As I sat across from Sara that day over lunch, briefly discussing my separation from Robert, I impulsively decided to tell her I’d met someone else—“a most captivating man named Graham.” I described him to her only briefly, when she suddenly asked, “Does he run?”
“Yes!” I replied, surprised. “Oh my god, do you
him?” I felt a little self-conscious suddenly, like she was seeing deeper into
my life than I intended. But I was also oddly excited, because a part of me was bursting to tell the world about my secret true love.
“Well, yes, but not well. I went running with him and a mutual friend once. Whew, he is one
runner, talk about being in a great shape. I couldn’t keep up! We both laughed, marveling over what a small “big city” it was.
A few weeks later, I was hurrying to pick up my son at school and passed Sarah in the hall. “Delaine!” she called out. “There’s something I need to tell you. Come talk to me after you get your son.”
Something in her voice stopped me in my tracks. I hurried back to her. “No. It’s okay, I have a quick sec. Kalob’s teacher always stays late. What is it?”
“It’s about Graham,” she said, looking pained.
My heart jumped, and I felt a sudden wash of dread.
“There’s no easy way to tell you this so I’m just going to say it; I think you need to know. Graham has been having an affair with another woman for the past nine months. But it’s more than that,” she added quickly, as I opened my mouth to speak. “She’s having his baby in three weeks.”
I said, completely taken aback. I was shaking my head no, my brain trying to connect nonexistent dots. Wait. This must be some weird, freaky misunderstanding.
She had the wrong man.
“No, that’s not possible,” I laughed. “You must know another Graham. Oh my god, you totally scared me,” I said, pressing my hand against my heart. “No, my Graham already has kids—three of them—and he specializes in acupressure, over in Sunnydale.”
Sara was nodding.
Why is she nodding,
I thought, confused. “Yes. That’s him, Delaine. That’s Graham. I know him. The girl he got pregnant is also my friend. The one we went running with.”
Time stood still. I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t possible. This was
We talked a bit more . . . a few more details she
couldn’t have known, like his children’s names. Everything she said was true. How could she know?
Oh my God, oh my god, please don’t make it true!
My body was shaking and my stomach heaved upward, pressing my heart, my soul, my future against the back of my throat. I was sure I would vomit and never stop.
My son! I have to pick up my son
. . . yes, there he is, smile at him, hold his hand, walk home . . . Fuck me, fuck, fuck,
RUN! sobbed my body and my head. Fucking
run . . .
But there was nowhere to run, and no one to run to. And thus, as my son and I made our way home, past rows of minivan moms shoveling backpacks and kids into cars, I felt my heart explode in my chest.
I settled the kids with the baby sitter as quickly as possible then retreated to the bathroom and locked the door. There, on the shower mat, I curled against the despair and let my body do its best to purge itself of pain. Then, a single unrelenting thought possessed me:
I have to confront him
. Absolutely nothing else mattered besides that thought. I stepped into the shower, washing the film of tears off my face, and went through the motions of making myself look pretty. I got in my minivan, feeling oddly tethered, and drove to his work.
When I saw his truck in the parking lot, a fresh wave of anguish enveloped me:
How many times had I ridden beside him in that truck, holding his hand?
I wondered. I parked beside it. And waited.
I saw him before he saw me, his tall frame filling up the glass door as he exited.
I waited until he’d opened the door to his truck before I marched up to him on legs that were void of sensation. “You owe me an explanation.”
He smiled brightly—
surprised. “What’re you doing here?” he said, looking confused. “And what are you talking about?” He was shaking his head, apparently clueless.
“You owe me an explanation. About
In the flash of a second, his face turned grey and his demeanor stiffened. “Get in,” he ordered. “We can’t do this here.” He drove to the furthest side of the lot and parked.
At first he denied it. Then he minimized it and left out important facts. But I knew to dig deeper, to hunt for lies—visions of Robert’s lame-assed confession loomed in my mind; kind of sick it had unfolded in his truck, too. Eventually, I had Graham confirm almost everything Sara had told me.
Finally, a moment of pause, no tears. As we sat there, the sky dark around us, rain started pouring down on the windshield. I looked down at my hands and my knotted up tissues. The tears recommenced flowing, heavily but silently.
I turned and looked at him, my voice raw with hurt. “How
you? How could you do this to me? All I’ve ever done is love you and show you how much I love you. After all that you know about me, after knowing I just went through this with Robert, how
More than anything, I needed an answer. Let him tell me something self-analytical, something comforting, something insightful and rational.
But he just sat there, his jaw stiff, staring out the window. Rain poured down.
“You’ve been having sex with another woman and she’s about to have your
. You’ve deliberately kept my life on hold. You should have told me, you should have
set me free.
Why didn’t you?
His face was a torment of emotions, but he remained silent.
“Answer me!” I half yelled, half choked.
“I didn’t know how to tell you!” he blurted. “I didn’t know how because I have no balls, okay?
I have no balls
. I’m sorry, Delaine. I swear I
love you. I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
And that was it. That was all he could come up with. This man, whom I thought was the greatest, wisest, most magnificent man I’d ever met, apparently
. . .
had no balls
And thus it was that April 2 became my personal D-Day, as yet
man not only chopped up my heart, but tossed me, wrecked, into a singlehood I’d never even considered. I felt dead; thirty-seven and dead, with three young kids, and a divorce underway.
I WENT THROUGH the motions of my day-to-day life. I had to force myself to eat. It hurt to smile. It hurt to get out of bed. It hurt to have no interest in my kids, who had been the center of my heart and existence for so long. Mommy was a shell of a woman. Could they tell?
I felt guilty for not being able to put them first,
me and my pain, like a good mother should. I felt guilty for not wanting to go into their imaginary worlds to play and for leaving them with my baby sitter more often so I could simply survive another day. But my guilt just blended with my numbness. My mind, body, and soul were empty.
So I reached for cigarettes to comfort me. Who cares if I’d quit for seven years? I didn’t want to breathe deeply or feel any deeper inside me than I already was.
I knew that loving someone purely and abundantly was nothing to be ashamed of. But my God, all my “knowing” wasn’t helping me pull myself back together. I felt like fragments of my being were sticking out of me in all the wrong places. I had totally fallen out of alignment, and I didn’t know how to put Delaine back together again. Where was all that higher understanding and faith I had worked so hard to accumulate over my life?
was the time for me to be drawing it forth and leaning on it. Where’d it go?
But I didn’t have the energy to quiet my mind and meditate. I didn’t have the focus or interest in reading any self-help books.
I couldn’t look to nature or the radiant faces of my children to stay present in the moment; I couldn’t find peace in a nanosecond. All I could do was pray for guidance, and even that required too much effort.
I was so shattered that for the first time in my life I placed my faith in time; it seemed the only potential saving grace available. I felt like I’d been thrown into a wilderness, some harsh, tangled forest of immense suffering. “I can’t see the forest through the trees,” I told my girlfriends lifelessly. “I finally know what that expression
Strangely enough, some part of me knew that things weren’t going to get any worse. I knew my soul was meant to arrive here and learn. I was not meant to be with Robert. I was not meant to be with Graham. There was another plan for me, one that I didn’t have the will or desire to see right now. But I knew that somewhere up ahead in this dark labyrinthine wilderness, my higher self would find an exit. And she would lead me there.
ONLINE AND OUT OF LINE
WEEKS PASSED. SPRING EXPLODED, FULL of insouciance. And with each passing day, my ice-cold shock began to thaw. As summer came into view, the needs of my kids, their cheer and innocence—even the sun’s brilliance against a clean blue sky—made each day progressively bearable. But a part of my chest felt black. Frostbitten. I was maimed yet no one could tell. And the pins and needles of aloneness consumed me. I had no strong arms to hold me. No man to love or make love to me. And no idea of how or if I’d feel passion or bliss ever again. Seriously, what were my options when it came to dating? Go to a bar? Pray that all my married friends would miraculously set me up with a friend?
Not likely. So I remained in stasis, going through the motions of finalizing my divorce and helping the children transition to shared custody. Which they did well. I envied their resilience.
Around this time, my hip pain flared up madly, to the point that I’d be wincing if I rolled on it in my sleep. I had to do something about it and pronto. So I started treatment with a new acupuncturist—this time, a woman. It was through Stephanie that I learned about online dating.
“It’s a great alternative to bars,” she said enthusiastically, as
she swabbed and inserted a pin in my foot. “Especially for busy moms like us who don’t have a lot of free time.”
“Really?” I replied, surprised. I hadn’t even considered online dating. It was like those ads in the back of weeklies that advertised sex calls—somehow it didn’t seem quite aboveboard. But if someone like Stephanie used it, apparently it was more mainstream than I thought.
I looked at her more closely. She was in her midthirties, with a few tattoos and streaked blond hair, cut short. “I always thought it sounded kind of creepy,” I said skeptically. “Mind you, it wasn’t even
when I was last single.”
She smiled, not at all offended. “Sure, there’re some perverts and weirdoes on there. But you can weed them out. I dated a few really great guys. And one has been my lover now for over a year.”
For a second, my body roused to attention; it had been over seven months since I’d made love. But I quickly shoved the feeling back down, irritated with myself. It made no sense to even think about sex, especially when I had urgent responsibilities to tend to, like single parenting.
Stephanie, as if sensing my internal war, leaned into me and gently touched my arm. “Delaine,” she said compassionately. “You might be getting divorced, but you aren’t dead. You’re entitled to have some fun. I remember how hard it was during my divorce. But I vowed there were two things I had to do: find a ‘friend with benefits’
have sex with a woman.”
I left her office only mildly interested in the idea of online dating. Besides, who would want to date an older woman like me? Especially one with three young kids?
I’m not ready to date anyway
, I thought to myself.
But now, a dull flash of curiosity got the better of me—and after browsing around on the site she’d recommended, I decided to sign up. “
Why not?” I thought limply.
After selecting a few tasteful photos for my gallery—a casual shot in jeans, a close up where I’m laughing, and a full-body shot of me in a stylish dress—I struggled for over an hour to create a meticulous written profile. It was important to me that I portray myself as a classy woman and devoted mother, the kind of woman a single father and working professional might be attracted to. In no way did I want to seem interested in sex. I didn’t even know if I was. But I felt compelled to be prudish, as if my chastity was the prime indicator of my respectability and worth. I had so much to learn.
As an afterthought, I quickly blocked men under the age of thirty-five from contacting me; surely, we’d have nothing in common.
Within minutes of signing up, emails started pouring in, from men of every walk of life. Construction workers, business men, carpenters and college professors—most looked like your average Joe. Some looked downright creepy. A few raised my eyebrow. I sat there glued to my computer, enthralled by the process, astonished that so many men in my age bracket were available, and more importantly, interested in
Ah, but they sure were looking for different things. Some clearly just wanted to hook up, others were veiled about their intentions (but it was easy to gather that they wanted sex), and others were downright lonely, wanting nothing more than to find a real companion.
I feel you buddy,
I thought more than once.
But you’re not my type.
At first, I answered many of the emails out of politeness, but I quickly learned that most guys took this as an invitation. And boy did they come on strong. One guy responded to my brief return email with “10 inches, good and thick, sure you want to pass me up?”
Needless to say, it was a fast and dirty learning curve. I went in with no clue to the rules. But I held the reigns. It was liberating to know that I could pick and choose who I responded to.