I knew my marriage was bad. How bad, it was hard to tell, really, it was. But she was odd about me being alone, very odd, and even when I was sitting on the toilet she would come in and look at me. She came into the bathroom and stared at me in the shower. One day I came in from work and I sat in the truck listening to a song on the radio and she came out to see what I was doing. I could open the back door, shut it, then duck into the kitchen and she would go outside and look for me.
But it was worse than that.
During marriage counseling she admitted to installing a program on my computer that tracked everything I did. Every email I sent she read, and every email I received she read. She read everything I wrote for work, fiction, and every site I visited; she knew about it. What she didn’t know was I found the program the first day she installed it. I wrote long emails to friends telling them how great married life was, and how much I loved it.
The look on her face when I told her I knew it was there was epic.
Marriage counseling also revealed that when I went to play tennis with a friend of mine, she would call my friend’s wife, and tell her I was on the way, and then my friend’s wife was to report when I arrived. Then when I left, they would trade calls again, to see if I was slipping off somewhere. I stopped at a convenience store and bought a soft drink, and when I got home she asked me which store I had bought it. The next day she went to the store to see if there was a woman working there. This was something I hadn’t known about until we started counseling.
I always wondered why some men spent so much time at work. These guys would come in an hour early, then sit around and talk after work, sometimes for hours. But they had bad marriages, all of them, and they were avoiding their wives by working. I started doing this, too. I became one of those men. I built a tiny shelf at work, no bigger than a matchbox, hidden under my work station. Stored on this shelf was a thumb drive, so at work I could save it there. In all of my existence, this was my only truly private spot. I felt a surge of joy when I went in on a Saturday, and there was my thumb drive, and I had time to explore my thoughts without someone tracking my every word, and standing behind me, watching me.
The day she packed her stuff and moved out was surreal. She pulled out of the driveway and was gone. I was alone. The house was empty except for me, my dogs, my stuff, and as I locked the door, the realization of space was overwhelming. That night in bed, the vastness of my world was like a man on a raft, looking up at the stars, floating on an endless ocean.
I filed for divorce on May 10th, 2002, on a Friday. It’s hard to believe that was twenty-one years ago.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit.
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