19 days after the wedding I turned 21.
Eventually, we got accepted into base housing. In my mind this was going to take a lot of stress off our relationship. We wouldn’t be worrying about paying the rent anymore, and I wouldn’t be home alone at night in the worst part of a pretty bad town. Plus, I thought I might be able to make some friends in the neighborhood and ease my growing sense that I had made a Terrible Mistake. I had taken a semester off of school to get situated and transfer to the school in our new city, and during that time I temped at several jobs until finally being hired as a receptionist at American Express Financial Advisors. By the time I got married I had been going to school full-time at night and working full-time during the day for well over a year, and that wasn't about to change anytime soon. In fact, I would end up working full-time and going to school at night for the next two and half years until I graduated.
So, I settled into my job at American Express, answering the phones for $5.50 an hour. Eventually my Ex got put back on day shifts, and for a while this seemed to really help our relationship. We were both on the same schedule, eating at the same time, sleeping at the same time. He was less grumpy and I felt like we were reconnecting. Meanwhile, I started back to school as a junior and a transfer student and luckily I got a partial scholarship. I had promised my parents that the one thing I would not neglect was my education.
When my dad and I talked about me getting married so young I could literally smell the fear rolling off of him in waves. He got so upset and frustrated that he threw his hands up and walked away. He said “You’ll never go back. You’ll lose your momentum and you’ll never go back and you’ll end up married to a guy that misses the good old days in the trailer park and is never going to do anything with his life!” And of course I said “You don’t KNOW HOW IT IS WITH US! We LOVE each other! I will go back to school, but even if I didn’t, he’ll always take care of me! He will, you’ll see!” Finally my father walked away, and it breaks my heart to say he had tears in his eyes. I locked myself in my room and cried, and my mom tried desperately to smooth things over. The next morning there was an uneasy truce – my mom’s message was clear – they would support me, but only so they didn’t lose me. To this day I remember my dad crying as he walked me down the aisle at my wedding and when I looked back on it, years later, I was sure they weren't tears of joy. I will never forgive myself for doing that to my parents -- being so selfish that I robbed them of the joy of seeing their only daughter get married to someone kind and decent and loving.
Also during this time the real fighting started. A typical fight went something like this.
Me: “Where were you? I thought you would be home hours ago?”
Him: “Why are you such a nagging bitch? I don’t have to fucking justify my time to you!”
Me: “No, of course not, I was just worried because I know you got off work at 4:30 and now it’s 8 and I was just worried, that’s all.”
Him: “Jesus Christ. Why don’t you just fucking lay off until I at least get a chance to sit down and relax? Why do you have to start in on me as soon as I walk through the door?”
Me: “Ok, God, fine. From now I won’t even ask! Will that make you happy?” **start crying**
Him: “Quit crying!!! Why are you so dramatic? God, I fucking hate living here...I wish I could go back in time and never marry you!” **walks towards spare bedroom to lock himself in for the rest of the night to look at porn magazines and not have to talk to me**
Me: “Please don’t lock yourself in there again? Please! Why can’t we talk??”
Him: **Slams fist into wall, leaving gaping hole**
Me: **Crying harder** “You’re scaring me! Please don’t do that or I’ll have to call the police and I don’t want ourlives to be like that. I can't be this person! We can't be those people! We don’t have to do this, we can just talk!”
Him: “Oh please. Go ahead and call the fucking police. I’m a cop! Who’s going to show up? One of my friends that’s who...I can do anything I want to you and no one will ever believe you because I know all the cops and they all know what a total bitch you are...all they have to do is meet you one time to know that. So go right ahead, call the cops. Oh, how about if I dial...yeah, let’s call the cops...I’m dialing now, you better think about what you want to tell them when they get here. I think I’m going to tell them YOU hit ME. Yeah. We’ll see how much your precious daddy still loves you when you get arrested!”
So, life became a series of horrible fights, increasingly shorter make-up periods where I would be lavished with attention and gifts, and great shifting dunes of loneliness and depression where he either pretended I didn’t exist or spent all his energy trying to come up with new and interesting ways to hurt me. For instance, inviting me to the gym with him so we could “spend time together,” then spending the entire time telling me how happy he was I was so fat and disgusting because that way he knew no man would ever want me. Of course, during this time I also spent more and more time coming up with elaborate ways to please him, thinking that the one thing I could do to finally make him happy was just around the corner. I left cards and flowers on his car while he was at work so he would know I was thinking about him. I packed his lunch every day. I kept the house cleaned, paid the bills, and cooked all the meals, even though I was working 40 hours a week and going to school four nights a week plus all day Saturday. I even put in landscaping in the yard once while he was out of town to surprise him -- flower beds lined with decorative bricks on each side of the driveway and another one around the base of the tree in our yard. A bench where I dreamed we would sit and hold hands and talk about our fabulous future together. The flowers eventually died because I was never home and he apparently couldn't be bothered to water them. After a fight he took the bench off the porch and put it in the garage saying it was ugly and was going to get us in trouble with the base yard inspectors. From the garage it went to the backyard. And from there it eventually ended up at the dump, with all the rest of the trash when we got divorced.
But, perhaps the greatest fight of the first year was over The Letters.
One day I got a frantic phone call at home that he had been selected to go on a deployment for work, but needed me to “immediately” bring down his shot records so his commander could see if he needed any shots before they got ready to go. He informed me that the shot record was in his box of things from before we were married which was stored in the spare room. The same spare room he often locked himself in for hours in the evenings saying he was “reading” (yeah right) or “ironing his uniform” (more likely) or “needed to be alone and de-stress.” The same spare room I avoided like the plague because, to me, it was his haven from me, his den of depression, where I knew he would just lay on the bed and think about how much he regretted marrying me. But, he needed the shot record, and I wanted desperately to be a good wife so he would finally realize how great we could be, so I went in and started to go through his box.
Happily, the first thing I found in the box were some of the probably hundreds of letters I had written him during Basic Training and his tech schools, which made me think that maybe sometimes he read over them and remembered how much I loved him and how devoted I had been and how much I had looked forward to marrying him. Then I found a bunch of paperwork from before we were married pertaining to a couple of car accidents he had been in. Interestingly one accident had been without insurance and I had been hounded the entire time he was in Basic Training by the other person’s insurance company but couldn’t figure out why. Now, looking at the police report, I saw that he had put my address and phone number as his own. Interesting. Further down in the box I found more letters. Only, these letters looked funny. They were clearly in girl handwriting, but I knew it wasn’t mine. Thinking they were from his sister or stepmother, I opened the first one up. I knew I shouldn’t snoop, but hey, he did tell me to go through the box, the letter was postmarked from the time during which we were engaged, and I think in my heart I knew it was going to be bad.
And it was. The first letter, from a girl with a stupid name that I can’t even remember now, wrote of their night together, how hot he was, how great in bed he was. All things I concurred with. Of course, I was married to him. The letter was postmarked less than a month after our engagement. The other letter was even worse. It was pages long, probably four or five at least. It described in detail things they had done, things she hoped they would do. The one part I will never forget was the postscript. PS: No I won’t send scratch and sniff Polaroids to you – if you want it you can come get it.
I ran to the bathroom and threw up for an hour. And then I found the shot record and I drove out to his post for that day. My hair was crazy and standing on end, my eyes were red and puffy from crying and vomiting, my skin was gray and I know I looked like I had just arrived on death’s doorstep after an extending trip through the pits of hell. I got out of the car, walked up to him, slammed the shot record against his chest and said “You have one hour to get home and explain yourself or I’ll be gone.”
I have no idea what he told his boss to be able to come home – it’s not like a military policeman can just walk off his post during the middle of the shift. But I sat there on our maroon fake leather couch for the better part of an hour, clutching my sides, shaking and crying, and waiting for him...actually praying he would show up because I was pretty sure I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t tell my parents about this. I had no money, no outside friends, and no way was my job going to support me living off base and allow me to pay for tuition and books. And then he walked in. He looked shaken, but now I think it was probably because he wasn’t sure WHAT he had been caught at. I had the letters open and on the coffee table. I had probably read them fifty times while I waited for him, memorizing each and every word of each and every page. The first one short, in pencil, and more of a "thanks for the great fuck" than anything else. The other long, in teal colored pen, flowery and flouncy, small little circles dotting all the eyes and hearts beneath all the exclamation points. You have a huge cock. Exclamation point. Tiny heart.
He took one look at the letters and said “Those were a joke from my friends. They wrote them to try to get me in trouble with you. None of that stuff ever happened, it was just a joke.” And then he sat down next to me and put his arm around me. When I flinched and curled up into myself even tighter he said “Hey, don’t you believe me? You know I would never do anything to hurt you! Right?” But, I didn’t know. That’s what I had believed all those years we were dating. Right from the first time I met him I felt like he would take care of me, like he would never let me down or be the kind of guy who would do what these letters described. And I knew I should pack my suitcase and walk out the door. I knew I should call my parents and say I had been wrong and move home and swallow my pride. But still, I wasn’t certain. Should I just let it go? Should I try to believe him since it was before we were married? Was I the kind of person who gave up on a marriage less than one year into it? Weren't we soulmates? Was the "good" man inside him somewhere still?
I told him I would stay if we went to marriage counseling and he agreed, although I don’t know why since in hindsight it’s pretty obvious he didn’t much want me around. The letter incident happened on a Thursday.
On Friday I called the mental health clinic on base and got us into the next session of marriage counseling -- which unfortunately didn't start for a couple of weeks. When I explained to the woman on the phone that we were in crisis and needed counseling immediately she said we could either wait for the class or pay for it ourselves. So, it seemed like we were going to wait -- and besides, by Friday he was already making noises about "What will happen if the military finds out about this? I'll lose my security clearance. You're going to ruin my career by being a vindictive bitch about this. It was just a joke by my friends, I don't know why you won't believe me."
By Saturday he was back to normal and seemed to have forgotten anything had happened at all. When I suddenly started weeping into my pillow on Saturday night he turned to me and said “What now?” I looked at him incredulously and said “Are you kidding? All I can think about are those letters. My nightmares are made up of the words those girls wrote to you. What you did with those girls is the first thing I think of when I get up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. It’s all I think about. Ever.” And he turned over so that his back was facing me, the broad expanse of muscle and skin I had run my hands over ten thousand times, and in the dark I heard him say “How long are you going to punish me for this?”