I will survive

Nine months ago tonight, I was lying wide awake with disbelief and pain so visceral that I couldn’t breathe.

It’s been hell.

I have fought tooth and nail to get here. I have spent thousands of dollars on therapy, plus medication, and innumerable hours in the upside down trying to figure out how I could have loved and trusted someone so cruel, vapid, and deceitful.

And I’m here. I am surviving yet again.

I understand now that he was a pathetic excuse for a human, let alone a man, and I very, very narrowly dodged a bullet.

There are scars though. I am now a woman with trust issues and baggage that I have to wrestle to fit into my overhead bin before, on, and after dates. But I am doing it.

I am trying to give seemingly kind and authentic men the benefit of the doubt … and there is a simultaneous, niggling fear that crawls over my skin. I cannot help but remember that same grace for another man is what bit me in ass.

I hope I will not always be in protective mode or that I will at least learn where the line is but it’s proving to be a prickly thing to embrace. So far.

And to her, I only have one thought left …

Good luck, hun.

Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive

I’ve got all my life to live

And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive

I will survive

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
An aspirational prick.

Like a cannonball

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.”

Music for the Mood: Cannonball – Damien Rice

Receipts

Here are my receipts. Go ahead, ask John for his.

In the interest of recognizing there are two sides to every story, you have mine in the many public posts over the past month (and years) here. These text receipts from Weds. Oct. 27 – Fri. Oct. 29 show his side of the story, in his very own words. The questions that I screamed into the void after yet another interminable night of no sleep, the morning of Sun. Oct. 31, are included too. I don’t know if he ever saw those, though I suspect he did. I suspect a lot of things because, after all, I knew this man for years. There’s only so much you can fake. And although I do believe I’m blocked now (he certainly is), I don’t for a second think I was then.

I’d love answers to all of those questions. I mean, on Sunday the 31st, he didn’t yet know I had already sent all of the screenshots below to her, as receipts. Or the unfathomable extent of the things I found on MY computer because he stupidly left them there.

I know that he knows all of that now though because I also printed and physically mailed all of these text screenshots to him the next day for good measure. To *their* home – just in case he found it convenient for his narrative to delete them from his phone (he prided himself on saving all of our texts from the very beginning – that used to be cute) or in case she didn’t receive the email at work, and/or he wasn’t really in Philly and she’d be curious enough to open a clearly personal envelope addressed to him from a chick in DC. I printed and included the blog post from that day — a written record of 11 hours of catharsis — longer now, of course, as more memories have come back. Before John read that post in the mail, I don’t even know if he realized how I came to have a copy of his wedding contract. I didn’t say, just included it as a screenshot via text when he kept lying to me the morning after I already discovered the truth.

I told him only in the Oct 31st post that I emailed the screenshots of our texts to her so he had to have read it. I implored him to be brave and do the right thing. To tell her.

It’s notable that he did try to call me two days after I mailed it, while I was walking home from work that Wednesday, but I missed the call and didn’t even notice it until days later. I had to Google the number. Apparently it was a work number, but not the one I had. He didn’t leave a message. I’ve wondered a few times what he could have possibly intended to say over the phone.

His only response came the Friday after, via text of course, exactly a week after he discovered that I knew. That’s included at the bottom of this CVS-length receipt below. The only thing not included here is my incredulous response which was simply, “Thanks so much for your concern. You have no right to ask that of me, let alone beg.”

Then I blocked and deleted him from my life. Granted, I still know his number in my brain. I wish I didn’t. And I am ashamed to admit that on several drunken nights when I’m trying to be numb and not think at all, my brain has remembered and probably texted, and promptly deleted, various things. Who knows what. I cringe to think about it. Still, I have nothing to hide. I’ve written everything in my heart and soul out here for anyone to read. Here are my receipts.

Go ahead. Ask John for his.

Karma has entered the chat. I hope he’s ready…

(Note: I know some of these are pasted out of order. The originals are gone & I don’t know how to edit the photos as is. Just consider the mystery maze symbolic of this whole fucking mess)

You may ask what I want after all of this. I’ve been asking myself the same thing. Every night while I watch the shadows cross the ceiling. Here’s a list:

– I want to go back to July 21, 2018 and shut you down.

– I want to go back to August 21, 2018 and let you go.

– I want to know the answers to all of those questions from October 31, 2021.

– I want to add two questions to that list, for Crystal: Did you know about me? Why did you go through with marrying his lying ass anyway?

– I want to know what he meant in that last message by “multiple messages and detailed accounts” — I sent her one message, with the screenshots. I mailed him the printout of the Oct. 31 blogpost and the screenshots he already has/had on his own phone. There is no multiple, no massive plurality. It makes me think he has no idea what I sent her but assumed it was the same as what I sent him (the blog post) and he’s covering his ass. Maybe she still doesn’t know? I can’t abide that. I won’t.

– I want him to hurt too.

– I want to know if she knew. I’m still not sure. But if she did, I want everyone in her life to know how objectively stupid she is. And also how much support she’s going to need when he does it to her again.

– I want to get all of this shit out of my head, out of my heart, out of my life.

– I want to stop having to write here because I have no other constructive way to get out the poison he intentionally left inside me.

– I want to sleep and eat again, with any semblance of normalcy. Though the 12 lbs I’ve lost so far is a tarnished silver lining.

– I want to stop having to pay a fortune to talk to a stranger about all of this shit because I don’t want to burden the people I love. A sweet and unconscionably young therapist who isn’t terribly helpful; instead, she serves as a human version of this blog where I still vomit words and feelings, but she actually responds. However, she also tells me things like “obviously there was something about you that he wanted to keep. That was worth the effort of the lie. For so long. Something he didn’t get in his relationship.” Seriously? I want a different echo chamber. That is not helpful.

– I want to go to bed at night without praying that I just don’t wake up at all; I don’t want to have to feel all over again every few hours. It’s too painful. When will that stop??

– I want to move the fuck forward and forget this ever happened to me.

It’s distressingly clear though that returns and exchanges will not be honored with these receipts. No one cares that the item never matched the description and was defective from day dot. There is no customer service to call. No manager to speak with.

It’s my burden to bear, my heartache to sort through, my trust to rebuild, my mind that races. I hate that I’m stuck in a loop of revenge and retribution right now but I also cannot stand for injustice. Who would I be if I didn’t fight for the little guy, the good guy, the one for whom no one else will?

I am losing sight of who the good guy is.

Seconds turn into weeks

The longer the separation, the harder it is to heal the hurt. Time passes while you’re thinking and all that time is really just wasted, isn’t it?

While my thoughts turn into doubling down on insecurity and doubt, what are you thinking about?

Do you realize that while you’re thinking about yourself, and presumably about her, that you’re responsible for what I cannot avoid thinking about?

Why did you have to do it to me? Couldn’t you have chosen anyone else? What about me is such an easy target for narcissists masquerading as nice guys?

Are you wishing you’d met me first?

Are you thinking about me at all?

Still?

It’s been two weeks since I discovered that I was the other woman. And two weeks from today you’ll be married to her, probably? I couldn’t if I were her. She must be frantically trying to process that you’ve been sleeping with someone else for more than three years while also deluding herself into believing she’ll have time to process it and work on trusting you after you vow to be faithful to only her … during a wedding she’s been planning for years, and probably dreaming about her entire life. You’ve taken away all the possibility that her wedding day will be magical; it will forever have an undertone of ugly – whether it happens with you in two weeks, someone else after she moves on from your trifling ass, or never because you’ve robbed her of feeling secure and however many years of her life … it’s possible she’ll never be able to move on.

I keep thinking about your ceremony, what it will be like when you look at each other. What you’ll both actually be thinking when you’re performing for your guests. I wonder what song your first dance will be to — and whether there will be smiles passed between you that hide the doubt. Or if one or both of you will have tears in your eyes — for reasons only the two of you and I will know.

I could be there to witness it. After all, you left all the vital details for me. But I don’t know if I could stomach watching those pregnant seconds tick by. I would probably laugh; contemptuously and incredulously of course.

Those seconds will turn into years. That will become your marriage. Always wondering if trust exists. If belief in you exists. And no matter how fading a memory you may come to have of me, of us, all of those seconds that pass will have just a touch of ugly that you can never undo.

You have only yourself to blame. And yet both she and I also have to deal with the insidious ugliness you created. For better or worse, she has you and you have her. I have my thoughts.

Mood music: Restlessness – Bastien Laval