WINE, SEX & SUICIDE
my near death divorce
Patty Blue Hayes
At 2:30 in the morning on Saturday, October 23, 2010, my husband and I sat in our rental car in a parking lot in Cambridge, MA the night before a friend’s wedding. After what seemed like forever, he calmly said, “I don’t think we should be married anymore.”
My heart was pounding out of my chest.
An hour before, just around last call at the bar that Friday night, I grabbed my husband’s phone from his hand. He’d been texting someone all night and I wanted to know who. Most of the pre-wedding partygoers had left an hour before. Just the die-hards remained and Mark was always the last to leave a party.
Being so late on the East Coast on a Friday night, he didn’t even try to pass the texting off as work for the studio back home in LA.
I gripped that phone tightly and asked him to put in his passcode. Blank stare.
“No,” he said in that Jameson slur.
“C’mon, put your passcode in, I want to see who you’ve been texting all night.” My body was shaking.
“Stop,” he brushed me off. “Why do you want to see?”
“Because I don’t trust you right now. So put your passcode in.”
His jaw muscle twitched. I handed him my phone. “You can look at all my texts. If you don’t have anything to hide, put your passcode in.”
He took a long breath. My insides flushed with adrenaline. He exhaled softly, “Let’s talk in the car.”
This was the moment of truth I’d been waiting for. I didn’t know exactly what the news was, but I’d had my suspicions over the past two years of our 17 together, that he might have been unfaithful. He’d become very critical of me and most aspects of my personality, I just couldn’t do anything right.
There was a time he loved my free spirit and was grateful if I threw pasta together for dinner. But lately, he said I never did anything with my life and he rarely accepted my requests for a meal together at the table. Small things would inflame him; the sound of my incoming texts, the ironing board left open, too many tchotchke’s on my dresser.
At times, red anger flushed his face as he stepped toward me, lips pursed as if he didn’t want to say it, “I feel like fucking hitting you right now.” I believed him.
I can’t recall how he told me about two of the girls, one in Chicago and one in New York, but he made a point of clarifying they weren’t girlfriends, just random one night encounters. And I got the cliché, “I love you, you’re my best friend but I’m not in love with you anymore.”
I was in shock, not sure how to react or respond. “What kind of man betrays and lies to the woman he’s been with for seventeen years?”
“Not a good one.” he mumbled.
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I just felt a tremendous sense of freedom when I had sex with them.”
He rationalized his behavior by saying I must have known we weren’t going to work out because for two years we’d had problems. I thought that was why we were seeing our therapist, to work out the problems.
We started therapy at my urging after he became convinced I was so resentful of ironing his shirts, that I intentionally left the ironing board out as a defiant “fuck-you” to piss him off. That was so far from my reality, the only thing I could think of was to get us into counseling.
I enjoyed the Zen quality of ironing. I loved the Caldrea linen spray I’d spritz on his shirts that smelled of tangelo and verbena. The hiss of steam soothed me as I watched my favorite crime shows, “Forensic Files” and “The First 48,” on the little TV bracketed above the large wine refrigerator in our detached laundry room.
I’d been as thrilled as a 1950’s housewife with the brand new washer and dryer we purchased when we bought our house 10 years before. In the summer months, I’d bring the ironing board into the air-conditioned house and catch up on all the incidental ironing I’d put off. Linen napkins I’d saved after my mother’s death, pillowcases for the guest room and clothes worn less frequently.
There hadn’t been much progress with therapy. With his arm draped around the couch behind me, he repeatedly told our therapist I didn’t appreciate him, understand him, respect him, admire him or listen to him.
And I didn’t keep the house clean enough for his standards.
Why the hell did he waste our time with therapy if he had no interest in staying married to me? I danced around like a circus monkey trying to do all the things he spelled out, the things that I needed to change to make him happy.
He said he wanted more affection, but he’d flinch whenever I touched his leg. He told me I was trying to control him when I attempted to hold his hand.
For years, his eyes lit up when he saw me as he walked through the door when he came home from work. He was happy to chat about his day. But now he said he needed to decompress alone and that I shouldn’t talk to him for 30 minutes. He didn’t want to eat dinner at the table with me; I should understand he was tired. And I couldn’t talk to him on Sunday evenings about the house, social plans or finances because it would stress him out for Monday morning.
There were times I thought his disdain toward me was an overall hatred toward women in general. Maybe he was gay? He’d taken “manscaping” to an extreme, trimming down much of the masculine body hair I’d become familiar with. Little did I know I was grooming him for his random sex partners when he had me shave off small patches of hair on his back.
I didn’t recognize the new landscape of his body. He’d lost so much weight so quickly, a few of our friends asked me if he was sick. To me it appeared he was compulsively exercising and weighing himself more than an anorexic teenager.
“I only ate once today,” he’d proudly declare as he poured three inches of whiskey over two cubes of ice. Sometimes he’d update me four times a day on his weight. No matter how many times I repeatedly explained that while I was happy for him that he was losing the weight he wanted, constantly hearing about it made me feel bad about myself. I wasn’t shedding the extra 20 pounds I was carrying.
But he kept on doing it.
I managed to drive us back to the Holiday Inn, where he arranged for a separate room before coming to get his suitcase. I paced like a caged animal, how the hell did I end up here?
He quickly threw his toiletries in his bag, zipped up the luggage and advanced toward where I stood in the corner of the room hoping to disappear. His arms opened, offering a conciliatory last hug and pathetic grin. He had no tears and no apologies. I backed away from him and turned my head. I tasted vomit rising in my throat.
Alone in the hotel room, my suitcase barely unpacked from just arriving, I sobbed myself into hyperventilation. I couldn’t catch my breath. In my altered state, somehow I arranged to fly out the next day. Saturday. While he stood alone at the wedding, I navigated airports and connecting flights, shielding my puffy eyes with sunglasses as I called family and friends, knowing I would need to rally support.
I had just found myself in a nuclear wasteland. My life as I knew it ceased to exist that Friday night. All the traditions we’d created for the past 17 years vaporized. My future disappeared, as well.
I knew from the relief in his voice when he spoke the words that changed the course of my life forever that he was done with our marriage. For the first time in two years, I finally knew what he wanted from me.
He didn’t want me at all.