Have you ever been so out of control that you look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself? Like you’re staring at a person that looks familiar but you can’t seem to place where you know them from? I’m sure there’s a word for that feeling somewhere in the Oxford English Dictionary. I tend to just refer to it as the feeling I experienced the day I ruined everything.
It was a rough patch in my life to be sure. We had poured out a very large amount of money to open the salon of my dreams and we were definitely struggling to climb back to status quo. I had a hard time hiring people and an even harder time managing the people I did hire. Like I was somehow incapable of making solid choices and taking authoritative action. As the days counted by in the salon, I spent less and less time at home. I grew distant from my children, I grew distant from my wife.
*For a small perspective on the matter, My wife is my everything. I hang on her every word. I define beauty as the pursuit of being like her. The sunset, the stars, the incredible wonders that you look at and simply lose the ability to articulate the incredible beauty of, those things were made in her image. That sweet smell that reminds you so subtly that everything is going to be ok, That is exactly how her skin smells. The works of Shakespeare and of Botticelli, of all the great artists and authors and any who are inspired by the idea of true unadulterated beauty are in fact inspired by my wife. The proportions that make up every inch of her body have become a study for my in what heaven looks like. In being her husband, I have found what destiny I was meant to have. By her side I am free of stress, of anxiety, of want and of need. I am in Nirvana. I am at the gates. And now that you know that, I digress.
It got to a point where I felt like I was living someone else life. I would come home and we would either not talk or we’d fight. Much had happened in those last few months. Though I promise I’ll open up a good deal more on the subject later, the short version of what will eventually become a long story is that we had a miscarriage and didn’t handle it well.
Every time I came home from work I felt like i was walking on eggshells. I found out much, much later on that my wife felt exactly the same way. Funny how a lack of communication keeps the most important details hidden. Any time the kids shared something with me I had to fake interest. Sometimes I couldn’t even do that. I love my children, don’t get me wrong. And I love my wife immensely, mores than even my love for breathing. Of all my passions in this life, Amber is my number 1. But even that didn’t matter then. And it was because I disliked being home so much that I began to schedule clients late into the evening. If I was working, if I was making a living, she couldn’t fault me for not being home.
And while technically that was true, she certainly began to resent me for it. For leaving her to raise the kids alone. For not listening to her feelings, to her thoughts. For allowing everything to just fall by the wayside while I hung out at the salon and worked on clients. I began spending our money on things like photoshoots. A passion of mine to be sure, but I would continually explain that i had no budget, that I had figured it all out and it wouldn’t cost us anything. Yet somehow by the end of production I had beautiful photos and a bunch of money spent. I spent our money on new mugs for the salon. On more inventory for our shelves or more frames to hang my work in. I spent it on advertising I didn’t need and on supplies i might never go through. It was possibly the lowest point in my life thus far. Which is saying something because I’d racked up quite a list of poor choices and low points in life.
It was at that point that my mind found itself hiding. Instead of being present in my own life, it was as if the Adam that grew up to become what I was, the personality that defined me to our friends, family, to our neighbors and even to my followers on instagram, was in a small room in the center of a large building and the rest was on autopilot. It was at that point that one of my clients made a move. She had an agenda that was entirely her own and had absolutely no inclination towards caring about the catastrophic effect she was about to have on an entire family. Almost like in the movies. The semi attractive, suspiciously flirtatious female clients lays her hand on the male stylist in just the right way. It’s night time. There’s no one else around. And suddenly there’s a massive secret to hide. I wish that the numb feelings I had at that moment were because it wasn’t real. That my brain had somehow created this fiction and I couldn’t feel anything because it hadn’t happened, but it did. In the office of my salon, I threw away all the years of my marriage that I’d worked so hard on. I was shaking when she left. Shaking because I knew that my life was over. That I was going to tell my wife what had happened and experience the divorce that I always told myself I wouldn’t have.
My entire life I’d been the good boyfriend. When my female friends would talk with me, they joked that I should teach lessons to the other boys because my passion, understanding, manners, and loyalty made me a pretty solid catch for any lady who was looking. It was that status, that label that I carried which made me so very perfect for my wife. Reason being, every man shed ever dated had cheated on her.
Every. Single. One.
Well I was different. I would never do that. I even wrote our vows and declared that we would be forever faithful to each other as long as we had breath to say, “I love you.” I was the point of difference. And because of that, the misfortunes I did bring with me would never add up to cheating on her and thus our marriage would work out more or less perfectly.
So I sat in the office of the salon I’d worked so hard to find success in and couldn’t help but think, “Shit. This is it. I’ve really done it. I’ve really ruined the best thing thats ever going to happen to me.” The life long partnership that together was going to raise incredible children into be wonderful adults. The unity that was going to extend until death parted us. It was over. Not even 4 minutes in the short hours after the salon closed for the night. An insignificant measure of time. An event that spanned less time than the average commercial break, in the salon that she and I had built together, just ruined my life.
*Even in these moments as I’m writing this to you, I’m speaking to this event as if “the event” was a person. Like my mind, still stuck in that little room in the middle of the building, is watching a TV screen upon which and the person now known to me as “the event” had done something terrible. But I wasn’t siting with popcorn watching a horror film, I was watching my life happen. Watching it from the sidelines and allowing the game to carry on without my influence. It was an awful place to reside.
I cleaned myself up. I cleaned the salon up. I counted the money in the register, twice. I swept the floors I don’t know how many times. i cleaned the bathroom, I wiped the counters off, I counted the register again. And when I finally left the salon, all I could think of what the look that was going to be on her face. The feelings that were going to pour out from her eyes and flood the room, flood the entire universe until we were drowning it them, like Alice in Wonderland, struggling against the current of her own tears after drinking the shrinking tonic. The only problem is, unlike Alice, this was to be the end of a story, while her tears happened near the beginning.
I got home, sat in my car and looked at myself in the rear view mirror. I rehearsed what to say and how to say it. As if there is any one way to say that you’d cheated on your partner that would be less painful. My mind was still hiding. It most definitely didn’t like the choices it had let me make and the last thing it wanted was to be present now, when the bomb was nearly detonated. I relived the incident in my mind in an instant as I walked up the driveway towards the front door.
It was awkward. It was passionless. It was violating. I felt nauseous, disgusted, like I had somehow put my most private parts into something biblically evil. The serpent who now crawled on it belly just lifted itself and its vagina up to meet and seduce me, just like its slick tongue did to Eve when she was persuaded to eat the apple. All things that should’ve told me to stop. But I didn’t. And it wasn’t until after I was inside her, or more truthfully, until after it was over that I began to figure out why I didn’t stop. It was the same disgusting, emotionally and physically harmful, irresponsible, self-deprecating, empty inside kind of feeling that I got all those years ago when I was cutting myself. I had come full circle and found yet another weapon to scar myself with. And that is exactly what this was. It was cutting. It was drug addiction. It was suicide. I was myself at 14 all over again.
As I slide the key in the door to walk in and end my marriage, the mind that had stayed hidden in that stupid, tiny room and allowed it all to transgress came to the forefront and asserted itself for a single second. It showed itself in form of the most primal, instinctual behaviors known to us. Fight or flight. Survival. The path of least resistance. It reminded me of those lessons and caused me to make a split second decision to not tell her.
It would shatter her. Completely annihilate what made her, her. I would carry the secret to my grave. I would let it tear at my insides like a parasite, like a tumor growing and replacing healthy tissue with diseased, dead flesh. It would slowly spread its way up through my stomach until it reached the muscular walls that surrounded the lungs. It would tear its way into my lungs with a visceral devastation that would rape me of my breath and I would begin to slowly suffocate. And while gasping for precious air, it would continue to wreak havoc on my heart, my liver, my kidneys, my everything. It would save my mind and my penis for last. For largely the same reason. Because those two things were the arbiters of this fate. The degenerative plague that would befall my penis would be horrific, and it would light up every neuron in my brain, causing me to feel every single cell as it was extinguished. Pain worse than death. And once I was nothing but a mind amongst a pile of repulsive, filthy sludge on the ground, the decay would begin. It would start like dementia, only with a purpose, a specificity to its warpath. I would lose my fondest memories first. The birth of my sons and daughter. My wedding. The smell of my beautiful wife’s hair the first time I held her close. All of that would go and I’d be left, clinging to only the torturous memory of this night. And that is what I believe hell to be. Having only that memory for all eternity.
I took a shower, cried quietly so no-one would hear, and went about my night. It was easy to do since I didn’t really talk to my family any more. I knew what I was doing was wrong. Ignoring them I mean. I knew that living like an absentee was not healthy for anyone, especially not my wife, who needed someone to be present. Someone to be there for her, to listen and support and parent beside. I was not any of those things. Not for her. Not for anyone. What I was though, was a person who was intentionally hurting himself. Not entirely unlike the 14 year old with the razor blade that he had been when he was, well, when he was 14. and I pause there to make that distinction because the struggles of a young man dealing with tremendous stress in so many areas that were out of his control, trying to live through the days with little life experience or inherent courage to draw from is a very different narrative than the one being told now. The narrative of a man who had just allowed his worsening dejection from his wonderful life to put his morals, his personality, his knowledge of right and wrong taken straight from the tree of knowledge itself, into a terrible hurricane of fear, anger, hate, depression, and self loathing. He had become the man he modeled himself to be opposed to. He designed his adulthood as a man to be all that this man was not. He was supposed to be perfect for her. He was supposed to be rock-solidly, unwaveringly positioned as a good, loyal husband.
Yet here he stood.