Part 3: You Used to Love Me
I thought I could have let it pass. I would have been willing to stand and let God see me through this whole thing. I thought I was strong enough to overlook all of it. I was secure in my marriage, my union of 39 years with my husband, Patrick. We were happy and comfortable and planning to retire in Houston, TX, where our eldest lived with three of our seven grandchildren. Our home and our lives were peaceful, we were content, and we were happy…until a vacancy in Patrick’s college was filled. He’s the Dean of Arts & Sciences, and HR hired an associate astrophysics professor from USC. The professor’s name was Brielle Hunter.
I do not know what magic, sorcery, voodoo, spell, charm, or potion Brielle used on my husband…but she would make far more money hustling it instead of teaching wayward college students. There are women who would pay thousands for whatever enchantment she used to try and steal my faithful, loyal husband of almost 40 years away from me. I say “try,” but if I’m 100% honest with myself, the truth is that she did steal him. About a month after Brielle was hired, my husband was utterly smitten with her and he couldn’t help it. He tried to keep it from me, but a woman knows and a wife knows better. I appreciated his attempts to keep me in the dark about what I first thought was a crush.
I didn’t worry. My husband is 59 years old, and he’s always been a very mild-mannered man. He’s calm, rational, and thoughtful…and being a scientist, very methodical and contemplative. He doesn’t do rash things. He doesn’t overreact. He isn’t passionate about anything except his work, and even that doesn’t send him over the edge. He doesn’t fly off the handle and doesn’t throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. How he deals with things is to withdraw from the world and retreat into his private place until the dealing is done, and then he returns. I love him for his ability to be steady, to be a port in a storm, to be bedrock in all things. I love him for being consistent.
I didn’t appreciate that ability when we were first married, and was frustrated that my mild-mannered military man lacked the zeal of other paramours. Being young, I thought that vivid exhibits of exuberance and continuous chants of wonderful words and silky sentences were equivalent to love. I made this mistake twice, ten years apart, and Patrick forgave me both times. Among my friends, I’ve seen those displays of devotion and heated words of love turn to ash and drift away. I’ve been a shoulder to many women whose marriages have failed for whatever reason, and I learned to appreciate who Patrick is.
Maybe I took it all for granted. Maybe because we’d known each other since third grade, there was no need for the peacock feathers. Maybe because I believed that Patrick wasn’t capable of passion, I never had any reason to worry about him.
He started staying at work longer than usual.
He would be on his computer more than what I was accustomed to.
He would oftentimes daydream, which was something he never did before.
Then he started coming home late…really late. Which for him meant 10:00. At which point I decided to start paying serious attention to what had him so distracted…and it didn’t take long at all. Brielle’s name popped up and a look came over his face…an expression that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
I still didn't worry.
Raye, Patrick’s secretary, sent me a one-sentence email that confirmed my suspicion. She told me that he’d started eating lunch in the mezzanine near Brielle’s office. I didn’t worry, but I did put on my big girl panties. I waited for her after class one day and we had a brief chat in which I informed her of certain truths…the primary two being that I was aware of her and Patrick’s relationship, and that I wasn’t going anywhere. I could wait her out, because she, like any normal side dish, wouldn’t wait on her man to divorce his wife forever. It was clear to me that they were kindred nerds. It wasn’t like they were having sex. I knew my husband. Those days were over.
Or at least I thought I did. One evening, I entered his bedroom to bring him some water. He was putting on a T-shirt and winced as I entered the room. His back was to me, and I saw several scratches just before he pulled the shirt down. It was such an…unfamiliar…sight that I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. I handed him the water and put a hand on his back. He winced again and took a couple of aspirin with the water. He told me that he pulled a muscle in his back and I didn’t even think about it.
Then, when picking up his prescriptions from Walgreens, I noticed that one read “sildenafil citrate.” It was not one of his regulars. A quick search on Google, and I knew everything I needed to know. His infatuation with Brielle was far more serious than I allowed myself to believe. That woman was fucking my 59-year-old husband…and I needed to know what else they were doing, because at this point, he wasn’t coming home one night a week, sometimes two. He never volunteered information and I never asked. Patrick never treated me any differently; our lives continued as they always had. But those scratches never left my mind’s eye. I’ve left scratches on a man’s back…but never my husband’s. I knew where I was mentally and emotionally to have left such tangible reminders…and to see them somewhere I’ve never seen them before…
I began to worry.
She did not live far from campus, and my reconnaissance determined that he never step foot in her house, nor did his car ever darken her driveway. They met one another in a hotel suite in a nearby town. I managed to get a room across the way with a perfect view of their suite, and using a pair of powerful binoculars, I saw enough to convince me that my husband was in love with another woman, and their relationship was very intense, and very…passionate.
Patrick was there first. She came in about 15 minutes afterwards and he took her bags and put them away. They hugged and instead of his fingers linking around her waist as they did mine, his hands actually went lower. Her eyes were closed and she looked like she was right at home in my husband’s arms. Then they sat down for a light meal and he produced a folder with what looked like a manuscript. For a very long time, they animatedly discussed the contents of the manuscript, and then she got up and sat in his lap. I found it very hard to swallow, seeing that. Then she kissed him and it was clear that he kissed her back. After the kiss, he linked her fingers in his and they continued to talk…but it was the words their eyes were speaking that worried me more than whatever was coming out of their mouths.
Sometime later, they took a shower together…another thing that was hard to watch…and then he carried her out of the bathroom; both of them wearing hotel robes and laughing like children. They laid on the bed and continued to laugh and talk about God knows what and he held her hands and kissed her fingers and then her face, and then her lips, her neck, her chest, her nipples…dear Lord, he got on the turnpike and headed south, stopping at every single exit. I watched my husband kiss each and every one of Brielle’s toes before placing her feet against his cheeks and closed his eyes while rubbing them in bliss. Then he lay behind her and slid his hand first over her belly and then down, splaying his fingers while kissing the side of her face.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Who was that man? I didn't know him at all.