I had this wonderful dream about you.
I met with you in your office, and sat across from you behind your big desk. We chatted. There was no tension, animosity, certainly no chemistry of distant past. Just a conversation where I mostly asked you questions and you answered them.
I just realized you never initiated any conversation except that first pass. After that, it was all about me, asking you, you responding, when you could, when you wanted to and you could find the time. Why did I believe that was enough? Why didn't I even see it might not be enough? (You teach people how to treat you.)
"Is it OK now? Is it better?" I asked.
"Oh, so much better. So much better. It's good," you responded.
After a bit, there was the sound of someone in the hall behind me. You smiled, looked up, and waived your wife in to sit with us.
The three of us talked. And it was pleasant, and peaceful, and lots of things were said and lots of things became very very clear. Then you left, and your wife and I talked.
I apologized, and she accepted my apology, all the while smiling, holding the most empathetic and gracious expression. She said the thing I only imagine she would say in my dreams:
"The affair really woke us up and made us recommit to the marriage. It was the best thing that could've happened."
Before your wife came in, when it was just you and me, I asked you if you still read my emails. You responded, “Most of them.“ Which is exactly what you used to say back then. Although back then I know you read all my emails. You gave yourself away. You'd say things that touched on things I'd said in emails. So I knew you read them and I knew you thought about them. I knew what I said had meaning and significance. Of course it did.
You’re not a very good liar. There was that split second after I asked you a question, an almost imperceptible hesitation, while you framed up your response. I picture it now kind of like a child wriggling out of a tight space while his parent is watching. The child knows he wasn’t supposed to be there, but pretends like he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be there. And the parent is gracious to look the other way, to let it pass. What an interesting visual that is.
Liars like you aren't very good at lying. You'd contradict yourself in subtle ways. I knew. And you knew I knew, and you knew it wouldn't change a thing. I'd simply look the other way. We both knew so much of one another for knowing so little of one another. Perplexing. And quite amazing nonetheless.
I never saw myself as having any type of role in holding you accountable, at least not to me, that’s for certain. I did often badger you, very heavily towards the end, about your drinking and the irresponsible ways you were undermining your family, including sex with me.
Throughout, I consistently pursued a platonic friendship. I didn't perfectly pursue it. I was selfish. But in the aggregate, I didn't want to do wrong because it hurt me to hurt you. So still selfish, but selfish for the right reasons. I wrote about it summer, 2017, shortly after my stay at the Brook:
"Are we going to have some time? Are you able to carve out some time? Or is it going to be quickie quickie quickie run run run you know I can't I can't fucking I can't fucking handle that. I mean I can, I'll take what I can. But it's really hard on my heart. And if you have guilt about it the next day just don't tell me about it because it makes me feel worse to have been an instrument of your guilt. I just don't want to be part of anything that makes you unhappy because it just hurts me too much to hurt you."
There were stretches when we were aligned on the platonic ideal, and those times were such a relief. I could rest in you, and know you wouldn't take from me that very important thing I was unable to hold dear, to hold back from you. (You teach people how to treat you.)
Now, I’m back to pondering whether or not the incredible learning and incredible growth I experienced outweighs the incredible karmic debt I’ve created for myself, a debt it may take many many lifetimes to set to rights. And that makes me very very sad. And tired just thinking of all the work I've left to do.
Yet, every time I try to dwell and stay with the notion of how horrible I was, I have to acknowledge I could not have become who am walking any other route. And who I am now is better than I have ever been. Certainly, still plagued with issues and tortured by insecurity and self-doubt, and full to the brim with weakness and flaws. Yet, still better than I have ever been, as a person, and in terms of the healthiness of my mind.
Wow, I just wrote that all out without this huge stabbing guilt pain shame thing that usually comes when I revisit all the ugliest of the why’s of my choices. Oh wait. Here it comes. There it is. I still feel like total shit about that goddamn affair. I still feel cursed and damned. I wonder how valid those emotions are. And if it’s as simple as self-forgiveness, why I can’t seem to get hold of it.
All that aside, as if all that were something I could casually sweep aside with my arm, well, let’s pretend I just did that. All that aside, I desperately hope and pray you are doing well, that you and your relationships and your family are happy and healthy. I do find myself wondering whether or not you have a grandchild. And imagining how much joy that would bring to you.
I hope you know joy. I wish you great joy.
[Initial publication: 4/1/2022]