often comes to see as people using him. Sometimes it is about the money when you realize nothing else is coming.
I felt this sense of anger last week. I talked to two women about marriage and children and our working lives. One of those women wrote a story about something in her life and sent it off to a publisher. It was rejected so she stopped writing. It helps put those words on paper like it helps to voice them, and it doesn’t matter if your audience appreciates your work. It may be enough for the audience of one. She had a story to tell. I think people like “Humans of New York” because they either have nothing in common with the storyteller but empathize or they do know the story and relate. The second woman I talked with was one in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for more years than my marriage. She escaped a few years ago to find peace but never filed for divorce or divided up their joint property. Now he has come back to take more. Hadn’t he taken enough? She said there are people who don’t believe her when she talks about abuse. That is the way. Sure, there are people who claim abuse as a ploy. When my husband’s first wife took out a PFA during their divorce, I told myself it was a ploy for the divorce. But maybe she was afraid. Maybe she saw that fierce some face of anger and hate that I have seen. Maybe she just didn’t want to see him again either. I told my friend it doesn’t matter if anyone believes you. You lived in a house alone with him. Sometimes people only show themselves to one person and can make others believe it is that other person saying things that is a little crazy. Sometimes that person can even make you doubt. .She is still afraid and is ready to give it all away just to avoid him. I understand that wish for avoidance. Yesterday was Jacob’s hearing, and both Roy and I were there. I couldn’t look upon his face. I couldn’t speak to him though I had planned to talk to him about our empty house. It needs to go. It’s simply a glorified dog kennel now. But as I sat in that courtroom, I whispered to my son that I just couldn’t do it, not today. Me, who people think is strong and strong-willed couldn’t will myself to look or speak. I’ll find that courage though to do what I must. I want to walk away but I can’t. Roy and I stood alone in the hall for a few minutes, and he asked about Cary and Caleb. One word was all I could manage and soon my son came back. Strangely, as Jacob and I walked away from my husband in the parking lot, I felt pity. Pity because people are always walking away. Pity for all he has lost through the years and doesn’t know why. And pity because I don’t think he misses anyone.
I felt angry on Thursday when my daughter told me her dad was on a trip with his girlfriend to a destination that seemed purposeful. I felt like that employee who finds a co-worker has stolen their ideas and is flaunting her rewards from the boss. I unfriended my husband months ago and then added him to my blocked list on FB a month or so ago. And what a sadistic irony in joining his name to my son’s ex-relatives. Facebook has become so engrained in our lives that it is a news outlet and grapevine. I asked my daughter not to tell me anything but something amused her that she wanted to share. My friend tells me of the check-ins and tagged photos sometimes. It is because she is disbelieving and feels pain for me. She said it is like they stuck the knife in and keep twisting it. It felt like a knife in the back from the time he did it. Of course, there is purpose in it. I feel it; it is the reason I never look or search anything about him. And it is not about wanting back that husband. He has forced me to face him. If this girlfriend is lucky, she’ll never meet my husband. There are a few others who have met him and feel conflicted or as I do. Now she has met the man I thought I was marrying. He lasted a few good years. The change was slow and insidious. This is not the story of two people who just grew apart and started to fight and ended up in a bitter divorce. But you can’t know because you didn’t live in my house.
The anger I felt all week dissipated by the time I went home to Cowansville, I felt peaceful. I relaxed knowing he was nowhere around. I dug up my plants before the weeds hid them again and sat around in my underwear while I washed. I even sat on the front porch in my underwear hoping the neighbors no longer had a telescope. It felt like the past as I slept in my bed and slept well. When I awoke it felt like just another time I was alone while Roy was out doing his thing. Then I remembered that girlfriend and realized that quite possibly it was still like all those other times.
Tonight though I felt ashamed. I had been angry and hurt for myself as I talked about his trip. Then I came to understand how my son must feel. He cannot go on trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. It is not that he wants to go to those places, but that he can’t. I should have been more understanding of what the story meant to him. Like salt in a wound. I had perspective again.