Back Story: In September of 1999, I found lipstick on his collar but he said “it was only dinner” and he started going to therapy. Things got better between us. Then Fartbuster told me in April of 2000 that he wanted to move out for a while and “get his head straight.” Three weeks later, he comes clean (on the advice of his therapist) that he had had an affair in the fall. He said they had run around for a few months, but he ended it in December because he wanted our marriage to work out. Then there was one teensy leetle slip up in February and now she says she’s pregnant. Oh, well THANKS FOR TELLING ME. He was thinking that he could move out, take care of that little situation, then move right back in and we could go on with our lives and I would never be the wiser. His therapist had said something along the lines of “Bitch, PLEASE. You need to tell the truth.” (Actually, his therapist was an older man and had a German accent, so it probably didn’t sound like that, but I can’t say for sure–patient confidentiality and all, y’know.)
(That part was hard to write because I’m having one of those flashbacks to “I can’t tell people that someone cheated on me! I’ll look gullible and worthless.”)
(But hey, guess what? I’m still writing and it’s OK!)
(Yep, still here…heart rate returning to normal…)
Yadda yadda yadda. There is a year’s worth of stories about the ebb and flow and peaks and valleys of trying to decide whether to stay married or not. There’s the Waffle House Waitress story, the Small of the Back story, the Thanksgiving Phone Call, the Funniest Voicemail Ever…all to come, in due time, Gentle Readers. But today’s story is about my one and only interaction with this other woman who stepped into my marriage.
I never met her. I don’t know her name, address, phone number. At first, I wanted to. I wanted to scream and rave and all that clichéd stuff from telenovellas, but I was under the care of some pretty wise counselors who said, “What’s that going to fix?” Then I decided that I wanted all her info in a closed envelope so that IF I ever decided to contact her, I could. Fartbuster said she didn’t know any details about me, so it would be best if I didn’t know anything about her. Easier to rebuild. I let it go. (Heart rate rising. Sentences getting shorter. Breathe.) My drive to know about her was all about control–this infidelity had made me question everything in my life; my world was out of control and by god I was ready to take some BACK. But I would have been grabbing at the wind. In the end, I only knew one thing about her–she was from another country and I knew which one.
Flash forward about 18 months. I am happily divorced, have moved to another city, have been dating Richard for a while. Haven’t spoken to Fartbuster in almost a year. Everything is hunky dory.
I’m sitting at work one afternoon when my phone rings. I go through the mechanical, “Hi, this is…” The other voice says, “Is this the person who was married to Fartbuster McCheater?” (not his actual name) Thinking it’s a telemarketer or collections agent, I answered, “I WAS married to him but I am no longer.”
She took a deep breath and said, “You don’t know me, but…” and THAT’S WHEN I hear the accent. An accent from that country where she was born! KABLOOEY. I shut my office door and said, “I think I DO know who you are! Is this the woman who had an affair with my ex-husband???”
“Yes, and I’m calling to apologize. I can’t believe I did that to another woman.” I was speechless. And if you know me, you know that is RARE.
Now picture Scooby Doo going “Huh-RUNH?” That was me.
She was still talking. I said, “Look, I don’t really have anything to say to you, but I do respect your wish to apologize. That’s more than he ever did. But that’s about all I can think of to say to you.” I remember shrugging and shaking my head in disbelief.
She wasn’t done talking! She said, “Oh, I had a feeling you were nice! He always told me that everything about the divorce was your fault and you were such a bitch but I can tell just by the way you’re treating me that you’re a nice person! I really don’t deserve your kindness but it’s been bothering me for so long and I wanted to tell you…”
Ummm…hmmm…I flummoxed, discombobulated and gobsmacked. So I got honest. I snorted. “I really don’t need validation from you…but thanks. Of COURSE he told you that I was the bitch! The one thing you knew for sure about him was that he was a liar.”
Then it hit me. Why was she calling me NOW after all this was settled and done? I asked, “Hey, let me guess…he cheated on you, right?”
She squawked, “SO MANY TIMES! I’d catch him and he’d apologize and he’d do it again. I can’t tell you how many times he’s lied to me. ”
And that’s when I boiled it down for her.
“If he’ll cheat WITH you, he’ll cheat ON you.”
She got a little quiet but stayed on the line. I had been ambushed into this conversation but I had reached a point where I felt like wrapping it up. “Look. Getting rid of him was the best thing that every happened to me and it will probably be the same for you. That’s all I have to say. Goodbye.”
Are you clutching your pearls yet, Gentle Reader? Can you IMAGINE what was going through my brain as I stared at that phone. Fartbuster had promised me that this woman knew NOTHING about me. He and I had different last names. She knew my name, my phone number, where I worked…I was LIVID. I suddenly found myself out of control again and I wanted it BACK. So I called my friend in Telecomm and asked if he could trace a call. Nope. Dammit. There is no *69 on a switchboard. Why is life not like the movies???
That night, I told Richard. He was like, “That was decent of her. What do you want to do for dinner?” Men just don’t GET IT.
I called my girl friend and she was like, “NO WAY!!!! Girl. GIRL! No way. WHAT?” That was more like it. I told her how furious I was that Fartbuster had revealed details about me to this other person. I hadn’t spoken to him in months, but I was ready to call him up and let him have it.
I didn’t. The opposite of love isn’t anger. It’s apathy. Here’s what I realized: if I had called him in a fit of rage, he would have turned it into just another example of me being the bad guy. But if I didn’t say a word, didn’t react, I kept the position of power–apathy. I knew in my deepest heart that the two of them would argue one day or he would start yammering about me and she would say, out of the blue, “You know what? I CALLED your ex-wife and I talked to her and she was NICE to me.” Imagine the stupefaction on his face when he realized THAT had happened and I hadn’t even bothered to call to yell at him.
Oh? The other woman? The one who got cheated on “so many times?” She married him. For a while, at least.