The Discard: Act V
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As adults, we each had non-negotiable expectations for the relationships we would engage with. We made those very clear soon after we met in 2016.
Don’t cheat on me. Don’t lie to me. Don’t live a double life.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask really, and he didn’t think so either. In fact, he was appalled that my list even had to be uttered aloud as a standard. He vehemently expressed disdain for those things. To such an extent, and for so long, that him doing those things became an absolute impossibility in my mind. Period.
Do not invade my cell phone privacy and don’t ever just not come home at night.
Though the second part is ironic looking back, the first request is something I agreeably respected for the entire duration of our mutually respective time together. And to add to the trust of the matter, we each had one another’s passcodes to phones and accounts. I was never made to feel as though there was something lurking about. Ever.
But let’s first backtrack to July. You might be curious as to how he explained this away to the people in his life, and you might be wondering about the legitimacy of what I’ve detailed thus far. So let me make myself abundantly clear.
I know what he told his friends and family, because I have asked them and him. And I know what I’ve detailed thus far to be factual, not only because of my hard proof, but also by means of his eventual corroboration of events. Mind you, very few truths were ever willingly offered on a platter. I often had to call him out first. This typically led to confessions.
In August and early September, with the help of liquid courage, among other substances, he initiated a few conversations. I mention this, because I want to, in no way, paint these months as easy or slam dunks in my eyes or heart. In spite of what I was finding, I was a hopeful person clinging to the idea that I wasn’t wrong about him.
Though there were only 2 phone calls in this time span, I can tell you, they rocked my emotional stability. It took weeks to recover from the confusion and cognitive dissonance. One call made in early August, during a layover in Atlanta, involved a lot of blame-shifting, gaslighting and circumventing of events. What happened wouldn’t be a big deal if I didn’t make a big deal about it. This was a theme that occasionally resurfaced in our marriage when concerns surrounding alcohol use became the focal point. Nonetheless, that same call conversely involved confusion on his behalf about what he wanted, how he felt lost, depressed, and unsure. It was a back and forth.
To me, this sparked hope of self-awareness and remorse. He told me he’d call me the next day. We know he didn’t.
The second call? It came about 3 weeks later as we creep near September. Late night. My heart raced as I answered it. It was him, really, really intoxicated. That phone call shook my insides. In summary, it was an emotionally distraught person detailing admissions of guilt for the first time.
Though, at this point, he denied much of what I found, he did admit to emotional affairs that he knew were wrong and completely uncalled for, but deliberately denied ever being capable of physically cheating on me. He admitted to lying to everyone in his life about what was happening. He admitted that he had been telling his friends and family lies about finances and about me. “Those were just lies. I have to tell people something so I say I’m not happy and am now going to do other things. I’m not going to talk about this.”
He admitted that his coworkers in Ft.Myers didn’t know what he had done. In one breath he’d say he needed help, and then the next, he belligerently denied having a problem. He audibly claimed to be a “psychopath” who felt nothing. Yes, those are quotations. He went on to say, “I work and then party it all away. I turn off the switch. I can put you and our life in a tiny box. It’s out of sight, out of mind. Like it never happened. That’s how I get through the days. None of it happened, and I know that’s fucked up, but I don’t think about it. I could be a snipper. I don’t feel empathy. I’ve told you that before.”
And he had. But I didn’t realize he meant it literally. Turns out, he did.
Our conversation seemed to be making headway. He tearfully proclaimed his love for me and how he didn’t think he was capable of meaningful relationships. He told me that he didn’t think anyone could ever love him like I had and that I didn’t deserve what happened. And then mid-sentence, his phone died. He charged it just long enough to tell me that he had to work the next day and would call me tomorrow.
I was so hopeful. In spite of everything, I was. But I knew he wasn’t calling. I didn’t have expectations anymore, but it did make me worry for him, yet again. It turned my empathy setting back on. It enabled me to prioritize his well-being over my own.
A week passes and he texts me: I’ll be there in 2 hours. A part of me thought he would come rushing in, devastated and aware of his mistakes. The other part of me knew better. But this would be the first time seeing each other since June.
He intoxicatingly walks in, 90 minutes late, shockingly sees everything boxed. He stopped off at a bar before seeing me. Our checking account detailed that much.
Sees me, nearly 40 pounds lighter. I was now down to the weight I was when we met. We hugged. “You look great”, he said. “Yeah, trauma really takes a toll”, I said. His response, “yeah, well I’ve lost 20 pounds myself, and I didn’t have any to lose.”
This condescending comment stunned me so significantly, that it actually didn’t fully register for weeks. Nonetheless, I was still a mesmerized heartbroken girl clinging to the wholesome person I remembered of him. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t remember our phone conversation and claimed to have not even remembering calling me.
I cried, a lot. I vented, a lot. I told him that I knew he was having an affair and that I knew her name. After about 4 hours of interrogation, he revealed her name.
But refused to speak of it much further, only that she too, didn’t know of the wreckage he left behind.
And then I struck a nerve by having the audacity of telling him that based on his behavior, I didn’t trust him. He angrily stormed near the door, while I desperately begged him not to leave. It felt like June 7th all over again. My uncontrollable tears were met with his embrace as we snuggled on the couch as we had a thousand times before. “It’s like you wore a costume, and now the party is over. It’s like you’re ready to play a new character”, I said. Coldly, he replied, “that actually sounds pretty accurate.”
Deep conversations became exhaustive for him, and he said he had to leave. Already making plans to party with his cousin and friends the next day, he told me he’d come back the following. Intoxicated again, he did. Though I’ve been sober since June, our visits were now always accompanied by substances. It’s how he got through them.
This time though, I found out more about Stephanie and the physical nature of their relationship. “It’s not how you think. She’s fucked up in the head. She’s traumatized. It is what it is. We don’t sleep in the same bed.” While disgusted by that declaration, my heart broke. I knew. But hearing it? It shattered both my rose colored glasses and the memory I had of him promising me that he wasn’t capable of it. All of this defied the fundamental nature by which he explained his character to me.
Eventually, after about 6 hours of interrogation that led to details I could only share in a full-length novel, he prepared to depart. Tugging at my heart-strings, he presented emotions. Promised he was telling the truth, and apologized as we hugged. What was originally planned to be a 4 day trip, turned to 3. He was back on the road to Ft.Myers. And as I sat on the couch in the days that followed, I felt unsettled. I knew I still wasn’t being told the truth. That’s when I began connecting the sinister dots about Stephanie, and still yet, something felt amiss.
And in a box sat an old iPhone. The iPhone he carried since day one of ‘us’. I charged it, fearfully opened the messages. Scrolled to the bottom, October 2016. Conversations with women were there, broad daylight. Provocative photos and threads. All in broad daylight. Not even deleted. He kept it all and I never knew, because I never checked.
What brought me to my knees though?
The thread exchange of he and another woman he was apparently actively seeing when he and I met. Their candor? Similar to ours. Pet names? The same. They seemed very into each other just months and weeks and days and hours before I walked into his life. It wasn’t one-sided.
And then, on October 14, the day after we met, in her world, the person she knew fell off the face of the Earth. His tone changed. Text cadence, changed. Responsiveness, changed. He became aggressive. Snapped at her to stop texting. Made excuses as to why he couldn’t text that were completely unrelated to me. And then ghost.
He ghosted her.
Her frantic and confused responses mirrored the texts I was sending in the spring of this year. “I thought we had something real. Things were going good. What did I do wrong? Please answer me. This feels so cruel. How can you just vanish? I can’t concentrate, please call me! Please respond!”
I sat on the couch, frozen yet again. Drenched in tears. Our story was a lie. The foundation was counterfeit. I was next in line. Much like a discarded toy that couldn’t stack up against the untarnished surprise under the Christmas tree, my utilization period had expired. I now grieved a complete hallucination of almost 6 years. I could no longer trace the steps of what went wrong and where, because now I was re-configuring my entire reality. His capability was newly exposed and a pattern emerged.
And if I was out, I now knew someone else was in, and it damn sure wasn’t casual.
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