Some of you will be tempted to read the end first. Don't feel bad, I do that all the time, just don't blame me when you lose all the dramatic tension you big old instant gratification junkies! Some of you will be tempted to Google the shit out of this and figure out who the Ex is or whatever. Most of you are regular readers who I would be happy to provide the information to via email if you so desire. Most of you know me through my writing and know this blog as a stop on your regular visits around the blogosphere. I do not want the specific name of the Ex to be associated with me or this blog. I know putting it out here, even without some of the major details, leaves me open to that kind of thing, and I'm taking that chance. But, I hope that most or all of you will respect my wish not to have his name and crimes be permanently linked to this blog which I love writing and which is normally a fun and happy place for me to be creative. I would hate for that spirit to be destroyed.
Years went by. Five to be exact, not that I was counting anymore. I became a military officer, traveled the world, got married and divorced again, and even saw M. join the Air Force and become an officer too. I had ups and downs like everyone I guess, I went through a couple of really tumultuous relationships, but I think I stuck with my “learn something from it” theme. I learned that sometimes men who don’t mention that they’re married might actually be married, and that the default is not necessarily “single.” I learned that sometimes someone will tell you they love you just because it’s what you want to hear and because they love the idea of being in love, and when you’re not with them every single day they will find someone else to help them find that oh-so-addictive feeling. I learned that I have an amazing capacity to lose my temper when broken up with via cell phone, and that I have an amazing capacity for self-restraint when I don’t call that person back ever again despite the fact that I feel the urge almost constantly for upwards of six months – the clean break rule, it really works. All in all, I’m not sure I got any more savvy at choosing the right people, but I got a lot better at being alright with being alone in lieu of being with the wrong person.
One night, probably a year after my second divorce, maybe two or three months before I was supposed to leave the Air Force, the phone rang at my apartment. When I picked up, expecting someone from work calling to ask me if I wanted to get a beer, or, worst-case scenario, someone from work telling me I needed to come in, the voice on the other end said, “Hello, is this E. Spatula?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“This is Ex#1”
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Holy shit.”
“Yeah, I found your name and address and phone number on the internet.”
“Oh. Wow. Oh my god.”
After about five minutes of me being totally freaked out, he explained that he was doing security clearance paperwork for a new job he had gotten with the FBI and that he needed to put my name and address on it under the “Ex-Spouse” block. Because I was intimately familiar with security clearance paperwork, I knew that there was in fact such a block; so I was somewhat relieved...perhaps this was just a heads-up. Of course, when I filled out my security clearance paperwork I just put his name and “Unknown” for his address and stuff, but, hey, maybe he had finally grown up and become responsible.
We chitchatted a little bit. He had gotten married to the woman he’d been cheating on me with, the girl from the bank with the ugly jeans. They had a daughter who was 2. He told me he was really happy and asked about my life. I told him I had gotten married and divorced again but that I was happy too, and I was an Air Force officer although I would soon be getting out to attend law school in the Pacific Northwest. He told me that he was sorry we hadn’t been able to stay friends, and that he always thought of me as his first love, still thought of me as his soul mate, wondered often what had become of me, had been searching for me on the internet for a while. For the clearance paperwork of course. He explained that he had gotten his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and had become a city policeman, protecting and serving the people of the same town we had lived in while married. I asked him if he could finally admit he had cheated on me with The Girl, now The Wife, and he still claimed they didn’t get together until long after the divorce. A lie, and we both knew it.
Since he already had my information there wasn’t much I could do to stop him from using it on his clearance paperwork, and I didn’t think much of it again except to wonder offhand why anyone who knew that I had witnessed him engaging in some pretty bad behavior would make it easier for the clearance people to find me. I was wrapped up in my own life. Leaving the Air Force, shipping my stuff back to the West Coast, and then moving in with M. for a couple of months between the Air Force and law school, just to have fun and relax before the real work started. I heard from him again just before I left Texas, he was going to be coming through “the area” and did I want to get together? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I very much wanted to show him how I had grown and changed. I was a professional, educated, world-traveled, articulate...not afraid of him anymore. So, I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me if he came to town. I never thought I’d hear from him again.
But I did. While I was living with M. he called...he would be coming through Oklahoma City on his way back to his city from somewhere else and wanted to have lunch, just lunch. We could catch up. It would be fun. M. and I discussed it at length. Should I go? Would it help or hurt? I was all the way over him and had been for years, and I thought at the very least it wouldn’t set me back or cause me any kind of trauma. I very much wanted to see if he measured up to the idolizing I had done of him during my teenage years and during our marriage. To me he had always been, in the words of Bridget Jones, a bonafide sex god. Truthfully I needed to know if I had made the right decision, if I would regret it when I saw him, if I would feel remorse for quitting my marriage five years earlier. I had believed for a large portion of my adult years that he was my soulmate, if there actually is such a thing. I carried that with me for a long time, the idea that there was only one man who would ever love me and he had been it. After the second divorce, and even now, I pondered (and ponder) whether I meet someone again who will take my breath away like he did when I was 17.
On the appointed day he called me and we arranged to meet at a local steakhouse in OKC. I agonized over what to wear. I didn’t want to look fat, or old, or anything less than fantastically happy with my life and choices. When I got to the parking lot I sat there for a minute and tried to catch my breath. A huge part of my past was about to come back to life. I called M. on my cell and got a word or two of reassurance. She was just a mile away and if he did one single thing wrong she would be down in a second to kick his ass. As always, she had my back. I think she said something like “Tell him I said he’s a cheating motherfucker and the stupidest thing he ever did in his life was divorce you.” Isn't she the total best?
He showed up in a huge white truck. We both got out of our vehicles and walked towards each other in the parking lot, sort of like a duel only in reverse. An awkward hug. He was skinnier than I remembered. And shorter. A sex god no longer, just an ordinary guy with bad tattoos and a cheap haircut.
We had lunch and he begged and pleaded and cajoled for us to go do something together; he had to leave in a couple hours and who knew when or if we would ever see each other again. So we went down to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and walked around and talked. It was really hot, but we stayed outside and he told me about his wife and job and baby daughter. I felt relieved that I didn’t really feel anything. He was more articulate than I remembered, and so I thought maybe he had finished college, but he was still the same old Ex. Always with a harebrained scheme for making a million dollars fast, or an idea that someone had stolen that WOULD have made him a million dollars but now he was going to sue that bastard and get what was rightfully his. He was going to quit the police force and move back to South Florida to race his car, the same one he had shown me the week I left for Officer Training. The FBI had hired him and they were going to make him a specialist in anti-terrorism tactics, hence the security clearance. There was no recognition on his part of the contradictory nature of the statements about his life and what he was doing with it.
And then, little tidbits of truth started to trickle out. He was still a liar at heart, and was trying his best to snow me, but he seemed desperate to talk, to have me understand that, ok, maybe some things weren’t going according to plan, but he was still successful and fine and doing well for himself.
He and his wife were separated. But it was because he wanted to go back to Florida where he has gaining fame as a racecar driver and she didn’t want to leave her family in their current city and state.
He was having some problems at work. But he would be going to the FBI soon, and probably racing on the side, or alternatively becoming a famous racecar driver, the dream of every boy from South Florida, so it didn’t matter.
He was being framed.
Some people had accused him of things he didn’t do.
When I pressed for more as we drove back to the steakhouse so that he could let me off at my car, he declined to elaborate.
In the parking lot of the restaurant he grabbed me up in a big hug. He looked manic, the whites of his eyes visible all the way around. He had to get back to his city right away but he didn't want to leave. It was almost like he was desperate to stay and talk about old times and pretend like the last five years hadn't happened. He told me he regretted leaving me and wished he hadn't and in his heart he knew I would always be The One. I felt deeply uncomfortable, like watching television with my parents and having a Viagra commercial come on. My guts felt kind of squirmy, for lack of a more precise scientific measurement.
His wife didn’t know where he was. But he had been driving through OKC, the city I happened to be in, for a supposed errand that his wife didn’t know about. Because it was to pick up parts for his racecar and he didn’t want her to be mad. I didn’t see anything in the truck that looked like car parts.
The last thing he said to me before he left was “Someday you might hear some things about me. But don’t believe them. People are making shit up about me because they’re jealous that I got this FBI job and they didn’t, but I didn’t do anything.” Then he just got in his truck and drove away. Into the sunset as it were.
I went back to the house and relived the entire afternoon for M. and we both tried to think about what his cryptic message might mean. Because she had someone in town that weekend we didn’t really get to talk much more about it, but my stomach would hurt off and on when I would think about what had driven my ex-husband to search for me on the internet, find me in Texas, track me down in yet another state, and then drive all the way to Oklahoma to impart upon me his strange and desperate message of innocence and stories about his life, that, in person, seemed vividly detached from reality...like he had seen them on television and appropriated them for himself, changing the lead character's name to his own and then just trundling off with a well-scripted life firmly in place. Racecar driver - check! FBI agent - check! Graduated from college, loving wife who wants him home so much she only separated from him to protest his proposed absence, small tiny perfect baby - check, check and check!
On Monday M. and I both had to go to work. I was temping at an insurance office to make beer money, but M. and I would talk on email throughout the day. After I got to work I decided to Google his name and see what I could find...I think at the time we didn’t have internet at home so this was my first chance to really try to figure out my mysterious weekend.
Google search: “Ex #1”
I literally stopped breathing for a minute. The search results reached out from the computer monitor and grabbed my stomach, and then my heart, and finally my lungs, leaving me stunned and speechless, hands shaking, heart racing.
Local Cop Indicted for Rape.
Local Cop Accused of Raping Female Motorists.
Local Cop Alleged to Have Beaten and Raped Citizens During Vehicle Stops.
My ex-husband, the man I had just seen, the man I had pledged to love until eternity only 8 years earlier, was accused of being a serial rapist.
And not just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill serial rapist, a serial rapist with a badge, a police car, and a sadistic streak a mile wide.
I stepped outside, away from my desk, and called M., almost in tears. I called my parents. I emailed a couple of close friends and sent them the link. Every person that I love circled his or her wagon, protecting me and insulating me and saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, thank God you got out when you did!”
His wife, the woman he had cheated on me, was by his side during his court appearances...presumably standing by her hard-won man. He had been indicted two days after he visited me in OKC. He was accused of many counts of rape, of assault, of various other related crimes. Many counts. No specifics here, but many victims, many complaints, a long investigation and finally an indictment that was very specific in nature and heartbreaking to read, on many levels.
The criminal trial will be next year. It has been postponed and extended and delayed for over two years now.
Sometimes you see these people on TV who were married to a murderer, or lived next door to a serial killer, and none of them knew.
I didn’t know. I mean, I knew he was capable of violence. I knew he didn’t respect women. I knew he had little to no conscience when it came to lying or manipulating people, and that often he lied and manipulated even when he didn’t have to. I knew he didn’t have normal emotional responses to things, instead feeling extreme anger or extreme apathy or extreme avoidance, but rarely seeming to care very much about the health and welfare of those living around him. I knew he stole things from his work sometimes, but that was something I discovered when I moved out of the house and found hundreds and hundreds of CD’s which I assume were pilfered from Best Buy, but which he claimed to have bought...I was just too tired at that point to have a full-blown confrontation about it. I knew he was always one phone call away from being a full-fledged stalker after the divorce. I knew he used his badge as a military policeman to intimidate me and always bragged about how much power having a badge and gun gave him and how everyone had to respect him because he was a cop and could ruin their lives. I knew the only way I could get away from him was to move and leave no forwarding address.
So, could I say I didn’t know?
I have wracked my brain these past two years, trying to decide if there was something I could have done, someone I could have warned. Should I have reported the abuse as it was happening? By the time I knew, or even thought, it was abuse, it had been several years. I didn’t even know where he was by then, and frankly wasn't inclined to seek him out. During the time we were together I was like one of those dogs in the depression studies about learned helplessness, all I could do was move like a zombie in and out of my days and nights, trying to hold my life together by the edges while not letting too much of it unravel at once. I honestly never thought someone I once loved could do something like what the Ex is accused of. He hasn’t had a trial, he has not been found guilty, but in my gut I just feel like he is – why seek me out and try to exonerate himself before I had even heard anything? I would NEVER EVER have found out about the charges if he hadn’t set the ball in motion with the phone calls and visits, I hadn’t thought about him in years and his indictment didn’t make national news...although it’s a pretty big item in his state of residence, as I’m sure you can imagine.
It’s been two years since I found out about the charges. I’ve had time to get used to it, and, while it’s not a joke since people have obviously been hurt and lives have been tragically altered, some parts of it seem to be evidence of the karmic cycle at work. Clearly just cheating with my husband when were are all still almost kids doesn't mean The Wife or the kid deserve to be subjected to what they are probably going through -- but I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel a little less sorry for her knowing that she knew me, she looked at me when I came to visit him at work, and she still had no apparent issues with staking her territory on a married man.
I’m not sure what will happen. There are certain details I have left out that indicate to me that there is a very great chance he will be found guilty and end up in a very bad place, which, if he is guilty, is right where he belongs.
I worried for myself along the way too. Did he get my address and phone number to give to his lawyers? Would someone hunt me down and force me to come to court and relive my years with this man who turned out to be a monster? Certainly not his lawyers, God knows I have nothing positive to add to their case. In true American fashion, I don’t want to get involved.
I also wondered if people would think his actions reflect upon me. My taste in men? It’s already a running joke. Sometimes I feel like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride when Richard Gere stands up at her rehearsal dinner and points out to basically the entire town that she is actually a person, with feelings, and perhaps she doesn’t enjoy her personal choices in relationships being the fodder for every amateur stand-up comedian in town. I guess I can take being labeled a “Bad Chooser of Men,” and I'm usually the first one to make a joke about my horrible taste, but deep inside I worry that it's me. That the person that I am is only attractive to men who are "bad" in some way, and that eventually I will be worn down from my "I would rather be alone than in another bad relationship" place and end up exactly there because it seems like a dead-end road that I just can't get off of.
But, is it deeper than that? I married someone who, as it turns out, is more likely than not a serial rapist. Someone who preyed upon the vulnerable. I don’t think I could have known. The sweet boy I met when I was 17, the boy who was such a good boyfriend and wasn’t afraid to cry in front of me and would always let me lay on his arm even if it fell asleep, the boy who asked me to marry him and cried and told me that he couldn't imagine his life without me in it, how could that boy be this man? He changed along the way, that was apparent even before we got married, but I always thought he still had that sweet soul inside him, I always thought I could and would be the one to coax it out of hiding, bring him back into the light.
What I think about sometimes is a book I read about some serial killer, Ted Bundy maybe, who would stand in front of the mirror and practice smiling and frowning and looking worried and perplexed and intrigued, because he knew that “normal” people felt things inside themselves that they telegraphed to the rest of the world via facial expressions. Was our marriage, and all those years, the Ex’s practice in front of the mirror of society? Was he learning how to pretend to be human? Did he stand at the altar and marry me as an experiment in normalcy?
I haven’t spoken to him since the day in Oklahoma City. I keep up with the news; it seems to come in waves as different parts of the case become public. I will keep up with the trial when it happens. Apparently his city has a “No Settling” policy when it comes to crimes committed by police officers, so it will go to trial eventually, but there’s no guarantee on when. Every day I process it a little bit more. I wonder if it would have happened if we’d stayed married. I wonder where I would be if I had stayed. I’m so grateful to my friends and family for making it possible for me to never have to find out the answers to those questions.