Monday, March 7, 2011

Tolerations - Part II

(if you haven't read Tolerations - Part I, I suggest you start there...)

"You're selling my ring on CraigsList?!". 
"What? How'd you..." he replies
"I want you out of my house. You have twenty-four hours"

And that was it. I returned back to my place on Sunday. It felt weird. He'd taken the pictures off the wall. The tv was missing. One closet was empty. But, all-in-all, the strangest thing was the fact that everything pretty much looked the same. Other than the tv and clothes, he didn't really have that much stuff. We'd been living together for years, but with his departure it was strange that our (my) place didn't actually look that different. It was like we'd been living in my house with all my stuff and he'd just been stopping through.

But it was quiet. Really quiet. I couldn't remember being in the house alone. He was a student and most of his friends were actually husbands and boyfriends of my friends (you'd have thought that would be a red flag, right?). So he was always home. I used to daydream about a whole day at home to myself. I guess now I had it.

Night fell and I was anxious. All of this had transpired in merely eight days. Eight days ago there was a mere five weeks until I was getting married on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Eight days ago we had plans to return from our honeymoon in the Caribbean then wait a year before trying to get pregnant. The vision I had for my life going forward was now completely fuzzy. I couldn't stop replaying everything in my mind. I still had absolutely no answers for why this was happening or what he was feeling. I thought back to what I had learned from logging in to his email account.

I remembered something that would change everything. An old email account. It was the one he had used when we first met; the one he'd email me from when he was out to sea. He didn't use it anymore. But something in me caused me to turn on the computer.

I tried his password. I knew it well. I'd spent years helping him with whatever he needed. Applying to college - first to the local community college, and later to a four-year state university in town (where he ultimately opted to get a degree and, later, a job in my same profession). Filling out financial aid forms and emailing about VA assistance. I'd done his taxes one year when he was out to sea. These were the things I did believing in our future. So, there was no surprise when the password worked.

There they were. Emails detailing how much he loved her. Emails about where they were going to live. I was going to be sick. Again. I mean, really, how many times am I going to have to throw up over this? I was devastated. I called my best friend, barely able to breathe. It was too much for her too, so she handed me to her husband who graciously talked me down from the ledge. I didn't know it, but this would mark the beginning of our own separate and distinct friendship. My devastation turned to pure fury, and my auditor's instincts kicked in. I pulled up our cell phone bill. Her number was easily identified. It was 11:00 PM. My heart pounding, I dialed. She answered. I'd clearly woken her up.

"Hi, I'm so sorry to bother you. This is S's sister. He gave me this number for emergencies and isn't picking up his phone. I need to reach him. Is he there?"

I don't think she actually said anything. But I could hear them talking. He was right next to her. If she was sleeping, that meant he was sleeping right next to her. I wanted to be sick again. He answers.

"I just wanted you to know that I know."

I hung up. There wasn't anything more to say. He called my cell phone. He called the house. Over and over. I think he may have left a message, but I don't know what it said. The next hour is a blur. I accessed any and every online account he had. Email. School. Credit cards. I changed all the passwords to f*cky0u. When I hit his personal bank account, I transferred all his money to a joint account so I could cash it out in the morning. I left him $100.

The next day was Monday.  It was morning and I was the bank parking lot waiting for them to open so I could close our joint account, or at least take out all the money that I transferred from his personal account. I'm keen to leave him with nothing if possible. It wouldn't be hard. There wasn't that much to take, even when I'd been picking up most of the tab for years. He was a student and I'd figured it was a down payment on future earnings.

It was a major bank, but it was definitely the closest branch to our house and where we would always go. So I shouldn't have been surprised when he pulled up. And he was pissed. "$100?! You were going to leave me with $100?!". We're actually still screaming at each other as the bank unlocks the door. And still exchanging "pleasantries" as we're standing next to each other at the teller's window. She must have thought we were insane. "$100 is all you're worth! Why don't you have your girlfriend pick up the tab like I always do? She can pay your way now". This poor teller. "How can I help you?".

He knew me well enough to figure out I might try to completely screw him. He knew I wasn't a wall flower. So he'd checked his account and called the bank when he couldn't access it. He'd managed to get his money back. He wanted his passwords too. I said he could have them back if he came by the house and brought the engagement ring. He showed up a few hours later. I had enlisted my best friend's husband to be there for moral support and general backup. He had become one of S's closest friends. I've never forgotten how he told S that he and his wife were my friends, and they were not to be contacted in the future. He stuck up for me in a way that was so meaningful to me. S and I sat down to discuss the password situation, and he returned the ring. I'd drawn up a contract for him to pay $8,500 over four years interest-free. It would go to my parents for money they'd given us for the wedding. After some coaxing, he signed. I'm sure guilt was knawing hard at that point. That plus a $5,000 ring seemed as good as it was going to get. I viewed everything as a sunk cost at that point. I didn't want to bother squabbling over it. I told him I never wanted to see him again. And, you know what? I never did.

He used to email a lot. He wrote me a letter once and left it on my doorstep while I was in Hawaii staying with my aunt and uncle trying to piece myself back together. He emailed for years. When I'd move states, he'd always manage to find out and try to connect. We spoke once on the phone maybe two years later. He'd had a DUI and it was showing up on my auto insurance records. I'd called asking him to fix it. We'd covered the business stuff and hung up. He called back wanting to talk; to apologize. I told him I'd forgiven him long ago, and that it had been a long time since I spent much time thinking about it.

For years I've been carting around the bits and pieces left from our relationship and planned nuptials. I didn't think I was moving them from house to house for any reason. Periodically I'd post the dresses online to try to sell them. When I didn't get any bites, I'd just let them continue to sit in the back of the closet. I figured I'd deal with it another time. But there's no doubt that every time I'd run across these things they were a reminder. Even in the back of the closet, you couldn't miss a wedding dress. They're the only dresses that allow a grown woman to wear something with such a big-ass skirt and not be completely mock-able. I couldn't have hid it if I tried.

This past month has been about connecting with myself, even if I didn't realize it when I started out. It's about making room in my life for new experiences and new people; about opening myself up; finding things I've been carrying around and trying to lighten the load. So the dresses, the rings, and everything else needed to go. And now they're gone. The dresses and unused stationary all went to the Salvation Army. The one-carat princess cut diamond is at the jeweler being reset into a pendant. I set aside some photos and letters to serve as a reminder that the relationship did exist, and it wasn't all bad. They've gone in a box with pictures from other past relationships and from my childhood. They'll sit between yearbooks and softball trophies. And they'll just be memories, tucked away for the future.

This collection of items, almost by definition, were big "tolerations". After waiting all those years to just drop the dresses off somewhere, I was fascinated by how it was such an easy act, and how relieved and light I felt driving away - leaving that part of me behind. I felt the same way about my visit to the jeweler. It was exciting. I hadn't realized that I'd been expending energy tolerating their presence in my home.

I'm making room - and not just in the closet. Within me. To make myself ready for the next big thing, whatever that may be. So, in two posts, those were my tolerations...what are yours? Hasta, sabbaticaljo


  1. I remember that time and how angry I was with him. I don't know that I every really heard all of those details (like the passwords...ha). I am so glad you released those dresses back into the world. You have made space for something great. Love you.

  2. "I'm making room- and not just in the closet. Within me." Love it!