“What’s her name?”
That was the question on Night One of the crack-up. But it was just a whisper in the night. Even with Jules’s revelation that, yes, there was another woman, I did not focus on her. I was surrounded by cruel uncertainties that threatened my home and my son, who I alone must feed and shelter and help complete college. I was all about having a secure roof over our heads, and here I was sharing a deed with a man who had just proven himself to be not just a liar, but a deceiver. The middle schooler tells a lie when he blurts out “It wasn’t me.” A lie is a one-time untruth used to deflect a consequence. But deception is a long term assault on the truth, a worming and a tunneling under the wall of truth. The ones who aren’t being told the truth, in this case the wife and the son, move along through their lives, living, doing, thinking all is well, or if moods go low, that all will be well in the end. But going and coming from their lives, and living side by side with them is a man who is leading a double life, a man who is in constant electronic communication with another woman developing a relationship to the point that she is actually flying halfway around the world to get here—and soon. The deception had been going on for months. And that deceiver was who I owned my house with!
These were the dire dreams that haunted my tables—not names or other women. I had two problems: home and financial autonomy. Solutions: buy out Dan’s half of the house and divorce. When those unhappy losses were tallied up, would there be anything left? Would I have enough to support myself and Max? Those costly concerns held all my concentration.
The lawyer we hired was drawing up the divorce papers, but what about the house? Dan and I would have to agree on a price if I were to buy out his half. Using our tax bill and its appraisal of our house’s value as a general starting point and factoring in the price a nearby house recently went for, I mentioned a number to Dan. We were riding in his car to Comcast to transfer the internet service to my name. The trip involved other stops having to do with notaries and transferring services and was hellish as were all the encounters I had with Dan after the crack-up. He kept his eyes on the road, but his response was “I feel screwed by that price!”
Oh no. So, put the house back on the list, the heartbreaking, soul draining list with all the other to-do dilemmas. The house, the home, the only place for Max and me to call our own, what can I do to get an agreement from Dan?
And screwed! He felt screwed. Does he really get to feel screwed after all he has done to us. You can hear with your imagination the words which could have come from me, the words I would never say, and almost won’t write. “You, you feel screwed! I was blindsided, ruined, blasted into a psycho wasteland, and you feel screwed!”
Well, there it was. He was the one who had been in control of the crack-up from its inception. All I could do was suffer and try to survive. I took some of those deep survival breaths they teach you to use when you are in labor. I would just have to have faith that something would work out about the house.
Dan and I rode on to the business of breaking the family cable service. He had arranged his own service in his new apartment. Max and I could not afford TV and internet, so we had decided on just the internet. Next was on to a notary to get an affidavit that would let us close our natural gas service and transfer it to just my name. On and on. I felt myself shrinking. I was losing weight that summer. My hair was falling out. The heart breaks. All falls down.
When it was over and we were in the parking lot saying goodbye, Dan wanted to show me pictures on his phone of how he was painting and decorating his apartment. I tried to stare at his phone. My eyes were swimming. Does he really think I can look at this place he is fixing up for the arrival of his other woman? I just wanted to get away. I always had to be alone before I could put myself back together.
Was Dan oblivious, or did he know and just not care? That night, you won’t believe what he did. He messaged me wanting my chicken and asparagus casserole recipe!
At first I started to hop to. Like old times. He wants something, up I get going to make it happen.
Boil three half breast pieces of chicken, bone in, skin off. Season the water with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary sprigs. Remove the chicken and when cool enough to handle, debone. In a large casserole dish, measure 2 cups of minute rice and 2 cups of the broth from the cooked chicken. Add a can of cream of asparagus soup and a can of drained asparagus pieces or better yet fresh, steamed asparagus cut in pieces. Stir until combined. Top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Wait. Does Dan really get freedom, another woman, and my asparagus casserole? Then I thought, well, we are working toward a house settlement and a divorce; I need his cooperation; maybe I can throw in a recipe or two.
But I found it was not that simple. This recipe was not just a recipe. It was a meal we shared and enjoyed together for many, many years going all the way back to New York, and back from there to Aunt Sallie and Mother in Mississippi.
Does it now go forward to Dan in his new life apart from me, a life that will be shared by this other woman who would have no history here, no care, and no connection?
I wrote him back a stall. “You’re on the list.” I went to bed, but I did not sleep. Or if I slept it was that thing where you wake up three hours later and can’t go back to sleep. It was always one of the two with me during those nights.
This night I had a thought to think and time to think it. It went like this. I have been on a broken trail with so many twists and turns. My home and the dreadful divorce have taken precedence over more personal, lost love concerns. But this casserole request has sliced into the personal wound, the lost family, the no more meals together, the way of life gone now forever, gone forever. The hurt was bitter as blood. Hot blood with red hot anger in it.
Oh the deception! Oh the nights he lay in his recliner with his Iphone messaging and flirting with another woman while I was nearby in the kitchen cooking our dinner, washing our dishes. Jules had said she was coming over from Australia in two or three weeks.
Was Dan planning to cook casseroles for her?
The affair suddenly came into sharp and immediate focus. He had flirted with her for months on-line, and she’s now on her way. Who is she? Is she real? What’s she like?
I think if I had been able to read during those long crack-up nights, I would have suffered less damage. All though my life, I have loved to read. Even during the busiest years of my life when I became a teacher, I still found time to read each evening at bedtime both to relax and to be stimulated by the ideas, the characters. But all through that terrible summer of my discontent, I could not focus to read at all. I tried to read novels. No luck. I would not finish a book again for months, not until after the divorce when I was gifted with a book from my dear friend Marlenas. It was the perfect recovery book. On the left side of the page was a factual or descriptive account of some piece of the emotion or real life experience during a loss and on the right hand side a poem written in response. It felt like right brain/left brain, both were given something to gnaw on.
That was much later. I still had nights and months to get through. After another sleepless hour or two on this crazy casserole crisis night, I got up and went to my computer. I was finally angry enough to pry. When your husband cheats on you, for some crazy reason, you want to know her name.
Ok. So Dan met her online. When Jules told about it, I may have vaguely thought Facebook, but now that I was at long last ready to give the thing some serious, furious thought, I remembered that Dan had lost interest in Facebook once he became so involved in taking pictures and putting them up on Instagram. I thought, “Forget Facebook. It’s Instagram, of course!”
Dan’s online other woman was an Instagirl!