Category Archives: Instagirl

The Online Other Woman: Chapter 11, The Heart of Decay

Max met me after I got off work at school that day. Together we rode to the house closing at Dan’s bank. I was grateful for Max’s support. The house that was being sold was his house, too, the one that he had lived in ever since we moved from New York when he was two. And the seller in the dark heart of that market was his own father.

I arrived at the bank with a pounding in my chest, a breathless, strange unease, and a rock cold fear. After eight hours in a middle school, I was also tired and frazzled. On the way over, Max and I had made a quick run into my bank to my safety deposit box to pull the checks that had been prepared, amounts that Dan had told me would have to be paid to settle his debts on the house, and the balance in a check for Dan himself, money that he would use to pay for his three weeks with the Instagirl on her visit to the U.S. and his trip to Australia to live with her. And what was this money of mine that I was giving up? Hard-earned teacher pay. No one who has not been a teacher can know how hard-earned it is. But there I was walking into Dan’s bank with it in my hands for this closing and with my heart so heavy.

Property closings often involve ordeal both in the negotiating phase and on the actual day itself when papers are being signed and money changes hands. Ours involved ordeal, for sure, but that was just the business hassle of it. There was also the emotional side, the turning turmoil of my life going swirling, swirling down through a spiritual vortex.

With relief, I saw that Dan’s father was already there waiting for me. If my father had been alive, he would have been there with me to offer support. As it was, I had turned to Papa, as we called Dan’s dad, and he in his goodness had answered my call.

One more person was needed. Because Max and Papa were relatives, they could not serve as a witness on the closing documents. My dear friend Kate agreed to help me, and soon she, too, was with us.  I spoke to the mortgage banker Mrs. Simmons. She was ready on her end and placed us in a small conference room.  All that was lacking was for Dan to arrive. Meanwhile, my throat was closing up; it was all I could do to contain myself and sit as I knew the situation required. My heart was pounding so powerfully that I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. Would I be able to withstand the next hour?

Finally, I looked up and saw Dan enter dressed all in black. I wondered if he would actually sign the quit claim deed. I wondered if the check denominations that I had brought could be made to work once it turned out that Dan had given me incorrect figures for how much I would need. Since the closing papers had been typed using those incorrect figures, they had to be retyped. Kate volunteered to do this, so in the middle of the closing, she was in the office next door typing and coming back to me with questions. The tension was terrible.

Dan was so cold and remote, not like himself–not as I remembered him. I could no longer make myself stay in that little room. I rushed out and began to pace the lobby of the bank blinded by tears. The president of the branch came out and rescued me. She brought me into her office and gave me tissues and a few minutes of privacy to collect myself. Eventually, I was able to go back.

In the conference room the atmosphere was chilly between Max, Papa, and Dan, who had all remained in the room together while Kate and I had been out. I would later learn from Max what had created that cold and empty climate.

At last the papers and monies were ready. The notary was brought in and we all signed. I now owned the house that I had thought I already owned and would live in forever as Dan’s wife, and he and his bank had all my teacher savings.

None of that really registered with me at the time. My emotions were running so strong that perception and memory were disjointed. There were sudden vividly held vignettes and then gaps where I’m not sure how I got from one place to another. I don’t remember Kate leaving, but clearly I remember what came next. Max and I stood to bid goodbye to Papa. We were all three in tears; Papa’s eyes are blue and the sunset light in the crystal blur of his eyes, oh, I remembered that. Max and I hugged him, one of those three-person hugs. There aren’t many of those in life, so I remembered that. Dan just sat there, disengaged, a demonstration of how done with all of us he was.

The next that I can remember, I was rushing from the bank with Max right behind me. I was crying, moaning, feeling as much pain as I had ever felt in my life. Was I saying something? Was I moaning, “I can’t believe this is happening to me! I can’t believe this is happening to me!”?

As Max drove me away, I think I looked back and Papa and Dan stood together and watched us go. In that moment, Max saved my life. One more minute in that bank, one more look of pain from Papa or Max, one more look of indifference from Dan, and my life would have ended.

On the ride home, Max told me what had gone on in the conference room while Kate and I had been out. Dan had finally confessed to Papa the truth that he did have another woman and he told about her. We all, of course, already knew about her, knew, in fact, that she had arrived a few days earlier from Australia. But here, two months after the Crack-up, Dan finally, formally admitted his deception. He had waited until “the money was in the bank,” so to speak, his bank. All along he had feared that a revelation of adultery with the Instagirl would affect the financial part of our separation proceedings. Now that he could see how pitiful and cooperative I was being, he knew I was not in a state of mind to make trouble for him. He was going to have it all his way. I could feel the tension and the hurt in Max’s voice when he said that Dan had said he loved the Instagirl more than he had ever loved anyone. There was such hurt and anger coming from Max.

Dan was still married to me that day when he professed his love of the Instagirl, so one might suppose that Max’s anger was for me, for the faithlessness of his father and the betrayal of his mother. But I believe that his anger and hurt were for himself. When Dan professed a love for the Instagirl beyond anyone one else, Max took it personally. My life with Dan cracked that night at the dinner table when he told me he was leaving. I think Max’s life with Dan cracked that day at the bank. For Max, that day was a journey into the heart of decay. He witnessed firsthand what Dan could do so easily, so carelessly to me, to Papa, and to him. That day was the end for him. Dan would never get another chance to hurt Max. Max would see to that.

Our home–the home that Dan and I had lived in, taken care of, and loved for years, our son’s home–was broken. I alone now owned it, but with a price paid that would impoverish me for the rest of my life. My savings were gone.

Relationships were gone as well. That day marked the end of any hope Dan would ever have of a relationship with his son. The relationship between Dan and his father would be forever tainted by the fact that he had lied to his father’s face in response to a direct question about the existence of another woman. And it separated me not merely further from Dan himself but from any sense that he had ever loved me.

I long for a day free from the downward spiral, the sinking, the loss. I long for a day when the late light will shine on eyes of crystal vision instead of eyes of crystal tears. Papa’s heart was broken, Max’s heart was forsaken, and my heart learned that it had never been loved. On that day at the bank, we journeyed into Dan’s cave of lies, of forsaking, and the knifeblade of neverlove. We journeyed into the heart of decay.

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The Online Other Woman: Chapter Ten, Details of Decay

Crack-up nights were brutal, such as should not be retold. Mornings offered more promise. With the Sun and the day’s tasks to be done, there was a momentum to morning. Max made a pot of strong coffee each day that was my salvation. Once August came and I was back at my teaching job, breakfast had to be quick and simple. Sometimes, though, on the weekend, I’d prepare something special like my

Spinach Omelet

Slice a medium Vidalia or other sweet onion into slivers and sauté it in a little olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. When the onion begins to be translucent, add handfuls of fresh spinach. Sauté spinach just until it wilts. Meanwhile in a bowl beat three to four eggs vigorously with a fork and add grated feta or white cheddar cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the sautéed onion and spinach and cook. Once the egg begins to set, stir the center. Then lift the sides of the eggs and tilt the skillet so that the raw egg comes in contact with the skillet. Add salt and cracked pepper. Once the eggs are set, fold one half over the over. Cut into half to serve two. This is delicious with sliced tomatoes from the garden.

It was so much more difficult to cope with my shock and grief once I was back at school. I told only three of my closest friends there what Dan had done. For all the rest, especially, the students, I had to keep up a brave front and show nothing. The strain was extreme.

Some of my worst worry centered around the need to secure my home from the fallout associated with Dan’s dissertation. Although it was difficult to face strangers with my story, I had no choice. I had to visit bankers and lawyers. I had to seek advice. The lawyers and bankers who I saw did not know Dan, so what they had to say was not based on any knowledge of what he personally would do. Still all of these professionals were unanimous in what he could do, and I felt that they had seen could shift to would enough times that to ignore their experienced advice would be foolhardy.

I did not even have to go into much detail. I had them on my first sentence: “My husband is having an affair with a woman he met online who lives on the dole in Australia.” That would be enough to immediately launch them into warnings on the legal binds of marriage, the liabilities of mutually-held properties, how I could be held  responsible for Dan’s debts, he could borrow more than he already had on the house, and if he went to Australia, I would have to pay or lose the house.

Dan has since shown anger that I or our friends who gave the same warnings as the lawyers and bankers, that any of us could have doubted or suspected him. He thinks he should have been trusted based on his “track record.” But he is talking about a record of honesty from before he met the Instagirl. Once he met her, he began a pattern of lying, deception, and disregard for the feelings of others that made it difficult to put anything past him. Trust in him had been broken irrevocably for me and for Max. In fact it was Max who was the first one to say “Get a lawyer” once he learned of his dad’s deception.

Obviously, I could not share ownership of my home with a person capable of deliberate dishonesty and cruel treatment to those who had loved him, still less could I remain married to him. The lawyer I had hired, Ms. Madison, was in the process of drawing up the dreadful divorce papers. I would sign. Dan would sign. A court date would be set, and our marriage would be officially over in the way it had been spiritually over from the minute Dan took up with his online other woman.

But the house? How to handle that? First of all, Dan and I needed some kind of agreement on a price if I was to buy him out. I had paid cash for my half of the house when we had first bought it 20 years earlier. Dan mortgaged his half and then borrowed more on that to pay off credit card debts. How much would he need to settle these loans? How much would he want in order to sell?

The next time Dan was scheduled to visit so we could go over separating the cars titles, insurance, utilities, etc, I brought up my buying him out on the house. I gave him a figure based on the county tax assessor’s valuation and the selling price of a house on the next street. He said he would feel “screwed” by that price. This flew all over me! Did Dan really get to feel screwed by anything after his sudden backstab to me and Max?

A few days later, I called a realtor from the neighborhood who came by and gave me an unofficial, but informed estimate for the value of our home. It was more than the amount that I had quoted Dan; in fact, it was more than we had paid for the house.

I had worked as a teacher for years and had been frugal. Unlike Dan, I had no debt. I had savings, yes, but that was for my retirement and to help Max finish college. My hard-earned savings were not enough to pay Dan half of the appraised value of the house. I brooded over the problem, but my heartbroken head could not think clearly. I was so alone.

Finally, Saturday came and there was time for coffee, a spinach omelet with Max, and time to get outside for a little yard work which always served to clear my mind. I thought, “Ok, I want to buy Dan out on the house, but what price? I should not have to hand him the top dollar, open market price. A sale on the open market would involve realty fees, closing costs, upgrades, and repairs.” But it was difficult to come up with a number that allowed for all those costs.

Then I had what I thought of as an epiphany. What about paying him half of the original selling price? I thought I could stretch my savings to meet this price. Doing so would seriously impoverish Max and me, but we would have a home, we would not end up on the street. With this deal, Dan would not make money, but he would not lose, and he would be getting all I had. If he wanted more, we would have to list the house on the open market. The downside of that though, he would have to continue to pay his mortgage until the house sold which would eat into any potential profit. If he took my buyout offer, he could have money right away.

I sent Dan an email with my offer to pay him half of the original selling price. I had learned that this would be enough to pay off the balance of his mortgage, his credit card debt, and he would still have $12,000 left over to spend on the Instagirl. In order to be fair, I did offer an alternative. If he did not like my offer, we could list the house and take our chances on the open market.

Knowing the hassles and delays of selling real estate, I had a feeling Dan would accept my offer and its promise of ready cash over the uncertainty of an outside sale. He kept me waiting in suspense for a few days, but finally I heard back from him. He would accept my buyout offer.

Although I was relieved to have an agreement on the house, I had never wanted any of this. When I paid my half of the house twenty years earlier, I had thought I was done; I had a home. Now, I was, in a sense, being forced to buy it again. The process was painful, involving fees for early withdrawal of my savings, endless phone calls, so much paperwork and running around to banks to gather the funds for the sale. I was falling apart. I was losing sleep. l was losing weight. My hair was falling out. I was trying to do my best at my job, but the effort, the effort was ….

I am trying to relay the details of decay: our marriage, our family, our home as it had been, and even the money from my life’s work, all lost, all over, all gone. I try to tell the story, but like Flaubert, I find my words are hollow beats on a cracked and broken drum when I wish they were a song that would melt the stars.