When I opened that white envelope, the private investigator’s report inside revealed that Phillip was seeing someone else. I ripped our wedding photos off the walls, took down family photos. ” I’d howl the words to “Amnesia” as I drove along. “I should’ve bought you flowers and held your hand / Should’ve gave you all my hours when I had the chance.” I’d torture myself wondering what it was like for my husband and his girlfriend. I didn’t know a thing about running a house on my own. I hoped people would think I was just sweating from my eyes. That first Saturday night I had to give up my kids, I’d shuffle past their empty rooms. I’d completely lost myself in my marriage, and now I didn’t know what to do with my free time. Should I have let Phillip come home when he had asked to try again? How would I even meet someone, and would they ever know me as well as Phillip did? I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I had lost so much weight — 25 pounds in three months — that I needed new clothes anyway. After all, it was now me and me alone who took my kids to doctor’s appointments and held them when they got their booster shots.
I will never forget his pasty complexion when he was forced to admit his year-long affair with a waitress. Suddenly I hated the big one of us kissing while our kids smiled, perched on our backs. I decided to leave just two photos of him — one for each of my kids — in the girls’ bedrooms. My sister came over and helped me put my kids to bed on days when I was too empty to do it myself. “You need to throw everything out and buy nice clothes for all the dates you’re going to go on.” I couldn’t even begin to think about dating. I started seeing a therapist, one who would not let me feel like a victim for long. “If you had to deal with the feelings I was dealing with, you’d punch this hard too,” I wanted to tell them. Sometimes, I’d work so hard that my lips turned blue. I was desperate to hear them breathing in their beds. I turned on the heating pad and crawled under my blankets. “Not bad,” I’d think to myself as I glanced over my appearance in the mirror. I survived on coffee, dark chocolate and plain crackers. It was me who carried them up to bed by myself when they fell asleep in the car.
I knew that we had been struggling, but I was so caught up in daily family life that I hadn’t noticed just how bad it was. He was always needed at work dinners, at business meetings that lasted until the wee hours and on frequent trips. In one instant, I had lost my best childhood friend, the boy who took me to prom, the person who could articulate my thoughts better than I could. I’d beg God — if there even was a God — to make the pain stop.
When he was home, his eyes were trained on his Black Berry. Gone was the man who held my hand during my terrifying emergency C-section, the dad who changed our baby’s very first diaper. Songs I’d never noticed on the radio suddenly had meaning for me. In those first few weeks of single motherhood, my family rallied around me. We agreed that he would take them for dinner two nights a week and for a sleepover every Saturday night.
“Leave me alone.” I knew what my parents wanted to say. But I opened the door for my parents and saw the large white envelope in my dad’s hands.