I have two friends suffering like I am. We live four blocks from each other, and yet we don’t see each other. (That’s worth another post). But one day, three weeks ago, I found my husband’s memorabilia of the woman he’d had an affair with. I cried so suddenly that I lost my breath. My lungs seemed to freeze, and my knees shook. Drain cleaner seemed to sting the insides of my veins. I texted Jayne
I read the notebook as I cried and ran out of the house. I tried not to, I have to tell people. I opened the garage and unlocked my car door. I pulled out into the garage and put it in park. You have to stop me, I texted her. I’m going to tell everyone in his lab.
I’d already seen the photos on his computer. I’d weathered that fine. I had closed the lid and called the kids “let’s go get our kittens” and drove us to the Animal Rescue League. I felt free. I was getting those kittens for my children, damn my husband and his allergies. They’d begged for 8 months, they’d done all their research, hell they showed me cat videos. The photos simply liberated me. But luck wasn’t going my way.
He’d put the treasured items in an inter-office memo folder, the kind that’s got holes punched in it and you write whose office it’s going to and cross out the other addresses. He put the folder in his desk drawer right next to his office chair. It sat in a hanging folder labeled “Junk” with a couple of cards and drawings from our kids. The notebook, bound and blank, had been in there. It was a quarter filled with penciled memories of hers about him and her together. A log of his betrayal. His other life. All the ways and all the times he had left me and our baby.
The memo folder also contained:
- three cards, one with a handwritten I love you, and another written with Chipmonkey
- one notepad paper in the shape of a heart with handwritten I miss you
- a string thong, black and lacy, from Victoria’s Secret
- a photo of her in a wild landscape, shortened trees and a broad horizon, maybe an untouched dune somewhere. She’s in the middle of the landscape looking back over her shoulder at the camera with a knowing but shy smile. That smile still haunts me.
- a photo of her dressed up, sitting outside a hotel, like you do when you’re going out to a special dinner with the family and you want a picture of everyone assembled just before you go into the restaurant
For some reason, I was compelled to return the folder to his desk. But before I did, I photographed every item, even the memo folder. I took a photo of every page of the notebook. Of every photo and card. Even the thong from Victoria’s Secret.
Unfortunately, since you can’t take a picture of something without looking at it through the viewfinder, I got several phrases from the notebook stuck in my head:
…how you made love to me so tenderly in your office…I was such a mess and you helped me so much…We’d go together to the café…I’ll remember our trip to Philly…and you took those pictures of me and I felt so naughty…
The garage door was still open, and my car was idling in the driveway, and I hadn’t yet driven in a panic to his office like I suddenly wanted to do. I held onto my knees and leaned my forehead there, rocking, as I cried into the phone saying I have to tell everyone, they have to know what he did, I can’t know this by myself anymore.
Jayne talked me off the ledge. Told me I can’t run around telling because it might get back to the kids, and they’d be damaged.
Every day, back then, way back three weeks ago, I’d see his secret photos of her in my head. A young woman in summer looks lovingly back at the camera with that smile and long black hair. You made love to me tenderly.