A story about the beginning of the end of my first marriage.
I was married for about 6 months when my Ex decided to take a less traditional law school class. His professor was a new one — a woman. He was talking about her a lot pretty quickly, and the way he was talking about her led to the following conversation one day:
Him: Professor ___ this, and Professor ____ that, and then Professor ____ said this, and then she did that, and then I said to her this, and she said to me that I’m so smart, that she can’t believe I’m not at YALE, and that she thinks I should teach.
Me: How old is Professor _____?
Him: Oh, she’s OLD. Like … 40? [ha ha. We were 22 and 23 at the time …]
Me: What does she look like?
Him: Um, the only thing that really stands out about her is she has really big earlobes.
Him: Yeah, i’m not sure if it’s b/c she always wears big earrings, and they’ve stretched them out, or if she wears big earrings to cover up her big earlobes.
For some time after that, I was okay with things. We were married only 6 months, so we were “in love” (right?). And he said she was old. FORTY something.
Next semester, she asked him to co-author an article with her.
Things got a bit sticky after that.
Not all memories are clear (this was, after all, about 11 years ago).
I remember at one point, we went to her house for a dinner party, and she cornered me and the following exchange happened:
Her: I’m working on convincing your husband to get his Ph.D. and teach … I’m sure that would put a wrench in your plans.
Me: I’m sorry, my “plans?”
Her: Well, he won’t be a rich lawyer if he gets his Ph.D., I’m sure that will be very hard for you.
Me: I guess you weren’t aware, but law students don’t get paid — he wasn’t making money when we got married, and he’s not making money during our marriage. Obviously, that’s fine with me. [okay – i’m sure that’s not what I said … I know I was affronted. I know I tried to be snarky. I doubt I succeeded. I was such a baby.]
Her: hahahahahahaha. We’ll see.
From here, everything went seriously down hill. He was gone all the time – at her house. “Working on the article.” She called our house constantly. I was less and less comfortable with the situation. I hated to broach it with him, b/c I knew it made me come off as a jealous wife. But I honestly am NOT the jealous type, and as things unfolded, my instincts were spot-on. But his response was one of condescension, of dismissal, and of rudeness.
He would say things like, “well, if you had any real academic experience, you would know that THIS is the way that true student/professor relationships are supposed to be.” He would also say things like, “it’s so nice to be in the presence of a truly intelligent woman.”
She was sooooo intellectually stimulating.
One Saturday morning, at about 6:45 a.m., our phone rang. It was (guess!) her. She said something, the Ex’s face fell, and he got up and got dressed. I asked where he was going. He said he had to go meet her. I asked why. He said he did not know. I said it was wholly inappropriate for her to be calling him at 6:45 a.m., on a Saturday insisting that he go meet her. He said that she wouldn’t ask if it weren’t necessary.
He returned at noon, and sat me down for a “talk.” [he said] She had called him into her office to tell him that a classmate of his was “spreading a rumor” that Professor _____ and he were having an affair. She thought that he should hear about it from her. I don’t know what happened during the other 5 hours and 10 minutes that he was gone. I questioned the wisdom in responding to a supposedly unfounded accusation with more fuel for the accusations (i.e., a one on one meeting in a professor’s office at 7 a.m. on a saturday). He told me I was dumb, in so many words.
I guess my 22 year old self then decided to lay down some “ground rules.” Ex knew that this was a really crappy situation for me. His classmates knew me, I had gone to events and functions – and they knew of this rumor. I said that from then on, I did not want her calling the house. I did not want them alone together. That it was unfair for me to end up looking so damned STUPID (ha! little did I know).
He said okay.
Shortly after that conversation, he called me at work to apologize that he just wasn’t able to say no – she had asked to take him to lunch to celebrate something or other – what did I expect him to say? “my wife won’t let me”? I feel as though they must have run into someone they knew at the restaurant, and he was afraid it would have gotten back to me … why else would he have called?
In the meantime, he was applying to Ph.D. programs.
I was devestated.
See, at this point, Thing One was baking. My belly was growing. I was 22 years old.
He was applying to Yale (which he did not get into), and to U.C.
She wanted him at U.C. — She had an old professor there that she wanted him to study under. She wrote letters to both places. I said I didn’t see how he could start a Ph.D. program immediately after law school, with me 8 months pregnant at the point he was to start.
Small amount of context: I was still a born-again Christian. He already was shedding it, but was not honest with me about how much. We had already been looking at churches other than the Southern Baptist, but hadn’t found a place we were comfortable.
But were still immersed enough that it was a given when I got pregnant that I would NOT be working when the baby was small. I got pregnant after he accepted a job at a firm. He was due to start before the baby was to be born.
We talked about it, and I cried to my mother on the phone, and she suggested I pray about it. The Bad Lady had told Schlurg that there was “fellowship money” available at UC, and since it was a public school, it would be affordable.
So I prayed that God let his will be known — if we were “meant to go” – then we would get a fellowship. If we did not, then we could discern that it was not God’s will for us to move to California.
I told Ex that this was the way I felt. That we could not up and go to California with me 8 months pregnant without some kind of financial security. He said okay, and I guess he called the Bad Lady and let her know “our position.”
The $$ and the baby weren’t the only issues, of course. There was this other woman pushing MY husband down HER chosen path for HIS life. It was very very difficult to watch. He had just come off a summer where he’d split b/t two firms, gotten offers at both, done good work, and was happy with the people he was to work with.
And this woman was able to completely derail all of the things that he had planned – that we had planned.
Mostly (as I saw it at the time) through flattery. She heaped the praise on him like there was no tomorrow. How intelligent he was, how gifted, how he was “meant” for this line of work. How it was his destiny – he was one of the chosen few. Practically like he was Aristotle.
I hated that she was driving him.
One week later, we received a letter that Ex received a $25,000 fellowship from U.C. for the first year of his studies.
I was also told at this point that it was a masters program, and that he was just deferring his job for a year.
He later told me that it is what the Bad Lady told him, and that he was shocked to find out that there was in fact, no masters program for this area (which I cannot share due to the field being quite small), and that he had actually enrolled in a 6+ year Ph.D. Program.
He told me this on the day I arrived in our new home in California.
We all know what that’s like, right? You enroll thinking one thing, and LOW AND BEHOLD!!! I had no idea that law school was 3 years!! I thought this was a 6 month certification program!!
Everybody does that, right?
I was 22. I was 8.2 months pregnant with this boy’s child. So yes, I believed him. All around.
Another small amount of context: Ex went to college with me – at Liberty University (if y’all recall, people got their DOGS into that school). He went to law school at a 4th tier school, and he had a C average. He was/is very smart, but most of law school wasn’t clicking for him. But then he took that … and he was one of 5 admits to a really phenominal program. Of hundreds of applications around the country (no, the world) – he was one of 5.
Because of the Bad Lady.
She made a call to a professor who owed her favors on a personal level, and who was on the admissions committee. Schlurg would never have gotten into that program without her. Once there, he did excel, and he did do well. But he wouldn’t have had the chance on his own.
Approximately two weeks after we arrived, Ex was at school, and I was home setting up the baby’s room. The mail came.
This was one of the high points of my day.
I knew no one in CA, I did not know the area. I was lonely as HELL. He was up and gone by 7, and often not home until 11. We didn’t have cable. It was 1996 … we didn’t yet have internet (we got it soon after, though).
So yeah, the mail was the high point of my day.
Yes, I was pathetic.
In the mail was an envelope from our bank.
I opened it.
It was a joint account — I had that right.
Inside the envelope was a check, which had bounced. It was a check which he had deposited. A $500 check. She had written it to him, and he had deposited it, but then pulled cash. She had actually post-dated the check, but he didn’t pay attention to that, so it bounced. I also found out later she had sent cash along with it.
For one afternoon, I saw this as confirmation of all my worst fears.
Confirmation that he was having an affair with her.
Confirmation that all the condescension and rottenness that he had inflicted on me was all a cover for his inappropriate behavior.
I remember that I could not breathe.
I was due to give birth to his child. I was 3000 miles away from my family, I knew no one, and I had this THING in my hand.
I decided that I would go home to my parents. We had already “named” E, but I decided I would not use that name – I would move back east, choose a new name, and raise her on my own. I would spend time with her while she was young, and then I would go to law school, and when I was ready, I would move out of my parents’ house, and my child and I would be more than fine.
But then Ex got home, and asid that the only reason he hadn’t told me about the $$ she sent was b/c I was so bad with money, he felt that he needed a safety net, and that’s what this was providing. He didn’t know why she sent it, but he thought she just felt bad that we were there b/c of her, and things were so expensive.
So I said okay.
I listened to that. I never saw the $$. The cash nor the $$ from the check. I think that she (who was also married, and had a 3 year old daughter) also got in trouble for this little transfer of funds, b/c things only got worse from here, although there was a few months respite in between.
During the next semester, He was working on a paper which was an expansion of his law school “thesis” (what they were calling the writing requirements at the time).
She was helping him.
She was calling a lot, still. I remember one day she called, right after E was born, and she asked how I was doing, and I said I was fine. She asked if I was tired, that after her daughter was born, pregnant, she was tired all the time. I said no, I felt great and was not tired at all. I was snotty.
Ooooh — How big and strong of me.
I was lost in my own world for some time. E was very little, Ex was honestly never around. I was a bit out of it, I think. I don’t even remember those initial months.
I know that Ex and I were so miserable that at one point, we were talking about me leaving and spending some time with my parents.
I remember one night, after I finally got the baby to sleep, I went to bed. Ex and I were either fighting – or so distant that we had not enough feeling for one another to fight.
He was asleep, and I was awake, and miserable.
Lying in bed next to him, while he was snoring, thinking of how awful things were, I spoke aloud – quietly – but aloud.
“I hate you. I hate you so much, and I am so unhappy, and I hate this life, and I hate you hate you hate you for making me this way.”
He told me later – many years later – during the divorce – that he was not asleep. He heard everything I said.
He said nothing to me – not then, not the next day. Not the next year. Not until it was too late.
Then one day, we got a hang up call.
We often got these hang up calls. I had become accustomed to them – they were almost constant in our entire marriage.
This day, things were bad, I was in a bad mood, and when the hang up call went away, I dialed *69. I did this often with the hang up calls, but almost every time, I would get the message about the number being out of the calling area. This time, She answered the phone on the other end.
I was not surprised that it was her voice. (Her voice was VERY distinctive, and I’m sure it still is. It’s a smoker’s voice like you would not believe.) It took me a very little while after the call was over to realize that if she answered the phone …. she was not in the state where she was supposed to be. She was there. In CA. And local.
Right after I used *69, the phone rang again (within 5 minutes), and this time, she asked for my husband. I told her he wasn’t home, and she asked that he call her. She did not leave a number. He got home, I told him to call her, and he did. (Note that this means he had the local number … how? Why? This was pre-cell phones!)
We had plans …. I forget where we were going, but it was something for me (I can’t imagine what that was – I had no life. I think it may have been a book reading at a local bookstore).
But he left. He went to meet her at a cafe.
He said she was in town, and insisted on seeing him, and he had to go.
When he returned, he told me that she was “messed up” – and then we did whatever it was we had planned for that night.
One day soon after, Ex’s father called.
Ex’s father NEVER called.
He and Schlurg’s mother were divorced when he was 3, and his father moved to another country. I saw him less than 5 times in our entire marriage. For about 2 hours, tops, each time.
It was very odd that he called.
I remember that Ex was in the shower. When I told him that his father was on the phone, he JUMPED out of the shower, soap still in his hair, grabbed a towel, and in 2 seconds was in his study with the door closed.
He was wet (obviously) and had stepped on our floor heater, and burned his foot.
I heard it sizzle. It blistered later that day.
They were on the phone for some time. Ex then got back in the shower to rinse off,
dressed, and came to talk to me. He told me that [brace yourself] the Professor had personally funded the $25,000 “fellowship.” She had since then sort of cracked.
Her husband found out that she cleaned out their savings, and was pissed.
She then started talking about things like … alternate realities.
Apparently [according to Ex] her first phase was saying that Ex was Christ come again, and she was … i don’t know, his wife.
Then she was begging him to …. um, live with her. That they could both teach at a school across the water, and have an apartment in the city.
He asked [he said] what she proposed he was to do with me, and she said he could have us both. One on each side of the Bay, apparently.
Then, when he did not acquiesce, she instead said that he was Satan. The antichrist. All kinds of weird things. Also according to him, she started to have some time-shifting issues. Where she thought they were in the very distant past together.
Somehow, in this state, she managed to call his father
(in another COUNTRY – they don’t even have the same last name!!! How was she to know how to contact him? How did she know the country? How did she know how to find him?)
and tell him that if he did not give her $25,000 (you know, pay her back), she would tell ME about their affair. I guess she demanded that Ex pay her back, but he refused, on account of us barely making our rent each month.
I think her husband was involved in these demands.
The deal was that Ex’s father would make monthly payments if Professor and her husband promised not to contact ME.
Ex’s father did not believe him when he said that there was, in fact, no affair. Ex’s father had affairs aplenty, and he was always quite miffed when Ex’s mother interfered, or got upset. So for him, this was not really such a big deal. He probably didn’t understand his son’s denials.
Professor and her husband did not hold their half of the bargain.
The husband called me. He yelled at me.
I don’t remember the specifics. I remember I was scared, and confused, and didn’t want to believe any of this.
I also remember that day so well.
So many things were blowing up – the phone calls (hang ups, yelling, incoherent babbling) were going on all day – Ex was at the school, “in the library,” working. E was 6 months old, and she obviously picked up on the tension, b/c I think she slept for 24 hours straight that day.
Ex went about his business.
He played basketball, he went to school at 7, and was home around 11.
I was scared.
I pictured this woman trying to break into my home.
Showing up at my doorstep, trying to hurt my baby. Her husband showing up with a gun. I closed my curtains, and I hid inside.
Her husband called babbling about how my husband made this mess, and it was his job to make things right – that it was his responsibility – that it was the right thing to do – nothing specific, nothing to clear things up – and I didn’t have the guts to ask — not yet.
First he asked to talk to Ex. I said “who’s this?” and he said “let me talk to [ex]!!” I said he wasn’t home – and he swore and cursed, and then babbled.
That night, Ex was all apology, and Mr. Sad, all “oh, you were right all along, this is so awful, I’m so sorry I’ve put you through this.”
We watched a movie. It was something with Salma Hayek – Fools Rush In.
I don’t remember sequentially where it happened – but one day, while Ex was playing basketball, I went through his stuff.
I found a poem in his school bag written in her handwriting – it was not a fax, it was original ink.
I felt like that meant he had seen her, had been receiving mail from her, or something face-to-face. When I confronted him with it, he said he had “no idea” how it ended up in his bag.
I also went through his study. [And I defy anyone who tells me that was wrong of me, at this point].
I found something that is likely the thing that troubles me most to this day – it was the notepad he had with him when he went to CA to find us a place to live. I knew that he stayed in the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, b/c SHE had a coupon for a free stay. I knew that she had hooked him up with people in the area, and that she gave him leads. But this was a notepad with addresses he had written down while there, and right in the middle of the page, was her handwriting.
I think she was there with him.
I asked him once – I think during our divorce (which was, to give some context, at least 3 years after this chaos). He denied it.
But I remember while he was gone, and I was staying behind in Alabama. She called toward the end of his stay, and I knew at the time that it was odd that she called.
She was the one who sent him on the trip.
She KNEW he was gone!!
I think that she was with him, and she called the house in order to cover themselves in my eyes.
Yet, I let it all go. I said okay.
I wanted to be happy and safe. I didn’t want to tell anyone that my marriage was fucked up. Our families were (are still) born-agains. So was almost all of our social contacts. how could I be *that person*? How could I do that to my kids? (oh, it was singular then). Furthermore, how could I survive? E and I were practically symbiotic. I couldn’t WORK. I couldn’t support myself. I didn’t want to run home to mommy and daddy.
So I let it go. I believed him. I tried to be happy.
And the next 6 months, as far as I can remember, were relatively quiet until around September, so 6 or 7 months after I found out about the $25,000 being from the Professor, and not from the school.
To fill in — when I was told about the $25,000, Ex told me that he did not know for certain that the $$ was from the professor until soon before, but that he had an inkling for a long time. He said that when he went to pick up the first disbursement check, it was actually 2 checks comprising the first half of the $$, and something about the manner of the transaction felt “off.” He said at that point, he feared the worst.
I do not believe him. I think he knew all along.
He is a taker.
He will take anything that he thinks people can or will spare. I know that he went to the ‘wealthy’ members of his church (his mother’s church) before law school, and asked them if they could help finance his education.
I think that’s weird.
But it’s also an indication that he had no problem taking money from anyone who he could get it from.
He also was very big on asking me to pick up the phone to call my parents for help.
I fully believe that he knowingly took that money from the professor without remorse, guilt, or trepidation.
His father was making payments, E was getting older. Around her first birthday, there was a quick flare up.
We received a call from a sherriff or the police or something, saying that they got a phone call from the Professor, and that she said it was an emergency that the Ex call her.
I believe this was because he was ignoring her phone calls. This was still pre-e-mail enough that the phone was the major form of communication. Phones which were attached to walls — not phones in the pocket.
That day, we changed our phone number to an unlisted one. Probably within the month, I ended up pregnant with J.
We were Moving On.
This is mostly the end of the story. There were times over the next few years that she would call, or she would email him.
One time was during the demise of our marriage.
This email came to me. The subject line said it was for him, but it was to my account. In it, she said something about him needing to deal with the fall out of their time together, and that he needed to make things right by “Enrique.” I don’t have ANY CLUE who that is, but the implication was, and has been acknowledged many times as such by the Ex, that they had a child together.
When he was in law school (when she was actually his professor) rumors had gone around that she was pregnant. Then that she had gone up to D.C. to get an abortion (was Alabama that backward?) I remember him telling me this “rumor” in an odd manner.
I do not know if it is something at all based in reality, but I do wonder if they have a child together. If so, it would likely be older than E.
While we were breaking up, he told me more things about that time.
He told me that he used to leave school at 8 p.m., and then go to a pay phone, and talk to her on the phone for hours.
He also told me that she spent several weeks (months?) in Berkeley around the time that I found that poem in his bag. He told me that she had been calling his department at school, and leaving dozens of messages, and it being embarassing, and so he had to keep calling her, and he had to let her be in town.
He also told me that while he was still in law school, she kissed him.
And that the whole thing started b/c they had shared stories about childhood molestation with each other.
And that was the reason for the connection, not a sexual relationship.
He never had told me any such story of being molested, and continued to refuse to tell me.
[actually, this came up way before the demise of our relationship].
I still don’t know what it is he shared with her.
I know that since we separated, and he’s been in the Middle of the Country, she’s contacted him a few times.
Once it was in a moment of clarity, where she gave him a list of conferences she was intended to participate in, asking him not to attend.
Other times were more of the old harassment.
He has called me to let me know that if the girls needed to talk to him, we needed to email, b/c he was leaving his phone unplugged.
Another time (about a year ago) he called and nervously started in with, “I think you should know something, and I’m sure it won’t amount to anything, but I think I should tell you, and it’s probably best that you’re prepared ….” but that She had emailed him again, and it was a long and rambling message that ended with a threat that if he does not respond, she will contact me.
I asked him if she knows that we’re divorced.
Why would she contact ME?
I don’t care anymore.
Call me! Tell me you had an affair with my husband. Tell me that you are raising his 10 or 11 year old child. I don’t care!!
He said no – she definitely knows that we’re divorced.
I asked him WHY would I still be the threat?
Why would she be holding onto ME as the bait?
She should call his mother (who knows NOTHING of this story) or his [now wife] (who for a very long while knew NOTHING of this story – Ex tells me he’s since told her – I’m so curious as to the version he gave her. Doe she know now what he put me through? Is this why she’s been so warm and friendly over hte past year?).
He implied that she had good reason to still contact me. I have no idea what that good reason is.
OH!! I forgot something important.
Not only had she always been threatening to contact me (and at one point, his mother) – but she was also threatening to tell the academic community that he plagerized her work. That the help she gave him during his first semester of his Ph.D. was not help – but rather, him stealing her work, and that, basically, his entire Ph.D. is her stolen work. She has been threatening to ruin his name in the academic community.
There have been times that I wished she would.
People know she’s a little bit flipped her lid, though, and I’m not sure how much credit they’d give her.
This recent “threat” that she’s going to contact me, however, is what has this on my mind again. When he told me about it, the following exchange took place:
Him: This is so frustrating. Everytime I think that this is over, and I can put it behind me, she pops back up again.
Me: I think it’s appropriate. I think you deserve this.
Him: You know, I probably do. Not for the reasons you think, but I probably do.
Me: Even if the only thing you did was take her money, you deserve this.
Him: [laugh] I think you’re right.
Me: You made your bed, and now you have to lie in it.
Him: [laugh] appropriate metaphor.
Even though it may be hard to prove proximate cause, I fully blame my divorce on this situation. The fact that once the mess ended, we stayed married, had another child, and moved across country together twice may lead some (him) to say that it had nothing to do with the end of our marriage.
But that’s not true.
She was always between us.
Our life was always something molded by her.
There was also always the threat of her coming back.
There was always the erosion of trust, the questions, and the doubt.
This was the FOUNDATION of our marriage.
Geez, the first 2 little pigs thought THEIR houses were weak!!!