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
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.
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.”
I have realized that I have zero physical attraction to John now; almost disbelief in my repulsion when I see a picture of him. I do not in any way want this man back in my life, I do not desire anything he brought into it, and I cannot understand now even my most basic physical attraction to him. I have none now. It’s gone.
The past couple days I have been amazed by how little I feel for myself. I’m lonely, sure. I don’t like being 42 and lonely. And I am still angry that I have to work through this on my own. But I cannot describe how little feeling I have left toward John. I’m enjoying getting to know new, (seemingly) amazing guys through online dating and through my grad school cohort. I’m skeptical AF about who they really are, but that comes with the betrayal ptsd, right? I’m forcing myself to move anyway.
I think it’s a positive sign that I’m able to look at someone and at least wonder what it will be like to get to know them. I’m weirdly anxious about the physical and I hope that goes away.
My interest in John was always more than sex. I love sex, generally. That has very little to do with John, much to his chagrin, I’m sure. The physical was something I endured and willingly engaged in, and it definitely got better over time. In fact, that was our last in person conversation in September – how good it had gotten. Though he expressed that a man wants to believe that he’s always been good, that isn’t how it works, boo. Anyway, I loved the physical warmth of him most, and I know it will take a while to stop missing that. To stop missing the warmth of his arm around me, or his hand stroking my ass while we talked in bed, or the warmth of his hand holding my breast like he owned me while we fell asleep. I do not miss his snoring. But more than any of the physical, I loved talking with him about life, about how humans interacted, about how we observed the world. We thought the same way about seemingly everything and it felt so good to have another soul to dance with.
But now, knowing what I do about how little he values individual people, individual humans, especially those that pour so fully and unselfishly into him, I cannot. I just cannot make myself feel interested in the thoughts or feelings of someone so inadequate.
The sheer volume of people discovering this site is overwhelming. I hope you are finding something here – a normalizing, validating story. And if you’re just an unfortunate friend or acquaintance of John or Crystal, well, I sure hope you find what you’re looking for too.
I’m all good. Or I will be. Take care of him. Take care of her.
They deserve what they sow. As do you.
Why do I keep writing here? Because I can. Because I know there will still be bad days and sad days. Because it helps me. Writing has always helped me share what I never feel comfortable sharing with the real world. I feel more understood and seen in this community than anywhere.
Why did I create a social media presence and share this blog there, with their friends and family? Because I can. I want to be a real person with feelings to these people I’ve “known,” people I thought I’d one day actually know. Why not? After all … John showed zero compunction over more than THREE YEARS while he knowingly destroyed everything I believed to be true about myself and about him, about them, about us. Why not destroy that for him now? I have no obligation to give any fucks.
Having a real Detlef Schrempf kind of day. And, yes, I know the title of this post comes from a different Band of Horses song but, honestly, those words are all too sad and loving. I’m more in the sad and unloving camp today.
That’s the thing about heartache, right? Especially the kind caused by a blindsided betrayal. You vacillate between disbelief and anger, aching to quench your thirst for retribution, and then sometimes, you still feel the disbelief but also just want to remember the way they looked at you, and hope they treat her better.
As much as I loathe thinking about it, I do hope John actually loves Crystal and wouldn’t dare cheat on her again. Let alone for more than three years, again. I still cannot wrap my brain around it. Certainly not my heart.
I don’t know how other eyes look at you. I hope everyone around you finds out who you really are. I’d like to know how those eyes look at you then. You certainly know how mine did. Once.
I’m looking forward to looking at someone else like that again, sooner than later.
“When eyes can’t look at you any other way, Any other way, any other way So take it as a song or a lesson to learn And sometime soon be better than you were If you say you’re gonna go, then be careful And watch how you treat every living soul”