Tuesday, May 29, 2007


S: I haven't heard from you in a while. Where are you? Is everything alright? If you are back please let me know I need to talk to you about my mom. Talk to you soon.

Me: I am still deployed. What's wrong with Mommy?

Me (again): I really wish you hadn't put it as you did; my stomach is turning in circles now, worried about Mommy. Please write as soon as possible.

S: There's nothing wrong with my mom. I wanted to know what you had told her about why we weren't together anymore. I just finished moving in with her, to make it short life sucks for me and I'm sure its something you said to her so I want to know what I am dealing with. Either that note you left for her at the house before you left or emails or some crap. Whatever it was you should at least tell me what it was, and no I won't ask her.

Me: I have no idea. Frankly, this is not my problem. You, S, you digged this hole. You told me that you, yourself saw the note, or had heard from Mommy what it said. In any case, I'll repeat it here, because I remember: "When I bought it (the carpet), I had imagined S and I coming over and sharing tea and us both giving it to you, as a family. But I had no idea that when I came home I'd discover that she'd have found someone else with whom she wanted to be, more than me. So, it's just from me."

How dare you tell me that your life sucks.

And, S, there have been no emails, ("or some crap") really. She wrote me once, and it was completely empty -- only a subject line: "thank you." I imagine it was in response to a letter I sent her, but I'm not sure. I sent her ONE goddamned letter, probably a month ago, S. It was very topical. You are not entitled to it, but here's the one sentence that even tangentially mentioned you:

اینخا سلامت هستم و امنیت دارم. اما هر روز بیشتر به نظرم میریسد که از دنیا جدا و بی خبر میشوم. دروغ میگفتم اگر صائی کردم شما را متقاعد کنم که دلم از شکستگی شفا یافته است, ولی تلاش میکنم روزم چه پر باشد تا وقت نداشته باشم راجه به فاجعه اعظم زندگی من فکر کنم.

(To save you time, S: "I'm okay here, and safe. However, every new day it seems that I am becoming even more separated from the world and uninformed (of it). I would be lying if I tried to make you believe that my heart has recovered from its breaking, but I am making efforts such that my day is so full that I don't have time to think about the greatest disaster of my life.")

I am shaking, I am so furious. You went on and on and on and on about how what you did to me had nothing to do with my relationship with your family, back when I was still home. You asked and asked for me to "suck it up" and call Mommy and talk with her, and I finally relented because I do love her and, as (apparently) I have no spine or dignity or self-respect, I could not resist you, despite everything. Yet here you are now, essentially bitching to me from the comfort of your not-so-comfortable home as I sit in a fucking WAR ZONE, complaining about how something I did has made your life difficult. Has even a moment passed since my so-timely-for-you-departure that you considered that maybe (just maybe?) Mommy is giving you a hard time because she's disappointed in you? That she didn't know her daughter had it in her to fuck someone over as gracelessly as you did me? I can't help supposing this, because they are the same questions that make their best efforts at strangling the breath out of me every goddamned new day.


I love Mommy with all my heart; that will never change. Clearly, though, you will make my life sufficiently even more miserable, such that it is no longer worth it. As in sending me shitty little emails about how miserable your life is now. I won't say another word to her. No letters, no emails, no phone calls. Now or tomorrow or even whenever it is I finally return. She'll go on knowing that I loved her, and I'll go on knowing that I was loved (by her).

Just leave me alone, and out of this. Tell her whatever you want. Lie until you've convinced her as much as you have yourself. Of course, the easiest solution to your dilemma is to do exactly that for which you secretly and ardently wished (all the while enjoying my clueless love): move in with Dan.

And I can't help but notice that you keep referring to her as "(your) mom", rather than Mommy. All of a sudden. It seems what I've decided is what you want, anyway. Ironic, that.


Monday, May 28, 2007

conspicously and unashamedly contributing to global warming

I love cars. Specifically, I love my cars.

I sometimes wonder: what do they 'say' about me? Cars should say something about their owners. (Which is why I so detest Civics. Sorry, DCists.)

Allow me to introduce them. Family.
  • "Petunia," 1978 Volkswagen Microbus (Westfalia).

She was my first car; I bought her when I was fifteen. Rather, my dad bought her, and I paid her off. I barely remember the hows or whys of being seduced by aircooled Volkswagens. Some boys fall in love with Mustangs, others Camaros. Maybe pickups or shag-carpeted conversion vans (those boys grow up to be perverts.)

Nonetheless, I bought her in Brookings, Oregon. I fell in love the instant I saw her. She sat on that hilltop dealer's lot and just called to me. "Juuuuustin. Jussssstin. Come, look. See me. I am everything. I have a sink. A refrigerator in which to store illicitly obtained beer. A stove, even. BEDS, Justin, I have beds. You can go camping and have friends with you and have the coolest goddamned car on the planet. You will never be at a stoplight and be embarassed to see another car just like me (unless you are in Arcata.) I possess the throaty put-put-put that only an aircooled engine can produce, and I'm not a Corvaire. I am neither a hippy van nor something your parents would ever drive. Come, Justin." I will never, ever, never ever ever get rid of this car. I may even be buried in her. (I plan next to restore a VW Karmann Ghia. Convertible, of course.)

Currently, she is in the last, very last bit of a 6-year restoration struggle. Nearly finished, now. I can't wait to come back to the States and drive, just drive. Nothing compares to driving an old VW. Fahrvergnugen, indeed.

  • "Don Vito," 1990 Chevy Suburban V2500.

Four years ago, I was itching for a Suburban. Just itching. I didn't want a SoccerMom truck, though. Mine had to have rough edges. I spent months and months looking, mostly online. One day: serendipity. On Ebay, of all places. He was only a three-hours drive away, so I could see him up-close and personal before I committed. I did, and I did. Don Vito is a redneck truck, surely. Lifted, slightly. Giant-assed chrome brush guard. Big A/T tires. NINE, countem NINE miles to the gallon. Before I left (and its worse now, or so I've read,) it cost over $100 to fill him. Oh, but he has power. And a style all his own. I can put my daughter in the back seat, the dogs behind her, me and a passenger up front, bikes up top, and we all have room. It just goes and goes and goes. It will effortlessly move both my household goods and tow a VW Bus (Petunia) from Texas to Georgia to Virginia to Maryland. (I recall moving a friend of S's entire apartment in one trip.) Sadly, Don doesn't like serpentine belts. But he does like to throw them when I'm on a long road trip. Like any child, though, I suffer his temper knowing that really, he's a good kid. A very good kid.
  • "As-yet-unnamed," 1985 Mercedes 300SD.

A recent purchase. Gift, really... but I've pumped enough money into it, it might as well be considered a purchase. I bought this car because its just cool. And different, surely. Who drives an old Mercedes? Old people, and me. (I can't wait to get a bike rack on it.) My impetus was this: S's mom (bless her) was going to get rid of it, donate it to someone for the write-off. (Digression: Persians drive Mercedes. A lot. Go to Lima in NW on a Persian night, and count the MBs. You'll quickly run short of fingers and toes.) It hadn't moved in over a year, and it was a constant source of mechanical and electrical headaches even before that. (Perfect interior, though.) But I fell in love with it and just insisted that I could make it work. And it does! At 34 mpg, no less! (Which dovetailed nicely with my 1 1/2 hr commute. Driving Don Vito was killing me on gas.) This car just cruises. In style. Again.

I'd add to my stable (I want an old Land Rover, natch) but I don't have the room. Hell, I don't have the room for the three I own now: the VW is in a shop (rewiring the loom), the Suburban is parked on base, and the Benz is being cared for by a friend.

What do they say about me? I know what I think they say, but I've never asked someone else. Hmm. And your car? Does it have personality?

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Through my relationship with S, I learned a great deal about my capacity for fatherhood.

And, I learned that every other weekend is a lot. So is every other week. Yet, sometimes it is not.

It was easier when I was a full-time dad. I wonder if I can explain it properly. To myself, even. Yet it is a truth I know. I just do.

When my ex-wife and I were together, our life was centered, balanced. I woke each morning with a clear understanding of my role in life. I knew the context of my day. It was being daddy. Being a husband. Being me.

While I was with S for those two years, it was different. I was different. Different to myself, and different to other people. At different times. It was difficult.

In the sense that two weekends of every month isn't all that much, I was very much just me for all the other time. Which is considerable, really. I wasn't a father but for being a father. My parenting was limited to making sure my daughter was financially well cared for, and the occasional phone call. I lament this condition, but I have painfully come to realize that I cannot change it.

Of course, on some non-day, I might be at the Rio Target and suddenly spot something (nice alliteration, that) I'd just have to buy for my daughter. She was never out of my thoughts; she was just out of my daily life. This is guilt.

In the sense, however, that two weekends of every month is quite a bit, I was very much the actor playing a role. I felt forced to balance two (often-times competing) needs: that I was lover and friend to S, and Daddy to Madison. (I understand that my relationship with and responsibilities to Madison are decidedly never going to change. Yet, I also endeavored to build something just as permanent with S.)

Think about it: provided you don't have children, and you're married, or have a significant (and I mean significant) other, then you very much take weekend plans for granted. If your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband wants to attend some event that very Saturday? Summers, too. Every other week. This is guilt.

The biggest issue at hand, and one I will certainly have to re-live at some point, is how to grow a relationship with my other all the while growing my relationship with my child.

S made it easy, sometimes. Frequently, I was amazed at her. She'd plan weekend activities for the three of us that I'd never have imagined.

Sometimes, though, S made it impossibly difficult. "No, sweetheart, we can't do that this weekend, because we have Madison, remember? But you can, if you'd like." Sometimes she would, sometimes she wouldn't. But it always left me feeling as though she was a rental parent. That it was true doesn't make it any less difficult to grasp: she could walk away at any time.

Very much not like a Mommy or a Daddy. You know?

That Madison loved her -- oh, she loved her -- only scares me more.

For that next someone, do I do it the same way? I imagine so. To say that my only loyalty -- my undying devotion and commitment -- is to my daughter seems to exclude everyone else. But if I make it all about Madison, am I short-changing a relationship that needs its own bit of care and attention? If I don't, am I not robbing from the one person that will always, always be there -- and for whom I must always be there?

Scary. As I've said. I fully realize that this is a lot to dump on that next someone. Hope she can handle it. With grace. (Me, too.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Flower without a Vase

I fell in love with Googoosh, easily the most revered Persian pop singer of all time, long before I met S.

My favorite song, Gol bi Goldoon (Flower without a Vase) is stunningly beautiful. It has always been my favorite.

I had made it S's ring tone. When S called, I'd hear that lilting Persian melody.

I was inspired to share this when it occurred to me, listening to it recently, that there is some sort of cosmic irony found in the lyrics. For me, at least.

Here they are, translated by yours truly:

Flower without a Vase

You would say, "I'm nothing without you
"Stay with me forever
"Without you, I would die
There'd be no flower without its vase"

What a mistake I made, believing what you said
What a mistake I made, believing what you said

One cold, Autumn day you broke your vase
Like wedding flowers, you sat in the greenhouse
Spring comes again, once more they take you outside
Like (as for) wedding flowers, they arranged you
Again you tell your vase, "Stay with me forever"
You say, "Without you, I will die
"There'd be no flower without its vase"

What a mistake it is to believe what you say
What a mistake it is to believe what you say

the beginning, more at the middle, I suspect

This blog was born for one reason: someone told me to write.

When S left, and I first discovered the cheating, I ran to the only person on whom I knew I could count. I didn't know what I wanted from him, but I knew that I needed him. I called.

It was my best friend.

When I explained -- between sobs -- what had happened, he simply told me, "Put some shit together and I'll be down there to pick you up. You're coming up here for a while."

I was dizzy. I didn't know why I was leaving, or why I had to, but he did. I surrendered to him.

When he arrived, I hadn't packed a damned thing. I didn't know what to pack. He told me, so I did. And I stayed at his house for a week.

That first night, his then-girlfriend came over, and she let me (encouraged me, really) to cry on her shoulder. She cried, too. For me, as well as herself.

The next day, I didn't have that shoulder. Of all the million ways that Scott helped me -- saved me from myself -- his strength was being strength. He gave me what I didn't know I needed, and what I certainly didn't want, in retrospect: he insisted that everything would be okay.

Like Mom consoling you after you've skinned your knee.

And he was strong.

I recall one moment when he let it slip: he was also very, very angry. At S. But for that one moment (which, in itself, tells me a lot,) he was as stoic as a father. He listened, and he only talked when I asked him to. He didn't give me unsolicited advice or lessons or wisdom.

That same day -- the second -- he dragged me out of the house and we walked together to the grocery store. (Oh, and he fed me. Though I didn't eat.) We walked in an uncomfortable silence. We were silent only because of me. I didn't want to talk.

But then I started talking. Or asking, really. I asked question after question. I didn't expect him to answer them. The questions were for S, not Scott. But they came in a flood. Most of them started with "Why."

When we returned home, I asked him what I was supposed to do. How I was supposed to not go crazy. He suggested I write. Just like that: simple. He went directly to a drawer from which he pulled an old college-ruled notebook and pen, and he handed them to me. He said, "write." And then he left the house.

Over the next four hours, I wrote non-stop. Seriously -- non-stop. The words I wrote, the questions I posed, the emotions I committed to history -- they are Part One. This blog, of course, starts with Part Two.

(S took Part One. I left it in the house hoping she'd read it. I didn't know she'd keep it. I hope to get it back, some day.)

He told me to write. And I did.

When I had no other choice but to return to my house, I took that notebook with me.
For the next two and a half weeks, I wrote in it constantly. I didn't go to work. I wrote.

When I had to leave for this deployment, I realized that I wouldn't be able to write as I had been. I would run out of paper, ink. I wouldn't have any privacy as I wrestled with the demons that forced me to write.

So, I decided to start this blog. To keep writing. And to make a deliberate effort to find others in whose story I might find solace.

Someone recently shared her own story with me in an email. A letter, really.

She poignantly and unintentionally reminded me that I'm not alone. As inclined as I have been to internalize everything that has happened and claim it as my story -- my goddamned story -- I was also climbing up some sort of martyrdom ladder. As though I owned the rights to being hurt.

Increasingly, I am learning that good people do get fucked over. With an unsettling frequency. Change the names, and minor details... yet the stories are essentially the same.

In learning again the obvious lesson that I do not own the rights to the story, or the emotions, or the pain, I have again been inspired. Though I had told myself over and over again that I didn't really want to, I can say "Fuck S" a little easier now. It even kinda feels good. Not as empty as I thought it would be.

I am reminded of what could have become a flame-war with some pop-psychology assessment I received in a comment to an earlier post: of cause & effect relationships.

Where I'm at now, well... I refuse to believe that something I did brought what S did on. Nope. At risk of perpetuating the martyr complex of which I've just written, NO. I didn't deserve it. Neither did you. Or you. Or you. Or you.

And as cold and as dark and as lonely as it seems sometimes, at least I remember this:

There's no threat of that hopeful flame dying. It is perpetual.
Our struggle is with knowing it is there and untended by those we wished were warmed by it.
Of learning that someone else is likely better suited for it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What the HELL do I do now?

Sometimes, it is just overwhelming. Parents out there will understand, though: you can never stop. You cannot stop.

But there's no instruction manual.

More so than I've felt since the break, I so sincerely wish I could talk with S. To seek shelter with her, from the rain. From the pounding goddamned rain. To lay my head in her lap and feel her fingers run through my hair. For her to look at me -- at my pain, my doubt, my fear -- with those unending brown eyes, and silently remind me that I'll have help. That she'll be there to force me upright when all I want is to collapse to the ground.

Papa is the center of my daughter's universe. He is the most loving, most adoring, most devoted grandfather. If there were prizes... if you remember your grandparents (I lost all of mine when I was still very young) with any fondness whatsoever, I tell you this: Papa is better.

Papa has been retired since my daughter's birth. He has nothing to do but shower that kid with an affection we'd all be better having had.

When my ex-wife and I split, she moved in with her parents in NorVa. It was a natural choice: it would provide her with the best imaginable source of childcare, and she could save money as she regathered her life. And give her respite, so she could try and find that ever-so-elusive balance again.

That was over three years ago.

My ex-wife had recently expressed the intention of moving out on her own this coming Summer, and, evidently, Grammy and Papa were moving back to Texas, from which they'd come when our daughter was born. They'd no reason to burn through retirement income in cost-of-living-prohibitive NorVa now that everything seemed okay. Certainly, there'd be lots of visiting. Of course.

I love Papa, too. As I've said about my daughter's mother, I simply cannot imagine a better grandparent. My daughter is very, very lucky.

That she has spent infinitely more time with Papa than I since the divorce is not lost on me. Regulated, scheduled visitations and deployments do nothing to help rectify this imbalance. Not that I'm competing, mind you. Perhaps a little envious.

I received an email from my ex-wife today.

Papa has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I do not know if I can be strong enough to help my daughter heal, when that day comes. Because it is coming. I want to crawl into a ball right here, right this minute. I want to cry. I can feel the tears gathering behind my eyes. But I cannot. There is no privacy, here. I am surrounded by men with whom I work, eat, rest... 24-hours. This is not a story I wish to share with them. And it'd be necessary, when everyone wonders, "What happened? What happened? Why is Chief bawling?"

It just occurred to me -- right this second -- that having unexpectedly lost my own father last August does not make this any easier.

She will be in a pain that I know too well. Yet, hers will be worse. Papa has, essentially, been her father in my absence. In my absences. All of them.

I know exactly where I am, but I am lost.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hafez in Love

I am in a great mood right this minute. I have no idea why.

But, I'm smiling. In a tent, furiously typing away, while Me, Myself & Irene plays for the thousandth time on one of the walls (rapt crewmates fanned out around me, in various stages of half-dressed uniform,) tapping my foot to O-Hum piping through tiny, tinny earbuds from my laptop.

I have just read all my favorite bloggers' most recent posts. With the notable exception of INPY, they seem to have recovered from Happy Hour (my jealousy is real). Oh. It just occurred to me that it is Monday in the Real World.

Nonetheless. Everyone seemed in a similarly good mood. And, coincidentally perhaps, to have written about dating. In the good way, not in the Requiem-ish emo way.

I am inspired. As I so often am by you anonymous literary heros.

My last post, directed to the Blogger Formally Known as Shadowsofourselves, seems to have met its mark. It really is a strange dynamic: that we can write to better understand ourselves, yet somehow be tangentially helpful to someone else.

No sooner had I made that post, than did I receive an email from my daughter. Others (as well as I) have made allusion to tears-in-sadness; I caught myself with those glorious mini-tears that crowd into the corner of my eye at pure, unadulterated and uncomplicated happiness.

Here's what she wrote:


Mommy is typing this for me because I'm too tired.

Yes, I went to the birthday party and climbed all the way to the top just like gymnastics. I really miss you. Will you get to call me again? I already made you a couple of things. What have you been doing out there? Last weekend, I went to an indoor water park. It was very fun. I rode on every single slide in there. Have you been to a water park before? I hope you have. Mommy wrote a silly sentence, but I made her erase it. Once there was a snake in my basement but Papa killed it. I love you. Are you going to email me again? I hope you get this letter. Have you ever been skiing? Do you like Sponge Bob Square Pants? How about Scooby Doo? Once I went to the zoo and I slept there. The alligator was very scary. That's why I didn't go near it. Good thing we had two flashlights because I dropped mine and it broke. I had to borrow mom's flashlight. I love you.

What a trip. I am a grinning Cheshire for having just re-read it. Only a precocious little girl could go from "...there was a snake in my basement" to "Have you ever been skiing?" What an amazing child. Lazy, clearly. But amazing.

Oh, and I had a great run last night. Or, yesterday-ish. You know. Time here is increasingly irrelevant. Anyway. 5K in the "savannah." The Marines (as they can be counted on to do) have stationed pullup bars and an incline situp board at the beginning, middle and end, and I made good use of them, too.

Where was I? Oh yes. Inspired. And inclined to ask questions.

S was Persian. I am, decidedly, a Persianist. I speak Farsi fluently, and my studies have all been centered on the Middle East. I can quote Hafez with significantly more ease (and authority) than Frost.

It is important to note that I had an affinity for all things Persian before S came crashing into my life. Yet I would be remiss to ignore the fact that she and her family (in accepting me as one of their own) served only to further deepen this affection.

I have previously mentioned realizing that a great portion of my mourning has been over the life I thought I'd have with her, as much (at least) as the actual presence of her, herself -- S. An unmeasurable part of that life I'd imagined I'd have forever included surprising unfamiliar people when I spoke Farsi with skill and confidence, celebrating Now Ruz (Persian New Year) and giving my own little American spin on haft-seen, going on didani (family visits), drinking Persian tea after every meal. Attending Baha'i functions (only to go out for a beer soon after.) Telling jokes only an Iranian would appreciate (sorry, Turks.)

S's appearance in my life was serendipity. So many things that I love and in which I am passionately interested were found in her. I am reluctant --very reluctant-- to part ways with the idea that I can have them again.

But, in having lost her, haven't I lost them, too? It would seem the only way I could replicate those interests would be in exclusively dating Persian women. Yet that is patently ridiculous, even to me.

I wonder, though: can I not find those same feelings, just in a different way, in an unexpected source? Perhaps what I loved about S's family didanis, I can love in my next love's family's mandatory poker nights? Or whatever.

I don't know. Everything is so complicated. So clouded. I will certainly miss arguing in Farsi, though. *smile*

Have I reached some point where I am now (hesitatingly, perhaps) ready to take that next step away from S? Where I'm okay-ish with her being gone, but now I'll drive myself mad pursuing the impossible -- before coming to the inevitable conclusion that the next (and God-willing final) love-of-my-life will be a completely different person?

Of course she will.

I suspect so, anyway.

And if anyone's wondering... I'm still in a great mood.


Friday, May 18, 2007

My girl, and a lot explained...

Damn me. I had no intention of writing tonight; instead, I wanted to catch up on neglected emails. But I can't resist.

This post is, in effect, intended for someone I've never met, and about whom I know very little. What I wish to say, though, is much too long (and I feel too passionate about it) to leave to a comment box.

So here goes.

My ex-wife and I split after seven years of marriage. I left. And no, there was no seven-year itch. Yet what remains of our union is the most unbelievable source of pride and love I could have ever imagined: our soon-to-be 7 y/o daughter. A goofy picture of her is in one of my previous posts.

My ex-wife moved to the D.C. area just before we separated; she'd taken a job for which we'd both been struggling and sacrificing for a long time. It was her time; our due. Having done so, and with the knowledge (before we split) that I'd be transferring to the D.C. area from Georgia (where we'd lived) myself, our daughter was left in my care, and I was a single Daddy for the better part of a year.

The idea of it frightened me; I didn't know if I was good enough. I was. And I recall those months with such pride and fondness... we were good together, my daughter and I.

Even during the early part of our separation, she stayed with me, in Georgia. But I made a huge mistake. When the process soured, when compromise and empathy and so much understanding was out the window, and I feared that my ex- would make the divorce as difficult a process as possible, I told her, "well, I'm beginning to think that I will fight for sole custody."

I didn't really mean it. Really. My ex-wife is a great mother. I can't think of one better. She truly, truly is. I know it now, and I knew it then. But I was pissed and scared to death.

Well, this was a mistake that I'd pay for, dearly. Clearly, the "compromise and empathy and so much understanding" did not improve with that blunder.

Anyway. Things kinda did seem to smooth out after I apologized genuinely and sincerely and frantically... but.

But. My ex-wife hadn't taken advantage of her new employer's offer of relocation assistance, so we arranged for her to come down with the company movers and divide up the Georgia household. She also asked if she could take our daughter, saying that she was "the only center, the only balance" she had left in life. I agreed, instantly.

When she arrived in Georgia, I told her that I would leave the house to her for as long as she needed, and she could have the movers take anything she wanted; I wasn't keeping anything on reservation. I had no claims. I felt guilty.

My ex-wife is an emotional person. Some might giggle at the discovery of an "emotional woman," but at the risk of defaming my daughter's mother, her "emotional" state was the reason I'd left.

An incendiary mix of emotions and happenstance and just God-awful luck doomed me, and directly and staggeringly affected our daughter.

Somehow, my ex-wife convinced herself that I was cheating on her. A broken vase in the bedroom, a few numbers on the caller-ID she didn't recognize and neighbors' reports of an unfamiliar car in my driveway were all the elements necessary to lose her mind.

Hours into the affair --mind you, I've been out of the house -- she frantically calls me and insists I come to the house. I do.

As I walk in, I am confronted with a sobbing soon-to-be-ex-wife, and our daughter, also crying. Our daughter says to me: "Daddy, you shouldn't be so quick to get a new girlfriend."

She's four.

Apparently, when all the vortices of the known universe collapsed and came, spinning down, to crown my ex-wife, she called her sister on the phone and, ignorant of our daughter's attention, fitfully gives a recreation of the day's events, to include the new charge of my infidelity.

Incidentally, folks: I wasn't cheating. Yet the point remains: I was crushed. I could not believe the pain. It was at precisely that moment that I began to hate my ex-wife. For her carelessness. I couldn't believe it.

Fast forward.

My now-officially-ex-wife and I have reached a point of detente. It had been a monumental struggle, mostly on my part, to have reached this. I now live in the D.C. area, too, and we're doing quite well with weekends, vacations, all that sort of thing. The Georgia court, of course, awarded her physical custody, but legal to both (for the little it's worth,) but I didn't contest it. As I said, she is a fantastic mother, and our daughter is lucky to have her.

Nonetheless. S and I move-in with one another. S is very feisty, very young. (Seven years my junior.) What with her Marine training and Persian blood, her initial reaction to confrontation is less flight and more fight.

Of which there is plenty of occasion, because my ex-wife does not appreciate my new "status." She tried her damnedest -- really -- to make life very, very difficult for me. All over again. Much of it, I understood. As irrational and counterproductive as it was, my ex-wife was acting on two motivations: 1) the safety and development of our daughter, and 2) well, just fucking with me in the process.

Take, for example, Georgia law. In any divorce, the parents are prohibited from exercising custody or visitation when a person of the opposite sex to whom the child is not related by blood or marriage is staying overnight. (If this sounds all legal-ly and official, it is because I know it rote.)

My ex-wife, of course, took advantage of this restriction. So... S (and I loved her so for this sacrifice) left the house every night we had her, and stayed with her mom across town. For over a year. (See? I had countless reasons to love her.) This is not to say that S didn't have complaint. Or do everything in her power to convince me to fight my ex-wife in court. Or to be as intransigent as I possibly could in every other negotiation with her. Ohhhh, did S want me to fight.

Consequently, I am now the fresh meat unceremoniously thrown over the fence between two rabid wolves. One is pushing me one way, another is pulling me opposite. Through the whole ugly affair, I tried my best to make everyone happy. I was a diplomat. It was taxing.

Finally, one glorious, unexpected day, my ex-wife invites me to lunch. I nearly jumped out of my skin, in happiness, at the suggestion. I had been trying so hard to placate, to soothe, to reason. Until that invitation, though, nothing had worked.

We had lunch. Our first face-to-face since the divorce. It was incredible. Out of nowhere -- and I mean nowhere -- she admits she understands my position and appreciates my diplomacy and wants everyone to be happy and now realizes that Madison is well-served. She wants us to both sign a paper waiving the restriction on the whole other-person-staying-over thing, she wants to meet S, she wants S to join everyone at our daughter's fast approaching birthday party (!!), etc.

Oh. My ex-wife had a boyfriend, apparently. What's good for the gander, you say....?

From that point forward, everything is just hunky-dory. Bliss. S is happy. Ex is happy. I am happy. (Most importantly) our daughter is happy.

In fact. The reason for this post. My daughter.

She loves S. LOVES her. S loves my daughter. S is my other-favorite mom. Though she'd never had children of her own (too young), she took to being a mom with grace and skill and good humor. (Again, I suspect a large part of the reason lies with her Persian upbringing.)

Importantly, I must note: through the whole, whole sordid affair, I acted with one singular goal in mind: that S and my daughter forge a relationship on their own, exclusive of me. To whatever extent with which they were both comfortable. Not once did I "take over" the process. Like admonishment, or praise, or whatever. S was entitled to be her own mom, without me interfering, per se. And Madison had to learn to respect S as her other mom, too. No pulling the whole "but my Dad said/does/thinks..." thing with us!

It wasn't easy, of course. But it worked.

When I returned from my last deployment and all hell broke loose and my life just fell apart when S left, I still had to be Daddy.

Every weekend for the three I was home (before deploying again,) I had my daughter. S had moved in with her Mom, so I had the house to myself.

The first thing my daughter asked, when I came to pick her up from her mom's, was, "Where's S.?"

You can imagine how badly that hurt.

And on countless occasions over the days I had her, she'd invoke S's memory. "Remember when me and S would tickle you, Daddy? She'd pin you down and tickle your armpits, and I'd tickle your belly?" "I miss S." "I miss Hercules (S's dog.)" "S makes the best macaroni and cheese." "When are we going to visit Mommy (S's Mom.)"

Ad infinitum.

Because I am painfully aware of the damage the split of her parents was, is, and can be, I just could not tell her that yet one more person with whom she'd fallen in love and trusted and adored had chosen to leave. As I had left her when I left her mom.

So I explained that S had taken a new job. But I made it in Pennsylvania, just in case. Close enough that it would make sense, if God reached down from Heaven and put the three of us back together.

For not, of course. But it's what I had to tell her. I didn't want to tell her that S just didn't love Daddy any more, much the same way that I'm sure her mom had to tell her about daddy leaving. Or that S had found someone else that she loves more.

So, we struggle. Or, I struggle. To balance everything.

Through it all, though, my daughter is persevering. Coping. Flourishing. Living. I can't make it not hurt, of course, but I can make it hurt less.

Like when, in times now long past, this discussion would occur:

My daughter: "I love you, Daddy. I love you, S."
Me: "I love you, too, baby."
S: "I love you, too, sweetheart."
Me: "You're sooo lucky, you have so many people that love you. There's me, mommy, S, grandma, grandpa, grammy, papa, aunts S and J, uncle L, soooooo many people!"
My daughter: "Yeah, but mommy hates S."
Me: "Oh, sweetheart, that's just a misunderstanding. Everyone loves you. That's what's important."
S: "That's right, baby. And I love your mommy, all the same."

No kidding. It happened a lot. But we survived. And damned if that little girl isn't the most amazing, happy little kid.

So, to you, shadowsofourselves, all will be well. Because you're thinking of how much it might affect her, you're already half-way there. I won't say "don't worry." That's ridiculous. Go ahead and worry. But know that in worrying, you're already doing just fine.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I took this photo recently. Its occasion is very rare; I spend most of my time aloft staring at a computer screen (cubicle dwarves will relate.)

At the risk of giving it pop-psychology meaning, I can't help but realize that even in Hell, there's pretty things to look at, sometimes. 25,000 feet below this image, people are wantonly killing one another with the inviolate focus of the mad. If only they'd look up.

It's 9PM here, and I've two hours before the whole thing starts all over again. An endless cycle, like so many others. Yet, at the moment, I feel like I'm feeling what I saw. A bit of sun, a bit of cloud; gone soon enough, but sure to return.

I'm returning.

Earlier today, I received a very unexpected email from a friend becoming even more unexpectedly close. I haven't replied yet; I'm taking my time crafting a response. What she wrote touched me:

Justin- I just had a thought. You -- you are my diary.

A little explanation is in order.

My best friend (and he is my best friend) is the male version of S. Oddly, the characteristics he shares with S are precisely why he is able to help me understand her, and what she did. He's not ashamed of them, of who he is; though, he is struggling to overcome those demons.

He has had his share of wretched relationship experiences. Many of the failures of which, I suspect, he'd admit were his fault.

Like the most recent. I'm confident of it.

He'd found me, only much more attractive in a skirt. She would have sacrificed anything for him; she lived to make him happy.

(I am reminded of something I wrote to S from Qatar as I was fighting what I could not see:)

I would lie at your feet and leave this world if it gave you a moment's pleasure.

It wasn't enough; it still isn't. He needs more, in that he needs less. He understands that he doesn't return half the attention, the affection she gives him.

Which, of course, reminds me of one of those precious few moments, there at the end, when S spoke and I believed what she said as the naked truth. She told me -- that night I came home and thought I'd won her back -- that she "didn't deserve my love," and that she didn't return half of what I gave her, every day.

I insisted that she was wrong. That she did, in countless ways that she just couldn't see right then. I gave her examples; examples that I'm sure she'd forgotten, or simply didn't realize were so important to me. They were for not, of course.

In reflection though, I remember the moment with absolute clarity. As though it happened just moments ago. And I remember a very dark, very small, very secret place in my heart nodded when she said that. It was quick; fleeting. Somewhere deep inside me, I agreed. That I worked harder at us than she did.

But I pushed it away. Hard. Quicker than the breath came that carried my protest, it was gone.

I knew she was right. I see that, now. Rather, I see it again, now.

Back to that email.

The woman that wrote it is my best friend's ex-. Everyone is okay with her writing me; each among us realizes that it's really all about helping one another get better. Not just right now, but for the long run.

That she writes me is evidence of my point (long in coming). She is me, and (as I've said,) my best friend is S. I am in a place to help her, because I am intimately familiar with every feeling she's had, and is having. Additionally, I am in a place to help my best friend, because I am similarly intimately familiar with the effect of his actions. Having lived them, and all.

So, she wrote me that. I'm her diary. She lurks my blog, and somehow it helps.

I'm honored.

Before I close, let me share something else I wrote her some time ago:

I remember <-my best friend-> and I talking about it, once. I joked that he should start dating S, since they're the same way. And then I said, no, don't do that... the fuckin' world would explode, like nuclear fusion uncontrolled. He said the same for you and I, dear. We're "the same way," so we'd be like two pieces of the same side of velcro. For you and I, it'd be: who can do something selfless and caring and loving first, the most, the fastest, with the most bang(!). Chaos.

It's very comforting to know that I can help, even when I'm hurting, myself. There's a lot of pain out there, but today's the first day of the rest of my life. And hers. And his. And yours.

I'm signing off now; it's time for the day's mission brief. I'll fly for nine hours and do my thing and still believe. And I won't give two shits about Las Vegas.

Because I'm not alone out here. Or out there.

It'll happen. You'll see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What You Are

Oddly, some of my closest friends are audiophiles. I am not.

I have, on occasion, been called tone-deaf. Woefully so. Yet, I am comfortable with this condition that keeps me from both learning Mandarin as well as appreciating that angelic melody on -insert band name here-'s b-side track!

I take even more pleasure than most at "singing", at the top of my lungs, my favorite songs in the car. I'll rock out in the shower with the best of them. I just know that I'm terrible; but it's okay!

This does not mean that I do not appreciate good music. I love my music. Really, I do. I have just come to grips with the fact that my opinion of music is not generally shared by people for whom good music cannot be found on iTunes.

(This blog here... well, it do be my soul. Not that I'm ashamed, or anything, but...)

For example: I run to Avril Lavigne. (The old album, this new one blows.) Seriously. I have caught so much crap for this. Oh, well. Despite the voluminous library of my iPod, I have been absolutely unable to find a set of tracks that just keeps me going one more mile. Somehow, she does it for me.

More: as I type this, I am listening (attentively, mind you) to Evanescence. I love Amy Lee. I have pushed my way to the stage with the hope of her just sweating on me.

My most recent iTunes purchases were: 1) a complete James Brown library. (Okay, this one probably makes me less uncool,) and 2) Metallica's S&M.

My point is that my tastes are varied, but certainly not audiophilic. I am utterly incapable of participating in a discussion among friends about the greatest lead guitarist ever. Or the relationship between Cream and Led Zeppelin.

See? I'll bet the audiophiles about whom I write are just this second saying, "that doesn't even make sense! There is no relationship between Cream and Led Zeppelin."

Which only serves to prove my point.

Nonetheless. All this mindless, circuitous prattle is meant to be a preface to my intended purpose here, in this post.

...to share a song to which I recently listened, and which I think is terribly apropos of today's thinking about my crisis.

Apologies to those that think Audio Slave sucks.

And when you wanted me
I came to you
And when you wanted someone else
I withdrew
And when you asked for light
I set myself on fire
And if I go far away I know
You'll find another slave
Cause now I'm free from what you want
Now I'm free from what you need
Now I'm free from what you are
And when you wanted blood
I cut my veins
And when you wanted love
I bled myself again
Now that I've had my fill of you
I'll give you up forever
And here I go far away
I know you'll find another slave
Cause now I'm free from what you want
Now I'm free from what you need
Now I'm free from what you are
Then a vision came to me
When you came along
I gave you everything
But then you wanted more

Does this make me as bad as a lovelorn teenager making a mix tape?

Oh, well. It's me.

Fatigue, Depression, Poor Choices and Wanking

Yesterday as I and my crewmates were preparing to hear the day's mission brief, I turned to a Lieutenant and asked, half-jokingly, what the symptoms of clinical fatigue are.

He asked me to describe what I was feeling.

I told him that, for the first time since January, I had not worked out or ran for not just one day, but three. I added that I was feeling lethargic -- even after having slept for eight hours -- that I hadn't been online in days to either check my email or (guilty pleasure) read my favorite blogs, and that my appetite had disappeared.

He laughed, and told me that it wasn't fatigue I was experiencing, but depression. How nice.

Ten hours later, having returned from our mission and looking forward to an off day (today), I suddenly and with great conviction made myself feel better. I rushed straight to my tent, changed into my workout clothes, and went for a three and a half mile run. Afterwards, I joined the other guys in my tent and played a computer game over an impromptu LAN. I sucked (definitely not a gamer,) but it was fun.

Retiring, I read a book before falling asleep, feeling contented.

I woke late today. It was back, the malaise.

I started to feel better -- energized -- within an hour or two, but I suspect that it is largely the result of massive caffeine consumption. After dinner (yes, dinner was breakfast today; our sleep schedule is anarchic,) I purchased a month-old Navy Times, and read it while sipping from the only source of almost-home-ness I can manage out here, dark tea.

I am typing this on WordPad now, as our connection to the Internet is down... I am reluctant to complain, though, as I can easily recall the years of deployments when my only connection to the Real World was a forty-word pseudo-telegram from family and friends. That I can -- with regularity -- now conduct email, read and write blogs and even video chat from the otherwise austere, "expeditionary" environment of the Horn of Africa is amazing.

Anyway. Back to the malaise.

As I couldn't access the Internet, I went over to the office tent and surreptitiously rode the "work" internet enough that I could check my email. (Its bandwidth is severely limited owing in part to firewalls.) 58 messages, perhaps only a third of which was spam.

Among them was a short note from S. Yay, me. She related that one of my bills had come to her, and asked what she should do about it. In my reply, I noticed that she had sent me the message from a new address: gmail. Of course, she never writes me from her Yahoo! account, as that was the account in which I discovered her relationship with Dan, and even S would realize that to do so would be to purposefully and sadistically remind me of it. Instead, she had been in the practice of sending her infrequent messages to me from our old Comcast account.

Since she was writing from gmail, it occurred to me that she may have closed the Comcast account; we each had email from it, and I still use mine. So, after sending off my note to her to disregard the bill (it is automatically paid,) I went to the Comcast home page with the intent of determining whether the account had been closed.

Here's where I get stupid-er. Markedly so.

Rather than logging into my own account, I logged into hers. S had never used that email account for anything much more than bills and site registrations and the like (again, she used Yahoo! for her personal messages,) and I knew the password -- it's my bloody name, since I set up the account when we first moved in together.

The Comcast is still being paid.

I know this because her account (and by extension, mine) loaded up just fine. In it, the first two messages screamed at me and I possessed no willpower to resist reading them.

One, an e-ticket confirmation for a trip to Vegas.

Two, a short message to Dan.

I don't know if the two are related, but the damage has been done. Rather, I've done sufficient damage to myself.

Vegas? She's never been. (Neither have I.) Why do people go to Vegas? The daisy-chain of my obsessive thoughts leads only to bad, bad things

Must be nice. Here I am --deployed--, miserable with myself and my thoughts and my memories and the combat missions and the un-fucking-believable heat, and she's on her way to party-town.

Dan? Ohhhhh, S... I thought you had no reason to contact him?

Bah. This healing thing -- it sucks. I'm beginning to sicken myself.

Close friends and relative strangers alike have suggested that being deployed is an ideal circumstance under which to heal, find balance again. I was inclined to believe that. Now, I'm not so sure: with little other distraction other than monotony (and if you've served, you know that even fantastic, shit-in-your-pants frightening things can become montononous,) I feel the gerbil in a wheel.

Each deliberate pace forward only brings the road I'd already travelled right back around --just out of sight--, slamming me unexpectedly right between the eyes.

I am inclined to think that if I was back in the Real World, what with social interaction with humans not dressed identical to me, in the blessed presence of my daughter and people that love me, struggling to decide between lunch venues, confronted with competing weekend plans... well, it just seems a more conducive environment, you know? Life. Life, not on hold.

It occurs to me, now, that I've never been one to lay around when sick. Both times I had surgery on my ankle and had been ordered to just mind-bending convalescences involving nothing more than laying around enjoying Percocet and Beer Cocktails, I gave up fighting the urge to do something less than halfway through. Hell, I rebuilt my VW Bus's engine while still on crutches and a non-weight-bearing cast!

Where I am, though, I feel like there's no escaping those damned crutches. Coming full-circle, one of the realizations I had yesterday that brought me to wonder about my emotional condition was this: I have been deployed, less the three weeks it took to come home and deal with the practical aspects of my relationship's implosion, since January. And no hope of rejoining the Real World until mid-July, at the earliest. Fuck.

Incidentally. Have you read Catch-22? If you haven't, you should. Not only is it a great example of American literature, but it perfectly captures the military mindset. It is hilarious. Which brings me to: I told another crewmate about how I was feeling like so much dog crap, and he said he must be depressed, too; he hadn't even felt the desire to self-love for weeks.


I've just re-read my post. Trying to find the resolve to stop doing this shit to myself. I'm promising myself to never log in to that email again, but I'm afraid of breaking that same promise. I don't like it when I can't predict my own actions.

Perhaps I'll make myself go for another run.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

In response. And more.

I suppose it's a measure of my recovery that I am able to disregard others' insight when it is patently off-base.

Though the (very revealing) incidents about which I wrote yesterday --if taken in isolation-- may otherwise lead one to believe I was a doormat for S, just begging her to take me for granted, it is just not true.

Close friends know that I am absolutely committed to the ideal of gender equality. This concept -- though sounding like a bumper sticker or even the title of a sociology term paper -- dovetails nicely with my Baha'i faith; it is nonetheless mine. In both the happiest and darkest moments, even S would have grudgingly admitted that there was nothing in my commitment to our relationship that was not centered on fairness. I insist on that unattainable ideal of 50/50, and always have. If I am entitled to something, so is she. Again, though: it is an ideal. I am also a realist; it is conscientiously endeavoring for that ideal that makes deeper the relationship. Nothing is perfect...

I recall her getting insanely jealous of a friendly relationship I had with a girl back on the west coast, and my dogged insistence that it was no different than any of the similar relationships she had with men. (She was both a tomboy and Marine.) There were certainly times when I refused to budge; this is but one example. But that's the bloody point.

God, it sounds trite... but it is nonetheless true. For me. Every relationship is based on sacrifice, compromise and trust.

The catalyst for our destruction was that October day, when I was many states removed on temporary assignment. She called, and meekly asked, and I expressed my reluctance. A friend from work staying over? My heart sank. I told her as much.

But I also said --in the end-- "okay." Because I trusted. And, more importantly, because were the situations reversed, I would have wanted the same.

It just turns out that my trust was misplaced.

My relationship with S was not one deserved. It was earned. As was hers with me.

If you have a relationship deep and mature and fulfilling, you have become abjectly vulnerable to the other person. Naked to the soul. They see you at your worst -- your absolute worst -- and love you any way. You have no defenses, because you've given your self. It's up to the person in whose hands you've placed your heart to care for it properly.

Mine dropped it. And not because I hadn't put some goddamned leash on her.

First, and then.

I miss my daughter.

Daddy loves you, baby.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Unexpectedly driven... to where?

Finally, an "off day." I woke this morning with the specific intent of writing something. Of course, I had no intention of getting to it until long after I'd had my fun.

Mind you, "fun" while deployed is relative. My fun was three games of full-court basketball. Only one of the opposing team's players was an asshat. All in all, a good day.

That being, I had at various moments through the day thought about this blog, and its consequence on me and my need (if not intent) to heal. As cathartic as I've felt in documenting the implosion of my recent relationship, it occurred to me that I was running out of anything terribly profound to say.

Which is most certainly not to say that thoughts of S don't find their way, uninvited, into my head with any less frequency. Moreover, these thoughts are getting repetitive... and subjecting myself to writing them -- much less someone unfortunate enough to read them... well, it seemed counterproductive.

It was, of course, with unbelievable pride (and the feeling of having made some sort of amorphous connection) that I discovered a few readers.

INPY is foremost. He has given my writing much more respect than it deserves, but I, too, am simply amazed at how insanely similar our experiences have been. I cannot wait to meet him once I've returned to the U.S.


However, one of the readers who'd found their way to my missives at INPY's behest posted a comment which left me alternately irritated and reflective. The poster suggested that, based on his or her personal experience, my healing would come with greater speed if I just answered a few questions.

Here they are:

  • What did you do that led her to cheat on you?
  • Why were you so dependent upon her?
  • In reality, is she the woman you thought she was?
  • What constituted your concept of love?
  • Why do you feel like you can't continue without her?
  • Why did your relationship fail?
I am certainly not reluctant to answer them. Not at all. But I have no illusions that doing so will send me along to shangri-la.

Did you, dear reader, notice the first one? Did it strike you as it did me?

What did I do that led her to cheat? This is as unhealthy a psychology as I can imagine. Seriously. Isn't this the equivalent of asking a battered wife what she did to make her husband beat her?

I get the whole "enabling" line of thinking. Really, I do. But it ends here. The only possible answer to that question is the sickening cliche: "I was too nice." And I patently refuse (forgive me, Roosh) to buy into the idea that in not being sufficiently "alpha" placed me in the position where the only predictable outcome was S's infidelity. Fuck that.

Having caught my breath, though, I can't help but think of those times when I was given the "sign." In my defense, they were few. No less painful, but few. I don't think I've written about them, here, so I'll get on with the two that are most vivid in my mind:

Very early into our relationship, S and I went out with some of her friends from work (our social circles didn't cross much, then). We went to some low-rent dance club in Augusta. Now, it is also important to note that I do not dance. Rather, I do not dance well. And I'm painfully aware of this. Yet, one of the thousand reasons I fell in love with S was her ability to make me feel good when I was dancing.

She made me feel sexy, rather than the oafish wad on the dance floor that I had believed myself to be. She knew she had my blessing to dance with whomever she wanted -- this was a boundary we'd already felt-out. But she almost always chose me. More importantly, I had fun. So much fun.

Other girls in the clique that had joined us were actually jealous. No kidding!

Right. Back to the dance club.

It is important to note, at this point, that S and I had made cosmic, passionate love at home before leaving for the club.

Towards the end of the evening, me with a permanent grin and she with the flirty, sexy sweatiness that only a beautiful woman dancing can produce, we started the "it's closing time" shuffle from the edge of the floor to the exit.

One of the guys with whom she'd shared a few dances came up to her, and asked for her number. Mind you, I'm right there. Next to her.

She pulled out her cell phone and gave it to him.

That's one.

For the most recent two months, I had been suffering the absolutely insane (yet senseless to outsiders) schedule and degradation of "Initiation." This special sort of hell is reserved for those selected for Chief Petty Officer (E-7) in the Navy. To summarize -- and, more importantly, get to the point -- for eight weeks, I had neither slept nor eaten well as I ran with frightened fervor from one seemingly inane task to another.

Right. So, the conclusion of this exercise in stress and humiliation -- Initiation -- lies in being "pinned." This is when those who have successfully passed the countless tests of integrity and humility are paraded before visitors and dignitaries in our fresh new uniforms and ultimately placed at a podium where we are ceremoniously given our new rank insignia. (This is serious business, by the way.) It is also important to note that, at this point, the new Chief has not slept -- at all -- in over 36 hours. Despite the exhaustion, no one who has lived it will ever forget this day.

On this professionally momentous occasion, I had chosen my best friend, Scott, and S to place the new rank insignia on my collar.

Afterwards, we went back to my house and planned the evening. I was, of course, in no condition to do anything huge, so we elected to have a quiet, fun evening at a Falls Church Irish pub. Just the three of us. Me, my best friend, and the most important person in my life, S.

Several pints into the evening, I get up to use the restroom. When I return, I am fucking floored to discover that S had just unbuttoned some AU-fraternity-type-fuck's button-down shirt. To expose his chest.

I'm not sure how or why his chest had come up in the very short conversation that must have occurred in my absence (after all, I only had to pee), but her behavior was apparently excused by "I didn't think you'd mind."

I felt my face redden, and I turned to Scott, and simply (and authoritatively, I'm sure, since I'd just become a Chief) told him, "The night is over."

That's two.

I realized at the time that both of these disasters were "signs." I didn't choose to ignore them. S and I, well... rather I worked through them.

A year and a half would pass before she left. Before she cheated.

I am the forgiving type. I know no other way to be. I sincerely believe that a relationship worth having is a relationship full of forgiveness, among other things. I couldn't have walked away from her at either of those points, because I loved her. I guess -- in the end -- it is a matter of knowing where the line is. My line. I just don't.

My position is vetted by my parents, strangely. My father passed away unexpectedly last summer, and my mom remains in an abject pain I cannot begin to fathom. They had been married over 35 years, and not apart for a single day during that period. Not one.

He died on her birthday. And dad -- well... he cheated. I remember: I was perhaps 10 or 11. I heard it all. All of it. Someone else might be tempted to say I shouldn't have learned of it. I'm glad I did.

She forgave. She certainly didn't forget, but she forgave. I know this, because when I called my Mom the day S had left, she reminded me of it. She was trying to express empathy for me as I struggled through the idea of forgiving S, even before she asked for it. (Incidentally, it is probably profound that at right this minute it occurs to me, for the first time, that S has never asked forgiveness. Hmm.)

I've gone on too long; I'm losing focus. I'll explore the other questions -- the ones that don't set me in a froth -- tomorrow. Or whenever the hell next I have the opportunity.

But before I close... going back to the beginning... suppose I heal sufficiently that I've no reason to post here about S. Glory the day. What the hell do I write about then? Admittedly, I had no expectation that anyone would find my words, or provide deep insight. My best friend is a prolific writer, and he convinced me that in getting my feelings and experiences down on paper (?) would help me help myself.

I don't know if it's working -- I haven't not written, so I have nothing to compare it against.

Trudging on. One African keystroke at a time.

Friday, May 4, 2007

I can't swallow my own wisdom

I am exhausted. I would much rather be sleeping, but I promised myself that I'd relate something that happened to me last night (again, just before heading to bed.)

A coworker asked how long S and I had been together. I replied by telling her two years. She then asked if I was angry over the waste of time, or if I regretted it.

Without thinking, I said, "No. I was happy; it was beautiful. I don't regret what we had, even though it ended like it did. I don't reflect on those two years as a waste, at all. They were perfect. I only regret how it ended. That it ended. I regret losing what I imagined -- what we imagined -- would be our life together."

As I type this, I'm reminded of that damned Frasier episode. "You're not grieving over having lost your girlfriend, you're grieving over the life you thought you'd have." How true. But maybe not. I think I grieve for both.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

questions to which I already know the answer...

... but refuse to acknowledge.

S and I have been apart for well over two months now.

Yesterday, I checked my Cingular account to see if I needed to pay the bill. (Recall that I am deployed.) I realized that S's phone was still on my account. I also realized that making calls and sending desperate text messages to her from Qatar in February and March were very expensive decisions. (I digress: had it led to any success in saving the relationship, I wouldn't have batted an eye at dropping $600. Alas, it was for not.)

S, in her frantic assurances back in March that she'd do "everything she could to make this easier," promised to remove her phone from my account. She hadn't.

I have so little willpower, sometimes. I spent hours last night poring over the phone records. I knew what I was looking for.

I discovered that the very day I'd left for this deployment, she began making long, long phone calls at all hours of the day (and night.) They have continued through today. They were to a number I didn't recognize. They did not belong to Mommy, or either of her sisters. I instantly surmised that this new phone number belongs to Dan.

Again, with my willpower: like an obsessive voyeur, I investigated the number using the variety of reverse lookup tools with which I am familiar. No joy. I seriously entertained the idea of paying the $14 to US Search for a full report; I know it works, I've used it in the past. Sad. I didn't. I don't need to pay someone to tell me something I already know.

I did write the number down, though. It's him, I'm sure of it. Why? I have no idea. I really don't. But I also know that I won't discard it. I'll have it for a long time.

So, obviously this was painful for me. I'm obsessing, I have no doubt. To what end, though?

I recall that I asked S, in a rare moment of lucidity before I left, if she intended so see him. She told me that she "had no reason to," and that they wouldn't be working together anymore, anyway. I recalled the email I sent him. For a moment, I took this as some sort of ill-claimed "victory." Again, I'm not sure why. I suppose that despite all my self-assurances to the contrary --that I'd not get vengeful-- , I really did want to destroy her relationship with him. Of course, I have occasionally reflected back on those statements and realized that Shina hadn't told me anything, really. That what she'd said meant nothing. And I also realized that she'd lied to me so many times since last October, that whatever she said now was not worth the breath she'd wasted in uttering it. Yet still I sought the assurance. The comfort.


I've just returned from mid-rats, where (as fate would have it) I sat across from an Army Captain whose office I have frequently used over the months. It occurred to me that the last time I'd been in it, I was using her phone to call S. And I was so in love. So content. It was only a couple of months ago.

How transient it all is. I was a different person, then. Yet I'm the same person now. I don't understand.

Anyway. Back to my self-indulgence.

So, I emailed S to remind her that her phone was still on my account. What I didn't write was more significant: I'm tired of paying for your minutes, only to have you use them to call your new boyfriend. And is this number your new boyfriend?

After I'd sent that short message, I was suddenly inspired to send another: that I had paid the bill, and it was $600, and I just wanted her to know that I had taken my own "financial hit from all of this." I don't know why -- or what I'd intended to accomplish. Probably to make her feel guilty. (I am still very doubtful of her ability to actually feel true guilt.)

Today, she responded. She sent me perhaps half a dozen emails, all at various stages of her process to rectify the problem. In it, she wrote a number of things that altogether inspired me to write this blog.

I feel like addressing them one at a time:

"I hope you are staying safe." Why does she care? And what the hell am I supposed to do to make myself safe? I either am, or I'm not.

"Well see how it goes :)" This just makes me angry. A little smiley face? That's what I'm entitled to, now?

"Also let me know if you need any money, I'm not sure what you meant in that one email about how you are taking financial hits but I'll help as much as I can if you need me." Oh? I can count on you, now? What the fuck? She can give me money, she can "be there" to send my dogs off to my mom, she can store all my shit from the garage, but she can't just be honest with herself and with me and EXPLAIN why she didn't love me as much as I loved her?

"I'll send that to the chick at cingular and hopefully we will be done with this today, kinda sad but its gotta be done i guess." Oh, this is fucking PRICELESS. It's "kinda sad" now? How trivialized this has, apparently, all become. "Kinda sad." How about the most PAINFUL FUCKING EXPERIENCE I COULD HAVE EVER IMAGINED? SO PAINFUL THAT I STILL DON'T DRAW A BREATH WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT HER... So painful that I HATE myself for not being able to let go -- that I can't just forget the whole sordid disaster for more than an hour or two. Am I to understand that "it's gotta be done"means that separating the cell phones is the final step for her -- the nail in the coffin? That not making me actually shell out real, honest-to-God-money to enable her to have (and continue) to chase her illegitimate relationship means that she's OK now? That this is the clear evidence that EVERYTHING IS OVER?

"Ok I did it I am on my account as of today." 'Guess so.