When Honey came home from working on the road, right before he left us for good and before I knew a thing was wrong, I threw him his own ‘Christmas’. I actually ended up doing it on Valentine’s Day. He’d missed the real Christmas with us, because he’d been out of state working 7/12’s (that’s 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts) to save up enough money to pay off our medical debts. Years ago, I had been hospitalized for close to a month with pregnancy complications with Little Man. The bills were staggering. Honey had ‘sacrificed’ being with his family many times over the course of the last four years in order to work out of town to pay it all off. Or so I was led to believe.
So I wanted to show him how much I appreciated what he’d done. I worked my butt off to make it just like Christmas day, including serving a huge, awesome meal on his parent’s best family china, with presents under the tree and Christmas music playing and a fire in the fireplace. In addition to getting him his favorite Xbox game, I’d custom ordered him a ‘Best. Daddy. Ever.’ mug with pictures of him holding the Little Man and Baby Girl on it. I signed the tag ‘From Your Babies’. When he opened it, a huge smile came over his face. I felt so proud when I did little things like this to make him feel special, and to make him know how valued and appreciated he was. I did things like that a lot. A mere 8 days later, he was gone.
A few days after he left, I took that mug and numbly walked out to the deck on the back of the house. I looked at each of the pictures for a minute, and then threw it as hard as I could to the flagstone below where it shattered into a million pieces. I’d never done anything like that before. I thought it would make me feel better, but it just made me feel horrible to destroy something that had been precious and meaningful to me only days before. I took a pic of the exploded remnants and sent it with a text to Honey that simply read ‘Shattered and destroyed. Just like our family.’ He never replied.
Honey was smiling broadly in those pictures, and his face was the last thing I saw before it went sailing off the deck. Honey was always smiling in all of his pictures. And ever since then, as I look through my Ipad photos, I feel the familiar sickening drop in my stomach when I see that smile appear. It brings me back to that moment of despair and brokenness like it was yesterday.
And I have hundreds, if not thousands of ‘em. Pictures of our vacations with friends. Pictures of us holding Little Man right after he was born. Pictures of he and I bundled up against the cold snow at the Grand Canyon, cheek to cheek. I used to swell with pride when I’d go through these pictures of our life. Now I just feel an intense sorrow I didn’t even know was possible, coupled with a strong desire to throw up.
Why can’t I get over this? Why can’t I stop looking at these old photos, or looking at Homewrecker’s FB page? So many people must be shaking their head at me, wondering when I’m going to ‘get past it’ or be able to ‘move on’. Can anyone out there in the land of betrayal feel me when I say that it not only hasn’t happened yet, it doesn’t feel as though it’s EVER going to happen? Because it’s not as though the betrayal simply ended at our parting. The children and I are living the consequences of his self-serving cruelty every single day, and we will be for the rest of our lives.
The fundamental unfairness of what he did is just something I can’t let go of. I truly, deeply and firmly believed that the life in these pictures was real. You wanna know why that is?
Because I was tricked.
I use the words ‘lied to’ and the word ‘betrayed’ so often, they’ve begun to lose their meaning. But when you really boil it down, I was tricked. By the man I trusted most in the world. By the man I loved. All of the work, all of the blood and sacrifice and effort I put into my life and my marriage was all for a man that asked to be sent out of town for work (but told me he had to go), told people when he got there that he was single in order to sleep with other women without judgment (while professing his love for me nightly by phone), slept with a stripper (and that one stuck), had a five month long courtship with her, came home to me and our babies, and even slept with me while texting her poems later that day about his undying love for her. And, if I hadn’t forced the truth out of him (which was prompted by his strange behavior), he would have simply invented a reason to go out of town again and he’d have continued to do this until…well, forever. HE LATER ADMITTED THAT HE WOULD HAVE JUST LIVED A DOUBLE LIFE UNTIL HE WAS CAUGHT. He also, in one of his rarer moments of honesty, coldly admitted that he was never the honorable man and husband I’d credited him with being. I flat out asked him if I was mourning the wrong guy, and he said yes.
Like I said. I was tricked.
When you’re tricked by someone about something like a job promotion, for example, it can be hard to get over. But when you’re tricked about this? Tricked about being loved and cherished and protected? Tricked about being able to trust and rely on the simple word of your husband, like where he is and how he’s been spending his time? Tricked about the decisions foundational to life, like where to live and whether you trust them enough to bare their children?
That trickery makes you look back at the endless pictures from our life together and wonder exactly how far back I need to go to figure out when every part of that life became a lie. How do I know if anything he told me about anything was true? Was he merely pantomiming his performance as a husband? Sociopaths do that, you know. They parody what they see around them, but in reality, none of the emotions or feelings that are naturally supposed to be connected with those actions actually exist. You often don’t find that out until you’re lying on the floor in total shock with your life going down the drain, while they calmly collect their things.
So, what do I do with all of these pictures?
If I keep these photographs, I will have to do so knowing that there’s no separating the fondness from the horror. I’ll forever look upon them with both. If I delete them, I’m left with no physical connection proving that the life I loved really happened at all. And I’m already having enough trouble with my mind reconciling the fact that it didn’t.
Both options are a no-win. What a fitting analogy for my life. Can’t go backward, can’t move forward. Stuck forever in time in some snapshot of Honey holding my hand on the pier, the sun shining brightly in our babies’ hair. And from where I was standing , it looked and felt so very real to me. But looking at the photo now, on the other side of betrayal, I’ve come to realize that the afternoon sun can trick and deceive, too. It plays and dances on the corners of the mouth. It convinces our eyes so see that which we most desire. And in that photo of us on the pier, our life appears fulfilling and happy in every way…except in the way that actually counts.
I’d love to have Honey go through some of these pictures with me, just so I could ask him…were we actually in love in this one, Honey? Or was it just a trick of the light?