The phone calls and texts continued throughout the summer. I knew something was amiss because the attention was unusual and it was a little unsettling.
On our anniversary, I got a three-foot tall vase and the biggest rose I had ever seen. It had a card that started by saying “dearest one, thirty-eight years gone by…..” It was poignant and the flower was beautiful but I just didn’t want to respond. I finally did the next day because I knew J*** would be anxious to know if it had been delivered. I didn’t tell him that the flower was dead the next day, which I thought that was very appropriate and also ominous.
At the beginning of December, he called me and asked me what I wanted for Christmas. That should have been a red flag because it had been several years since we had exchanged gifts. I told him I couldn’t think of anything and I really didn’t need anything. He said “I want to get you something.” I kept saying I didn’t want anything and he said “no, you NEED something for Christmas, sweetheart.”
I thought that maybe I should get something for him but I had no idea what so I decided to just make him another quilt. The quilt about himself had the mastheads of all the papers where he had worked but lacked the last three. I again reproduced all of the mastheads up to and including the present one. I incorporated the last bits of his daddys’ ties, our friend S***s’ ties and some of his own ties. It was a beautiful quilt.
J*** made it down for Christmas and the look on his face when I handed him the bag with the quilt in it was one of complete and total surprise. I don’t think he was expecting anything.
I opened my present and it was one of those popular “floating” necklaces and with it was every conceivable charm that would remind somebody of me. It must have taken him a while to pick out all of those little charms and I know he spent a good amount of money. He also got me 3 new tables to hold my quilter and a gift card to a store.
N**** and I**** weren’t able to make it to my house so J*** and I went to see them. We were on our way to get them and J*** mentioned that he had lost a pair of his “readers.” I jokingly said “maybe you left them at your girlfriends’ house.” Through the years, when he had misplaced something, I would always say that to him. He would say “ha ha, very funny.”
This time, he said “I didn’t have a girlfriend……at the time.” I asked him what that meant and he said “I was going to tell you about it but I didn’t want to tell you on Christmas.” Wow. What a considerate guy!
Now….the gifts made sense. They weren’t thoughtful, sincere gifts. They were more guilt gifts. They represented more subterfuge. Maybe that’s why he looked so surprised when I gave him that quilt. I didn’t give guilt gifts.
At that point, I knew I would never wear that necklace, I would never use that gift card and I would never use those tables. What did he think those presents were going to mean to me?
We got to N****s’ place, picked them up and headed out to find a place to eat that was open on Christmas. N**** was giving directions and I missed a turn at a stop sign.
J*** yelled “YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO TURN AT THE FUCKING STOP SIGN!” I told him not to talk to me like that and we got into an argument. By the way he was acting, you would have thought I had taken us five hundred miles out of the way.
We got to the restaurant and he waited until N**** took I**** to the bathroom. Then he said “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. You didn’t deserve that.” This time, he didn’t throw his hands up and scream his “apology” so I believed him. We finished our meal and then took N**** and I**** back home.
We got back to my house and I told him to go ahead and tell me about his girlfriend. He again said that he didn’t want to tell me on Christmas but I told him to go ahead and tell me anyway.
He started with “she has red hair. She’s about 5’7″or 8”. She’s not what I’d call big. Her name is (I am going to refer to her as his “attachment.”) He felt it necessary to spell out her last name, like I was an illiterate moron. I asked him where he met her and he said “at a bar/pool hall.”
I asked him how old she was. He said “she’s 56 and looks every bit of it, if not more.” He rocked his hand back and forth and said “she’s kind of smart.”
I asked him what she did for a living. He said “nothing. She goes to school.” I asked him how she paid for school. He said “student loans.” I asked him how she paid for every day expenses and he said “she hustles.” I asked him if she hustled pool. He said “no.” I asked him if she hustled men. He just smiled.
I asked him if she was pretty. He said “no. She’s not pretty at all. Actually, she’s kind of ugly.”
He said she had been married when she was younger, was divorced and had a child….a girl. He said “she screwed her ex-husband, got pregnant and had a kid.” He said her ex wouldn’t have anything to do with the child for years but had just recently “started coming around.” J*** said her ex was pretty wealthy. I said that I imagined she got some pretty good alimony but J*** said “she doesn’t get a penny.”
He said she asked him if he was married and he said “yes, I am. My wife lives in Florida and I still love my wife.”
He said she said “oooooh. I’ve never really done the married man thing before.”
She’d already decided that they are going to have a relationship the same night they met. She spotted him coming a mile away, I guess. He was a lonely, desperate man who would have sold his soul for some attention, even if it meant committing adultery again. He never shied away from infidelity, be it physically, mentally or emotionally and it was clear that becoming involved with a married man didn’t go against her morality. He said he told her that he had been unfaithful to me and she didn’t care. Obviously. She didn’t care that he was being unfaithful to me again.
I asked him if she knew what he did for a living. He said “yeah, she knows.” I asked him if he thought she smelled money. He said “she knows I’m going to be supporting two households for the rest of my life.” Hmmmm. I wonder why he didn’t say “she knows I’m going to lose half of everything I’ve got?”
I asked him how long he had been “seeing” her and he said “since May.” I’m not sure I believe that.
I said “oh, okay. That explains your complete lack of concern when I was so sick in June.” He raised his voice and said “you don’t fucking take care of yourself!”
He was absolutely right. I should have been more vigilant. I should have suspected that he was going to be unfaithful and give me an incurable STD. I should have made him wear protection. I shouldn’t have trusted him.
He made it MY fault that I was sick from the disease he had given to me. That was so typical.
I asked him if she gave him a Christmas present. He said she gave him a pool cue. I asked him if he gave her a present and he said “I gave her a re-gifted pedometer that I conned from Human Resources.” Then he laughed and said “I told her I would have gotten her something better but I spent all of my money on my wife!” He thought that was funny? Who is this man?
I asked him if he was in love with her and he said “NO.” He said “I really, really like her but I’m not in love with her.”
He said he would like to “bring her down.” I said “okay, but you can’t stay here.” He looked at me, surprised and said “well………I guess I won’t bring her then.” I said “wait a minute. Did you actually think you were going to bring that attachment down here, stay in my house and sleep in my bed together?” He said “yeah…….uh….uh….uh…..hell, I don’t know what I was thinking.” Did he think that we were all three going to “hang out” and then at the end of the day, he was going to kiss me goodnight and then go crawl into my bed with her? Did he really think that I was going to allow that? I keep asking this. Who is this man?
He wanted to continue to talk about how she was going to college and beamed with pride when he spoke about her. She’s going to college to do what? Be a certified home health care worker? Where did he think I got my EMT certification….out of a box of Cracker Jacks?
He had almost presented this attachment as being jobless, car less and damn near homeless, yet she was going to college. That, to him, was above admirable. Again, I was an EMT but that qualification apparently had no value to him. Home health care workers and even nurses aren’t credentialed to do certain things, such as intubate. I held that qualification but it had no merit, I guess.
He said his attachment kept accusing him of still being in love with me. Every time he came to F******, she would say “I don’t understand why you have to stay with P****.” He was keeping her a secret from me and obviously misleading her about our relationship. J***s’ attachment was questioning him about why he would stay in the same house with his wife. That was rich.
He elaborated a bit more about his psychiatrist visit. What it boiled down to was J*** was seeking permission to start having sex with another woman while he was still married to me. The psychiatrist apparently told him not to worry about me…..to worry about himself.
After the conversation, I said “okay. Let’s talk about divorce.”
He turned around and emphatically said “NO!” When I asked him why, he said “because I cannot imagine not being married to you!” I said “well, what do you want to do?” He said “I want to go back to 1975 and start all over again.”
What? He wants to start all over again, so he goes out and starts screwing another woman? Who is this guy?
Later, he told me that some of the people at the newspaper “did not like his attachment.” I said “she knows the people at the newspaper?” He said “oh, yeah.”
I asked him if he had taken her to meet R***. He said “yeah, she’s met her.” He said that before he took his attachment to meet R***, he told her that he wanted her to “be nice to this one.” What a lucky attachment! He had laid the groundwork for her to be treated like a human being by his mama. He said his attachment “handled and manipulated” his mama very well and smiled when he said it.
People at work already knew her? His mama and probably the rest of his “family” already knew her? And all of this had happened while he was still coming to see me, sending me flowers and professing his love? Who is this guy?
He still checked his phone regularly but not as often as he had in June. I told him he could go outside and make a phone call if he needed to. He said “oh, she’s not speaking to me. She’s mad at me.” When I asked him why and he raised his voice and said “BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T WANT ME TO COME DOWN HERE! SHE WANTED ME TO STAY WITH HER!”
I told him I thought it was interesting that a married mans’ lover felt like she had the right to get mad and stop speaking to him because he wanted to see his wife, his children and his grandchildren for Christmas. I told him that it sounded like control to me.
He came over to me, pointed his finger in my face and said “I like strong, self-confident women who push back and all you ever did was shut up.”
Wasn’t being mad at him “shutting up?” Wasn’t refusing to speak to him “shutting up?”
But, he was right…….she was smart. He had wandered into that bar, looking like a dusty, neglected, out of tune violin. She spotted him and immediately knew just how to play him. She knew which buttons to push and how often she could push them. She knew he would do anything to keep from being alone and I dare say that it seems that she could handle and manipulate him as well as she could handle and manipulate his mama.
The fact that she was going to college afforded her a level of respect that I never got and made her punishment attractive. It translated as “love” and “pushing back” to J*** and he eagerly devoured it like some sort of ambrosia.
It reinforced and perpetuated his belief that he is the epitome of every womans’ dreams. He had always thought that every woman he met wanted him and fell desperately in love with him. He never acquired the ability to see just how many of them were using him for his money, a potential position he could offer or the power that he could conceivably grant. His love of self had always left him vulnerable. He could not grasp the idea that not all women regarded him as the self-proclaimed deity he believed he was and they were not above “playing” him.
It was a lot for me to digest and I was trying to do it in a state of shock. At one point, he asked me why I was being so “taciturn.” Really? Why was I being so taciturn? Who is this man?
I’m thinking “this man has not been faithful, does not intend to be faithful, expects me to embrace his new attachment and yet, he will not talk about divorce.” WHO IS THIS MAN?
The next morning, I started taking down all of my Christmas decorations. I have never decorated again and I never will. He doesn’t seem to have any problem ruining holidays for me. I guess as long as he and his attachment enjoy their holidays together, that’s all that really matters to him.
How appropriate that this post would be on this particular date. Today would have been our fortieth anniversary.