Learn to Live Again

Fairly certain I’ve used this song in a previous post but I’m okay with that. I love Dave Grohl, my longest unrequited love. I love the Foos and even went to see their objectively terrible “horror” movie last week. Loved every minute! Pat Smear was the absolute best part throughout. Anyway, this song is one that spirals through my mind often enough that I suppose it’s kind of like the soundtrack of my life in a lot of ways.

I recently got this sticker and put it on my laptop … to make it mine and try to erase the memory that the last person to type on these keys, for the better part of two years, was actually not me. It was a man I loved, wholly and without hesitation, a man I gave my laptop to without question, but also a man who isn’t at all the person I thought he was. I’m still having trouble accepting that the John I knew, the John I loved, was the same person who lied to me from the moment he met me. It’s easier for me to think of them as two different people. I want to keep the good memories and those only exist in the person who was never real.

I met with my therapist tonight for the fourth time and, while I guess I am still glad that I am making this investment in myself, I am also angry that I have to. It’s a hell of a lot of money and just so much mental and emotional work. I am angry that I have to pay to talk to someone every week about betrayal because I cannot figure out how to process it on my own — me, someone who has spent two decades working in mental health!

I’ve experienced a lot in this life. A lot of loss. A lot of emotional trauma. A lot of things that I’m only now realizing may have made me an easy target for a man like John.

My therapist told me tonight that John is a sociopath. This is a label that I am having trouble accepting right now. I don’t think it’s accurate; I think it’s actually inappropriate and unprofessional. But I also question what I know … about anything anymore. I feel like she’s making a diagnosis of someone that she only knows through four conversations with me, and this online journal. I have known a sociopath before, years ago, I dated him; he was evil and I struggle to assign the word “evil” to the John I knew the past three years.

The therapist though is trying to get me to accept that there are not two people, like I keep referring to during our sessions. There is just one person. One man who intentionally talked to me in a bar in July 2018 while he had another woman at home. He came home with me. He woke up with me. He asked for my number. He intentionally kept seeing me. He gained my trust, made me feel comfortable and understood and like I had finally found a someone that I did not want to imagine life without. He never told me about the other woman.

This therapist described my experience as catastrophic and emphasized that John did that to me; a good man could not have done that, to me or to his fiancé. She’s trying to get me to accept that although he tried to tell me he didn’t want anything serious in August 2018, that all of his actions prior to and in the three plus years after did not indicate that he was already in a serious relationship. He never told me he was sleeping with anyone else, let alone living with them and engaged to them.

She’s trying to help me see that I was too trusting, that what I thought was convenience (him always coming to me, or respect for my need for space, or admission of feeling sad in winter and needing to hibernate) — all of these things that I thought made us alike were really just easy ways for him to take advantage of my trust. I made it too easy for him to live two lives and to take advantage of the goodness in me.

While it is very easy to beat myself up about being too trusting, it isn’t very helpful. Because at the end of the day, I cannot help but think about all of the time we spent together, the conversations we had, the things we experienced, and I cannot make myself accept that a deceitful person was in those times, conversations, and experiences and continually & intentionally thinking of what to say to protect his double life. The reality is that half of the dystopian Trumpian nightmare, the fucking insurrection, the election, all of Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, all of COVID, so many tv shows and movies, the end of GoT, nearly all things sports, a particular SNL skit about Philly, so many dumb little inside jokes, all of my experience with my appalling excuse for a manager, all of my application and selection process for grad school, all of my experiences with every cohort of scholarship recipients — EVERY PIVOTAL AND TRIVIAL PART OF THE LAST THREE YEARS were experienced with this human. All of those experiences and memories cannot be divorced from my conversations with John about them. His thoughts and perspectives on those things are essentially mine; they always have been. I couldn’t have experienced them with anyone else and, even still, wouldn’t have wanted to. How fucked up is that though??

Why can’t I get my brain to accept that this person was LYING to me the entire time I knew him? There is no reason to believe that his compassion, empathy, earnestness, or curiosity about and toward the world and other humans was ever real. But how do I accept that?? It means I also have to accept that none of the good was ever real, and that all of the happiness I felt was based on bullshit. In theory, I understand that he likely just fed off of what I felt and expressed it back because he knew that was a way to make me feel seen and heard and a sense of solidarity and belonging. We were peas in a pod, in my experience. Not his though, I guess. Or, he just had two (or more) pods. I have no idea. Who does?

There is literally not one person who knows more about the situation with my boss, no one who knows how fulfilling and proud I am of the work I have been doing the past four plus years. I have never had a role that I felt fit me better, like it was handcrafted for me. And yet, the lack of leadership and toxic relationship I’ve experienced because of my completely inept and insecure manager the past two and a half years has been incredibly stressful. John has been around since the day this moron was hired. I work 50-60 hour weeks with no support, no understanding of the actual work or even education, generally, no acknowledgement of the immense effort it takes to do the work well – beyond glowing performance reviews but also a hostile working relationship. I applied to this management program with John’s encouragement, and he was as excited as I was in September when I finally got in after two years of trying. At least, he seemed to be.

When I finally reached my breaking point and applied for a new job tonight though, he was the first person I wanted to tell. I actually had the thought that he would be proud of me and, at my hesitation to leave a job I love, he would say “Fuck her.” He would be right and hearing him say it would fortify me and make me smile. But I didn’t have him to tell. And because he was really the only person I ever confided in about it, instead, I just didn’t tell anyone. Except this therapist — which I also only have because of him. Thanks, man?

Before our next chat, I’m supposed to send this therapist a list of the aspects about this whole nightmare that have had the most impact, the things that we’re going to systematically work through together. There are too many, she says, so we need to narrow it down. I am stuck. I know I need to start recognizing that the “good guy” and the “good memories” are figments. I know he’s a bad dude who intentionally deceived me, and his now wife, for more than three years, every single fucking day. That he continually and willfully made the choice to lie. Honestly, I never thought he was smart enough for that level of duplicity, but I am slowly starting to acknowledge that I was duped in more ways than I can process at any given time. Acceptance is another animal, altogether.

This therapist also says that it’s not my place to worry about her, about Crystal, his now wife. That I’m a good person and that’s why I worry almost every day, at some point, about whether she is doing okay and if she has support and what will happen when he does it to her again. And when she thinks back to five months ago, a month before she married him, to when I told her who I was and that I’d unknowingly been in a relationship with her fiancé since 2018… I can’t imagine the guilt and shame that will come with the realization that she made the wrong choice. Maybe it already has? The therapist says that she is still picking her own jaw up off the floor to know that Crystal married John. My friends and family are too, but I’m not. I know how charming he is, how much you want to believe in his version of his love for you. “Would she be worrying about you?,” she asked me. No. She probably hates me, even though I don’t deserve it. But, as someone who’s been cheated on before, I also don’t blame her. And I will not apologize for trying to make sure she knows what and who he really is. I wish someone had told me. There were people in the bar that night in July 2018 that had to have known that John was living with, not just roommates, but a woman he was sleeping with and had been for years, even though they weren’t engaged then. He was too fucking social. Someone knew.

But also, if John is really a “sociopath” or, even at the very most has some pathological penchant for lying, shouldn’t I worry about her? As the only other person who was victimized by him, at least in this situation, shouldn’t I try to make sure she’s okay, as a woman?

I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate — that maybe she still doesn’t know? That it’s possible she never got my email in October and he never told her. But when I’m in that absurd thought loop, the therapist reminds me that I shared this blog with people I found on social media that were on their wedding guest list (left on my laptop) after I found out the wedding actually happened. And I don’t know who they were, of course, but there were hundreds of views on this website in the following days so there are people in their lives who know. People who should care enough to tell her, and support her. The regular views here come from all the places they & their village live.

I tried to push back too by saying that he’d probably tell everyone I’m just some crazy bitch or that it wasn’t that significant. The John I knew would never say that about me — but she also reminded me that all the details are here. On these many pages, in these tens of thousands of words. There is just no way that anyone who reads them, especially anyone that knows one or both of them, could possibly think it was any less. Even if it seems impossible to believe.

It’s not my business whether they or she believe it. I’ve done my part to make people aware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. That’s all I have control over.

So I want to live again. Sooner than later. I have to get it out so I can move on. That’s what all of this drivel amounts to. Four months of pouring onto the page. Living again is the goal. I’d love to love again but I’m not sure that’s possible. Sidenote: do you know how many “John”s there are on online dating? It is brutal, y’all. I swipe left on every single one.

I’m trying. That’s something I’m proud of. There are no days where I don’t think about it, about him, about why I have to go through this. Yet. But the amount of time it takes up in my day is getting less. The sadness still weighs a lot and comes in waves. The anger and thirst for vengeance comes less frequently. I’m hanging my hat on that for now. Little by little. After all, it’s times like these we learn to live again, right?

It’ll be a while before I’m ready to give again. This is the selfish season of my life. I hope it doesn’t last too long.

Music for the Mood: Times Like These – Foo Fighters


I went on a solo vacation for a few days, the sixth of these trips I’ve taken alone – always at a time of transition or a time when I need to recharge my batteries. I went to Cabo San Lucas because I’ve always wanted to see the humpbacks in winter off the Baja Peninsula.

I did. And it was an incredible and indescribable experience. They are massive, majestic and deceptively elegant, playful and unbothered. It felt freeing to watch them. I was lucky to witness so many of them waving their dorsal fins, splashing their tails, and blowing air in enormous geysers from below the surface where, for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, there is no indication on the surface of the ocean that a behemoth lies beneath. Some are 60′ long – nearly double the length of the sailboat I was on. To watch one of these creatures rise up from the depths and breach up and over onto their backs is something I will never be able to put into words. To see it happen so many times in just a few hours in this lifetime seems like cosmic hyperbole.

Here is one short video but I’m saving the rest for myself because I want you to go and experience it on your own one day. Up close. Where you can feel the spray and hear the sound and revel in the magnificence.

I thought I would come back renewed and refreshed, hopeful and maybe a bit inspired. I am so sad to say that I am not. I have a bit of a tan and a new magnet for my fridge full of travels but, otherwise, if I’m being honest, I’m a bit disappointed. Not that the trip is over – though I do miss having a countdown, something to look forward to. Not that the resort I chose was just okay and pretty boring for a single gal – it was and it was. I am disappointed that I did this big thing for myself, to take care of myself, to pour into myself – and I feel like I was derailed.

Two days before I left, I received a worksheet from my therapist. I’ve met with this person only twice so far but felt really hopeful after those sessions. This assignment that I was to review before our next session is on “Forgiveness” – I reviewed it that day because I hate having unread notifications of any kind. I spent that entire night lying awake, feeling panicked and anxious and angry. Forgiveness? Really? Already? I still don’t even believe that it’s real from one night to the next day — and I still have zero answers. How can I think about forgiveness at this stage? And although I was excited for my trip, that assignment has just stayed niggling at the edge of my periphery.

The tears started the minute I got on the plane in DC. I was looking across the river at Arlington and thinking that maybe the next time I saw it, I wouldn’t care which building was his or if I could see it from the runway. Or maybe the plane would crash and I wouldn’t have to care anymore, period. And the tears weren’t because I was sad about either possibility, but because I was hopeful one or both would be true. More tears came when I closed the door to my gorgeous suite at the resort. It was so lovely and I was just sharing it with myself. It had been a long day of travel, I knew I would miss my connection in Dallas before we even left the ground in DC, and it kind of kept snowballing from there. I was hassled by aggressive time-share-pushing gatekeepers immediately after check-in at the resort. At one point, the woman tried to hock a free couples massage for me and my companion — and she was the first of many (presumably) well meaning people that would be confused about why I was traveling alone over the four days. I arrived too late to get a reservation for dinner that night so I sat out on the beach … where a couple was getting married. I turned my chair so my back was to them, listened to the waves, and watched the sunset until it sizzled behind a mountain to the west. But sitting there, surrounded by unquestionable beauty, I felt defeated. It was like I knew that the desperate and expensive quest for a reprieve that I had booked last minute was a futile endeavor before it really started.

I had peaceful moments. I smiled lots of times. Had delicious food. Made memories with myself walking around the harbor, meeting sea lions and pelicans at every turn. Lots of excellent people watching. Three hours spent sailing around the beautiful Baja Peninsula were three of the best hours I’ve ever spent in my life. I have photos and videos and memories that will keep my wanderlust burning. I also read the most amazing book — Cloud Cuckoo Land — the last 50 pages of which I cannot bring myself to finish yet because I do not want it to end. I loathe endings. I cannot bear the weight of another one right now.

And so this morning, I carved out some time in my busy morning of catching up on work and I tried to complete the forgiveness assignment. It asked me to describe the injustice I endured and why it seemed unfair. This journal already holds all of that in painful detail from October onward. I summarized it in two paragraphs on the assignment. Almost four months later, it really does not hurt any less. My anger is no less intense. My disbelief has only grown. I learned earlier this month that he proposed to her nine months after meeting me, a week before my 40th birthday and two weeks before he met my brother – this revelation set me back in ways I couldn’t have anticipated but should have.

Maybe I feel the waves and cycles less frequently but not by as large a degree I wanted, expected, or hoped by now. The intensity of it makes me feel anxious to the point of nausea, and focusing on the present, honing in on what it feels like physically in an attempt at “mindfulness,” almost always makes me start to cry. It’s just too much to contain. This is really inconvenient, say — when you’re lying in a lounger in paradise or cramped between people in coach, in a tin cylinder flying through the sky.

The assignment asked me to describe the pros and cons of “deciding” to forgive my offender. To describe in detail how things would be different if I made that choice. But I can’t – I cannot describe it because I cannot imagine it. I said that *if* I could, I would go to bed and not think about John next to me, laughing, snuggling, and feeling warm. That I would feel hopeful about the future and be able to block out the fact that I have to start all over, a longing for love and belonging that has eluded me for decades already. That I would forget all the questions I have that plague my sleepless nights.

Forgiveness is supposed to unburden you by choosing to let go of what was done to you. How can I CHOOSE to let go of it though when the blindside and deception still hurts so fucking much? Forgiveness allegedly doesn’t mean that you condone the action or that the person doesn’t deserve consequences —- but that’s what it feels like I am being asked to do. To give him a pass.

It asked me to describe what life was like for my offender during childhood and if that could have impacted their behavior. And what was life like at the time of the offense for the offender? That is a lot to unpack — obviously it’s leading me to empathize with him. But of course I empathize with him — the him I knew. I loved that man for g/God’s sake! And no, neither his past or recent present indicates to me anything that may have impacted his willful, conscious, and continual choices to deceive me for more than three years. And to also do it to another woman he was apparently with, not just living with but engaged to and allegedly loved/s? I can’t see what in his past or present impacted that repeated and daily choice, to deceive us both.

And then it asked what feelings I currently have toward my offender and then what positive feelings I have toward him; again with trying to pull even more empathy out of my too-big and dripping heart. I said:

It is painful to think about positive feelings toward the offender, John. I feel positive feelings toward the memory of the person I thought I knew, the person I loved so freely.

I do not feel any positive feelings toward the person I am trying to reconcile with those memories.

I guess I just don’t know where to go from here. Despite sunshine, books, whales, a couple well-deserved days away from work, another check mark on the bucket list, and a few grand less in my bank account, I still feel simultaneously stuck and untethered. I want to be hopeful. I want to believe that this too shall pass and all that bull shit. But I also want to not look with contempt on a married man or a man with a woman at his side who dares to check me out. It repulses me to think that John was one of those men – to me and likely to others – and probably always will be. I unknowingly fell into his safe and warm little web of deception. Why doesn’t he have to redeem himself or accept responsibility or be held accountable? Why do I have to do all of this hard, heavy, relentless work to get back to a place where I can move forward?

In the words of my therapist: “John has moved on with his life.” That line reverberates through my skull like it’s a pinball in a game with flippers going crazy but without a button on the outside for me to even try to control their movement or their pace.

But, yes, he has moved on. He didn’t have to pause to mull it over because although he was my person, I was just a toy for him to use and discard after a few years of being his favorite one. It seems like forgiveness, for a transgression that has never received an apology, is the only way for me to move on. But how do I get there?

Music for the Mood: A Song For You – Amy Winehouse

Take the Power Back

For a couple weeks now, this powerful punch from Rage Against the Machine’s song of the same name has been reverberating through my brain. That it is now officially the short month during which this country seeks to recognize the historic struggles and contributions of African Americans is not lost on me. I’m not intentionally seeking to personally appropriate a song meant as a battle cry against the forced ideals of white America and an unbelievably prescient commentary on teaching (or not teaching) critical race theory in our schools.

Now thirty years old, it is just as frustrating and loathsome now not to have witnessed enough quantifiable progress for Black humans in this country as it was when this song was bumping and thumping through car stereos at deafening levels in the 90s, when the multitude of humanity’s hues were chanting and raging the lyrics with indignant anger, though often misplaced and misdirected toward parents, religion, teachers, and other entities representing authority. Teenage ignorance masquerading as defiance, really.

“In the right light, study becomes insight

But the system that dissed us, teaches us to read and write

So-called facts are fraud

The rage is relentless

We need a movement with a quickness

You are the witness of change and to counteract

We gotta take the power back

“Take the Power Back” – Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Because I wasn’t even in high school when Zack de la Rocha was yelling these words, I cannot pretend that I understood the lyrics then. Lord knows you couldn’t Google lyrics back then. I used to record songs from the radio onto a cassette tape and then pause, rewind, and play the lyrics over and over and over until I memorized them. I can still recall every word of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by the way. It suffices to say that I wasn’t memorizing Rage Against the Machine’s lyrics back then.

In fact, those metal bands of the 90s like Metallica, Pantera, Megadeath, and Rage kind of terrified me. Those bands are what the “bad” kids listened to, the kids I had no interest in being around and, because I rarely talked to anyone beyond my family and very few friends in that time of my life, I sure as shit wasn’t listening to the music of “those” kids to try to assimilate. Motown and the Golden Oldies were what my family listened to and that’s what I liked! I’ve come to legitimately love some of those hard rock bands though and I couldn’t tell you when or how that happened. I’ll be seeing Metallica in concert for the second time in my life in a few months, and Rage somehow became the go-to soundtrack to my workouts. There is nothing as motivating as those opening, angry bars from “Killing in the Name” — you have to grit your teeth, you have to grimace, you have to growl the words through your chest — it just happens. Those songs have also been the soundtrack to more than one season of heartbreak … you know, after the sadness and self-loathing phase, when the anger pulses with such force that you just need to get it out? Yeah. I’ve been crashing on that couch, off and on, for a few weeks now. It isn’t comfortable and I still don’t sleep, but it serves a purpose on this journey back to myself. Again.

I have always marveled at the ignorance of those “bad” kids back in my hometown. Honest to g/God, they probably still bang their bloody heads off to these bass lines while screaming along. But those tough, redneck, steel town boys, now men, are also the ones who used to litter my social media timelines with bigoted, biased, conservative bullshit. Those unfiltered and appalling voices are the reason I haven’t had Facebook in years now. I do not miss it. And if I tried to point out the irony of their views and the music that molded them, they’d brush it off the same way they do any challenge to their glaring and profound ignorance.

Anyway, the lyrics of this song make me angry. And they help me rage enough to get up and get through another day. If I allow myself to not think too much about what de la Rocha is really saying, if I allow myself to just feel Morello’s guitar and thrash into the emotion, those words “…take the power back,” are a battle cry for me too. Personally. I am personally trying to take back the power —- the power to move, the power to heal, the power to take care of myself. I won’t stop fighting for justice and equity for humanity, in February or beyond, but right now, I’m fighting for me. I’m fighting to remember who I am, fighting to trust again, fighting for what I can give to the world if I’m healthy and my heart is glued back together, fighting for someone who wants to be present in the lives of people who are waiting for me to resurface (hopefully they can wait some more), and I’m fighting to be proud of that person again … once I find her.

First step: I bought myself a subscription for fresh flowers from UrbanStems. Is there anything more delicately and intricately perfect than a ranunculus? I think not.

Where we are
Where we’re going

Step Two: Found a new therapist. One who understands trauma in all its forms.

Next step: A solo vacation this week. I need Vitamin Sea (and D) and my soul needs to recharge.

I’ll be fine. I’m making progress. Sunshine will help. So does Rage.

Music for the Mood:

Take the Power Back

Killing in the Name


Bullet in the Head

Rage Against the Machine (1992)


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.

Here I go again on my own

I pray karma is sharpening her claws.

John Clemons can go to hell.

How many times have you heard that when someone shows you who they are, believe them? But what if they say they are something you should avoid (“selfish with their time,” “not looking for something serious right now,” “I know myself and at some point, I’m not going to be ….” committed? happy? I genuinely can’t remember at this point; it was one conversation more than three years ago) but then, for years, they show you a person who is definitely selfish with their time but, for all other intents and purposes, is your person? Your best friend? The person you want to see, talk to, feel, hear, touch, smell, taste, believe in, the very most in the world? They are kind and good and make you feel valued and understood every time you’re in their presence. And you never get tired of them. For a relatively solitary person, that is still hard for me to accept. I loved every minute I spent with him.

Reading back through some of the posts here from the first months that I knew John, and early on in the winter of that first year, I guess I should have cut my losses and moved on then. Do I wish I had? Kind of. Knowing what I know now, of course. But for most of the past three years, three months, and ten days, you couldn’t have told me that he wasn’t the best guy I’d ever dated and one of the best, kindest, most emotionally intelligent men I ever knew. You couldn’t have made me believe it. I still hardly believe it. And yet, I’ve seen the proof.

He’s getting married next month. Less than a month from now. Not to me. To a woman I heard about on occasion, but only knew as one of his two roommates. I found out by accident. I found pictures on my computer, this computer, which he had borrowed for most of coronatine. I was coming here to write about him leaving, suddenly moving to Philly, our future unknown but seemingly over with zero input from me. I needed to get it out and I hadn’t written anything in years, purely because he had my computer. Clearly, I wasn’t going to come here to write on my work laptop; it’s too personal. He returned my Mac to me when I needed it in a pinch about six weeks ago. I hadn’t opened it since that night and, even if I had, I didn’t have any reason to think that I needed to look for something. On Thursday night though, just three days ago, I found pictures in the trash and, at first, I didn’t think anything of them. I never have things in my trash but when I was trying to clean up the desktop from all the junk he’d put on it, I saw jpegs in there. I was curious.

I shouldn’t have looked. But he left them on my laptop and, only the morning before, he had said he was “probably” moving to Philly (allegedly) and what if they were pictures or memories of us? But most were of him with some red head, pretty-ish with make-up (though always with that garish red lipstick) but kind of “handsome” and maybe butchy? That sounds horrible and I don’t mean it that way at all. It was just a first impression but John & I talked about our celebrity hall pass list way back at the start of our relationship and, let’s just say, this woman wasn’t like any of those women. I thought he liked more feminine, classically pretty women. Actually she reminds me of the crazy, crass, Chef Rachel on Below Deck (I don’t know if this other woman is crass or how she speaks; just how she looks). He has a million gay friends, I assumed she was part of that circle. Maybe a roommate? All he’d ever said about his roommates was that “Crystal” was white and Karen was Vietnamese and white. One was a teacher, one has family nearby, one he had been roommates with since college, one has the same birthday as him, and I couldn’t tell you who was which or if all those things were the same one. Or if any of those descriptors are even true. I also thought maybe it was this college friend, “Annie,” who he stayed with every time he went to Chicago for Pride Bowl. A woman he always said reminded him so much of me. Who knows what Annie really is to him at this point. A once-a-year lover, probably.

The point is … I really didn’t think much about those pictures at first. It was just a bunch of pictures of John and this other woman dressed up at (presumably) weddings or events or something. I had lots of +1 events that I took a friend to, though not in the more than three years while I was with John, obviously. I couldn’t tell how old the photos were either. John got some grey hairs while I’ve known him, but he always looks the same. To me.

I didn’t feel alarmed at that point at all — he went to a lot of weddings, he has a lot of acquaintances, and always seemed to be going to some wedding, baby shower, birthday party, etc. Now I recognize those for what they were; excuses. He travels a lot – despite always saying he has no money (I looked up his govt salary today; he wasn’t lying about that) and he must have an unlimited supply of vacation days. Not that he ever used them on me – except when he left work in the middle of the day to drive me to my hotel in Baltimore before I flew to Croatia, 4 days after I met him. That was a nice night. A nice memory. I’m keeping that one. But I digress… At this point I was still reeling at the idea of him up & moving to Philly without so much as considering me, let alone talking to me about it. I was honestly just kind of weepy looking at his smiling face and remembering his laugh.

But then I saw what appeared to be a proposal picture. Clearly him, clearly this frizzy haired red head, in casual clothes, in someone’s kitchen that I’ve never seen, with him down on one knee. The picture was small and fuzzy but, if you zoomed in, maybe he was holding a ring box? Were they cleaning? Laughing? Was it a joke? Some weird inside thing? I couldn’t tell – her arm was blocking his hand from full view and you couldn’t see the expressions on their faces. I remember thinking, that would be John if he were to propose – completely unromantic and without any hoopla. Just like I would want, I thought. He could have given me a ring made of tinfoil and I’d have loved it. Not that I ever needed or even wanted a ring. But it was a passing thought in that moment.

Then I looked at some of the documents in the trash. Or maybe I found them somewhere else? Or maybe they were in the trash but I didn’t look at them until I found more disturbing things elsewhere? I don’t know anymore. It’s all a muddled blur.

The point is, these things were on my computer, under my login, and he was moving to Philly. That’s what he had said via text the morning before. Out of the fucking BLUE. After more than three years with me? No discussion? Just a “yeah, I think so” when I asked? He’d allegedly been there for weeks but I only jokingly asked if he was moving there when he said, Wednesday morning, that he was realizing how much he missed being near family. What if I had never asked? How long would I have been left in the dark about all the rest that he wasn’t saying?

I was desperate to understand, to make it make sense. After I found more than just pictures, of course I logged in to my computer as him because of course I know his password. We’d shared enough of them with each other. I’ll miss his (her?) Disney+ but that’s the least of the casualties.

The nightmare, as I found it:

  • All I found under his login on my computer were some other pictures of this woman sprinkled within his iPhoto library – from races, from what appeared to be maybe his family?, some had location tags in Philly anyway with people who look like John (seriously, Charmene could be his twin), others were in places I remember he traveled, and many from flag football tournaments that I had no idea guests could go to — I often wondered if I could go to cheer him on, especially sunny places! I followed his tournaments online and we texted back and forth throughout them but, had I known I could go, I would have. Clearly, I now know why he never suggested it. So many things have a different meaning now, but only now that the light has gotten in through the cracks. I also found pictures of trips he went on with his friends where that woman didn’t appear so it was somewhat comforting to know he wasn’t lying about the places and times he said he was out of town with friends. Though clearly there were also plenty of times when he didn’t tell me his “roommate” was with him.
  • A discarded “destination wedding” contract for a place in Mexico in April 2020 — a month after the pandemic shut everything down. I remember him saying he had to cancel a trip to Mexico with friends when we were still wondering week-to-week how long the pandemic would last. But, obviously, I never dreamed it was for HIS WEDDING!? Christ, I had been with him for nearly two YEARS at that point! And even three nights ago when I first saw this document, I was still thinking, maybe he & Crystal were pretending to be a couple to get a cheap package for their friends or a suite upgrade or something? I mean, that sounds like John too — cheap and looking for a deal, an angle to exploit. I pretended to be engaged to my friend in college so we could take this Song of Solomon class with an amazing professor that only engaged couples could enroll in. I’m just saying, it wasn’t that implausible. And in a sick twist of irony, that friend was my roommate for years! But actually my roommate and only that. Like NORMAL roommates.

All of the things in the trash were dated Sept. 21 which must have been 2020 because he brought the computer back to me when I needed it for work on Sept. 13, 2021. I hadn’t used it since that I remember and I haven’t actually seen him since (him allegedly being in Philly the past month and all), so I have no idea. Maybe I deleted all these things while I was bored during my live event that night he returned it, just mindlessly deleting stuff from my usually clean & uncluttered places without looking at them? That seems implausible given all I know now but I had no reason to be suspicious or care what he’d been doing on my computer six weeks ago. And why would I have deleted any of John’s things? They weren’t mine.

But it does seem like me to delete the clutter — which is how all of this shit started! Or could it be that in iCloud, there’s a remote desktop or something that would mirror what he did on his on computer since he returned mine? Still, all of this was under my login, not John’s. I barely used this laptop before John borrowed it and I don’t really know the Mac world. It’s honestly just one more seemingly small detail that doesn’t add up or make sense right now. Probably never will.

  • But the world really went black and my heart started cracking open when I saw a “notes” document in his work files. I went to delete Microsoft from my Mac, again under my login — the license or whatever he had from his work had expired — but I didn’t want to delete anything important so he could get them later if he needed them. I started putting everything on a thumb drive for him (it’s like I’m in some fucking AI-cyber crime movie where all the incriminating evidence is on a tiny stick and someone’s going to hunt me down to get it; good luck, asshole). I mean, at this point on Thursday night, I still thought that he was “just” moving to Philly to help out his sister, Evan, and be closer to family. Abrupt and perplexing and profoundly hurtful, but he’d been telling me he had been going up there to help out, three times in August, more in September, and then just staying there and teleworking full time this past month. I didn’t have a reason to question it. Why would I?? He seemed worried about his sister and family is the most important thing in the world to me; I got it. And he was communicating with me as often as always. Only the weekend before, he was texting me, saying he was heading to my place because he missed me. I presumed he was drunk and clearly not driving from Philly but the point is that everything seemed fine, just from hours away instead of across the river. But I was still gob smacked to learn on Wednesday morning that he was probably moving to Philly in the immediate future without even talking to me about it first. He was a huge part of my life for more than three years, how was I not even a consideration in uprooting his? Said he had started talking to the “family” therapist about how the move would affect relationships down here. That “family” therapist was probably a fucking pre-marital counselor. Now I realize he probably wouldn’t have fed me any of that bullshit if I hadn’t asked.
  • These “notes” though were in OneNote, which I don’t use and don’t really understand. Most everything saved there looked like work stuff from the titles so I was just saving it all to the thumb drive for him. Return it when I eventually saw him again? Ha! But there was one “note” from a meeting or final prep session for a wedding. “One-month-out” it said in the title, dated Oct. 23, 2021. Last Saturday??? What?? How? That’s beyond weird. Weeks after he returned the computer to me? Five days before I found it? Tons of details and questions and things that referred to “Crystal” and getting an extra room to get ready in? Crystal — like, his roommate, Crystal? Why does he have notes about her wedding, period? Was he helping plan it? Weird, even for John. Maybe she is the woman marrying his sister? But why is this on my computer? Was this Crystal person using my computer? How and why?? Oh, wait — this must be a cloud-based app, it stores things live … he didn’t type or save this document on my computer at all. He did it, or she did it, and it just synced with his work’s Microsoft app installed on my computer. Panic set in then, and it was legitimately hard to take full breaths. It’s hard to breathe even now as I write this. The pictures in the trash didn’t seem so easy to brush off. Then I started looking at other documents.
  • A contract for the rental of the ceremony and reception venue at a golf club in Virginia. With Crystal’s name and John’s. My John. Their address. Crystal Zancig? Her fucking credit card number, complete with expiration date, her signature, and even the CVV. What the actual fuck?
  • The wedding is on Thanksgiving weekend — who the fuck gets married on a holiday weekend? That is so gauche! And profoundly selfish. NO ONE wants to spend their long weekend at a wedding, not even family. I know this from experience. The holiday travel costs for out-of-town guests alone! But again, given what I know now, that selfishness goes much deeper than I ever knew.
  • And there was a whole spreadsheet of the wedding guest list with names, addresses, emails. Two actually. One was probably for the Mexico wedding because his mom’s name was still on it, g/God rest her soul. SO many names I recognized from more than three years of living my life thinking I was in a real relationship with this man. All of his friends, his family, the “other” roommate, the handsome red head’s family. I’ve Googled most of them, trying to find any social media, anything to prove that I wasn’t blind for as long as it seems. And I caught another lie through that spreadsheet – he can’t be moving to “Philly” to live with his gay sister like he texted Friday morning. He/they *might* be moving but Charmene lives in NJ according to this spreadsheet, which I knew (or thought I knew), but she’s over an hour from the other sister — the one he’s been claiming was put on an involuntary hold in the psych ward, who is still struggling, whose husband is allegedly useless, and whose daughters John has allegedly been driving up there to help. He might as well drive from DC if he’s driving from Jersey. I also can’t imagine they are both moving. She’s a teacher. If she’s any kind of teacher, she wouldn’t leave in the middle of a school year. Especially as a special education teacher. Or maybe selfish people just glom onto each other? Christ on a cracker, what, if ANY, of what he’s been telling me the past several weeks is even true?? The past three years???
  • It seems more likely that maybe everything was true except this whole ridiculous Philly Saga as of late. Oh, and of course the part about not only fucking but being engaged to his “roommate.” It seems he wasn’t smart enough or pathological enough to actually invent a different life. He just lived the one life, with two women who loved him (maybe more?). How long have they even been engaged?? When did they meet???

It all makes me want to drink until I cannot think anymore, and maybe then I could actually sleep.


Why in the hell did he leave this stuff on my computer, under my login, especially when he had created his own? One of my friends, who thought he was such a great guy and regularly reminded me of how lucky I was to be so content, asked if I thought he did it intentionally. I don’t. I think he just fucked up. For two reasons. 1-he returned my computer that night in September less than 30 mins from the time I called. He said he had to swing by his place to get it and bring it to me before practice at the Mall. Allegedly, I guess. But, assuming that was true, or even if it wasn’t, there wasn’t time to think about wiping it, and why would he? Everything was still “Peaches” then. I’m going to miss that nickname, btw. I loved it, corny as it was. Sure, it started from all those thirsty and graphic texts he sent in those first weeks we knew each other, but it became kind of sweet. I had panties that matched socks I got him with peaches on them! She should burn those. And I digress, again. 2- there is SO much personal and sensitive information. I could destroy their lives. I considered using her credit card to mail them a really nice, engraved wedding gift and sign it “Peaches,” let him explain that to her. Force him to tell her the truth. But that would be credit card fraud. And he’d probably lie about it anyway. I considered emailing pictures of his dick or at least our more graphic texts to their entire wedding guest list. I still could I guess. But I’m not that person either. I could just show up at the wedding and object – but what would be the point of that? I don’t want his trifling ass. I’ve thought about reaching out to a sister because, honestly, if some man (or woman) had been this deceitful and duplicitous to one of his sisters, he and his brothers would be enraged. Goo and Courtney would very possibly murder him; if they aren’t incarcerated at the moment. I could never really follow their paths. His mom must be rolling over in her grave. Then again, I only knew his family through the stories he told me of them. The lens through which he wanted me to see them. Maybe they’re all like him? How would I know?? I cannot fathom how everything he shared with me could have been false. It hurts too goddamned much.

I did email this Crystal woman all the texts with John from Wednesday morning when he abruptly told me he was moving, all the ones from Thursday evening when I found out, and through Friday morning when I tried to get him to come clean, but he didn’t, like a fucking coward. I wanted him to admit it so badly. I tried to ask questions to point out the implausibility of all the details he had told me about this “move” to Philly. Wanted to give him an opening to answer honestly. He should have remembered I wasn’t stupid. He always joked with me about how much I overthink and complimented me on my intelligence. We actually used to do logic puzzles together; I bought him a whole daily Mensa calendar of them one year for Christmas. Bizarre he wouldn’t consider that when he was working so hard to keep his final lie from unravelling. Except I don’t think he realized it was his final one.

He should have just come clean. Via text, even! That’s what cowards and fuck boys do, right? I think I know why he couldn’t ever tell me in person – it’s likely that he actually cared about me in some fucked up way. It’s even more likely that he knew it would hurt me, that it would eviscerate me, and he didn’t want to have to deal with my hurt or take responsibility for causing it. Or he just didn’t want to lose access to his peach. So he didn’t. Probably didn’t ever plan to. Clearly didn’t intend to right away, anyway. That’s exactly what his pitiful, lying, cheating ass asked before I told him that I knew. What was his end game? How did he think this would play out? I’d guess that he didn’t even know. Certainly wouldn’t tell me (or her) if he did.

But I NEVER knew that side of John, that cowardly part. I never saw it coming. He was never anything but brave and bold and shockingly open and in touch with his thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, I had to let him know that I knew. He blew my ever-loving mind on Friday by asking if we could still “use each other for sex” from time to time after he moves. Still “talk about life.” What?? Did he really believe it was just sex? After more than three YEARS? Did he honestly think we could keep having all these deep talks, what? … over the phone from Philly instead of in my town, my house, my bed? After he is married to this woman who probably has/had no idea that I existed? This poor woman that he was presumably sleeping with, while fucking me at least weekly, always without a condom — because — why would we use protection?? I never dreamed I wasn’t the only person he was with. He talked often about how he hadn’t had sex in however long since we saw each other last. When I’d go to my folks’ for a few weeks during Covid to escape my tiny home, he’d be practically rabid when I got back. I never dreamed he was actually, let alone regularly, sleeping with another woman. We talked about my annual STD test, and my pain in the ass IUD, and he definitely knew I wasn’t sleeping with other people. (Ironically, I declined that test this summer in my annual — seemed silly since I was in a monogamous relationship… It’s okay to eye roll). And he was so “busy.” So much golf. So much practice. So many trips. So many “my buddy is having a …” <<insert random reason for a party I was never invited to here>>. How could he juggle two people? Were there others??

It disgusts me so much, I want to throw up in my mouth.

And there are reminders of me in his daily life, just like he’s in mine. I’ll probably never eat Sweetgreen again or Ted’s Bulletin, never, ever go to a driving range, never buy candy or that gross iced tea/lemonade shit that I kept in my house for him. I’ll continue to hate Tom Brady but now also the Bucs. And what about the dumb little things I’ve given him, and the big things? Sunglasses, golf tees that modeled our favorite sex position, covid masks, a vaccine card holder, electric toothbrush, those effing 🍑 socks! He still has the fucking parking pass for the back alley of my place. I baked him cookies and often sent him to work with leftovers — where did he hide that shit from her or how did he explain it away? And where did she think he got this MacBook from for the past year and a half anyway??

But he also bought Bose headphones just like mine. He bought Brooklinen sheets just like mine. It absolutely sickens me to think he’s been sleeping with her in my sheets, a replica of my bed? Honestly, how fucked up is that??? I didn’t buy him those sheets, but I bought him several nice things. He blindly accepted them, seemed grateful, always complained about not making much money despite blowing it constantly on golf and trips. I have far more than I need, I love taking care of people, cooking for them, doing things for them, whatever, and (I thought jokingly) he would send me links to buy him things like golf clubs or a caddy or even dumb little things that I always saved in a “John ideas” file on my phone for future birthdays and such. We even had an emoji key for what was a long term wish and what was a more immediate want (genie and lungs, respectively). I gave him a TRX system like mine so he could workout during coronatine while the gyms were closed. What did he tell her when he installed that in the basement? I saw pictures. I know it was hanging from an I-hook in his ceiling. And I got him these effing golf balls from Germany that I thought were “special” because he had showed me this whole website and video about them one day and how they compared to basic bitch balls, and because they cost so damned much, in shipping alone … only to find out he already had dozens of them. But I didn’t mind because he liked them and that made me happy. He would always ask me to check the stock at Dick’s when I’d go back to my hometown and I even FaceTimed with him there over Christmas last year trying to find exactly what he wanted. It nauseates me now, though I remember loving that day at the time. It felt so normal and good. I love normal and good. I love comfortable. We were always comfortable.

Over the summer, I was beyond excited to give him these old Nike golf shoes that I thought were objectively hideous, but that he wanted from eBay. He had given me a pair of Yeezy’s at one point last year that he said were too small for him and he didn’t have the receipt. (Why didn’t he give those to her? From pictures, it looks like she’s bigger than him so, maybe that’s it?) They were too big for me but SO comfortable … but those ugly ass shoes went in the trash this weekend, along with all the framed pictures of him, the peach panties, things he’d gotten me, and anything at all that reminded me of him. Except this Mac…I’m not that wealthy or stupid. But since 98% of our “relationship” happened in my 385 sq ft condo, there isn’t anything that doesn’t remind me of him. I hate him for that. He’s ruined the sanctity and safety of my home. He took that from me. He took three years of my life. Three YEARS when I could have been with someone who actually deserved me. Who wanted to be with me. Who wanted to sleep with just me. Who was worthy of my care and concern. Who might have made me a mom; the only thing I have ever wanted to be in this fucking joke of a life.

I had these dumb golf shoes hiding in my bedroom for months before I finally caved and gave them to him a month early for his 40th birthday this summer. I was so excited to see his face! Now I wonder if he even fucking cared. And where he told her those came from. Surely she’d be pissed that he spent that much on more golf shoes when they were planning a wedding, right? And… I just remembered… I also donate $50 a month to the Equal Justice Initiative in his name, have been doing it for well over a year! It was part of his birthday gift last summer. I keep forgetting that we went through all of that together. That last summer, he and I spent TWO DAYS of work time drafting a letter to his well-meaning but decidedly dense colleagues who all wanted to tell him, the token black man, about their little black childhood friend or the ways they’ve witnessed racism. What I can’t figure out is — his fiancé is a special ed. teacher. Who is better equipped to help him craft a letter about sensitivity, equity, and appropriate ally-ship? Why ask me?? Whatever. I mean, I’m not going to stop the donations because Bryan Stevenson is a g/God damned national treasure and personal hero but, c’mon, receiving that statement with “In Honor of John Clemons” on it every month is no longer going to make me smile. It is going to just pick off whatever scab has a chance of forming between now and the 29th of next month. I already got the one for this month. This weekend. That felt amazing, as you can imagine. I need to see if I can at least take the name off.

Jesus. The layers of this. I can’t even begin to get a handle on it.

I was never anything but kind and generous with my heart to that man. Does he think I deserved this? Did he all along? Did he think about that every time he kissed me goodbye and left my house to go “home” to her? I never had a choice about being the other woman. I never knew. He obviously knew I wouldn’t stand for it. He knew my fucking heart. The intentionality of his deception … for YEARS … is truly beyond my comprehension. I can’t. I honestly cannot comprehend it.


Anyway, I emailed her. This Crystal Zancig. On Friday morning. Right after I deleted him and all of his stuff from my computer (after sending all of it to a couple people I trust, just in case something happens to me) and changed all my passwords and re-hid my spare key. I created a bogus Gmail in John’s name and sent a message introducing myself, with all the texts and a couple of pictures of him in my home to her at work. Maybe I shouldn’t have. But I don’t regret it. I hated sending it to her at work but she’s basically a ghost online aside from some grainy race day pictures, and I have no other contact info except their physical mailing address. It might have gone to her spam box, especially with all of those attached pictures (it would at my work), and that worries me. But I told myself I would send that shit and, whether she got it or not, I would let it go.

I don’t want her to hurt. I know that hurt. I don’t want her to know – just like I wish I didn’t know. Wish I could rewind to Tuesday. Wish none of it had ever happened. Definitely wish she didn’t exist; or that she was just his roommate. I have to assume she was as unaware of me as I was of her. I choose to believe that. Did he ever wish he had met me first? Does he still?

I have never been “the other woman” before. I have been cheated on though. My first real relationship. My first sexual relationship. When I was 24, practically still a child. And I wish the other woman had the decency and the balls to tell me. She knew about me all along. And she was engaged to him five months later. If John was trying to break me, he should have gotten to me in 2003. Right now, in this moment, that still kind of feels like it happened yesterday— not 18 years ago.

Women have to look out for each other. I have to be okay with this Crystal hating me. I’m just as innocent as she is but I know that feeling. You need someone to blame, someone other than the person you love/d so hard. I have to be okay with being the bad guy for her.

If she knows that he cheated on her regularly for over three years, with the same woman, and still marries him, that’s on her. I know how my dad cried for me today when I told my parents through sobs and breaths I could barely choke out. I keep thinking that her mom and dad would cry too. I have their emails and their home address in the guest list John left on my computer, like a fucking moron. But I can’t be the one to do that. She has to. Before the wedding that I’m sure they are paying for. More appropriately, John should. He wouldn’t even tell me; he certainly won’t tell them. And unless she got my email on Friday, I sincerely doubt he will even tell her of his own volition.

Why would he? He’s probably been lying to her since before he met me. I have to assume he met her first, though I guess I don’t know. The night he met me at that bar in Arlington, another woman was there, a mutual friend of friends, that he had made out with during the Caps’ Stanley Cup run. So, what, just a few months before I met him that July? Who knows how many others there were before. During. There will definitely be more after. That’s not even a question at this point.

I also can’t help but think about the sliding door of what if she was just his roommate? Or didn’t exist? What would our relationship have been like? Would I have seen him more often or would all those events and trips and other priorities still win out? Would it have been amazing? Or would he have just done it to me? How many women has he done this to? I remember SO early on he told me about this chick from the gym that he kissed at her house soon after we met, but that she turned him down. He used it as an anecdote in a “Me Too” convo we were having. And he mentioned something about a co-worker trying to set him up with someone and wanting to see where it goes but, again, that was so early on. I didn’t love that he was still talking to or seeking out other options, but I was too. I slept with someone else in October of that first year we met. He was a fucking 11 and he was into me; it was flattering and I felt like I had to (for the sake of women everywhere). I am sure John had and still has no idea. It only confirmed for me though that I wanted what John was giving; more than just sex. That was also before I was even sure if I was attracted to John. I bet he never knew that I spent the first several months wondering if he’d grow on me. Bizarre to think about now. Especially because right now, all I can think about are the times we’d be sitting on the couch or lying in bed and I would actively be questioning whether I was even attracted to him physically or if it was because he was nice to me and made me feel like part of a whole, or if I just didn’t want to go back into the dating cesspool? The bar seems far too low now.

And I feel sick and stupid again.


As I read through that list of horrible finds now, I can clearly see how it might appear to someone who didn’t live the past three years loving this man and believing that he cared about me too. It looks like I was an idiot. Maybe I was. I am embarrassed and ashamed and wondering what my two friends and my mom and dad and brother are saying to each other about it behind my back. It is nearly crippling to think about. They are the only ones I have and probably will ever tell about this, beyond the anonymous internet here.

I know how it looks. Sure, we never said I love you. I’ve been hurt too deeply twice before, and I was hell bent on not saying it first. I have never said it to a man actually. And, sure, he wasn’t around all that much and rarely made time when I initiated, whether it was just me or with my friends. That didn’t make me feel like a priority, but I wasn’t trying to be all demanding and needy. And mostly, I liked what we had just the way it was. I was happy. Genuinely.

Only as recently as this summer did I realize that I loved him. I still love him. And I loathe him. I can’t believe I didn’t really know him. I truly cannot believe it. I don’t want to believe it. That he wasn’t the kind and good and thoughtful man I knew. Did I wish we saw each other more often? Of course. An average of weekly, less in the winter. It wasn’t ideal but it worked for us, for me. That was a constant feeling for me to wrestle with after those early days when he was insatiable. I’d go back to those first weeks in a heart beat, if I could Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind these last days of utter hell.

I wanted more but never needed more.

I’d have loved to spend more days with John. The John Clemons I knew? Of course. But most times, no, if I’m being honest. I’ve been on my own a long time, I love my space. I like the quiet and the solitude. I thought John did too; that’s what he said. Despite his relative comfort with his many social sports (football, basketball, golf), he always talked about being like me in that way, and in lots of others, like having SAD in the winter and needing to just kind of hibernate. And needing to recharge after being social. I wanted to weather it together sometimes, but mostly I wanted to be alone during the sads. I just kind of liked that we lived separate lives but were (seemingly) so good together, every single time we were together. Now I don’t know how much of any of that was bullshit — though I can’t imagine someone lying about depression. In fairness though, I also can’t imagine someone with a modicum of compassion lying about having a fiancé or lying to someone who gave so much of themselves to him for years. How did he live two lives with no feelings?

John had met some of my friends, and my brother. I would have liked him to know my parents, though I wasn’t comfortable doing that until very recently. They knew he existed, but I never referred to him any differently than other people/friends. And not because I was ashamed of him or didn’t think they’d like him; quite the opposite. I know how much they want me to find someone and I worried they’d like him too much. They’ve only met three people I’ve ever dated, all nearly 20 years ago or more, and I’m not aching to recreate that mess if things don’t work out. My parents visited me this past weekend and my dad picked up a framed picture of John and said, “Oh, is this Mr. John? He’s cute.” It kills me now to think about how entertained I was thinking about what John would say when I told him my dad said he was cute. But I never got the chance. And I would have liked to have known his friends and his roommates, but now I know why our schedules never aligned. Why he couldn’t invite me to the joint birthday events he would have for him and his “roommate,” or Stu, with the same birthdays. And that really aches.

The light coming through the cracks is blinding.

Were there red flags? Honestly? No. Not with the John he showed me. Should there have been? Honestly? I’m not sure. When I read back through posts here from winter of 2018, the last time I had anything even remotely worrisome to say about him, it makes me think I tried too hard not to paint him with the brush of the past. That I should have been more cynical and less trusting and less open. But I’d have missed the dance.

I’ve done nothing but overthink this for three interminably long days now. I’ve thought about every moment and memory. To look for holes. I joked with him several times about how he could have a wife and kids and I’d have no idea! I know I asked it more than once. I know he laughed it off. But even if he had said “no, I don’t have a wife,” it wouldn’t have technically been a lie. And I wouldn’t have questioned it. I asked him about living with females; something he said he’d just always done since college. I lived with guy friends right after college (but honestly, having roommates beyond 30 is sad and bizarre). I asked if they had family dinner together; they did sometimes but he said he mostly stuck to his basement bedroom. He complained about them being neurotic during early covid. One of them routinely Chloroxed the dishes, he said. He also said they’d have had a fit if they knew he was seeing me — though, obviously for more than one reason. When did they even get engaged? Was it after he met me on July 21, 2018?

I never went to his house which, after this long, was kind of weird but, in fairness, I told him from the morning after we met, when he asked for my number, that I was never going to Arlington. I meant it. I’ve been “across the river” to visit friends in Alexandria or Arlington less than 10 times in the entire time I’ve known him. He met me out over there sometimes. He held my hand and kissed me in public which seems reckless and foolish now. Other than that though, he always came to me. He was always in the city for practice or to hang with Seyni (before he moved) or the gays. Always said he didn’t mind and it was an easy drive. It was nice for me! I felt spoiled. So, yeah, it’s weird thinking about it now but, when you’re in it, you just kind of wake up one day and three years have gone by and you never really cared to go to a dude’s place that has roommates. A 40-year old dude with roommates is weird. With Covid, I’ve barely gone to anyone’s house for nearly two years now so, yeah, in hindsight I hate that I never asked to go there. In reality though, why would I?

Once or twice, I asked if he was embarrassed of me that I wasn’t more a part of his life. Covid or not, it was odd that I never met any of the friends I knew so much about. I asked this pretty recently actually, maybe even the last time I saw him in September. He would always say some version of “Nah, Peach” and whatever he’d say would make me feel ridiculous for even considering it. In the very early days, he saved my number as “Stu.0” because his friend Stu was also from Pittsburgh and he said he only remembered that part about me that first morning, so he saved me in his phone that way. And he thought it was funny so he kept it. I thought it was funny too! I said it was shady when I was still Stu.0 after some weeks, but that was SO early on — I honestly assumed he changed it. And again, I realize only now that I never knew if he did or not. Knowing what I know now, sure, I see why he would have wanted me to appear on his phone as one of his guy friends. Fuck me sideways. How could I have known then? I’ve used John’s phone many times before. He’s showed me text chains and group chats and, christ, I even played fantasy football and march madness brackets with several of these guys, Stu included! I don’t know who they thought I was. Or who John said I was. You should see the profile picture I used in those leagues — it was John’s bitmoji leaning against a giant peach. An image he had sent me, of course. How did no one ask him about that? Did they all know?

Why did I try so hard to overpower the old hurt from assholes past? Turns out, I just found another one and willfully chose to believe he was who he showed himself to be. Because I didn’t want to be that girl with baggage. That woman who lets doubt get in the way of something better. Sometimes people can show you who they are, and you shouldn’t believe them. No one tells you that. Everyone tells you not to be cynical, not to put old hurt on new people, all that. What IS the answer? You get screwed either way. Too trusting? Screwed. Too skeptical? You’ve got baggage. Too curious? You’re demanding. Speak up for yourself? Too clingy. Too accepting? Too caring? Too honest? Too sweet? You get taken advantage of. He took advantage of the best qualities in me, the parts of me of which I am most proud.

I honestly think I did my best to find the holes as they happened, but also give him the grace to be who he was, and not condemn him because of the demons of my past. My friends certainly did. My brother definitely did. These people in my life who had been through the last one, nearly a decade ago, would thoughtfully ask probing questions, to make sure I was sure. They were also the ones reassuring me though that this one wasn’t like the last one. That he was evil; John was not him.

One of my friends asked me if John knew about the legit sociopath I dated back in 2012 or 2013? I mentioned him but don’t think I told John the sordid details. Not enough to use against me. As open as I was with John about almost everything, I learned the hard way to keep some things close to the vest with that other animal. To keep my guard up. To wait until I was sure before I let someone too far in. The monster taught me that. For nine months, I had no idea this guy was not only seeing another woman but after reaching out to her on Facebook after she tagged him in several pictures over a few weeks and after some things he said and did weren’t adding up, I found out from her that she caught him responding to and posting ads on Craigslist for sex and drugs. He was nasty. And not in a good way. This other woman was going into his apartment once as a young girl was coming out and it was clear that they had just had sex. I got the first STD test of my life, at age 31 or 32, the very next day after she told me. When I reached out to her on Facebook, she took it as proof of what she suspected herself and confronted him rather than responding to me first. He started texting me horrible, horrible, abjectly terrifying things. He was a big man, 6’5″, and he owned guns. He was so charming. So cunning. An attorney at a fancy law firm in DC. He knew everything about me, all my insecurities; he had pathologically asked about them over time, and then used it all against me with zero compunction or compassion or remorse. He seemed to have some deep-seated vendetta against white women. There was this creepy artwork in his penthouse apartment that he would never explain. He told some weird stories about his father doing duplicitous things to white women, just because he could. He sounded proud or at least entertained. I was terrified of him in the end. I called the police and filed a report. They came to my house and took a statement, read my texts (just the ones I hadn’t deleted before I realized just how unhinged he was), told me there were no specific threats in those texts and it seemed like I instigated it by uncovering his infidelity. They acted like I was just a jilted lover and said I could file a restraining order but told me that he could too — as if he should be scared of me?? It felt like I was being scolded for being a victim. It was before #MeToo so maybe that was still normal; still, bizarre and profoundly damaging. I have no idea who he was or if anything he told me was true. His name and profession were real, but I don’t know what else. I still find myself looking over my shoulder when I’m in his old neighborhood, and he moved to Boston years ago. I check online at least once a year, just to make sure he’s still there. It was years before I dated again.

And again, if John’s goal was to destroy me, he should’ve gotten to me before that one too. How many narcissists can one woman fall for?

I never told John all of those details. Why would I? But the morning after we hooked up in July 2018, I know I told him how I had just paid >$4K for a matchmaker that was a complete waste of nearly half my savings at the time and utterly demoralizing. I felt silly telling this to a stranger and someone I had just woken up with after taking him home from a bar, but it was always too easy to talk to John. I joked about wishing I had that money back for my mortgage. I told him I was tired of online dating, tired of looking, but mostly tired of guys who only wanted sex. That I didn’t understand that mindset at this age. I told him I’d just ended an eight-year “situationship” with a retired NFL player and while I knew exactly what it was, and what it wasn’t, I still had hoped that maybe it would eventually turn into something more serious. He was almost ten years older than me, gorgeous, grossly wealthy, and wanted to retire by 45. He bought himself an Aston Martin at 42; he was definitely on track (I couldn’t give one shit, let alone two, about money but that car was incredible). I figured he’d slow down and settle down. That chapter finally ended two months before I met John. Ironically, I met John on D’s birthday, and that was the last time I talked to D beyond texting him on his birthday in July every year.

At that point, D had been part of my life, for better or worse, for nearly 1/4 of my life! He was good for that time in my life when my job was my entire existence and I had no room to focus on the life part. Sure, now I wish I’d had a better work-“life” balance all along but I don’t regret the time I spent with D either. He was the reason I opened up sexually (which John really should thank him for) but he never kissed me on the lips, only the forehead or the cheek. He was drawing a line; a line I agreed with. We both saw other people and if I started seeing someone I wanted to sleep with, I stopped sleeping with him. But, other than nine months with the monster, other flings never lasted long. In fact, I can only remember two others in those entire 8 years and they were nothing. I stayed at Ds house often, if only to chill in his jacuzzi tub and read books while he worked. We cooked (well, I cooked, he’d occasionally dump some frozen bag meal in a pan), we watched college ball nearly every weekend, and I’d leave Sunday morning so I could be back to watch the Steelers with my dad over the phone. We had a nice, casual routine. D was the first one I called when I was scared shitless of the psycho. I trusted him. He was a protector and a good man. He made me grow and stretch in cerebral ways too. He didn’t have a lot of close friends because he said it is hard to trust people’s intentions when you have wealth and a modicum of fame, but he trusted me. He confided in me and pushed my buttons and turned me on with his curiosity about the world. Just like John. And also just like John, we had amazing conversations. That’s already what I miss most about John. It’s been three days and I have had about a dozen things I’ve wanted to tell him or pictures or moments I’ve wanted to share with him or hot button things I want his opinion on.

I miss my friend – so much – and then I remember this nightmare, and I feel the bile rise up.

But I know John had feelings. I have seen the man cry. When we would talk about his mom, look at pictures, his memories from childhood, there were tears. Real emotion. Compassion. He wasn’t a monster. At least, not to everyone. Maybe just to me? And her?

The other morning, moments after he said he was moving to Philly and had “been slowly moving things up to my sister’s,” he asked, “Are we gonna still talk life once we no longer bumpin uglies?? Has been on my mind too…” It was abrupt and shocking. Like this was a joke, or something inconsequential, rather than a major change in both our lives. I was taken aback. I couldn’t process fast enough. I should have asked then, point blank, have I been just a fuck buddy to you all this time? That’s what I should have done. That’s my one regret right now. (I’m sure more will come) But would even that have been the question to get him to come clean, before I experienced the full horror of discovering it myself in the midst of misplaced heartbreak the next night? I wish I hadn’t — of course because of the shock and the sadness and the betrayal — but also because of all the details I am now armed with. He left all this ammo in the chamber.

I feel vengeful and contemptuous sometimes and I just want to light that fuse and watch the destruction.

I vacillate between unbelievable and crushing sadness, nearly ever-present nausea, and then sometimes, when I am working, kind of just a fugue state where I don’t feel anything and I’m not thinking about it and it doesn’t seem real when I do. And then another wave of nausea rolls in. I have no idea now if John ever cared about me. Deep down, I believe he did. I think he genuinely probably got in too deep, didn’t want it to end, didn’t know how to get out, didn’t want to, or “didn’t know how to end a one night stand that lasted years,” like he said via text on Friday morning. But he had so many opportunities to come clean or to let me figure it out over the past three YEARS. Years. Let that sink in. Years he let me believe this.

There was no way he thought our situation was just sex. At first, sure. All relationships are casual at first. The YEARS since then were not casual, not for me, and not for him. He can claim whatever he wants now to assuage his fucking guilt but he knew. There was some level of intentional deception the entire time. He knew he was being dishonest. He knew he wasn’t giving what he was taking. He knew it would hurt me when I found out, however I found out. That is the hardest part for me to fathom. I cannot wrap my brain around it. The duplicity. How could he? Why?? To me …and to her.

The times we’d lay in bed, talking for HOURS, about everything and nothing, sharing deep thoughts and feelings and confessions. I never felt so seen, so understood, so implicitly free to be exactly who I was. John (seemingly) loved my quirks. He had a lot of the same ones. It made me feel so comfortable with him. I mean, we started peeing with the door open from the jump! He had bad breath, but I never minded. I’d have weird things happen that, in hindsight, he probably caused by sleeping with other people, but he’d always just say, “I know how bodies work.” It never felt weird. Maybe it should have. The frustratingly stubborn cum stains left on my comforter? Definitely weird. And sad! Who ever knew the minutia of trivial shit that can make you so profoundly sad. And disgusted.

I felt like I’d known him forever too quickly but I still hesitated to dive in. He was so thirsty in those early days. It was kind of overwhelming, but also intoxicating. Flattering, I guess. He remembered every detail of every interaction — it freaked me out sometimes. I have been a counselor for nearly 20 years, listening and remembering and knowing people is what I do! But he remembered things I didn’t about mundane conversations, and it made me like him so much. It felt like I mattered enough to him for him to remember all. the. things. That “we” mattered enough to him. He was easy to know, easy to talk to, easy to laugh with, easy to love … easy to believe in.

In hindsight, I know I couldn’t have helped falling in love with that man. That was the man he wanted me to know. He craved what I gave him; me. He had the control the entire time. He knew and he let me believe in a lie.

Regardless of anything else, there are indisputable facts. He talked to me in that bar. There are plenty of mutual friends as witnesses. He came home with me. He stayed with me. He asked for my number the next morning. He kept calling. He kept coming, in multiple ways. He kept lying. To me. To her. And as of two days ago, he was still clearly planning to keep seeing me after he is married to her on Nov. 27.

I don’t know what to do now or how exactly to move forward. In years of listening to teenage heartbreak in my office, I know that I should tell myself what I tell my kids – “The only way past it, is through it. You have to feel it, baby. You have to sit in it and keep feeling it until eventually, one day, you notice that you’re smiling and don’t feel guilty about it, or that something isn’t triggering the ache anymore.” But I also know that’s more applicable to teenage puppy love. This shit … this is how women end up scarred and irreparably damaged. This is how they become bitter and vindictive.

Trust won’t come easy to me or her ever again.

From as early as childhood, I already have some deep emotional PTSD and I have worked so, so, so fucking hard to persevere through and beyond, to pick myself up and glue myself back together, time and again. Alone. With John, I intentionally had to check my insecurities and trust. To keep checking in with myself and making sure I was giving him the grace I believed he deserved. That my friends and brother thought he deserved. That I thought a good man deserved. Not being clingy, not asking too many questions, not adding too much pressure, not asking him to “define the relationship” (which all men hate). It was a battle I alluded to but never really told him directly, I guess. I wanted to but I was scared to push him away. I rationalized it as choosing to have something nice albeit imperfect, rather than address it and have nothing. I don’t know why I assumed he’d reject me. I guess that’s the old stuff, the cobwebs, the black tar that I can never quite completely wash away. I guess I got used to taking what simple pleasures and kindness I could get – the random trips to the driving range, surprise lunches, a really thoughtful book for my birthday this year, cleaning me up after sex (no one had ever done that before and it was incredibly endearing), bringing me something little and smile-inducing or calling me when I was stressed about work.

On the anniversary of the day I met him each year, I’d send him a text that said “happy x years of knowing me!” and he would always reply with some very sweet version of knowing how blessed he was. Especially if one of our friends was complaining about their girl. Sometimes I’d get him to admit out loud that he was lucky; tell me that I was the perfect anti-cling, easy-going, unconditionally kind, sports-loving, sex-positive, deep-thinking, open-minded, funny, smartass of a woman who liked that he had his own life and could spend as much time as he wanted with his friends and on the golf course. I cultivated that ease over time and practice over decades; it didn’t actually come easy.

It doesn’t come easy to any woman.

I felt comfortable being exactly me with John all of the time; I just kept the old scars hidden pretty well. I hide them from everyone. At least I tried to. Especially in the winter, when I wouldn’t hear from him for a few days or a week because (I thought) he was dealing with his own winter blues. As I’ve lamented in this blog ad nauseum, winter is when my darkened mind races more than usual and makes all things seem worse than they are. I am dreading this winter more than I ever have. It is going to be so dark, and so, so lonely.

I actively chose not to be needy with John, not to be demanding, not to ask why he couldn’t make me more of a priority in those darkest of days. That’s the only thing that ever frustrated me about him, about us. And I didn’t hide that from him, I just held back on how it made me feel when I knew I was too in my feels to be rational. I told him that I believed people make time for what matters, full stop. He said he didn’t agree. Only now do I understand what he meant. We never fought, rarely disagreed. About anything. He didn’t annoy me. Well, except when he chewed (he inhales while chewing, like his food is always too hot or like he is running out of time) but I hate the way most people eat. Mostly, I just liked that I had someone to cook for or someone to stop by with lunch, and someone to talk about the myriad things that race through my head and heart in any given day, and that’s what I focused on instead. Being happy he was there, weird inhaling chew and all. It was kind of lovable. I miss his ridiculous laugh so much it hurts.


In fairness, John tried to break things off exactly one month after we met by saying (while his dick was buried inside me) that he wasn’t looking for anything serious right now and that he knew I wasn’t looking for another casual relationship. I won’t reiterate all of that because I wrote about it three years ago at length in private (now public!) posts. It suffices to say that it seemed preposterous at the time; he seemed scared of a good thing and I just wasn’t going to accept it. What we had started seemed too good, too promising, too easy. It was so chill and fun. That is the last we ever talked about it. THAT night would have been the time for him to tell me that he currently had a serious relationship. But he didn’t. At the time, in August 2018, his pushing back seemed like reluctance due to fear or lack of experience, and it seemed premature and silly (he said he’d never had a serious relationship, just friendships, ha!!).

I also keep thinking about how we talked about marriage just this summer, maybe August or so, as it related to other people, not us, to be clear. We talked about how no one we knew who had gotten married was happy, so why would anyone do it? That the only couples who seemed sort of happy are the ones we never knew before they got married. That getting married seemed antiquated and unnecessary. That was less than two months ago! I wish so badly that I could go back to that conversation now and watch his face. Look for signs of deception or worry of finally showing his fucking cards.

I also can’t help but wonder if I had just let it be way back then and moved the fuck on, despite choosing the hurt of heartbreak. I have to think it would have been less all-consuming after only a month of knowing him. Because this, right now? This feels like I’m suffocating.

There were exactly two times in those three years, three months, and now ten days since I met him, where I let insecurity get the upper hand and it felt like I didn’t matter and it really hurt — but I just got quiet and withdrew. He knew it, he’d sense it, and he showed up, both times (once with those ugly Yeezy’s!), and all my worries melted away almost instantly. When I was with him, I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I really mean that. I just felt content. I am going to miss that so, so much. It was so simple and so effortless and easy. It feels so unfair to have gotten to feel that! I don’t know if I wish I hadn’t. What would it be like to have never felt loved at all? But was any of it ever real? Was it really only sex to him? How does he explain everything else in his own head? Was he just getting something from me that he wasn’t getting from her? Something that was worth the effort of maintaining a massive lie for YEARS? What the actual fuck am I supposed to think?? I know I will never get any answers and that is hard to swallow. I unblocked his number long enough to send him a string of questions this morning because, if I’m laying wide awake perseverating on them all night, he should be too. I deserve answers. But he’s already shown his propensity to hide from responsibility, to keep lying. He hasn’t responded. I didn’t think he would.

I think it’s ironic that they are having a Christian wedding, or at least having scripture passages read at the ceremony. How in the world can this man purport to be a Christian? Oh, did I not mention that a draft script of the ceremony was on my laptop for me to deal with too? Yep. There’s a poem or something in the ceremony and the words in it make me hurt … for her, for this Crystal Zancig, who is probably lovely. I’m lovely. He wouldn’t be with someone who wasn’t. He’s already broken so many of those things, those beautiful platitudes that I’m sure she wants to believe are true. He knows they aren’t. He knows! Before he knew that I knew about the wedding, about this other woman, clearly he was still hoping to have sex with me “from time to time!” I wish I was joking. I sent that to her in his texts to me from Friday morning.

I would absolutely crumble if I were her. I wish she didn’t have to. I wish neither of us did.

More than anything, I wish he was the man I believed he was.

*Edit* Curious about his side of the story? Be sure to check the Receipts

Music for the Mood: Here I Go Again On My Own (acoustic cover) – Warren Atwell