Sunday, July 31, 2005

Part Eight.

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.
Part Five.
Part Six.
Part Seven.

I would like to say that being without him got easier right away. But it didn’t. It was not, at first, a clean break. He would call me at work, just to “check and see if I was OK.” Eventually he got my home phone number, I think through my friend on base whose husband worked with him. The first time he called me at home was on a weekend night. I was out with some friends I had made at work, and when I got home it was late, we’d stayed until last call, and the messages on my machine were sort of reminiscent of the movie Swingers.

“Hey, it’s me, just wondering what you were doing tonight, hoping you’re not at home all upset or whatever.”

“Hey, it’s me, I hope you’re OK, I’m worried about you. Call me as soon as you get home.”

“Hey, it’s me, where are you? It’s really late! I can’t think of where you would even go out this late. Maybe if you had wanted to do fun things while we were married we wouldn’t have ended up divorced.”

“You fucking whore. The only reason you need to be out at 2am is because you’re fucking some guy. I’m glad I divorced you because you’re just another dirty slut like I always knew you were. You bitch. Don’t call me, I never want to hear from you again!”

Inevitably, I would get a phone call at 4am, the Ex calling to “apologize” because he had been so worried he had just lost his mind. And by “apologize” I mean “check to make sure I was home, miserable, and not sleeping with anyone.”

And then the drop-in visits started. Unlike the visits at our old house, at the new place he didn’t have a key. But, at least once a week he would be at my apartment door, crying and knocking and begging to talk. After about three such visits I finally asked what he wanted, after all, we were divorced – HE divorced ME, why was he still hanging around?

That’s when he dropped a line on me that might be my all-time favorite, even better than accusing me of talking fast to confuse him. “I just thought if we got divorced it would be sort of a clean slate and we could start over. You know, start dating and just forget all the things that happened in the past.” I don't even think I had a reaction at first, all I could do was stare at him and wonder how I had ever married someone so stupid. Strangely I vividly remember saying to him "Are you kidding me? You already GOT to date me! You already GOT to marry me! You didn't want me and now you do? I can't even talk to you about this!" Thus was born my policy on clean breaks, when it's over it's over...it's worked for me ever since.

But, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire life is tell him he needed to go home, and close that door behind me. I cried for hours, not sure if I had done the right thing. I was going for longer and longer periods feeling pretty good, but every time he came by or called I would be plunged back into depression like I had just heard he was leaving me for the very first time. Eventually I told him he had to quit; I needed some space to heal. When he put up a vigorous protest I placated him by promising that “some day” we could be friends.

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks, autumn started fading and the days were getting shorter. We ran into each other at a local bar on Halloween night. He had gotten his tongue pierced, a BIG TIME no-no in the military, and he was holding hands with the dirty skank from the picture I had seen in his dorm room. He had on a shiny silver disco shirt and had dyed his hair blond. It was a country bar and if she hadn’t been there I probably would have laughed at how ridiculous he looked, trying to be “hip” in a definitely unhip city at a definitely unhip bar. She smirked at me, he looked guilty, and I cried into my gin and tonic until my friends took me home.

Before Thanksgiving he called me out of the blue. He wanted me to know that his “friend,” the girl from the Christmas card I had found in his car, was his new “roommate” and if I saw them around he didn’t want me to think “anything bad” was going on. I reminded him we were divorced and tried to brush it off, telling myself I didn’t care what he was doing without me.

And then one day I went to the bank that we still shared. Unfortunately for me he had used my car title to secure the loan on his dirt bike, and until one of us paid enough money to the bank to cause them not to need collateral anymore, I couldn’t get my title back...and between the divorce and tuition there was no money. He had also cleaned out our savings account to pay off “our bills,” however, the only credit cards he paid off were his own, and then the money was gone and I was fucked over all over again. Since it was clear he wasn’t going to pay to get my title released, and I wanted it back before he did something to really screw me over, my parents gave me the money and I trooped on over to the bank to try to get out from under our last shared pre-divorce obligation.

And there they were. I walked into the bank, digging through my purse for something, or maybe putting my keys away, and when I looked up they were sitting in the loan and mortgage area. She was tiny, with dark hair and wearing the same kinds of jeans that my mom wears for God’s sake, the ones with a yoke in the front, and a braided brown leather belt. She looked like a tiny perfect soccer mom who was just molting out of her high school cheerleader cocoon. Her arm was around his neck and they were sort of...nuzzling...definitely not in a “there’s nothing bad going on here” way. Immediately my mind went twenty different directions. Should I run? Why were they in the mortgage section? Were they BUYING A HOUSE? I walked over to the other side of the bank and paid off the portion of the dirt bike loan that needed to be paid, got my car title back, and skulked towards the front door, tears silently streaming down my cheeks. And then he saw me. He sort of half stood, and put his hand out as if to say “Wait, it’s not what it looks like! We’re just FRIENDS!” She of course ruined it for him by looking me right in the face and hanging on to his neck as he tried to get up, thereby ruining the illusion that she was anything but “something bad going on.”

I sat in my car for a long time, crying in huge racking sobs, feeling totally abandoned and alone. It was one thing to see the letters and card, to know that he was probably cheating on me, even to know he had probably been cheating on me LONG before the marriage ended...but it was an entirely new ballgame to see a new girl in MY place. All of the sudden it was real. He was living with her. She was having sex with him. He was kissing her neck and telling her he loved her and curling up with her on the couch to watch a movie and taking walks with her. He had betrayed my soul, and I really thought I would never mend sitting in the bank parking lot. Finally, someone tapped on my window and asked if I was OK and I was so humiliated I said my grandma had died and pulled away as fast as possible to go back to work.

But the bank, as it turned out, was the turning point. As I pulled out onto the road to go back to work I realized that if they walked out of that bank and were walking across the street, I would feel an overwhelming urge to hit him with my car. I was angry, and it was the best feeling I’d ever had.

I finally started to feel like a person again. My parents noticed it first and commented that I seemed “more like my old self.” I have always had sort of a bitingly sarcastic sense of humor (you may not have noticed), and suddenly it was back in full swing. I went on some dates. I got a haircut. I bought new clothes. I got back into school and made some friends my own age who I could do stuff with. I got rid of my horrible pot-smoking roommate that I hated and got my own tiny tiny place. But it was mine and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do, ever. No one was the boss of me!

I took swing dancing lessons, golf lessons, boxing lessons, and started competing in running races. The real start of my running was then, the winter after the divorce. That is also when I applied to become an Air Force officer and was told I would be perfect except I was still too overweight. So, at the gym where I had taken boxing lessons, I signed up for a membership. And I have to credit the coaches at that gym with performing the single greatest physical and emotional transformation of my life. I had A LOT of pent up aggression, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I took to boxing like a fish takes to water. Between that and the running I lost about 50 pounds in a matter of months. And more importantly, I changed on the inside. None of the girls would do the focus mitts with me at the gym because I hit so hard I left bruises on their delicate little girly hands, so I started working out with the guys. I jumped rope, learning fancy steps and impressing even myself with my newfound coordination. I went to heavy bag classes and hit and hit and kicked and kicked until I couldn’t stand or lift my arms and I was covered in bruises from the bag. My coaches were impressed with how I had changed and commented often on my “inner strength” which thrilled me; I hadn’t even known I HAD inner strength!!

I was also running about 10 miles a day. Now, there’s probably an argument that I was overdoing it and had replaced one bad thing in my life with too much of another good thing. And that might be true. But, at the time, getting back my self-esteem and my ability to just be able to DO the things I wanted without feeling awkward and self-conscious was a dream come true. I also passed all my final Air Force weight checks and, after a couple of months living with my parents before Officer Training School started, went off to start a new future as a military officer.

I’ve said before that Officer Training School was really, really tough. And I’ve also said before that what helped me get through it was knowing that I had basically already been through the most physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding period that I could ever experience in this life. Who can complain about not getting enough sleep or getting yelled at for not marching right when they’re just happy not to be randomly running into their husband at the bank with his mistress sitting in his lap? Or coming home to find an empty shotgun box on the floor and worrying about a domestic ambush?

Perhaps the most satisfying part of the whole thing was that, on the Tuesday night before I left my college town for good to head to Alabama for OTS, I came home from the gym to find the Ex on my doorstep, wanting to show me his new "race car," an Acura he planned to take around the West Coast and drag race (something I had never "let" him do, being controlling about things like $60,000 cars on a $17,000 a year salary). He was shocked at how much weight I had lost, and my new short haircut (he’d always liked it long), and, I think, my inner confidence...now he could respect me because I wouldn't let him push me around, but I had far too much self-respect to ever be with him again...funny.

He begged me to come back to him. He explained to me, in vivid detail, all the problems with The Other Woman. She didn’t like sex. She nagged. She wasn’t fun. She was controlling. I just sat there, mouth agape; shocked that he couldn’t see that these are the exact same things he was presumably telling her about me while trying to get her to become his mistress! Funny how the grass wasn’t any greener. Anyway, it was Tuesday and unbeknownst to him I was moving away to start OTS that upcoming weekend. When I had mentioned joining the Air Force during our marriage he had laughed in my face and told me I was way too fat and out of shape, I’d never get in. Now I was off to become an officer and I desperately hoped I would run into him again someday and he’d have to salute me and call me Ma’am. I left without ever telling him I was going. No forwarding address, no contact, no nothing. I made a clean break.

During the week my friends came over and helped me move the few belongings I still had into storage. On Saturday morning I drove East out of my city, heading cross-country to Alabama to start my new life. My good friend from work had made me some mix CD’s for the journey and had even bought me a CD player for my car. It was my first cross-country drive alone and I loved every minute of solitude I had. I sang, stopped at truck stops, drank Diet Coke, watched sunrises and sunsets, stayed at nice hotels, and reveled in the newness of me and my life and where I was. It was such a great awakening, a few days on the road without anyone else, just thinking and driving and feeling. For the first time in a long time I was happy with what I heard in my head, and I was comforted. I hadn’t achieved inner peace or anything, and I don’t think I’m the type that ever will. But I could hear myself again, and it felt good to know I was still there.

Thoughts? Ideas?

Someone (several someones actually) suggested I use CafePress to create and sell t-shirts that say "Will Work For Favorable Dicta". Thoughts? I personally can't imagine anyone buying them, but I guess if it's something people want (weird!) I could do it.

Weekend Update

I went and saw "Must Love Dogs" yesterday. Cute. Sorta. I don't think Diane Lane and John Cusack have any real chemistry, although I have just as huge of a crush on him as ever and so I'm glad it didn't look like my boyfriend was enjoying kissing her just because she's beautiful and gorgeous, I want his undivided loyalty and attention. Don't get me wrong, he's no James Spader, but he's still REALLY REALLY cute. Diane Lane was good, as always, she's quite adept at playing a slightly eccentric, wounded-by-love character who eventually meets Mr. Right...in fact...didn't she just do exactly that in "Under the Tuscan Sun"? Why yes, yes she did. Then there's this whole other side story about her widowed father who is using the internet to find dates and always has like three different women on each date. Who the hell would go on a date with two other women present in order to try to "win" a 71 year old man? Who the hell would go on a date with three other women present at all?? Huh? Anyway, if I had to make a recommendation, I would give it a "Wait For The Video."

Last night I went to a beer tasting. It's a GREAT idea and someday I might actually attempt to do it. Everyone brings a six-pack of beer. Two are set aside for the "tasting" and four go into the "feel free to drink" cooler. After everyone has sat around drinking and eating snacks for awhile, the tasting beers are put into paper bags and numbered and two tasting stations are set up with little cups and whatnot. Everyone is given a score card with a 10-point scale, ours went from "vile" to "stupendous" or something like that. Then you walk around, try to taste and rate all the beers, and give the score card back to the host. The host added up the scores, and the people who brought the best beer and the worst beer won a prize. Anyway, I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and one day I'm going to steal it!

I'm off to another movie today, then *maybe* touching up my haircolor (damn you gray hair!), then working on Part Eight. I promise.

PS: I also bought THE CUTEST CAPRIS EVER at Ann Taylor loft yesterday. Yay for losing weight and being able to shop at cute stores!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Mmmmmmmm....shoes


I'll be honest with you, I was going to try to write Part Eight tonight, but instead I went shopping and bought this fabulous pair of green so-high-they-oughta-be-illegal heels, did laundry, and played five games of "Asshole" with my roommate's friends, I was President once and Asshole like three times. I suck at card games, just in case you were wondering. Also, I'm not drinking tonight so it wasn't as fun as usual, but it was still pretty funny, mostly for everyone else who were laughing at how lame I am. Since I still have numb-hand disease, I can't shuffle either, which adds an extra dose of hilarity for the whole family. Anyway, I think there are, realistically two Parts to the Saga, such as it is, left...and I am going to try to write at least one in the next day or two, with the finale coming either Sunday or Monday, for those of you keeping track. Actually, there might be three Parts because I might do a last "here's my thoughts on writing all this and everything that happened." I'm off to check on my laundry, play some more cards, and get to bed early - gotta hit the gym in the morning because tomorrow night...I DRINK! YAY!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Part Seven.

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.
Part Five.
Part Six.

Within a couple of days I found out he was living in the dorms on base. At first we talked on the phone, trying to figure out who would get what, who would call a lawyer, where we would each live. We were going to have an “amicable” divorce. A “friendly” divorce. I stayed in the base house, in the spirit of amicable-ness he told me to stay as long as I needed to until I found a place to live. After all, my senior year of college was starting in just a couple of days.

I was exhausted. Every day I would get up, go to work, try to be brave and stoic and not look like the emotional trainwreck I actually was. When I got home I would stand under in shower until I was lobster red, crying myself hoarse, missing him so bad it filled up my lungs until I felt like I couldn’t get any oxygen. At night I would sit in front of the TV like a zombie, totally alone. I had always made friends pretty easily, being an outgoing and gregarious sort of girl, but I had spent all my time and energy focusing on my marriage and I had just sort of neglected to make friends. Besides, no one wants to be around the couple that is always fighting, or even worse, the couple who isn't fighting but isn't speaking either. Or, God forbid, the long-suffering martyr of a wife, smiling through the pain like some kind of demented Lifetime Movie Network downtrodden victim.

I didn’t want to burden my parents. I still thought we might get back together and I didn’t want to create a situation where they could never forgive him for what he’d done to me. So, I sort of suffered in silence, just me and the TV. I slept on the couch, not wanting anything to do with our bed, or our bedroom...so many memories there. The most special thing about marriage to me had always been sleeping next to someone, all warm and safe, and the bed was the symbol of that ideal, that wish for stability and security. I would avoid it until I got so tired that I would just crash down, usually during a weekend day, and sleep for hours, waking up groggy and sweating, twisted up in the sheets and even more tired than I had been before my sleep.

At times I would get so depressed I worried for my own safety, and that’s when I would call my parents or M., first pretending to be fine and eventually having total breakdowns that went on for hours with me sobbing hysterically and them gently trying to tell me it would be alright.

School started back the week after he left me and for once I was happy to be working during the day and going to school at night, the less time I spent at home alone the happier I was. I threw myself into my schoolwork, determined not to get terrible grades just because of everything that was going on. I had been on the Dean's List every semester and academic success was one of the few things I had that was all mine and that I felt like I deserved.

We went and saw a lawyer. He wanted a $1500 retainer just to do a simple uncontested divorce which I thought was total bullshit, and I ended up finding us a female lawyer in a seedy office downtown who was willing to do the whole thing for $272. What a deal. I typed up a sheet of everything we owned and we agreed for the most part who would get what. I remember just sitting and boiling over with resentment that HE was leaving ME and I was having to do all the paperwork, find the lawyer, and pay for the goddamn divorce!

He got the brand new VCR because he had won it working at Best Buy as a bonus for some employee of the month thing. He didn’t have time to come by the house and get it, so on the appointed day I took it over to his dorm room to drop it off. When he opened the door he looked great, like he was on vacation. He smiled at me, welcomed me in, showed me around. Like we were the best of friends. The whole time I just held on to that stupid VCR and tried not to do anything embarrassing, like have a complete and total nervous breakdown right in front of him. Finally he gestured to his desk and told me to put the VCR down and when I cleared away the papers and books, a small Polaroid photo sort of scooted right out from beneath his stuff on the edge of the desk. A girl. In lingerie. An Air Force girl that I knew from his unit, bad skin, bleached hair with dark greasy roots, and, apparently, a taste for Wal-Mart lingerie. I immediately put the VCR down and bolted for the door. He grabbed my arm and threw out a line I had heard before -- “It’s just a joke! She gave that to one of my friends and he thought it was funny so he passed it me! She’s a joke!” When I jerked my arm free and started to open the door he reached around me, slamming it shut. “I thought we were going to be friends! I thought this was going to be ‘amicable!’” I must have looked like I had swallowed my tongue because he just stared at me for a minute like he couldn’t believe I was really upset. Finally I pulled open the door and said something really profound like “Well, clearly not as good of friends as you and she are!” The one time in my life I didn't have a witty retort. But hey, what can I say? I was tired.

The separation dragged on, well, not really, it was only a few weeks, but it felt like forever. As it did, the divorce became less and less amicable. While we waited for the paperwork to go through, he started calling me, starting fights and disagreements over petty things. One day he called me 17 times, finally telling me I had one week to get out of the house because it was base housing and he was the military member and he alone had the power to decide my fate as far as housing issues.

I’m not sure what made that day different, normally I might have taken it from him, just going along and trying to keep the peace. Maybe it’s because he was out of the house and already my soul was starting to heal, being the resilient little creature that it is. But, I hung up on him, called my dad, a full Colonel to his Airman, and said, very calmly, “He says I have to be out of the house in a week. I just paid my tuition and books. He bought a computer on my credit card less than a week before he walked out on me, so I don't even have any credit. School just barely started. The divorce isn’t final, and I have no place to go.” And my dad, bless his heart, said, very calmly, “Hang on one minute.” And then he called the housing office at our base, told them who he was, and let them know I would be staying in base housing. As long as I wanted. It was spectacular, but not without a downside.

First came the visits. Because we were "friends," the Ex thought it would be nice to drop in and visit. Whenever he felt like it. So, there I would be, in the shower, or sleeping, or eating, and he would use his key, let himself in, turn the TV on and just hang out in “his house.” He took to running radar for speed traps from our driveway. That way he could use the bathroom in the house and play nintendo on his frequent breaks. He would even have the nerve to ask me to get him a Coke or bring him out a snack.

One day I came home from work and there was an empty box on the floor for a shotgun. Empty. My stomach twisted into such a complicated knot I probably could have sold the design to the Navy. “Great” I thought, “I’m going to be ‘that girl,’ the one who gets blown away by her abusive husband when she’s not even wearing good underwear and she’s 50 pounds overweight and everyone will remember how horrible I looked before I died and how I cried all the time and always had a runny nose and had to put lotion on eyes like some kind of scaly freak.” As it turned out, he was going to “store” the gun in “his house” because it wasn’t allowed in his dorm room. Into the spare bedroom it went, joining God knows what else in the Closet 'O' Doom. He also started calling my work voicemail and hanging up. Often I would get into work in the morning and hear this – “You have...THIRTY SEVEN...new messages...BEEP.”

Around the end of September I found a girl at work who needed a roommate. I was finally ready to move out, so I set a date and let him know that he should notify base housing that I was moving out of “his house.” He called me back and told me that before I moved he needed me to go through all the rooms and boxes and separate out his Air Force stuff because he didn’t want me to accidentally take it. He also needed me to make up a uniform for him for the next day because he had an "important meeting" and all the stuff for his nice uniform was in the dread spare room. He would be by in the morning and he expected a uniform to be ready.

I took every drawer and every box that was his, dumped it all into three Hefty bags, and left it by the front door in the morning. When I got home that night there was a message on the answering machine. “You complete fucking whore. You bitch. Because of you I had to go before the promotion board without my nametag and medals on my uniform because I couldn’t find them in the fucking bags you put my stuff in. I TOLD YOU to put my stuff together for me. It’s the only thing I’ve asked you to do during this whole thing and you’re such a complete fucking bitch that you had to screw up the one thing in my life that was going good, you took away the only thing I had going for me. I hope you’re happy you bitch.” And, honestly, I was. Kind of. A little scared too, but secretly sort of satisfied, finally I had hit him where it hurt.

The last week I was on base was tense. The Ex, true to his frequent threats, had convinced some of his fellow cops to harass me, just a little, just to let me know he knew where I was and what I was up to. I got pulled over every time I came home, and then I would patiently sit while the cop pretended not to know who I was, ran my license, and eventually let me off with a vague warning about “watching my driving on base.” In the morning, the Ex would call, ranting and raving about how I was making him look bad with my reckless driving and didn’t I know that my actions as a dependent reflected on him and wasn’t it bad enough that I’d cost him a promotion, now I was trying to get him kicked out of the military.

Thankfully not all his friends bowed to his requests to make my life miserable. The one girlfriend I had on base was the wife of a friend of his, and thankfully her husband actually came over and helped me move. It was an act of kindness that I’ll never forget, this friend of the Ex’s taking apart our bed and hauling the mattresses in his truck to the dump while I piled boxes into the U-haul truck, trying to get over the emotional hurdle of needing to take things because I couldn’t afford new stuff, and not wanting to take anything because it all reminded me of him, or us, or our life together.

I settled into the new place. I bought a treadmill and started running and walking while I watched TV. I called up a guy I had worked with at the runaway shelter who I knew had a huge crush on me, and then I slept with him on the first date after four gin and tonics for courage. It felt so good to have someone tell me I was beautiful, to have someone new and different in bed. It only happened a couple of times but it temporarily made a world of difference in how I felt about myself, even though the guy was, frankly, probably just as big of a creep as the Ex. He just wasn’t my creep to deal with, and that was nice.

Unfortunately, after the inital heady pleasure of my own little mini-sexual revolution, I was crushed by thunderous waves of guilt. I was an adulteress. I had slept with someone besides my husband while I was still married. I was pretty sure they stoned women for that in the Bible. In my naive mind I had been all, "I can separate love from sex! I'm a modern woman, I can do what I want and not get hurt because I know the difference!!" But, really the problem wasn't separating love from sex, the problem was putting them together in the same act. In fact, that might still be the problem.

The morning that we had to go sign the divorce papers the Ex called me and said he wanted us to ride down to the lawyer’s office together. He thought we needed the closure, we needed to have one last time to talk as a married couple. He picked me up at work in his truck, and, in one of the most surreal moments of my life, he got out of the truck, handed me a single red rose, opened my door for me and then waited until I put my seatbelt on to shut the door behind me. He’d never been that considerate while we were married, often having bouts of road rage that would have terrified the Hells Angels, but apparently he was pulling out all the stops for the divorce. We signed the papers and I have to admit I was a little shocked at how easy it all was. You walk in married, sign your name a couple of times, and walk out divorced. If I remember right it had been just a matter of weeks since we had made the big decision and it felt like a whirlwind, I couldn’t believe it was already done. On the way back to my office I finally took off my rings and put them in my purse, staring at the white indented flesh on my ring finger, silently rubbing it, wondering how long it would take for the telltale mark to go away. A really long time.

He dropped me off, came around and let me out of the truck in the exact reverse of the pre-divorce door opening ritual. I left the rose in the truck, got out, stiffly endured an overly friendly hug considering the situation, and went back to my office, right back to work like I had just had a leisurely lunch with friends instead of signing away my claim on eternal love. When I left work that day the rose was on my car, stuck under the windshield wiper, wilted in the hot southwestern sun, with a note that said “I love you.” I crumpled the note up and threw it away, right on top of rose, already black from the sun and rotten around the edges.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Part Six.

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.
Part Five.

I really, really tried not to panic. I mean, if he was OK enough to write a note, surely he wasn’t injured too horribly, or missing a hand, or passing out from blood loss. I threw my shoes back on and headed to the only hospital I could think of where he would have gone, the VA hospital attached to the base. Even though it was probably about 11pm, the ER waiting room was teeming with bleeding, vomiting, moaning, groaning, emergent humanity. I scanned the room, didn’t see him, and marched up to the desk, determined to find out where he was and keep control of the situation. X-ray. He was in X-ray. "Alright, I can handle that" I thought, "that could be anything, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a severed foot or a bashed in skull." His truck hadn’t been in the garage, I’d checked, so I figured he must have been mobile enough to drive himself, plus the note...all signs pointed towards something minor.

When I got to X-ray, he was sitting in a wheelchair, his arm propped up on a little tray on the side, with a towel covering what looked like a cantaloupe. I asked what the hell the huge thing on the tray was, and when he took away the towel, it was his wrist, swelled up to about 80 times its normal proportions. He had taken a header on his dirtbike, flipped over the handlebars, and landed on his wrist. Even an amateur could tell it was broken. And then some. This was the same husband who used my car title to secure the loan for the dirtbike, convincing me it was absolutely essential he buy one, using as a down payment some of the money he’d earned on his deployment. Feeling like he had a right to spend the money he’d earned serving in the desert on something fun for himself, I hadn’t put up too much of a fight, but the car title as collateral would come back to haunt me. He’d also, thankfully, been wearing a helmet. He hadn’t purchased one at the time he bought the dirtbike, saying they were “for pussies.” But, after I mentioned it to my parents, my dad sent him a hand-me-down motorcycle helmet that was really nice, and for some reason the Ex actually agreed to wear it. It probably saved his life, or at least his quality of life, that night.

I spent the night at the hospital, just sitting in the chair next to his bed, waiting...and waiting...and waiting. The guy in the next little curtained off area over was passing a kidney stone and it was the most godawful wailing I’ve ever heard in my life. “HOLYJESUSMARYMOTHEROFGODTHISFUCKINGHURTS.” It went on all night, punctuated occasionally with screams of agony and whispered prayers begging for a merciful and sudden death. Meanwhile, the doctor was hopping the Ex up on massive amounts of painkillers, ensuring that by the time we left I would be unable to get him in and out of the car, let alone from the car into bed. Eventually we made it home, and settled into eight weeks of middle-of-summer itchy cast-dom.

During the time he had the cast on I was basically relegated to a position somewhere between nursemaid and servant. When I pointed out that the painkillers shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol, I was told to mind my own fucking business. My raised eyebrow in response to his “cast modifications” elicited another remonstration to mind my own business. It was all I could do not to say “I know this will make me seem like I’m lording my intelligence and superior education over you, but I’m pretty sure when they put the cast on a certain way, they don’t mean for you cut huge sections out of it to make it ‘more comfortable.’” It was weird too, because during this time I remember thinking we were really starting to get along better. I could blame any crankiness or lashing out on his part on the fact that he was just frustrated with having to wear the cast, and I felt very needed, even if it was only to tape the plastic bag over the cast so he could take a shower. The summer was otherwise uneventful, and in my mind, I thought we were closer than we’d been in a long time.

The cast came off in mid-August, and to celebrate, we had a barbeque and invited all his friends from work. I was out of summer school, and fall semester of my senior year didn’t start for another couple of weeks, so I was just working and felt like I actually had extra time for once. We had probably 20 people over to the house, everyone drank beer and we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. It was fun and I basked in the glow of hosting a grown-up barbeque, with my husband, in my home...it was exactly what I had envisioned marriage to be. It was a Saturday.

On Monday I came home from work, put my stuff down, and walked into the bedroom to change. I was planning on taking advantage of not having to be at school and perhaps get some stuff done around the house...maybe even go to the mall and get some curtains for our bedroom. Now that we were getting along better, I thought it might be time to invest in some real decorations for the house, things to make it feel lived in, like it was really ours. I was surprised to find the Ex home, as I had for some reason thought he would be working.

He came out of the dreaded spare bedroom, walked right past me, and didn’t say a word. That seemed like a bad sign. I changed clothes and walked around the house until I found him, finally, in the kitchen, getting a hot dog out of the fridge from the leftovers of the barbeque.

I said “Hey, what’s up? I’m home, do you want to go shopping?”

And he turned around and just stared at me. I tried again, “You know, I thought maybe some new curtains for our bedroom would be fun, like maybe light blue or something?”

Staring.

Finally, I said “What’s going on? Are you OK?”

He walked out of the kitchen and leaned against the back of the sofa, right near the front door, silently eating his hot dog and just staring at me with a look I now think of as “smoldering resentment.”

He said “Yeah, something is wrong.”

“What? Are you OK? Did something happen at work?”

“I got today off because I told them I had a family emergency.”

“Oh no, did something happen to your dad? Your brother?”

“No”

“Well, what happened?”

“I have to leave.”

“Where? Leave to go where?”

“Here. I’m leaving. I’m leaving you. Right now, today.”

I almost fell down, the weight of his words hit me so hard. “What do you mean, you’re leaving me?”

“I want a divorce. I’m leaving and I think we need to get a divorce.”

Immediately I sat down on the chair near the sofa and just sat there, empty, feeling like my soul had been ripped out through my throat. “Can’t we talk about this?” “No” he said. At the time, I actually remember saying, “I didn’t even know anything was wrong.” Which, of course, I did...even if I hadn’t admitted it yet.

I’m so ashamed, because I begged. I literally got down on my knees and clawed at the leg of his jeans, pleading with him not to go. Making promises. I could change. I would change. I would do anything. I would be anybody. I would lose weight, quit school, get a different job, anything, just please please please don’t leave. I cried, huge round silver tears that made the side of his pants leg wet where my face was pressed against it. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe, I hyperventilated, finally ending up in a ball on the floor, forehead resting on the cold tile, shoulders hunched over, chest heaving, holding on to his shoe. And the whole time, he stared at me, impassive, eating a leftover hot dog while my world ended.

Finally he shook his foot free, like he was trying to dislodge an errant piece of gum, and put his hand on the doorknob, the cue that he actually was physically going to leave right that very minute. I felt like time had frozen, I couldn’t move or speak or take any positive action to stop him, and as he walked out the door I just sat there on the floor and watched him leave. When the door slammed behind him and I heard his truck start up and then pull away I slowly got up and walked over to the phone.

I picked it up and for the first time in almost two years, one week before the start of my senior year of college, 21 months into my first marriage, at the age of 21, I called my parents and told them I wasn’t OK.

As soon as my mom picked up the phone I sank down onto the floor against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably, not even able to speak.

“E. Spat? Sweetie, is that you? What’s wrong? Are you OK? What’s wrong?”

“He left me. He left me and he wants a divorce. He left me.”

“Oh, oh God, wait, I need to get your dad. Oh no, he’s at the carwash, I’m going to get your dad and we’ll call you right back.”

“No..no mom...” ***click***

About five minutes later the phone rang, and it was my dad.

“What happened?”

“He just left and he said he wants a divorce, I don’t even know where he went. I don’t understand. Where did he go? Why is this happening to me? Why? He just left me. Just like that!”

“Honey, we love you, do you need your mom to come out there? She can be on the next plane.”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s happening. How can he just leave? I’m his wife. He lives here, how could he just leave? He wants a divorce.”

Eventually I calmed down a little bit, and it was so much worse. Once the hysteria passed I felt like I had been hit by a Mack Truck. I shivered and cried and rocked back and forth and cried some more. I cried so hard I threw up. My entire life was over, the one person who I loved more than anyone else on earth, my soulmate, the man who was to be the father of my children, my companion and protector, lover and best friend, had walked out the door without even a word as to where he would be, telling me he didn’t want to talk about it, his mind was made up, we were over. Just like that. Over. I had left my family and friends, my full-ride scholarship to a good university, the job that I loved, and moved cross-country to be with him. I had given up everything and he was leaving me. I remember my parents asking me if I could call someone to come over and be with me and I couldn't think of one person, my world was so small, in fact, it was one person, him.

We decided my mom wouldn’t come out. I called my parents probably eight times that night, sobbing into the phone, just needing to feel like there was somebody there. I went to work the next day because I thought if I stayed home in the empty house all day I might go crazy, or worse. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened because I didn’t want it to be awkward for them if we got back together and this was all just a phase he was going through. I waited by the phone, my breath hitching sharply every time it rang. He didn’t call. When I got home, some of his stuff was gone, but he wasn’t there.

He finally showed up that next night, wanting to pack up his work stuff and the things he needed to get through the immediate future. I stood around, trying to look nonchalant, dying inside. Which was strange, because I hadn’t thought I could die anymore, but, as it turned out, there were still tiny pieces of me full of hope and life, struggling to break through to the surface, but they wouldn't last long, it was a harsh environment. And, when it was time for him to go I said “So, you’re really leaving?” This time, when he turned around he had tears in his eyes, “Sometimes I really miss you. Can I get a hug?” So I gave him a hug. He whispered into my ear, “I really do miss you, sometimes.” And then his hand lingered on my back, sneaking up the back of my shirt, “I miss this.” A tentative kiss, a lingering kiss, exploring the possibilities, exploring my pliability to his needs.

And I gave in. No, I didn’t give in. I gratefully accepted what he was willing to give. This was my power, the thing I could do for him that no one else could. Of course that wasn't true, but I still believed in true love. In soulmates. That if we made love the simple transcendence of the experience would remind him of how we could be magical together. We went to the bedroom and afterwards, as he got up and started to button his jeans, I patted the bed and sleepily said “You should just stay here. You don’t need to leave now, everything is going to be fine. It was just a fight, and I know you weren’t happy, but we can fix it! We can go back to counseling and learn to communicate and everything can work out the way we dreamed it would.”

He stood there, no shirt, top button of his jeans still undone, and said “This doesn’t change anything. We always did have great sex though, huh?”

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One more and then I'll shut up, I promise

What is up with the fact that only 27 employers are interviewing 3L's for OCI, and probably close to 20 of them are IP/Tech firms that most of the school probably can't qualify for anyway?

How come the only Attorney General's Office (besides the one for our state which I am unable to apply to because Career Services blows) even on our list of "accepting resumes" is freaking Ohio? Not one of the many states actually TOUCHING our state, none of which have a first-tier law school of their own...Ohio. In Columbus, Ohio. A place I've been to because Ex#2 was from there, but I don't think I could live there because they seem a little high strung about this "Buckeyes" thing. Where are the states WEST of the Rockies?? I personally love Colorado, if anyone has an "in" at the Colorado Attorney General's Office, drop me a line.

Why are we forced to submit our references separately for some employers but not others, forcing me to have a Resume with Everything, a Resume Light, and a Separate Platter 'O' References on the side?

I really don't get OCI at all. I especially don't get how a first-tier school, one that reminds of us of that status 800 times a week, can have a measely 27 employers coming to interview. I know we're a bit out of the way...but...not even the local prosecutor's offices? The only prosecutor coming to interview is from a far Southwestern state. People in the TVPNM don't want to move to Columbus, Ohio or the deep Southwest...they want to stay in the TVPNM, soaking up rain and lattes and feeling smug and superior and artsy and fit, riding their bikes to work and watching foreign films. They would die in Columbus. They would melt in the Southwest. It's true. I know about these things.

Anyway, I guess I'm done ranting about OCI now since I've submitted all I can/will submit. It's clear that I'm going to have to get out and pound the pavement, resumes in hand, more than your average bear. Sigh.

Just assume the position, I'll take my rod and then I'll go fishin'*

Email received today from our law school security guy -- who is very nice and I am NOT making fun in a mean way...but...it's funny.

To Everyone in TVPNU,

Yesterday, there was two men casing the library and they tried to steal a laptop computer. The police were called but the two men were gone by the time they arrived. The description of the two are dark complexion with scruffy beards, large skullcaps, backpacks and sweatshirts. Please be extra vigilant with your positions and mindful of your surroundings.

Thank you.

*This title is dedicated to M., the only other person on earth (besides me) who knows all the lyrics to Shamrocks and Shenanigans and can produce them any time, day or night, appropriate time or inappropriate time. You rock!

OCI - Update from hell...

I took some comp time at work today (worked 11+ hours yesterday), came home early, went to the gym, wrote SHITLOADS of cover letters, and applied to...

wait for it....

FOUR places for OCI.

My school has nothing but IP/Tech Firms coming to OCI which does me no good since I took College Algebra twice, have a degree in what is affectionately known as a "soft science," and don't know shit from shinola about patent law or whatever the hell else those places do.

One federal government place is coming - check!

One TVPNM state government place is coming - see post yesterday - NO CHECK!

One outside state prosecuting attorney's office is coming and it's a state I like, so - CHECK!

One firm is coming that has a tiny Admiralty and Maritime practice area - CHECK!

One state's Supreme Court is coming with absolutely no description AT ALL about what job they might be hiring for, but it's a nice state, so - CHECK!

Unless I get a wild hair tonight and decide to try to look through all the firms again in the hopes that one of them doesn't require a Ph.D. in Biomechanical Engineering of Chaos Theory Calculus Long Division Biology, I think I'm done with stupid OCI.

I will be applying to basically every federal agency that exists, plus many that don't exist but might get confused and hire me anyway. I'm saving that for another day though. Right now, off to the library to get some smutty books.

M. recently sent me the funniest book I've read in FOREVER, when I get a chance I'll write a short blurb about it, and I plan on having another installment of My Horrible First Marriage -- The Saga, probably tomorrow night maybe.

UPDATE: Per request in the comments, the name of the book is:

I Love Everbody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl, by Laurie Notaro. M. thought that her book sounded like my writing style, and it does, only it's funny. And coherent.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Part Five.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Strangely, despite the way things had been going in the marriage, I was at first devastated by the news that the Ex was going to Saudi Arabia for a 120-day deployment. I’m not sure even now if it’s because he was leaving on my birthday, or I really felt bad because I was going to miss him, or if, deep inside, I felt bad because I wondered if I might not miss him.

We spent the two weeks prior to his departure getting everything ready, buying the things he needed, and making sure that he was all set to go. Because I had grown up in a military household, I fell naturally into the “wife with a husband deploying” role. I bought envelopes and put sheets of paper in each one, addressed them to our home address, and put a "Love" stamp on each one, so that he would, hopefully, write to me while he was gone. I packed cards in his bags with love letters inside, each one marked with the random date on which he should open it. Before he was even gone I was amassing a box of care package goodies that could have fed a third-world country for a month. His favorite were Twizzlers and I bought an entire case, determined that he wouldn’t go without them the entire time he was gone.

And so, on the morning of my birthday, I drove him to the airport and said goodbye. He had a big green canvas duffel bag and in his desert camouflage uniform and shiny boots and blue beret I thought he looked very patriotic and handsome, marching off to the Middle East to protect our country (this was not too long after the Khobar Towers bombing). We hugged and kissed, perfunctory, but expected at the airport between a soldier (an airman really) and his loving, left-behind, wife.

And then I sat in the car. I sat in the car for probably an hour and waited for the tears to come. I waited for the teeth-gnashing and wailing and chest-pounding and general hysterics that I assumed I would be in at the prospect of being separated from him for four months. But it never came. I was totally numb now that he was gone. I went home to my empty house and slept in my empty bed and went through the motions in my empty life. Without him around there was no drama, no violence, no accusations, but also no one to talk to, no one to make noise around the house so I would know I wasn’t alone, no warm body in the bed at night, sometimes still snuggling up against my back when he was asleep and forgot for a few minutes that he couldn’t stand me.

Eventually I snapped out of it, I had to go to school, and I was being actively recruited for a new job at a start-up HMO that desperately needed a knowledgeable Medicaid Biller. I started walking every night around our neighborhood and lost about 20 pounds while he was gone. He didn’t use the envelopes I had gotten him, and every time I called his room, day or night, he was never there, always “busy at work,” but nonetheless I was excited for him to come home. As during most of my life, I was convinced that my thinness or fatness had everything to do with his feelings for me and my worth as a person and as a wife. Instant Marriage Fixer - Just Add Weight Loss! If I were thinner, and therefore more attractive, he wouldn’t need to cheat because he would be satisfied with me. If I were thinner, and therefore more attractive, I would be more acceptable publicly as his wife and he would start taking me places with him and not be ashamed to introduce me to his friends. If I were thinner, and more attractive, I would be less intimidating to him intellectually because he could think of me solely as a sexual object. Oh wait, I'm not sure I've got that last one even now.

The Lists started during the time he was gone. First, I would make lists of things I needed to do to get my degree, like classes I needed to take. And then, I started making lists of money we owed versus money we had coming in. The Lists got more and more elaborate and I started to feel like I had List Anorexia – it was the only way I could control my environment. As if I would somehow find the answer to what was happening in my life by making a list of how much money I owed to Citibank Visa. The Lists went on for months. I would buy entirely new notebooks to start new lists in, my favorite being the black and white speckled composition ones that are bound on the side and have three holes. Eventually, The Lists took on a general theme of “What Do I Need To Do/Have/Be In Order To Live Alone?” I would calculate how much money I thought I could make at various jobs, what I thought it would cost me to get my own place, how much I owed in credit card debt (increasing due to Mr. I Need The Best of Everything), and how much school was costing me. I wasn’t thinking seriously or consciously of leaving, and I always thought of The Lists as just being a budgetary or “trying to get organized” tool. Looking back I know that my subconscious mind was already going to a place the rest of me wouldn’t be ready to follow for quite awhile.

As the day of his return grew closer, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I called him at work, patched through by the base operator for our once a week 15-minute "morale call," and asked what he wanted me to wear to the airport. I gleefully bought everything he wanted, ending up with a look I would describe as “out-of-work hooker.” White thigh-high stockings, a short skirt, a tight top, and newly blond hair. A reflection on the desires of a boy who had never escaped his teenage porn-fueled fantasies.

Because he had left his truck sitting in the garage the entire time he was gone, I decided that the best thing I could do would be to detail it and get it all ready for him for when he got home. I took it for an oil change and a tune-up, and then I started cleaning out the inside. Carefully, because it was his baby, more than just a possession, self-worth on wheels. He had gone to my father secretly while we were dating and asked him to cosign the loan. I was horribly embarassed, appalled at the forwardness of the action, and uncomfortable at the thought of my father being pulled into our relationship in a way that I knew must have been truly awkward and unpleasant for him. We are a family that doesn't even return meals at restaurants when they're wrong, we are non-confrontational, and we will die before we ask for a handout or a freebie. Every time I thought of the Ex approaching my dad and asking him to cosign that loan, my face would burn red and I would squeeze my eyes tightly shut and try to shake the image from my mind. Pretending it had never happened, a skill I was mastering quickly, trial by fire.

At any rate, the detailing wasn't too tough because he kept it pretty clean, but I dropped some change I was trying to corral from the center-console, and it fell under the driver’s seat. When I put my hand under the seat and started to feel around, I noticed something sort of papery and stiff under the seat. I reached up and yanked on it, thinking I was ripping off the tag on the seat cover or something, but what came out were two letters and a red envelope. The Letters. He hadn’t thrown them away, he had hidden them from me in the one place he thought I would never look. I didn’t even bother to read them, after all, I already knew what they said. I went straight for the red envelope. A Christmas Card from a girl at work expressing her wistful regrets that neither of them were single and her passionate desire that they remain “the best of friends.” I vaguely recognized her name, the fiance of one of his friends.

He was coming home in two days. Once again, I was devastated and confused, but this time he was traveling between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and I couldn’t call him up and confront him or go down to his duty station and shove the card in his face. I almost called my parents, but I just couldn’t bring myself to dial the phone. After all, what did the card actually say? It seemed to say they were friends and hadn’t done anything else because they were both in relationships. Perhaps, my mind told me, this was a sign that he actually was starting to realize he was married and had to draw boundaries with respect to the women he chose to pursue friendships with. Even writing this I am shocked at how poisoned my mind was.

It took me two days, but eventually I was able to completely justify the entire incident. I threw away The Letters and the card, and figured I would just let him find out for himself next time he went fishing under the seat to reread The Letters From Girls Who Were Not Me. I picked him up at the airport wearing an outfit that probably should have gotten me arrested for solicitation, so desperate for approval that nothing was out of the question.

He had several days off post-deployment and I tiptoed around the house, silently going to school and work, letting him sleep, massaging his ego, giving him sex when and how he wanted it, never complaining that he'd been gone for four months and now wanted nothing to do with me short of my utility as a sexual waste receptacle and maker of ham sandwiches. I tried desperately not to upset the delicate balance that I was creating – the land of All About Serving His Needs. True to form, the idyll didn’t last long, and before the week was up we were fighting. About the floor.

We had these industrial gray tile floors in base housing that looked like they had been stolen from an insane asylum. They never looked clean, no matter what I did, and for some reason they just drove the Ex nuts. He would always point out spots and ask when the last time I had cleaned them was. This particular argument happened on a Saturday. I had started a new semester at school while he was gone, and by the time he got back it was nearing finals again. I was no longer going to school on Saturday, and I usually used it as a day to clean, buy groceries, do laundry, etc. So, at some point during the day, he came walking through the house and made an offhand comment about how shitty the floor looked. As it just so happened, I had spent the better part of the morning on my hands and knees, literally, scrubbing every damn inch of that stupid tile, trying to get in his good graces so we wouldn’t have a horrible weekend. I was still pushing the blue bucket of dirty water around with my toe looking for spots I had missed when he said it, soI know he knew. I pointed out that, as he could see, I had just finished scrubbing the floors and I though they looked pretty good. He said, going right for the emotional jugular, that no wonder I thought they looked good, just look at my own appearace. I was fat and sloppy and disgusting and clearly I didn’t have the necessary discipline to even take care of my own body, let alone judge when a floor was clean.

I was so hurt. He’d barely been back a week and already we were right back in the same place we had been fore he left. But, backed into a corner, I came out swinging. “Oh yeah, well...I threw away The Letters and the card you had hidden in your car. What do you think about that?!”

He looked me right in the eye and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“How can you not know what I’m talking about? They were right there, in your truck, shoved under the front seat!”

“Well, I really have no idea what you found, but I definitely don’t remember putting anything in my truck. Are you sure you’re not making this up to get attention?”

“Yes I’m sure! Oh my God, do you really think I would make this up?”

“OK, if you’re not making it up, let me see these supposed letters.”

“I threw them away.”

“Oh sure you did. How am I supposed to believe you when you have no proof? I really think you need to see someone, I’m starting to worry that you have some real mental issues that need to be addressed.”

“What??? Are you kidding me? These are THE LETTERS. The very same letters you had before you left, that you said you threw away, PLUS a card from a girl at work saying she’s your ‘best friend.’”

“OK, I believe you. Just calm down and we can talk about this later, when you’re feeling better and more calm.”

“Do NOT patronize me! I’m not crazy and I’m not insane and I am NOT making up the letters I found.”

“OK. Sure. Whatever. I’m going out.”

Thus began the new game of “I’m not doing anything wrong, you’re just crazy.” This became a favorite and there were times when I actually believed I was going insane. He would tell me he had to work, and when I would stop by to say ‘Hi’ they would tell me he wasn’t even scheduled that day. When he got home and I asked where he’d been he would say he’d been “out” and then ask me if I was feeling OK and gently try to convince me he’d never told me he’d be at work at all. I must have gotten it confused with “the gym”or “working on his truck at Mike’s house.”

These circular arguments could go on for hours, often exhausting me to the point of tears until I eventually gave up and went to bed where I would lay awake for hours holding my breath and waiting to see if he would come to me. Because, despite it all, I lived for the times, no matter how infrequent, when I would be laying there, back to the bedroom door, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I would hear the bedroom door open and then feel his weight on the bed next to me. Sometimes he would be crying to and he would just lay next to me on his back and sob and ask me "How did this happen? How did this happen?" And eventually I would turn over and put my head on his chest, my tears soaking his shirt, sobbing, until I felt his arm tighten around me and his breathing get fast and a tiny kiss on the top of my head, searching, another on my lips, wondering.

Spring semester ended and I got hired at a new job, working for a start-up HMO as a senior secretary. I thought I was rich because I was making $10.21 an hour, a princely sum that I thought, according to The Lists, might be enough to either (a) get us out of some of our debt, or (b) get me into my own place, should it ever become necessary.

Summer school started, four nights a week, four hours a night. I came home one night, well after 10pm, dropped my book bag down and plopped onto the sofa, exhausted and dreading the various potential endings to my evening. Housework? Terrible fight? Hysterics? And as I leaned back into the maroon faux-leather sofa, a tiny piece of paper came fluttering down onto the cushion next to me.

It read simply: “Went to the E.R.”

A tournament, tournament, a tournament of lies.

Raise your hand if you think it is particularly egregious on the part of the TVPNM Career Services Office not to let us, the students, know that the Attorney General's office for our state, also probably the largest employer of TVPNM grads out there, requires not one but TWO separate pieces of information ON TOP of the "all electronic" OCI process.

Yes. An actual letter of reference and a job application for heaven's sake. The job app is in Acrobat, is not fillable, and must be printed, typed, scanned and then uploaded. The letter of reference must be requested, received, scanned, and uploaded.

OCI bidding closes on Wednesday.

Since I do not have a letter of reference handy (because, um, ALL ELECTRONIC OCI ASSHOLES), and I do not have access to a typewriter or a scanner, at least on short notice (though I'm sure I could go to Kinko's or something), I am out of luck.

As are at least a few other people I have talked to who are not IN the TVPNM for the summer.

Ironically, many of the people working outside the TVPNM are probably the people most qualified to work for the AG, after all, many of us are out working in different parts of the country in GOVERNMENT JOBS.

I have no words to express my displeasure. Well, no more words than this. I was definitely planning on submitting an application to the AG, but I guess now I won't. Thanks CSO, once again you've proven that when you're not busy making things difficult for us, you're succeeding in making them impossible.

E. Spat.

PS: If I get one more email signed "You need to come down to our office and talk to us about this in person" I am going to freak out. Seriously. In case you hadn't noticed, I am working in D.C. Yeah, for the federal government. The one in D.C. Thanks.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

By the way...

I can't sleep. I know it's only 11pm, but I have to be at work tomorrow at 6:30am to man the registration tables for a conference we're having. And I'll be at work for TWELVE HOURS.

Why oh why did I have THREE 20 oz Diet Cokes today?

Oh yeah, because it's the only thing keeping me away to work on OCI stuff. And, sadly, the only thing keeping me awake now when I NEED to be sleeping.

More Marital Tales from the Darkside are forthcoming...thanks to everyone for reading them and leaving such great comments and sending nice emails, I know they're lengthy but it's a good writing project for me and, actually, it's really helping me process a lot of stuff I haven't thought about in years. Don't know when Part Five will be up...maybe not until after OCI materials get turned in on Wednesday. I have A LOT of cover letters to write.

In the meantime...sleep, sweet sleep, I'm begging you....

Part Four.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Hearing my mom say they were coming for Christmas brought on a slew of emotions, most of them patently contradictory. I was thrilled to see my parents, but I was scared they would somehow know everything wasn’t OK in the house. I loved them and wanted to spend the holiday with them, but my Ex was unpredictable and I wasn’t sure I could count on him to participate in the necessary charade with me to convince them everything was fine. I was deeply ashamed by my failures as a wife and as a child. I knew the first thing my dad would notice would be my weight gain, and I wasn’t emotionally prepared to go through that with him.

Thanksgiving and finals came and went. I got a new job at a runaway shelter doing their Medicaid Billing, which I liked. Plus, it allowed me to meet people who were at least marginally in the field I was hoping to go into after college, even though I worked in the front office. There was an older man that worked there, Joe, probably in his fifties, who had been a refugee from Cuba during The Mariel Boatlift. Monday through Thursday I had to leave work and go directly to school, but on Fridays I think he sensed my reluctance to go home. He found out I had grown up playing backgammon, and on Fridays he would bring cigars, cognac, and a hand-tooled backgammon board to work and we would play best two out of three before I headed home. He was great with the kids we had in the shelter, and he used the same techniques on me, gently prodding until before I knew it, I was crying and spilling my guts to him on a snowy Friday afternoon while he smoked a cigar and drank cognac from a big round crystal glass. After that day we still played backgammon, but we never talked about any of it again. When I got divorced he left a card on my desk, not a sympathy card, but a get-well card. Whenever I smell cigars I always think of Joe and our Friday afternoon backgammon games and how much it meant to me not to have to go straight home.

Ten days before my parents arrived I woke up sick and just kept getting sicker. Eventually I drove myself to the Emergency Room and found out I had walking pneumonia and severe bronchitis. Being sick did little to help my increasing anxiety about their visit, and I still had to clean the house and make everything perfect for the holiday. I had this idea that if the house was clean and looked decorated and the curtains matched the couch and everything was perfect that somehow people, especially my parents, wouldn't notice anything going on with the people INSIDE the house. Too much TV I think.

Because we had gotten married two days before Christmas the previous year, we had spent the holiday with my family before leaving Florida to drive my car back out West to the Ex’s duty station. Since it was our first "real" Christmas together, and our last as it turned out, I went out and bought decorations and lights, and even talked the Ex into getting a live tree because I thought it conveyed better the holiday spirit with which I was trying to infuse the house, and by extension, our relationship. I begged and pleaded with the Ex to put up the lights outside before my parents arrived because, when I drove them home from the airport, I wanted them to see that the house was decorated. It was vitally important to me that they not realize that without their visit we probably wouldn't be celebrating the holiday at all.

He cajoled one of his friends to come over and help put up the lights, and soon I heard the THUMP THUMP THUMP of Something Not Going According To Plan. When I went outside to check on them, I saw that he was putting the lights up with a huge staple gun. Directly onto the metal drainpipe. Not wanting a confrontation, but also not wanting to get ticketed by the base housing inspectors, I tried to gently point out that perhaps a staple gun into the drainpipe wasn’t the ideal Christmas light display method. He told me to shut up and go back in the house, after all, wasn’t he doing what I had asked him to do? His friend smirked and they both had a good laugh at my expense, so I went inside, determined to stay out of it. But, unfortunately for me, he wasn’t about to drop it. While the friend went to take a smoke break, the Ex came in and gave me the usual lecture. Why was I so controlling? Why did I have to criticize him all the time? Did I think because I was in college I was so much smarter than him and knew more about everything? He got closer and closer, jabbing his finger into my face with every accusation. I backed up until the backs of my thighs were against the couch, and then, he raised the hand with the staple gun and shot a staple at me. It didn’t go far or fast, but it was a big industrial size staple and it freaked me out. I said something like “Holy Shit! Why did you do that, you could have hurt me?!” He laughed, did it a couple more times just to make his point, and then went back outside and finished stapling the lights to the drainpipe.

Finally the day arrived for us to pick up my parents at the airport. They got off the plane and my mom looked beautiful as always while my dad looked stern but happy to see me, as always. I hadn’t seen them in a year, the longest I had ever gone without a visit, and with all that had been going on it felt like eternity. They both gave me and the Ex a hug and my mom asked “So, how do you guys like family life?” The Ex answered back “We’re not a family, it’s just me and her.” I saw my mom’s eyes dim a little bit and so I amped up the chatter about school and work, hoping to distract her. But I knew she’d heard. To this day, nearly ten years later, my mom cites that statement as the moment she knew there were serious problems and that it probably wasn't going to work out.

My parents were staying in the spare room, the same one I had recently found The Letters in. While making it up for them I had also found an extensive hidden collection of hard-core porn, which I had silently boxed up and placed in the back of the closet. I half-heartedly confronted the Ex about it and was given a half-hearted lie about “holding it for a friend” in return.

Because we were with my parents all day, the Ex would save up all his anger for after we went to bed, and I had a few complaints of my own. On the very first day I started it. After we had gone to bed, I asked him why he had stopped wearing his wedding ring (he actually had stopped wearing it about two weeks after the wedding). He claimed it was because of work, but since he had several days off work for the holiday, I wondered aloud why he couldn’t put it back on while my parents visited. This eventually escalated into a ridiculous whispered fight, trying not to allow my parents in the next room to hear us. I sobbed into my pillow and he turned his back, put his pillow over his ear, and went to sleep.

Every day they were there I would spend trying to fill with witty banter and forced cheerfulness. The Ex would sullenly skulk around the house, often taking his truck out to “run an errand” and then not come back for hours. My mom wasn’t feeling well by about the third day and I felt horrible because I knew that she was feeling the tension in the house and internalizing it. She’s very sensitive to interpersonal conflicts and is a nurturer at heart, she can’t deal with people hurting or being in conflict. The night before Christmas Eve, coincidentally our one-year anniversary, the Ex and I were lying in bed having a heated argument about his not buying me an anniversary present. I had done something elaborate for him, and he of course had his own bank account supposedly to "buy me presents" and yet, I had gotten nothing, not even a card. His excuse was that I was so controlling that he couldn't even spend the money HE made on buying me present without asking my permission, and so really it was all my own fault. He kept raising his voice and I would beg him to be quiet because I didn't want my parents to hear. I finally agreed to drop the subject because I knew we were being too loud, and I turned over and tried to cry as quietly as possible, which I had actually gotten pretty good at after many months of being told to "Shut the fuck up because some of us have to go to work in the morning," an admonishment I always thought was interesting since some of us had to go to work in the morning AND go to school at night AND THEN come home and make someone else's lunch for the next day. During pretty much the entire last half of the marriage, I spent so much time crying that my eyes were always cracked and chapped on the sides, they would sting and burn and I kept a bottle of lotion on me at all times to try to heal the skin.

Suddenly, in the midst of our little domestic disturbance, there was a knock on our door and my dad said “Honey, can I come in??”

I was horrified. I immediately thought he had heard us fighting all those nights and had finally reached his limit and was coming in to confront us. I had been crying for at least an hour and looked awful and the last thing I wanted was to let him in. I said “Umm, what is it?” and he answered back, through the door, “Your mom is really sick, we need to go to the ER.” I forgot all about the tears and red eyes and runny nose and jumped out of bed to throw open the door. My dad was already dressed to go. He took a cursory glance at my general state of upheaval and said “Get your clothes on, we need to go.” So, we all got dressed and took my mom to the hospital where she stayed overnight and got an IV because she was dehydrated. It was one of the scariest nights of my life, and I felt terribly guilty because I knew that her stress over my situation had caused it. She was released to come home on Christmas Eve morning and was pretty quiet through the next couple of days. My dad was clearly concerned and spent most of his time making sure she was OK and taken care of. I spent most of my time wondering what would happen if I got sick like that, would I be taken care of? I had just gotten over being ill and I’d had to drive myself to the ER.

They left the day after Christmas. Normally we are not an emotionally demonstrative family, but with the Ex at work, it was my job to take them to the airport. My dad hugged me and, for some reason, I felt like he almost had less respect for me. He asked if I needed anything and I said “No” in what I hoped was a way that didn’t make me appear to be some sort of martyr for self-sacrifice, which I knew he would respect even less. My mom clung to me, crying and hugging me for what felt like hours. She kept asking if I was OK and I kept saying I was, and honestly, I think I still believed that I could make it OK somehow. That the power of my need to have everything work out, and the depth of my commitment to the marriage, could literally physically steer us in the right direction, changing our path in an instant to where I knew it could be if we just worked hard enough.

Eventually they had to go into the airport and I sat in the car in the parking lot crying pretty hysterically for a long time. I felt like someone had come along and yanked my lifeboat away just when the storm was cresting. I knew I had done this all to myself, but I felt completely hopeless and I knew the only place I had to go was home, to the man who spent each and every day bitterly regretting his decision to intertwine his life with mine.

They called me when they got home and my dad said, with only the slightest hint of accusation, that he almost couldn’t get my mom on the plane. She was sobbing and saying over and over again “We can’t leave without her. You have to go get her and bring her back with us. We can’t leave without her.” I had never before, and have never since, seen my mother that upset.

A couple of days before New Years, the Ex called me at work. The deployment that had him searching for his shot records, which led to me finding The Letters, was happening. His unit was leaving on my birthday, January 11th. I remember saying “Oh no, you don’t have to go do you?” And I remember him saying “I don’t have to, but I volunteered, I think we need some time apart to think.”

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Floor

Here's a picture of "The Floor" magnet. If you don't know what I'm talking about it's because you didn't read the post below and I don't feel the least bit sorry for you, so there.

Part Three.

Part One
Part Two

It took about two weeks to get started in marriage counseling – Air Force style.

The “counseling” was actually a “couples communication class” which involved an hour of watching videos demonstrating how to effectively communicate and then a half hour with a counselor modeling what you had just seen in the video. This was fall of our first year, about nine months into the marriage. I was a junior in college and had just started back after a one-semester break and I was nearly done with my required classes for my degree in psychology. The “counselor” had perhaps one or two more years of education than me and wasn’t telling me anything I hadn’t learned already, but I tried to be patient and hoped that since it was coming from a third party my Ex would pay attention and not feel picked on and belittled, as always seemed to happen when I talked to him about these concepts.

I generally excused most of his poor communication skills on his terrible upbringing and violent homelife before he met me. Over and over again I would tell myself that I couldn't expect him to understand a loving marriage when he had never seen one in action. The Letters were still at the forefront of my mind as well, but our "counselor" was woefully inadequate at dealing with real issues and limited her role mostly to watching us model communication skills and then she would smile and tell us to have a nice week and "Remember to Love Each Other!!" There was no option for more intensive marital counseling at that time, or at least none that I was in a position to find out about and utilize. I do remember them offering to let us come in on, like, a Tuesday morning at 10am. When I explained that he and I both worked the receptionist said something to me along the lines of "Well, if you really wanted to save your marriage..." Of course, maybe now I would do that, but at the time what I really wanted to do was save myself, and part of that was keeping my job and making sure that I was in school. I was already preparing for a future that I thought might eventually find me on my own.

At any rate, perhaps the most entertaining part of couples counseling was “The Floor.” The Floor was a small magnetic square, about 3x3 inches, that was supposed to represent who had “the floor” in a discussion. The person holding The Floor was allowed to speak, while the other person would then mirror what the first person had said. So, if I was holding The Floor I would say “It really pisses me off when you don’t call when you’re going to be several hours late coming home.” Then, my Ex would say “What I hear you saying is that you’re hurt that I don’t call when I’m going to be late.” Of course, that’s only what he would say in front of the counselor. At home, The Floor mostly stayed stuck to the fridge, holding up a Chinese take-out menu, and reminding me of what a failure I had become. The couple of times we tried to use it I was accused of lording my superior education over my husband and trying to make him feel stupid.

The funniest fight we ever had involved The Floor. Our homework from couples counseling was to have a discussion about something that we couldn’t agree on, and to use The Floor and the techniques the counselor had taught us, and then report back the next week on how it had gone. This is how it went.

Me: **clutching The Floor and praying this wouldn’t escalate into a horrible altercation** “I’m upset that even though we have so many bills and I still have to pay my tuition for this semester, you went out and bought a dirtbike with money from our joint savings account.”

Him: “What I hear you saying is that I’m not allowed to spend the money that I make and I have to give it all to you for your school and books.”

Me: “No. It’s just that we owe so much money all over the place and I’m worried that we are getting in over our heads. Plus, the dirtbike is something you do by yourself and I wish you would spend more time at home with me.”

Him: “OK, so now you’re pissed that I’m spending money and that I’m having fun without you. Maybe if you ever wanted to do anything fun I wouldn’t have to do everything by myself or with my friends.”

Me: “You know what, maybe we shouldn’t even bother with this discussion. School is important to me and clearly we’re not going to get anywhere with this tonight...I’ll just pay the tuition from my paycheck and you’ll have to find a way to pay some bills this month.”

Him: “Fuck you. Seriously, why are such a fucking bitch?”

Me: “Don’t you dare cuss at me like that! You have no right to cuss at me!”

Him: “OH YEAH RIGHT, like ‘fuck’ is a cuss word!!”

Me: “Ummm...fuck IS a cuss word, you don’t have to be in college to know that!”

Him: “Why don’t you just shut up. You’re always talking fast and trying to confuse me!!”

Me: **throw The Floor on the floor and stomp off to bedroom to cry and feel sorry for myself**

Him: **Stomp outside to go somewhere in his truck and not come home until 3am**

So, needless to say, couples communication wasn’t working too well, and sadly, during my second marriage I would revisit Air Force marriage counseling again, only this time with a cardboard The Floor instead of a magnetic one.

Eventually things died down and life returned pretty much to "normal." I went to school and worked pretty much all the time. He worked and got a second job working at Best Buy under the auspices of needing his own money so that he could “do fun stuff" and “buy me presents” without me knowing. Interestingly, I never got one single present that wasn’t charged to my own credit card, so I’m not entirely sure how the $300 Oakley’s benefited me, but I guess I just didn’t get it.

Before I knew it, fall had turned to winter, we’d had our first snow of the year, Christmas break at school was almost upon me, and our one-year anniversary was only about a month away (we had gotten married two days before Christmas). I frantically tried to prepare for Christmas, the anniversary and finals at school while juggling work and the house and everything else we had going on. The Ex made himself scarce and one day, having reached my absolute limit, I went looking for him only to find him sitting in his friend’s dorm room on base watching porn movies with a bunch of other guys, drinking and laughing about what a bunch of sluts and whores the women were and comparing them to the women in their squadron at work. It was the last time I bothered to go looking. And, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

The phone rang somewhere right around Thanksgiving and when I picked it up I heard my mom say “Guess what honey? Your dad and I are coming out for Christmas!!”

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Part Two.

Part One.

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?”