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
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.