I don’t see the point of cold without snow. Even the grey days have a bit of beauty when everything is covered in white. Sunny ones are always better. These are from my folks — not exactly my DC view. I don’t mind longing for the cold and often endless grey of this place, because it envelops me with warmth.
Remember when the perfunctory doldrums of winter were the only things I had to write about? Never dreamed I’d miss those times.
A few days ago, I received an invitation to join the Fantasy Football Playoff Challenge group that I was in last year. The problem is, I was in that group with John, with (presumably) all his friends. I only recognized one other name last year and I didn’t know this person who ran the group, the one whose email the invite came from again this year.
I recognize that the invite was an automatically generated thing for anyone who participated last year when the group was reactivated this year. That’s how it works in every fantasy league I’ve ever played in. I considered ignoring but, really, what was the harm? It’s largely anonymous and clearly none of those dudes knew who I was last year either. So I created a team.
This morning I sent the $25 entry fee via Venmo and followed up with an email. I let the guy know I was invited last year by John Clemons and that, if it was too uncomfortable, he could decline the money and I’d just delete my team.
As you might suspect, that guy wrote back, said he didn’t know the situation with John & I, didn’t need to, and asked me to do as I offered and delete my team. It felt a bit like a rejection letter from a job; “thanks so much for your interest.” But he was polite about it and I have no ill will toward his passive bystander lot. So I did.
Then I went for a walk on this balmy 19° day and thought about it for a full hour. Obviously it’s not lost on me that I have no business being in that playoff group, even anonymously, but it also seemed harmless. My team name was “Karma” so, yeah, maybe it wasn’t entirely without motive though, to be fair, it didn’t appear that John was even in the group (at least as of this morning). What I kept thinking about on my walk though was that, a year ago, it felt like I was part of John’s life, part of his friends’ lives, and one of the only females in this big group of 20 or so guys (I finished 4th, btw).
I wish it didn’t bug me so much but it’s all these small, seemingly innocuous things that keep coming along and tearing off scabs that have only just barely gotten a chance to start forming. They hurt. A lot.
And I can’t help but be resentful that no one apologizes to me, no one sympathizes, or empathizes, or even seems to know who I am or that I ever existed in his life. It’s so bizarre that this man stole three years of my life and yet I’m the one who is still paying. No one seems to be holding him accountable. He seems to have gotten to live his fantasy life, both of them, and come out without a scratch. I have no evidence to the contrary and it makes my brain so, so tired.
I’m not sure I know what my fantasy even is anymore. Maybe that’s the real playoff challenge.
No, this actually has nothing to do with Kenneth, or REM, or Dan Rather. I was thinking of the song but only because frequency bias has been on my mind.
Well aware that cheating tropes are present all over film and tv and, while triggering to varying degrees based on my disposition at the time, I recognize that I can’t really avoid them. But the real Baader-Meinhof mindfuck that happened this week has me in a snit, days later.
I was watching a random show the other night, FBI Most Wanted (Season 3 Ep 11, if you want to check my facts) and within the first moments, a man is subdued, taken to the woods, and given mere minutes to free himself and run for his life before he is hunted and shot dead, like an animal. We find out this victim was a pedophile and he deserved what he got — but his name? John Clemons. I shit you not. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
What are the chances? Like, what are the actual chances?? Had I seen this random opening of this one episode of this random show any time in the past three years, I’d have immediately texted John. It would have been crazy and kind of funny in a sick way but we both would’ve gotten a kick out of him sharing his name with a procedural drama perp. And had I seen this random opening of this one episode of this random show more than three and a half years ago, I would’ve just changed the channel because it was a creepy opening and I didn’t know anyone named John Clemons.
So of course I watched the whole twisted episode. An act of masochism, I suppose. For a few moments, I think I just sat in stunned disbelief with my mouth agape but then they kept saying the name, both first and last, over and over again. It made my heart race and my cheeks and neck feel warm – it was kind of like a tiny panic attack. Why that name? Of all the billions of names in this world, why the exact name of the man who blew up my world mere months ago?
What’s even wilder is that the towns where this episode’s plot took place were these quiet, little, podunk, Western Pennsylvania towns that most viewers probably didn’t know were real. But they are very real to me. Brookville, Clarion, etc. these are all places where I have spent a lot of time, since I was a tiny child. This is where my family owns a cabin, where my dad and brother and uncles have hunted actual animals, not human excrement named John Clemons, for decades. What are the chances? In this random episode, at this time in my little life?
It doesn’t mean anything. I know that. In the grandest scheme of it all, I know that. But it makes me think of frequency bias and Baader-Meinhof and just the sheer injustice of cosmic coincidence sometimes.
Why does life get to twist the knife deeper as you’re working so hard to pull it out, all by yourself, while you’re still partially paralyzed?
Remember the way back, in the Disney cartoon version of Bambi, when “twitterpated” was the term the woodland animals used to describe the springtime when everyone was falling in love and procreating adorable little, beloved Disney babies like Bambi, Thumper, and Flower? Way before Twitter came along and forever changed (ruined) our collective lives? Fun fact: I’ve never used it. I miss the meaning of twitter from my childhood. I miss the giggles and the color and the joy it evoked.
I’ve had a pretty solid week – one in which I’ve barely had time to think about what happened in October – with much time spent engaging with and being inspired by my students and other just really enjoyable things. In my management class this afternoon though, all that built up positivity came tumbling right down in an instant. And I’m kinda pissed about it. Pissed at myself, really. But mostly the circumstance.
One of our leaders announced that every annual cohort has had a “cohort baby” tradition and that our group is behind. She was joking, of course, when she said that someone needed to step up and make this happen for us, sooner than later. From looking at all of the other 20+ faces on my Zoom screen, it looked like everyone else was enjoying this bit of fun, at least outwardly. No one knows the invisible backpack anyone else carries, of course. And I do not blame them; I understood the jokes they were all making.
What I wanted to say was, “If someone can find me a good man who is actually single, I gladly volunteer as tribute!”
It’s all I’ve ever wanted in this life.
I didn’t, of course. That would obviously be too much information for a group of people that has begun to feel like family but that are really still strangers. And no one likes a Debbie Downer to make the record scratch.
It is what it is. I know this. I’m working on accepting it. Every bloody day. I just really wanted to be able to welcome the levity and revel in it like everyone else after a long day of class. Instead, I bit the inside of my cheek to keep the tears at bay, dug my fingernails into the palm of my hand, and counted the seconds until the chatter subsided and we were dismissed and could turn off our cameras.
Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt. Still a little hard to say what’s going on.
During another night of fitful sleep, I was scrolling through pictures, specifically those curated iPhoto “memories” albums and slideshows. Most are of my family or vacations. Good memories. One of them sent me searching for a photo I couldn’t find, which made me wonder if it was my memory or someone else’s. Anyway, it led me to my Instagram, the real one, not the finsta of a woman scorned. I thought I had completely purged John from that social record of my life but when I saw this from May 2020, it stopped my mindless scroll with an ache so deep, I think it was audible.
My birthday is May 12, the same day as his stepdad, Ted. I had finally gone to PA to visit my folks for Mother’s Day when, two months in, there seemed to be no immediate end in sight for the pandemic and we had all been extremely careful. In hindsight, had I known he was swapping bodily fluids with one of his roommates, not just living isolated in his basement bedroom like he said, I wouldn’t have gone home. I wouldn’t have put my parents at risk. But I was blissfully unaware. I stayed for two weeks. John wished me happy birthday while I was there and I remember thinking it was so sweet of him to remember. He was always thoughtful like that. He would always tell me to tell my family hello or ask how they were doing. Just the other day I was thinking about how he did that last Christmas but no thoughtful messages, or messages of any kind, came this year.
Originally, I was to return to physical work on May 25, so I came back to DC that weekend in 2020. John surprised me by showing up at my door that very day with flowers for my birthday and saying he missed me. I’d never received flowers from a man in my life. I was beside myself. I also remember another gift he gave me, suddenly and without warning like the alpha males of my fantasies; he took control, bent me over my kitchen counter, and got down on his knees. It was the hottest fucking afternoon of my life.
But seeing this photo last night just reminded me of that text he sent a few minutes after I told him I had discovered that he had a fiancé in October of this year. He said,
Those words still cut me now as they did then. So cruel. So cold. Abrupt? Inaccurate? There should be a lot more to say.
It makes my mind churn and my heart hurt and my stomach roil. The what-did-he-actually-think-a-one-night-stand-is of it all. Maybe don’t buy flowers for the other woman on her birthday? Maybe don’t be around for three of her birthdays? Just one of many, many decidedly non-casual details and events and time spent together that John seemed to have selectively forgotten in his desperation to tell his then “roommate,” now-wife, that I was just sex. (As if that is any more acceptable to a fiancé?)
Or I assume that’s what he said. I have no idea what he told that woman or anyone else. I know what I would have told her had I known she existed. Then again, had known she existed, all of this would be moot because there never would have been a “John & I” to speak of.
Note that this day was May 2020, an indelible memory for me nearly two years into knowing him, but also just a month after they were apparently supposed to have originally gotten married in Mexico? Remember, he left that contract on my computer too.
Ah. Today is a hard day, y’all. They ebb and flow, wax and wane. I couldn’t get back to sleep last night after that memory. And I’ve been ruminating on it all day. It’s challenging to hide this mood from my family while I’m still here visiting. An extended holiday because returning to my tiny home filled to the brim with John’s ghost is about as appealing as pulling my own fingernails out with pliers. So I’m fortifying myself here with people who have to love me, and I declined to go on a walk with them this afternoon because I was barely keeping it together and was worried I couldn’t fake it much longer. The moment the door closed, I cried. Wailed, really.
I realized that in the now two months since this happened, I haven’t been able to really let it out. I have cried, sure. A whimper here or there. A few tears in the shower or in the privacy of the single-stall restroom at work, or one might slip loose when I have hugged a friend goodbye after a dinner or HH where I haven’t said a word about what I’m holding inside. There’s something about the physical contact with another human and then the absence of it that has become almost too much to withstand these past weeks. So, yes, although my head is now pounding and my eyes are burning, it felt a bit good to cry it out with reckless abandon, without fear of the neighbors hearing through the wall or a coworker or passerby seeing the sadness. Maybe the burning eyes will help me (force me) to sleep tonight?
I hope that one day sooner than later none of this hurts anymore. That the disbelief and anger and resentment will fade. That the desire to know that karma has come for him will cease to fuel me. That the words of Damien Rice won’t echo through my skull on a loop. That courage might teach me to be something more than shy and that love will teach me anything but how to lie. But more than anything, that one day, no bits of John will be laced with my doubt.
“It’s not hard to fall, when you float like a cannonball.”