Thursday, October 9, 2008

say my name

I guess I've finally broken this long silence because I've been thinking of him so much lately. Perhaps if I air out these thoughts they will finally recede to a deeper level of my mind and quit erupting so often.

The word "affair" doesn't do it justice. An affair is cheap, tawdry, all about the sex - or at least that's how I see it in my mind. There was nothing cheap and tawdry about this at all and the sex was merely a byproduct.

It began innocently enough. Old friends who hadn't seen each other since high school reconnected through the internet. Things had always been easy with him. There was never that need to censor yourself and conversations with him often had a way of revealing truths about yourself you never knew existed. Some things never change. Late nights spent discussing everything and nothing all at once, hours passed quickly as we enjoyed companionable chatter, a connection begun as teenagers quickly cemented more than a decade later.

Meanwhile I was miserable with my current life. My marriage was unraveling around me. It did not explode with anger and accusations or demands. I think I could've handled that. Instead it suffocated in silence, two people in their own little worlds, worlds which rarely seemed close enough to touch. It was safe. It was secure. That was what I had wanted after a tumultuous first marriage full of soul scorching passion, the death of my first husband, my best friend, leaving me in tatters, taking solace where I could, accepting of the ideal that such a connection, such a joining of two souls could never be possible twice in one lifetime.

I didn't realize that loneliness is so much sharper when the echo of your own words is the only answer that meets your ears, when your solitude is breached by another presence. I suppose we can accept being lonely when we are truly alone. It's not so easy to accept when someone else is sitting on the couch.

A year into our marriage, which had seemed to grow more and more distant from the moment we said "I do," I received my diagnosis and was scheduled for my first surgery. I was terrified, my mind filled with all the worst case-scenarios as we had yet to receive any definitive information. Through it all, he was silent, my mother and best friend filling the roles of "hand-holders" during doctors appointment he never attended. When the silence was finally broken, it was to ask whether he could somehow "catch" this cancer.

I had spent most of that first year reminding myself that men weren't great communicators, that I couldn't compare my first marriage to a man with whom the conversations were easy and endless about everything and anything to this new marriage to a man with whom the conversations were virtually non-existent but provided a steadfast quality my life I had always lacked.

I explained to my husband once that I needed three things from him - companionship, affection and sex - and that I could deal with not having any one or even two of those three things, but damn, I needed something and couldn't seem to get any of it at home.

The final straw came when the surgery was scheduled, my husband never realizing he was expected to be present, nor understanding why he should want to be and me forcing him to sit down and discuss the matter only to be told, "you've got to understand, this is happening to you and I'm sure this is all you can think about, but that's just it, this is happening to you, it isn't happening to me."

Suddenly, with the uttering of that phrase, I knew my marriage was over. Safety and security was no longer at all approaching enough. Life went on as usual for several months, I in my world and he in his, as I struggled to make myself accept the life I had chosen.

Then an old friend appeared from cyberspace, bringing with him a light I had forgotten existed. Suddenly my life was filled with easy and endless conversations and a growing sense of urgency to free myself from what I believed was a loveless marriage as it was becoming more and more unbearable. A death in his family brought him within a few hours of where I lived and I set off to visit with him. My husband never said a word about the endless conversations or my decision to visit.

The minute I saw him I knew I was lost. I only stayed for a few hours and there was nothing sexual about it at all. Just two friends seeing each other after many years, both jittery as teenagers on a first date but neither giving voice to the pounding of their hearts.

It was days later before he told me he was falling in love with me. The distance between us was unbearable. It had been relatively easy to keep things in perceptive when you were only dealing with computer conversations with someone you hadn't seen in more than ten years. It was a completely different ballgame having seen each other, as though that somehow confirmed the reality of our existence.

Within a few weeks I had decided to take some time off work and board a train to go stay with him for a week. Although he knew where I was going, my husband said nothing as he kissed me goodbye at the train station. Nor did he say anything when he picked me up at the station a week later, despite the fact that I hadn't slept hardly any the entire week and my eyes were puffy and red from having cried the entire 8-hour trip back.

Several days later I told my husband I wanted a divorce. He said he hadn't realized the problems between us were so severe. "But I've tried to talk to you about them so many times, hell I even told you six months ago O was so miserable I was going to end up cheating on you even though I've never cheated on anyone in my life." He just kept saying he didn't realize how I'd felt and admitted he'd often tuned me out when I was trying to discuss it.

He promised to work on things, that things would get better. "You don't understand, I'm past the point of wanting to work on it, I just want you to leave."

I finally told him that I knew we didn't need to be married because I had cheated on him. Oddly enough I think he was more upset that I told him than that I had actually committed the act. "There's nothing here, we don't have a connection." He couldn't understand what connection I was talking about. I actually wrote of that sense of connection in this post at the time.

And so you think you've found that connection with him? "Yes."

He moved out the next day, vowing that he had not yet given up on us.

Meanwhile I realized that when I get that "follow you off a cliff" feeling it's usually because it's someone who will lead me right to the edge of the cliff. My friend was much like my first husband in that way. He was drowning in a sense and I had long ago made up my mind to never again subject myself to the pain that comes with loving and living with someone who has given up on the living part.

All the while, my husband was dogged in his efforts to convince me to give our marriage another chance.

Holy shit, if, after all this, he is still so insistent that he loves me and wants to be my husband, he must really love me and want to be my husband. He deserves that chance. It's only the right thing to do.

Needless to say, lines had already been crossed and there was no going back to the easy conversations and effortless friendship I had enjoyed. We tried for a while, but he eventually decided it was easier to not have me in his life at all.

I was heartbroken and angry. They say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all and that may very well be true, but not when you lose such a valuable friendship in the process. And especially not when you begin to doubt the value of that friendship to start with for being unable to survive.

And so here I sit, nearly a year since I last spoke with him. In many ways my marriage is stronger. I've come to appreciate the steadfastness of my husband and his tolerance for my moodiness. I've come to appreciate that he never yells, never leaves and never alters his pattern. I've come to appreciate his clumsy efforts at being supportive and his attempts to at least pretend to pay attention as I prattle on.

He has mentioned the affair only once since our reconciliation and that was this past May as we reached the one-year mark. When I expressed concern for his dreary mood one day, he simply responded that he couldn't help but think of what had happened the year before, quickly following it up with assurances that he wasn't trying to make me feel guilty for it or throw it up in my face. And indeed, he's never once thrown it up in my face. Somehow I think he understood, even though he's never found the words to tell me that. He's had a much easier time forgiving me than I have forgiving myself. Our marriage is still silent for the most part, but standing there beside me day in and day out speaks volumes.

Yet I still terribly miss the easy and endless conversations about anything and nothing all at once and continue to kick myself for throwing it all away in an effort to recapture something I was damn lucky to get the first go 'round. That too fills me with guilt.

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