Un-Knowing
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Un-Knowing
Posted by cj-LNOFB - Tagged , , , , , , ,
Can you ever REALLY know someone? If you'd asked me that two years ago, I would have answered in my know-it-all way, "Of course you can." In a 30-year relationship with my husband, mr. invisible, I would have told you that I knew everything about him: Mustard and pickles only on his burgers; his nose buried in a thick military mystery novel or the New York Times; a full-bodied California cab his go-to wine, followed by anything chocolate for dessert; he chose comfort over style and wore his jeans a bit baggy in the butt. He generously gave to charities, and was a regular blood donor for nearly 50 years. He was a guy who always had his eye on the prize, the future planned out to infinity with a balance sheet to support it. The picture of a solid citizen when we met, he wore French cuff dress shirts and silk suspenders to work, for god's sake.

What I found out for sure on September 11, 2013, (oh, the unbelievably impossible irony) is that everything I knew about him was on the surface; when I finally scratched past his three-piece suit veneer, what I found was a stranger, someone so arrogant that he put everything on the line--and lost it. And I had to un-do everything that I knew about him--and myself.

But let's go back to that day in September. We were standing in his closet after I walked into our bedroom to see where he was--and he was packing an overnight bag. I knew his business conference was in our city, but with all-day workshops and cocktails and dinner, he planned to spend one night at the hotel and be there for his meeting the next morning.

But he was packing a day early. "Where the hell are you going?" I asked as I watched him zip his toothbrush into the side pocket of his bag.

"The hotel had my room available for an extra day, so I thought I'd save myself the drive back and forth and go tonight," he answered, not looking up from the task at hand.

"Mmmm, I don't think so," I said, hands on hips and eyes fixed on the back of his neck as he bent to add underwear to the duffel. He turned to look at me, but his eyes never found mine. He looked around the room, like he was stalling for time, and his mouth was fixed in a straight line.

"I asked a month ago about coming downtown to stay with you at the hotel, a little rendezvous, and you never answered me. Now, you're staying there alone for an extra night? Like I said, I don't think so." I left him standing there in the closet, without knowing myself in that moment why I was so adamant about keeping him home.

So you think you know what he was up to? If I'd asked 50 people who knew us best if that closet scenario was meaningful, all 50 would have said no, it meant nothing. They knew what I knew--that he was someone who had never looked at another woman in my presence, who held my hand in public, who was never late for dinner or a date, my cheerleader in good times and not so good. He had a wise-ass sense of humor and could make me laugh louder than anyone in the world (except for Jerry Seinfeld).

But the un-knowing began that moment in the closet, and by midnight, unable to fall asleep next to his steady snore, I walked through the darkened house, down the steps to his office, where I opened his laptop and sat on the couch with it. As the bright blue screen greeted me, I typed in his password and started to search.

What I saw made my heart pound so hard I felt a flush creep up my neck until my cheeks burned. The clock's amplified TICK. TICK. TICK. was punctuated by a cloying silence. The Linda who came down the stairs died a byte at a time as minutes turned into hours, and I scrolled through page after glowing page. I was replaced by an apparition, one who found herself looking down on what was once a happily married woman in her favorite pjs who had just witnessed a thing that could never be undone.

I walked unsteadily up the stairs to our room and crawled into bed, careful not to touch him. The new Linda lay still, adrenalin still pulsating and breath raw from crying, and waited for the first gauzy light of day.


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