Chapter 8: What a mess
Warning: my behavior in this chapter might cause you
to lose some of the respect that you never had for me anyway.
I had a full-time job – teaching. I had a part-time job – tutoring kids who needed extra help. When my wife “failed” at her one attempt to get her own part-time job to help pay for the big-ass house she wanted, I had to seek a second part-time job for weekends. Some things are just coincidental.
1. I like golf.
2. A co-worker’s husband was a golf pro and part owner of a nearby golf practice range.
3. I like golf.
4. He needed part-time help.
5. I like golf.
6. I had to get a second part-time job to support all that my wife wanted.
7. I needed balls.
My ex-wife and I had several very nasty fights, including one in which she physically attacked me. I’m not proud to say that there was a night during which she carved my scalp with her fingernails. On more than one occasion, I was forced to physically sit on her torso and hold down her arms simply for self-preservation, but one time she got an arm free, reached up, and carved four gouges in my scalp with her fingernails. It was painful, and as I got hold of her arm again to hold her down, I felt and watched blood from my scalp drip on her face. She had some amazingly intense eyes, as if the blood enraged her even more, but it was my blood.
When I saw more and more blood leaving my head, I knew it needed attention. I leaped off her, grabbed a phone, and locked myself in a bathroom. I called my brother-in-law, a guy married to my ex-wife’s sister, and told him that I was going to arrive at their house soon and would need some help. He was shocked at the sight of my bleeding head, and so was I when I finally saw it. He said, “As your lawyer, I advise you to take pictures of that.” I said, “I’m not going to play that way.” I should have. It would have greatly helped when we were in court about a year or so later.
At some point, I grew friendlier with the teacher – I’ll call her Ann – who was married to the golf pro planning to give me a part-time job. We taught the same grade, same subject, and we spent a great deal of time collaborating. We also spent a great deal of time complaining about our spouses. While mine was sleeping all day Saturday and I was with my child, she was alone all day with her child because her husband was away at golf tournaments. I found a book in my mailbox at school. It was The Bridges of Madison County, a story about a woman who contemplates leaving her boring but stable husband for an artistic stranger. It was from Ann. We spent too much time, too many times, just talking and complaining about our situations, and it was strangely interesting how our likes and dislikes were so coordinated but so very different from our spouses.
The day after my ex attacked me and carved my scalp, Ann saw me before school started and could easily see through the poor job I did to cover it up with my sister-in-law’s makeup. Ann knew what happened because she had heard previous stories about my ex’s violent tendencies. It was still early, long before the kids would arrive, and she said, “You cannot teach looking like that. Everyone can see it, and they’ll ask questions. What are you going to say?” I shrugged. She said, “Leave now. Call out sick.” I said, “Where am I going to go? I can’t go home?” She said, “You have to. You have to show her what she did, how wrong it was, and how it forced you to stay home to avoid humiliation. Go. Now.” I did, and my ex told me it was my own fault. For the life of me, I cannot recall what we were fighting about.
There was a day when Ann asked what I was doing for the weekend, and I answered that I’d be at a certain park Saturday morning with my kid at about 11 am. I wasn’t very surprised when she showed up with her kid. Luckily, the kids were too young to go home and tell their respective other parents that they spent the day playing with a new kid they met while the parents of both kids sat and talked the whole time. You don’t have to tell me it was wrong. I know it was wrong, but it was necessary.
There was a day at lunch when Ann was complaining that her house was a mess, she hadn’t eaten a decent dinner in a month, and her husband was never home to watch their kid so she could clean. Although I don’t see why she couldn’t do both, it wasn’t my business. When she said that he was away at a tournament again and wouldn’t be back for several days, I very stupidly said, “If you want, I’ll come over and make dinner while you clean up your house.” Without blinking she said, “Okay.” You don’t have to tell me it was wrong. You don’t have to tell me it was wrong for her to bring out her honeymoon photo album so she could casually show me what she looked like in a bikini. We slowly moved closer on the sofa as her kid played on the floor. Eventually, she put him to bed. We didn’t quite make it to bed, but it was damn close. I know it was wrong, but it was necessary.
There was a day I saw a nasty bruise on her leg. When I asked what happened, she told me that her husband had violent tendencies and would occasionally throw things at her, very often a cowboy boot. He had a lot of cowboy accessories including hats, giant belt buckles, and boots. Probably a gun or two, but I was never sure. Her husband was a big fan of Johnny Cash. Not sure if that means anything.
The end of that school year was approaching, and there was an end of the year party at a local pub. She didn’t want to drink and drive, so she asked if I would pick her up and drive her home. I was happy to, and I was only able to because my ex-wife and I were in the middle of a temporary separation, one of several. She was staying with her parents for a while, and I had the house to myself. As Ann and I drove away from her house, her husband was smiling and waving. I was smiling too.
We went to the “end of the year party” but left early because she was angry and arguing with people. When I asked what was wrong, she said she was upset because school was ending and we likely wouldn’t see each other all summer until September. I hadn’t thought of that. We went to my house, found a bottle of wine, “exhausted” ourselves, fell asleep, and woke up at about 2:30 in the morning.
As I drove her home, we created a story that she felt sick and went to another teacher’s home to sleep until she felt better. To help with a story to tell her husband and cover the situation, Ann called a close friend and worked out the details. That night began an affair that lasted somewhere between six and nine months. It’s hard to say because I don’t really know exactly when it started. Physically, it started the night I made dinner for her. Emotionally, it was now going further. However – when I get to it – there will be no mistaking when it ended.
I had already emotionally separated with my ex-wife, but we were still living together because I already couldn’t afford the house on one salary, so there was no way I could also afford to move into an apartment. If you’d like to read the details of how that went, you can check out this post from October. Ann had not yet separated from her husband but was planning to. We visited a therapist who advised us on how to proceed, protect ourselves financially, and what to have in place before breaking the news to our respective spouses.
We had conversations about how compatible we were and how easily our families would get along. Where we would live, what kind of dog we would get, and how well our kids would grow up together. We would coordinate our parenting schedules so our ex’s would have the kids on the same weekend, and that would leave us with time to ourselves to take weekend ski trips, beach trips, things like that. Sometimes with kids and sometimes, just us. It sounded amazingly romantic, but we knew there would be a rough period at first until all the divorces and sad feelings subsided. One thing we did not count on was the anger and determination of her husband.
As stated, I had already separated and was working towards my divorce. When her husband was away at golf tournaments, I would visit her house. Her child was only about 2, so he just thought I was an uncle or a friend and paid little attention to me. We didn’t do anything “physical,” just talked. What we didn’t know was exactly how suspicious her husband was. He had their house bugged. I don’t remember exactly where we were, but she was upset when she approached and told me that her husband knew I was at their house and knew everything we had talked about. He knew that she was planning on leaving him, and he told her that if she did, she would never see their child again. He didn’t explain what that threat meant, but it scared her enough that she told me we’d have to stay away from each other until she could sort things out. That hurt, but I understood.
It was early December. Her husband saw how unhappy she was, occasionally in tears and depressed, and he made a deal. He asked her to stay away from me through December to after January 1, no contact with me except at work, so he could try to keep them together. However, if she still had feelings for me after that month, then he would quietly allow a separation and divorce. She was thrilled. When she told me, she handed me a leather-bound, empty journal. “For the next month, I want you to write to me every day. Then afterward, I can read what you were doing and things like that.” It was an amazingly romantic idea, something from a Nicholas Sparks novel, but I loved it.
In what seemed like an attempt to hurt her emotionally, her husband told her that on Christmas Day he was taking their child to his parents’ house, but she wasn’t welcome. He had told his whole family what was happening in an attempt to shame her, and it worked. She was depressed, a crying mess, home alone on Christmas without her child. I was too, as my ex took the kids to her sister’s house. I took a chance and called Ann. She pretended to be talking to someone else because she knew the house was still bugged. We agreed to see a movie where we could talk in the dark, away from the world.
When her husband returned later that night, he knew everything we did. He had stepped it up from bugging the house to hiring someone to follow her. The real reason he made her stay home on Christmas was to give her the chance, give her enough rope, the opportunity to see me, and he would catch her. It worked, but she had also broken their agreement that he would quietly let her leave him if she stayed away from me until December was over.
They agreed to try again, wait another full month away from me, and again he agreed he would let her walk away. We tried, but it didn’t work. One morning we met for breakfast before school. We sat in the back of a diner, held hands in the booth. She got up to use restroom. I went into the men’s room to make sure it was empty. When she stepped out of the ladies’ room, I pulled her into the men’s room and locked the door. I don’t have to tell you what we did, but I can tell you it was fabulous. What was not fabulous was when she returned home that day after school. He was waiting for her, and he knew all about the diner.
He told Ann that he knew they were over, and he would not stand in the way of their separation and divorce. He asked if she would at least wait until after her birthday, early February, and then they would begin the divorce process. We were both thrilled at the plan her husband had presented. Unfortunately, the plan he presented was far, far different from the plan he actually carried out.