Throughout this whole experience, I’ve relied on the universe. Make fun of it. It’s fine. But it’s been there for me in ways I couldn’t hear previously.
There had been too much noise to hear anything but my well-practiced emotional tiptoe as I tried to balance an unbalanced ship. Every day.
So to be sitting in my driveway, the same one he had chased me down in a rage a few months earlier as I left to meet friends I would never meet that night, and hear her voice on the other end of the phone — for the first time — that was a universe moment.
There were goosebumps. Laughs. And tears, but I can’t remember if they came during the call or after, when I realized the connection we had just willingly made.
And we needed very few words to understand each other. Because even though we had only just begun talking, we knew the lives we each had lived.
She told me my words, the ones I’d written, had validated her experience. It gave the things she had endured muscle, beyond her own recall. Because, for some time, she believed the things he had drilled into her. And, he had gone on to have a lengthy marriage — one that covered a collection of insidious craters, drilled out by lies, abuse, manipulation, addiction and control.
“This is what husbands do.”
He said it to both of us, a statement that stopped us both in our tracks decades apart and made us both question what we believed was normal behavior for a married man. He said it to us both immediately, laying strategic groundwork for additional manipulation. It was the first droplet of a long, slow drip.
There was no denying our similarities, in personality and experience. We had both survived the same human, using the same tactics — because, for him, they had worked. Until they didn’t anymore.
And both of our marriages came to explosive ends. I’m not sure what that means, about a person like him or women like us. But when you leave a pot on a stove, it eventually boils over. Ask every box of macaroni and cheese I’ve ever forgotten.
She left with nothing, returning only to collect her clothes and belongings — items he had strewn across a grassy area as if he were part of a Hollywood movie. I didn’t go anywhere, except to hide in my neighbor’s house, as police removed him from the property with bleeding knuckles and a hoarse voice, fighting every minute of it — as if in a Lifetime movie.
But both were real life. Both involved the same human. And that one human brought two women together to share an appreciation for each other neither of us could have predicted.
We would meet up, we said. We had to. How could we not? We were meant to know each other, to act as safe havens offering an uncommon form of empathy. We would find a hike or meet for happy hour or something.
We’d meet. Somehow.
And then, life. Time was tough to find, each of us single mothers, each of us working, each of us finding new ways to grow every day.
We connected on social media, offering support and “hell yeahs” from afar, me only knowing her from below the bill of a baseball cap — her profile photo concealing the upper part of her face. She knowing just about everything about me, because I don’t hide anything anymore.
We had this unexpected connection, this light that came from darkness, but it was still just out of reach. Until she sent me a text with a photo of me in it. In the photo, I was with Ron and another guy, a man who actually brought me and Ron together without knowing he would.
We now knew someone else in common, a man she had started dating. I had known him longer, she had just met him. They connected on their own, with no help from me or Ron.
And that’s where the universe went to work, again. And when I say it went to work, I mean — it put in overtime.
*The final entry of this four-part series will publish next Tuesday.