Total. Body. Numbness.
I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move from my chair. The room was closing in on me, and my brain wouldn’t stop spinning. I felt like I was passing out as my computer screen came back into focus.
This isn’t possible. There’s no way my husband has a double life that I don’t know about.
Ten more minutes passed, and I was still staring at my computer screen in shock. I somehow had the where with all to reach my hand up, grab the computer mouse, and begin the process of clicking, downloading, and saving the photos. I also emailed the photos and links to myself so they would be in two places. I knew at some point this would all seem like a dream and I was going to need to prove otherwise to myself. Starting to slightly shake yet oddly calm, I picked up my phone and dialed his number. I had to ask the awful question at some point, and for some reason, I didn’t want to do it face-to-face. I knew he would still be at the office, so I tried his land line first; he answered immediately.
“Hey babe, how are you? I’m just getting ready to leave the office,” he said. My voice shook as I asked if I was on speakerphone, his preference while at work. For whatever reason, I was trying to spare him the embarrassment of anyone hearing the question I was about to ask.
“Yeah, you are. Let me shut my door. Ok, door is shut. What’s up?” he answered. I tasted the vomit rising in my throat as I blurted it out: “I need an explanation of the photos of you and Katy Smith on the internet.”
“Hello?” I said.
“ARE YOU THERE???”
He finally responded and immediately started spinning. It was the first time I had ever heard panic in his voice.
“What photos? What website? I don’t know a Katy Smith. What photos? I don’t know what you are talking about. We are just friends, it isn’t what you think. Send me the photos, send me the photos,” he repeated without pausing to breathe. “Send me the photos, send me the photos, send me the photos.”
I told him I’d email the photos and that I needed him to call me right back as we hung up. Looking back, it makes me laugh that I thought he was really going to call back… I had just discovered my husband was leading a double life, and yet I was still falling for his bullshit. I sent him all the photos and web links that I’d saved and sat there waiting for his call. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe he does have a perfectly good explanation, and he is going to call me back, and this will all make sense. Woman’s intuition took over and I knew that wouldn’t be the case, so I picked up the phone and called my best friend Marcy. She answered in her usual cheerful voice as I calmly asked what she was doing. Marcy told me she was jumping in a cab, and I told her to change its destination to my house. My husband was having an affair, I have tons of photographic proof, and I needed her to get here now.
Without hesitation, she was on her way. Girls, take note: THIS is a best friend. The kind of friend who helps you get rid of a body at 3 am without asking a single question (no, that’s not what was about to happen… not that it didn’t cross my mind). I had just realized my whole life was a lie, but at least I wasn’t alone. I had a lot of great girlfriends, and I was about to need them more than ever.
As I waited for Marcy, I tried to reach him. Of course he hadn’t called me back after receiving my emails with the undeniable proof of the affair. I called his office, cell, work cell, assistant… No answer. I repeated the call cycle until he finally picked up his cell.
I was eerily calm as I asked if he cared to explain. He rambled on and on, telling me it’s not how it looks and that I’m taking it all the wrong way. What I remember most is him calling me “babe,” and repeating that I didn’t understand, and it’s not what I thought was more than I could handle, and my nausea was replaced with anger.
The calm was gone and the storm was setting in. My voice rose as I told him he was right, I didn’t understand. And what I THOUGHT was that I had just looked through five years of photos and posts of my husband with another woman who was a complete stranger to me. Photos of holidays, vacations, visits with her family, them together in “their” house with “their” dog, wall posts from her friends thanking her and my husband for the great baby shower gifts… I could go on and on. I repeated to him that I definitely didn’t understand, I didn’t understand how my new husband had been cheating on me during our entire five- year relationship. I didn’t understand how he had spent so many holidays with her and her family while telling me he had client emergencies! And unable to hold back the pettiness of the one thing I had fixated on, I screamed that I didn’t understand how there was an entire photo album dedicated to them swimming with dolphins in Hawaii! It may seem inconsequential when compared to the photos of them around their Christmas tree with friends, sitting in our season tickets for baseball, but I couldn’t get over that he had taken HER on the trip he had given ME as a birthday present two years prior. A wonderful gift at the time, it had never materialized. He couldn’t find the time to get away from his job, and as the ever supportive partner, I tried to be understanding of his hard work and long hours I kept telling myself it would all pay off someday. And now I was left realizing he did indeed take that trip to Hawaii…it just wasn’t with me.
I continued shouting that I didn’t understand… I didn’t understand why he had even married me, why he had to put me through the facade of a wedding and the idea of forever. I didn’t understand the pictures of them in Napa the weekend after our wedding, when he had told me he was speaking at a conference and our honeymoon would have to be delayed. I didn’t understand. I would NEVER understand.
Marcy arrived and I slammed down the phone, unable to listen to his lies for one more second. Thankful to no longer be alone, I crumbled into a crying heap on the floor.
Marcy is exactly the type of woman you want on your side in a crisis: smart, direct, quick on her feet and not afraid to kick some ass. She knelt down, looked at me and told me she knows this is awful and he is an asshole, but I needed to stop crying and get up. I thought I had misheard her- she was supposed to show sympathy, not boss me around- but she didn’t falter as she repeated herself and said it again… get up! When I didn’t move again, she reasoned that his office is 20 minutes away, 30 minutes in traffic, and I could bet my ass that he was rushing to get home and smooth things over in person. I had 30 minutes to get out. 30 minutes to say goodbye to what I thought was the rest of my life.
Holy shit… she was right. We needed to get out of there. I suddenly didn’t feel safe in my own home, and I couldn’t imagine having to see him in person. I ran upstairs to our bedroom, grabbed a suitcase and froze. What does one pack when fleeing her own home? It was something Emily Post had failed to cover in “Manners for a Modern Day Woman.” I was wearing gym clothes, no makeup and hadn’t washed my hair in at least 48 hours (the curse of a home office). Pulling a leopard stocking cap onto my head, I grabbed whatever I saw. My suitcase was soon packed with a toothbrush, computer, phone charger, yoga pants, one sweater, flip flops (very useful for January), and a cocktail dress. I slipped on my Uggs, grabbed my bag, and ran to my car. I followed Marcy’s instructions to give her my keys as I collapsed in the front seat of the car, completely drained. We drove for what seemed like hours, trying to figure out where to go that he wouldn’t find us- in reality it was about 5 minutes. My main priority was getting a martini down my throat, so Marcy found a bar. They weren’t yet open but let us in as soon as they saw our faces. It was a cool space, equipped with wi-fi, and far enough out of the way for the San Francisco fashion stylist to enter looking like Johnny Depp’s next girlfriend (per Marcy’s spot-on description of my ratted hair, leopard beanie, and yoga pant look). It was the perfect place to consider what to do when your life had just fallen apart. Without skipping a beat, Marcy ordered two martinis straight up, and told them to keep ’em coming as long as we were in those chairs.
We sat, drank, and got our laptops out so I could obsess over the photos. I couldn’t get enough of them. I was examining every detail: where they were taken, the look on his familiar face, their body language, people in the background, their wardrobe choices (always the stylist, even in a crisis). Thanks to social media, they were all time and date stamped, which I mentally checked against my own calendar and sank further into disbelief as I began unraveling his web of lies. We started scouring every corner of the internet for any blip of information on her.
Between our research, we made a few calls to help me piece together what had been happening. I still couldn’t wrap my head around it all, and there were so many things I didn’t understand. Why was there a photo of Katy at the Ferry building (two blocks from my marital home), a check-in at a hotel up the street, and a Nike run-log of her through my neighborhood… all date stamped from ta few weeks before, when my husband was away negotiating a possible employee strike? Why was she so close to my house when he wasn’t even in town? It all hadn’t hit me yet, and what may seem crystal clear to you wasn’t yet taking form in my mind. I called the hotel and before I knew what I was doing, I was explaining that I was Katy’s assistant responsible for doing her expense reports, and I had lost the bill from her recent stay. I gave him my email address as the hotel clerk told me he’d email it right away, but had to copy her on it as well. I waited for it to land in my inbox while being surprised at my admittedly brilliant spy move. It’s amazing how your brain works when in crisis mode and you are two martini’s deep. The bill arrived and the first thing I noticed was the 5-day valet charge for a grey BMW- the same car my husband drove- with a license plate number listed. I didn’t know his license plate number at the time but soon learned it was a match. My husband had been calling me from a hotel five blocks from our home, with another woman, while telling me the details of his fake work trip. I knew this was the tip of the iceberg.
The next call was to our friend Andrea. I wanted to hire a Private Investigator and knew she would be the woman to know how to go about it, and who to call. I couldn’t even tell her what was happening- I passed the phone to Marcy- but once she heard the story and looked up Katy Smith in Santa Barbara on Facebook, she told me to save the $10,0000 it would cost me. All the proof I needed was readily available on the Internet, and there was no denying the truth at this point. Andrea told us to head to her house outside the city to regroup and hatch a plan for my next steps. As good girlfriends do, they got me to a safe place, poured a large glass of wine and we started talking. The main topic was how this could have happened while none of us had a clue, interspersed with a lot of girlfriend cheerleading (you will be fine, you will be better than fine, he is an IDIOT, so on and so forth). I wasn’t sure I believed it, it was exactly what I needed to hear.