This week, I had an unexpected visitor.
It was someone from my past. Someone who, in the back of my mind, I feared would come to visit me one day. And although I certainly wasn’t looking forward to her arrival, I fully deserved her company.
Sure, I had cut off all contact with her, or at least I TRIED to. But she found me. How? Well, I suppose I could blame this blog; while it’s anonymous, my guest this week is quite resourceful at connecting the dots, and I did throw some things “out there” to the blogosphere, and to the universe. I started this blog to fix the issues in my head, but sticking my Swiffer into the cobwebs meant sharing some dark, dirty corners of my life that my friends and family aren’t typically privy to.
That’s the risk you take when you’re honest. Someone might find you.
And she always does, eventually.
Obviously, I didn’t want her to find me. While I wanted to use my writing to expunge some demons, I certainly didn’t want them to darken my doorstep in real life. But she found my address, and it’s my own fault that she did, and now I need to find a way to make room for her in my life, because I have no right to ask her to leave.
She came knocking at my door on Thursday night, pulling her overstuffed, heavy Louis Vuitton roller bags, and when I opened the door just a crack, she came barging in, her luggage banging on the floor and denting the walls as she roughly threw an impossible number of suitcases and steamer trunks in a huge pile in the center of the room, forcing me to face it all and deal with the mess.
She turned her back to the giant, precarious stack. Haughtily, she stood facing me, her feet firmly planted to the ground in a wide stance in severe Prada ankle boots, her Chanel power suit inexplicably perfectly pressed. She looked me directly in the eye, then, her eyebrows slightly raised and her right hand assuming the position of authority on her hip.
Daring me to speak.
I blinked. Once. Twice. My mind racing. Why was she here? What does she want?
I didn’t have to ask that question aloud. You never do with her. She knows.
She stuck her perfectly manicured hand (OPI’s I’m Not Really a Waitress) into her sleek Gucci messenger bag, and pulled out a document and handed it to me.
A hollow, cold blackness tore through my heart and slowly snaked its way to my brain as I read the words in front of me.
The document? This.
The mysterious Angel of Vindication had found me.
Her name? Karma.
And she was forcing me to be held accountable for the most despicable, wretched thing I’ve ever done.
It was time to pay the piper.
She watched me with an ironic, sanctimonious smirk as I digested the evidence she had presented.
I closed my eyes for a moment. Hadn’t I always suspected she was coming?
I looked at her then, resigned.
She met my gaze for a full half minute, drinking in my discomfort.
I braced myself for the inevitable.
Finally, she spoke.
She let the words hang in the air for a moment, watching my reaction with a satisfied glare. Then she turned on her heel and marched toward my bedroom, slamming the door hard.
There was a brief silence as her words, and what they meant to me and my marriage, sunk in more deeply.
As the noxious fog of her message crept into my pores, poisoning my soul, I was startled out of the eerie quiet as a loud crash of glass shattered the silence.
Hesitantly, I stepped toward the unstable, haphazard pile of baggage, unsure what had broken, yet afraid to look.
I saw the remains of a single glass slipper, smashed to unrecognizable bits by its plunge to the hard, cold floor of reality.
He confessed to me on Thursday night, under the cloak of darkness that only a rainstorm can bring.
About two years ago, he established an account. He took the deliberate steps to set up a new email address, he paid the fee, and he contacted two women, conversing with four. He claims he never met any of them.
Of the many, many thoughts, fears, and questions racing through my mind, there are two dominating thoughts.
The first: How did I not know? How did I miss this? My career is reading people, for f#ck’s sake. And yet, my own husband was able to deceive me. Effortlessly.
We had talked about the Ashley Madison data breach over the dinner table. I had heard about it on NPR, and brought it up merely as a point of conversation. Weren’t we all talking about it? Unlike politics or global warming, this was actually kind of…fascinating. Juicy.
(Funny how quickly that juice turns into a rancid vinegar once it’s served to you at the dinner table in your own home.)
It would certainly have been more interesting news had I realized that my husband turned several shades of red and started to sweat when I brought up the subject.
But apparently, I didn’t even notice.
Not even a blip on the radar. No thread of a red flag. Clueless. Oblivious. Chalked it up to my spicy tofu stir-fry.
But if I look back…I mentioned in this post that the hubs had recently stepped up his game. He’s been, and I quote, “absolutely amazing lately.”
Lately = last couple of weeks.
The data breach hit the news July 15. I made that post September 9.
Usually, I like math. (Karma knows that, too.)
In retrospect, I know I had casually made the observation that he had seemed to lose much of his appetite. (He’s 6’4″, and he’s a dude. Big cup of DUH there.) And he started therapy a couple of weeks ago; he said it was to better manage his ability to hold eye contact with people at work. (He is on the autism spectrum, after all.)
The clue phone was clearly set to vibrate, sending those calls right to voice mail.
It was like I was happily tapping along on my mental laptop, not worrying about saving my work because it was plugged in, after all, and was confused when the battery suddenly died and I discovered that in my foolish reliance on the consistency of the power cord, I had apparently neglected to actually plug the damn thing into the wall.
Despite all of our challenges over the last year, the one thing I knew – I KNEW, with absolute certainly and with the absence of any and all doubt – was that I could rely on his faithfulness. We’d talked about it; we’d said on several occasions that if we ever felt the need to step out, we respected each other enough to discuss it first. Decide whether to fix it or move on. Like adults in a mature relationship.
Of course, that was all hypothetical, because it was never going to actually happen.
And now, I’m like the child who has discovered that there is no Santa Claus, that peanut butter cups will always have too many calories, and that, simply put, there are no fairy tales.
I have to face the reality that my husband and I aren’t unique or special. Our relationship is no longer a beautiful story that little girls dress up and dream about. It’s as raw, gritty, and real as everyone else’s, with rough edges that snag the tulle and sticky dust that dulls the sparkles on your tiara.
Our relationship is painfully human.
So now, I’m looking for a dustpan that I never thought I’d need, as I begin sweeping up the pieces of my broken glass slipper. I’m just starting the cleanup, and there are little shards everywhere – under couches and in the African violets – so it’ll take a while.
This is messy work, I’m finding, and the slivers are getting under my fingernails and into my eyes, contorting how I see the comforting and familiar into caricatures with a different shape and color.
I don’t know where the scars will land.
Which brings me to my second thought.
As my spouse was confessing – as he was purging his soul of the demons that have occupied him, as he was begging forgiveness – I didn’t feel anything.
No sadness. No anger.
I suppose I was, and have been, in shock.
Instead, inside my head was a clear, calm, meditative treble, that simply stated:
Now you never, ever have to eat again.
Is this the end, or the beginning?
…to be continued….