As I embark on trying to document the worst of the atrocities from the ‘night of 1,000 horrors’, I find bits and pieces of things coming back to me that my brain had decided to bury for a while.
The mind is truly amazing. It can pick and choose what should be put in a locked closet, and even figure out how to throw away the key. I can think of nothing worse than getting in a horrible car accident, for example, and remembering the sounds, the images, and the trauma of being ripped apart. On the spot, shock stops you from being aware of a lot of it. And after the fact, the brain seeks to protect us from the hell of recalling those memories by tying those suckers up and tossing them in that closet.
Can you imagine if we didn’t have that?
But emotional trauma is a different story. The brain can manage a little damage control after the fact, but more often than not emotional trauma is like surgery without an anesthetic. You are wide awake, and you feel EVERYTHING.
So when I do recall that night, I can describe with breathtaking clarity the sensations of agony my body was wrought with. I could tell you how I sat there thinking that if he’d ripped my arm off, it would have been noticeably more pleasant than the evisceration my soul was experiencing.
It’s the details that are beginning to get fuzzy now. Time is the balm that makes everything a little more hazy and a little less painful. So I’m gonna write these things down before they’re lost for good, because it seems I’ve been tasked with being some cosmic record keeper of heartbreak. I don’t know why I’m compelled to write it all down (and re-experience it in the process), but I’m just doing what comes naturally to me. This is just how I’m built. In actuality, I really should be looking for that dark closet to bury these things in. Instead, I’m going to take these ampules of pain and shoot them out into the universe. To be on record. For all time.
Here’s the part of that horrible night that I ruminated over today: Honey had just, after 5 hours of my questioning after first hearing the word ‘divorce’, spat out the real truth. He was, in fact, having an affair. He met her in a bar (later, I learned it was the bar she was a stripper in). I asked him if he was in love with her. He said ‘no’ without much gusto. I took several deep breaths to compose myself.
‘Honey’, I whispered. ‘This is our family. We made this together. This can’t be undone. I don’t care about this person, ok? She is a stranger. We’ve been together 14 years. You’ve known her for 5 minutes. She has nothing to do with us. This is your family, and I am your wife. That means you need to do the work. You promised to be there for us, no matter what. I’ve loved and served you with everything I’ve got. I haven’t mistreated you, I haven’t disrespected you…in fact, I’m sure you’d agree that the majority of what I say to you and about you is supportive and loving, even when I kinda want to kill you. I take care of everything, of everyone. So this is my reward for that? For 14 years of standing by you, defending you, loving you, busting my ass, for giving you children? This is what’s behind door number 3 for me? How is it that you can reward that by cheating on me, lying to me every day you were gone about where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with? Making me trust you completely. Blindsiding me right now out of nowhere, lying to me for most of tonight about this affair, and thinking nothing about how insanely harmful the consequences of this will be for me and for your babies? So…they’re just going to grow up without you, that’s your grand plan? You’re going to go live there, and I’m just on my own, a single mom? HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? How could you tell me every day for months how you loved me and couldn’t wait to come home to me? Do you have any idea how insanely freakin’ unfair that is? It’s not right. I deserve a thousand times better than that, and you know it. For a person to be treated like this, there should be a damn good reason, such as I treated you like crap. Screamed at you all the time. Or stabbed you. Or cheated on you. Or stabbed you while I was cheating on you (he laughs gently). I mean, REALLY?!? This is really what you’re going to do, and this is how you’re going to do it?! Have you got any idea what this is going to do to me for the rest of my life? I’m never going to trust a man ever again. If you can do this to me, I can’t trust anyone. And have you got any idea what this is going to do to Little Man and Baby Girl? You are handing them trauma, pain, confusion and heartbreak, and you don’t even seem to be comprehending that. Haven’t you been there at church with me all these years, hearing what I’ve been hearing about the sanctity of marriage and the devastation of divorce? Especially on kids? About how you have to protect marriage, care for it, and not let the other things or people of this world destroy it? That it’s permanent? Do you think I saw this coming when I just went through hell on earth to bring these precious children to you? I believed all of that, and thought you did to. You know what else we learned? That romantic love can be regained. It can. So can trust. But it takes real, on your face on the floor before God repentance, and an insane amount of hard work. But I will do it. I will do it because you said you’re ‘broken inside’, and if you’re struggling with that, I will help you with it. I said forever. When I said forever, I meant it. That means, if you got in a car accident and got paralyzed from the neck down, that I’d grab a spoon and feed you for the rest of your life. That I’d help you in every way you need me to, every single day and every single night, for as long as we both shall live. Don’t you get that? We’ve been apart since you’ve had to work on the road, and you may feel like our connection is gone, but it’s not. It’s just dimmed. You think I always feel romantic love for you? Like right now, for example, I want to punch you in your face, but I’m willing to put that aside, because I love you in the ‘love is a verb, not just a feeling’ way that God tells us marriage is. Feelings fade, change…but commitment in marriage is forever. Don’t you also realize that babies make it really hard for new parents to keep that fire, but we can do it as long as we’re living in the same damn zip code?! We’ve been great in the past, and we can be again. Plus, I’ve just had post-partum, I’ve got two little ones in tow, alone, depressed…how can I compete against some exciting new sexual adventure? Don’t you think I want that with you too, though, after 3 years of pregnancy and new babies, and months and months apart? I never even had a chance here. The fight isn’t fair, so she needs to be completely out of the picture for counseling to work. How can you not even give us a chance when the stakes are so high for all of us? You going to be able to look them in the eye when they’re older and say ‘baby, your mom and I tried everything, but it didn’t work and I had to leave.’ I mean, it’s still cold comfort for the fatherless, but at least you’d set an example for them that you could live with. This? This is how you’re going to show them what it means to be a godly man, husband, protector, and father? How can you just be ok with that? We need to go to counseling, Honey. For us. For them (I pointed to the TV console where a picture of Honey and I holding our two kids was framed).
I said all of this in a rush as he sat there in silence. When I stopped, I realized I’d been doing all the talking. I didn’t feel there was anything I’d left out, so I resolved to be quiet until he responded. I sat there for around a minute before I was treated to a glimpse into the mind of a selfish teenaged boy trapped in the body of a 39 year old man. I could see him wrestling with it. He began shaking his head, as if to try to shake off my words. He was sighing and agitated. He was frustrated, and very unsuccessfully trying to hide his annoyance.
Honey: ‘So……..what?…….so I’m just supposed to…….I mean………what am I supposed to do? I mean…….so…..(sigh)…….I’m just supposed to……’ And that was it. He didn’t say anything else.
My mouth dropped open. I honestly had no idea how it was that I could be married to this person and not know him. This guy? This was a man acting like a teenager being told he had to give up his coveted spot on the football team to take care of his sick grandmother. Like a child whose parent had told them, out of love, that they should decide to eat the broccoli and not the pizza. And his tone of voice? That of a petulant child, whining and pleading for someone to get him out of something unpleasant.
I tried very hard to hide my shock and repulsion at the weakness of this man. I wasn’t even due the common courtesy of a complete sentence, let alone an actual answer to my question. 14 years. 14 years, and I got the same level of consideration as someone is given when breaking up behind the gym after 3rd period. I was in total shock. Again. I opened my mouth to speak, but found I had no words.
What would be the point, anyway?