*Edited, content and PS added - also a correction. It wasn't Fort Bragg (though he initially did have boot camp there) where he completed his reserve time in the summer of '92, it was Fort Benning. Prior to that, he was briefly stationed in Saudi Arabia, during Desert Storm as a reserve, not Iraq.
Also, I'm adding this prologue ...
I'm not sure if this happens with everyone else, but a lot of times, especially as I get older, I realize that attached along with great memories comes not-so-great ones, associated with it - so I finished this post by writing out an associated memory, but still finally learning the lesson my best friend and his friends taught me back then :)
Regarding that co-memory - and the guy I was dating at the time - I need to state that later, I did apologize for certain things, as well as my poor handling of things in general, in our relationship - and I had forgiven him for his part - though he's never once apologized for the slightest thing (nor thanked me for anything).
In fact, we'd become very good friends as we matured, by the time of the more recent issue. I was so proud of him for "appearing" to turn his life around and was overjoyed that he now wanted to be a part of my daughter's life as a teenager - I just didn't know until too late that there was an ulterior motive. I should have - but I didn't ;)
That one is a little harder to forgive - some say I never should (like my husband) - but I say forgiveness is less about showing mercy for the other person and more about freeing yourself from being chained to the pain that person caused you and avoiding bitterness and hatred.
I don't hate Z, and as I've said, I don't hate anyone, for that matter. He's done some extraordinarily selfish stuff, is pretty dishonest, and can be quite cruel, but he's not "evil." He has his good points, too, just like everyone else :)
And I understand, now, why he's the way he is, and I also know that he will likely never change; he'll never admit, never take responsibility, never apologize, and if he gets caught red-handed at something and can't lie his way out, he'll blame a woman, it's always a woman's fault he did what he did - that's just Z. And alcoholism.
Actually, I don't think of him much at all, his memory just came adjacent with the subject matter today :)
Okay, so as I said two posts below, while waiting tables in college, I became best friends with a guy whose personality was actually very similar to Leslie's, only maybe a little shyer - but just a little :)
I don't want to say his name, in case he wouldn't approve (I have no idea where he is now), but let's put it this way - his first name was Chris and he had the same very common last name as my maiden name, so people thought we were brother-and-sister twins - until he spoke - his thick West Virginia accent gave it away that we were NOT related lol.
Anyway, I quit working for Swensen's and started working for Chi-Chi's - as well as concurrently for Clinique at Dillard's, plus attended UK full time - but I still hung out with him and all of his friends, and I had just started dating the guy that would eventually become my daughter's father, who also worked at Chi-Chi's.
Unfortunately, I'd just found out Z was sleeping with my friend from work, only I wasn't 100% sure (though I should've been, but didn't have proof).
I wasn't really mad, because we'd literally just started dating, and he'd never said we were exclusive yet; and the thing is, I really liked her and was just wondering why she couldn't bring herself to tell me.
Anyway, Chris's friend, James, was dating one of the servers there, Bo. (As a sad side note, James died in 1996 of AIDS, and our other friend, Paul, died just two years ago, but we'd lost touch, and I've still never found out the cause of death. I tried finding Chris on social media, but his name is so common, I never did.)
One night, on my night off, Chris, James, and myself all went up to Chi-Chi's while closing, to find out what time Bo would be finished closing and to whose house we were going to party.
In the meantime, they were trying to get me to be mad at T, but I wasn't - at most, I was feeling insecure, like maybe she had something I didn't, because he dated her a year before this - plus I wasn't 100% sure anyway.
So to make me feel better, they started ragging on her.
Me: "Lol, you guys, stop lol - she's really nice - seriously. I just wish she'd been honest with me, she probably doesn't know how to tell me is all; and the thing is, no one ever said Z and I were exclusive yet, and they used to date about a year ago."
Chris: "Yeah - I don't know if dating was what you'd call what they were doing a year ago. She was his booty call. She should've at least asked what your status was first? Now, she's his hidden side piece, because you're a respectable good girl, going to college, who hasn't put out to him yet - and he knows she will, and she's - not."
Me: "I don't know if slut-shaming her is the solution. Her promiscuity doesn't make her a bad person, she's still pretty nice to everyone, everyone genuinely likes her."
Chris: "Yeah - okay, so what you're saying is she's a NICE slut - which I can't fault, because so am I - BUT SHE IS ALSO SECRETLY SLEEPING WITH YOUR MAN! Which is something I'd never do because friends don't do that to each other!"
When they rolled the car window to talk to Bo about where we were going, T happened to pass by.
T: "Hey, Chrystal!"
Me: "Hey, T! You going to the party?"
T: "Yep, see you there!"
Chris: "Chrystal, what in the HELL is wrong with you? That's your competition, but you're all like 'Hey, gurrrl." And you're not being fake, you really do like her, you're too nice and don't trust yourself! You don't let yourself get mad until too late, and it's so long after the fact when you finally let loose on someone, they don't realize it's build-up, they just think you're crazy lol."
"Him, he's a snake, we know that, you're the only one that doesn't - but she's worse, she's supposed to be your friend."
"Plus it's 1992, and Miss Thing is still wearing 80s scrunchies to match her outfits, even that ridiculous new polyester Chi-Chis uniform that looks like a parrot threw up on it. She is tired and tacky, she's a cheeseball, and you know she's sleeping with your man behind your back, everyone does, she's making a fool of you. They both are."
"She's hamburger and you're steak, it's high time you realized that, owned it, and worked it." LOL.
Me: "How are you so sure I'm not the hamburger, here? lol. Besides, it's very high school to hate someone out of insecurity/jealousy - I learned that lesson back in high school, after later becoming really good friends with the girl my crush dated after me. I wanted to hate her, but then I got to know her after we shared a class together, I couldn't help myself, she had the best sense of humor out of anyone I knew, and ended up being a very good friend, I ended up seeing what he saw in her. She WAS better than me lol"
Chris: "Oh, girl, shut up, before I slap you silly - you are getting on my VERY last nerve lol."
He starts to leave the parking lot, but drives right over to T's car and stops as she's getting in.
James rolls down the window.
Uh oh - now I'm in "Oh, shittttt" mode, hiding my face in my hands.
Chris: "Chrystal, we're gonna teach you how to diss (which meant throwing shade, in the early 90s) a fake-friend cheeseball - watch and learn, honey. THIS is how you greet and covertly diss a fake friend, sleeping with the guy you're dating behind your back. Ready, James?"
James: "Oh, hey Gouda! Love the scrunchie!"
Chris: "See you at the party, Cheddar! Kisses!"
Me: (Mouth wide open, shrugs shoulders) "I'm sorry, I don't know ...?"
Then Chris sped off, both he and James cackling like hens.
Me: "Oh ... my ... GOD, I can't believe you all just did that, I have to work with her still! LOL! What am I gonna say, how do I explain that? Hehehe, okay, it was pretty funny. Thank you, I guess?"
James and Chris: (Singing a little song they'd just made up): "Ohhhhh .... she's gouda, swiss. and chedda, all rolled together ... and you can do much betta, than Z!"
LOL - Then we laughed so hard we nearly soiled ourselves - LOLOLOL.
The thing is, she never mentioned it, thank God - I'm pretty sure she knew she was being dissed/thrown shade at, and why, even if she didn't understand the cheese references.
And is it turns out, my friends were right - about them both, about all of it - and she wasn't the only one - before, during, or after I had my daughter.
They were also right about me continuing to believe a mirage. I kept digging for what I believed to be the 'real him,' under a false facade - the same sweet guy that wrote me all of those scared, sweet, vulnerable letters during his Army reserve time at Fort Benning, in the summer of '92 - about this reserve time bringing back memories of things he didn't want to think about, like scud missiles flying over his head, during his short stint in Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm in '90 again.
However, I eventually learned this man never existed - because during my pregnancy, in one of his infamous moments of unprovoked cruelty, he blurted out that he never wrote me those letters to begin with - it was his handwriting, but his buddy dictated to him what to say.
I would also later learn than he never once saw action or heard scud missiles overhead when in Saudi - that was all a big lie, too.
He was in the reserves and thus was only in Desert Storm for three months, and his job was to inspect the water tanks at the base camp in Saudi - and he never left base camp.
In other words, I'd fallen in love with a guy that didn't even exist - based on a lie from a guy that could drop a convincing lie as if he was telling you what he had for breakfast. No wonder I'd never seen "that guy" again :/
I should've realized all of this, when I greeted him at the airport coming home from Fort Benning. I spent a week's worth of tips on renting a limo, I baked him a "Welcome Home" cake, and wore my best black-velvet cocktail dress - because he'd written, "No one welcomed me home from Desert Storm."
Because the very first thing out of his mouth was NOT: "OMG, you got all dressed up and did this for me, thank you!" and kissing me.
Instead, the first thing out of his mouth was take a big swig of wine, stare at me with a look of disdain, then say: "Wow - I've been carrying around this picture of you and showing all my buddies, but I forgot your nose is bigger than it looks in that picture, and I forgot how small your lips and tits are."
I should've just walked out and walked away, right? Snapped back with some flaw in his physical appearance? Thrown my drink on him? Slapped him?
But of course I didn't. I just sat there, stunned.
For a minute, I thought he was parodying other jerk men.
I was so shocked, it was just such a sharp contrast from the guy who'd just written me those letters, that I didn't know what to say or do.
I remember thinking, "He doesn't mean this, he's just in trauma mode and blurting. Hell, I have my own trauma issues. After he's home a few days, he'll be fine, he'll apologize."
But he never did.
In fact, to my knowledge, he has never apologized to anyone, for anything - nothing is ever his fault. He takes no responsibility. Every woman he's dated is crazy and his behavior is always their fault - when in fact, I usually really like the women he's dated since me.
Well, with the exception of one, who oddly enough, he claimed later was the love of his life, though I thought she actually was crazy and more selfish than he was, which I didn't think was possible lol.
As for his current wife, I don't know her well enough to form an opinion or comment - the two times I met her, she was very nice to me and hugged me, that's all I know.
Also, I just remembered this and added it - the limo driver.
He heard everything. I didn't have a huge tip to give him anyway, being a young, broke student, and apologized for the amount, but he refused a tip at all from me.
In fact, the limo driver said, "No, honey. I can't take this now. You keep it. Buy yourself something nice with it, okay? You did a nice thing, here. "
:) What a nice man. Dang, maybe I should've dated him! LOL.
He never said why, but what he did say, and the look on his face, said it all.
Anyway, I was such a naive idiot, back then. And like those guys said, at that time, I didn't trust my own perception that he was a snake; so when he said things like this, I kept making excuses for a while - until I couldn't anymore, but I didn't know how to leave or what to do, until too late.
Plus everybody loved Z, so I thought it was my own issues that were the problem - and I had no idea how to be in a relationship myself. Neither one of us did - we were both so ill-equipped, having such poor role models, and so young.
The guys thought he was cool and a ladykiller and fun to party with, and the girls thought he was hot and fun. Well, everyone except my gay friends, that is, and one female friend, who knew who he really was before I did.
They kept saying, "He's cute, but he ain't THAT cute, to put up with this shit. And he's about as deep as this saucer. He laughs and carries on, but he's definitely not quick-witted. In fact, he's kind of corny. He's a cheesy con man, like a sleazy used car salesman. You think he's what normal guys are because you don't know any better, when it comes to men, and you don't think you deserve better. I wish you had confidence in how pretty and smart you are, and you were the type to view him as a college sex toy and nothing more and leave it at that, but you're not."
Thus, by the time I got pregnant, he proposed to me - from the toilet, I shit you not (pun intended) - and I knew he didn't mean it, he just felt guilty for two seconds and was drunk - and I didn't want to, so I said no - and I'm glad I did. But I still didn't know how to get out and by this point, felt too ugly and crazy to try - but I finally did, when my daughter was six months old, and I'm soooo glad for it :)
Oh, and btw, I DID get finally get that slap in before I left, though - after his very last cruel comment about my appearance, when we weren't even arguing.
I don't count mean things said during arguments because that happens in the heat of argument sometimes - I'm talking about the times he'd say this stuff out of nowhere, as casually as if he were commenting on the weather.
And I can honestly say, to this day, he's the only person I've ever met in my life who actually gets meaner when high from weed - most people get very lovey-dovey and very relaxed and chill.
(I personally got panic attacks, so I didn't smoke weed much, even before I was pregnant).
Different types of alcohol have different effects on him, too. I'm told that's a true, chemical alcoholic?
And he was the moodiest person I've ever been with. He was all fun to be around when out, but practically non-communicative at home (again, alcohol).
I remember once sitting and laughing about a show on TV and went and took a shower. By the time I came out, he was bitching and angry.
I was like, "Did something happen while I was in the shower? What's wrong? Did you have a bad memory pop up? Because we were laughing and joking not 10 minutes ago, you seemed happy."
Literally nothing had happened. He said his mood just changed. (Cough, cough, alcoholic brain.) It used to scare me - not for my physical safety, but I didn't understand the sudden mood changes.
I was always walking on eggshells, not knowing what mood he'd be in, like it did my ex-husband; but at least with my ex-husband, when he was in a bad mood, it'd last for days, not change within 10 minutes (unless he snapped in anger, and then it WAS dangerous).
Then I educated myself more on alcoholism and better understood my own codependency - and I understood that it wasn't my fault and it wasn't his fault - it's the product of an alcohol-drenched brain, it's chemical - and I couldn't do anything about it or fix it, and shouldn't try to fix or control his moods or his drinking - I'm not powerful enough and I have enough of my own issues to try to control!
Anyway, the day of the slap, he was high as a kite (weed), and as I've said, he's the only person I've ever met that actually gets mean with weed - so literally out of nowhere, we weren't mad at each other, we weren't even having a conversation, he'd smoked weed out in the car (never around me while pregnant or around my daughter), and now we were just sitting and watching TV - he took one long look at me and I think he said something like, "You know, when I really look at you, you're pretty ugly without make-up on."
Well, I'd just given birth to his child, and was getting no sleep - of course I was hideous - but I'd had it with that cruel shit about my appearance (though I only weighed 126 pounds at most during my pregnancy) - so I slapped the living shit out of him!
I felt horrible about that slap, for a very long time, because I don't condone violence, even a slap or a drink thrown in a man's face. And I DID later apologize to him for that.
To be fair, though I've been in a physically abusive relationship before, Z was never physically abusive - and so I thought that single slap made me the abusive one and felt horrible for years.
However, it's only been just recently, I've thought to myself:
"You know, if anyone I have ever dated deserved a slap for being just outright cruel/emotionally abusive for two years, after saying something like that to the woman who just gave birth to his child and was a zombie from no sleep and care for her, not even during an argument - as well as trying to make me think I was paranoid and nuts for accusing him of cheating on me while pregnant, though he was (people have since admitted it, including male friends that apologized to me for lying for him and taking him to strip clubs) - playing me for a fool, then telling me it was MY fault, due to my ugliness, I was crazy, etc. - plus all the sneaky shit he pulled in the past 10 years regarding my daughter - it was Z."
"In fact, since the day I found out what he'd been doing since 2007, in 2010 - when I thought we were now good friends and co-parents - I wish I'd done it sooner."
"Like that day, at the airport, PLUS poured my wine out on his head, smooshed the cake I had baked in his face, and then walked away for good lol."
"So the only thing I regret now is that I waited for two years of it before I slapped him - once - almost 26 years ago - as well as that he'd only use it to play the victim and try to use as further "proof" I was "crazy" and that HE was the victim."
All of this fantasy in my head would've been done privately, of course, not ruining her celebration - but I didn't - because I also realized - he's just not worth the energy and dragging myself down in the sleazy, dirty gutter with him/others involved ;)
In fact, I said that very thing, to my husband, Mark, the day of my daughter's graduation, who nearly punched him straight in the face, when he not-so-subtly tried to take credit for parenting in a falsely noble way, despite the truth, in front of everybody - especially considering what we'd discovered he'd secretly tried to do since 2007..
(In fact, I didn't believe it myself, I didn't think he was capable, until until I talked to the child-support office person with myself, who verified it. I was so proud of him for turning his life around and even wanting to be a parent now - only to find out I'd been duped again :( )
Plus, you have to understand that just before he made that nauseating statement and hugged me, THIS happened:
Members of his family kept coming up to me and saying things like, "Are you feeling better now?"
Mark (leaning over to me, whispering): "WTF is that supposed to mean??"
Me: (Totally confused): "Uh ... yes, I'm doing great. Have you met my boyfriend, Mark?" :)
Them: "Uh ... no, we ... didn't even know you had one. We thought ... never mind. Hi Mark, it's nice to meet you!"
Me: "Yes, we've been together for almost two years, now. He's runs IT for the central executive office of Fayette County Public Schools :) "
Make that 10 years now - and as of this August, 5 of them married, and counting :)
And I honest to God can say, I made the best decision of my life when I married Mark - I honestly believe God had mercy on me, when he blessed me with this man, who has undone so much damage, done prior.
True, we both had a lot of baggage and trauma issues, when we first met, to work through - I think we both were pretty broken and a little crazy - but I like to think we helped each other heal and grow as people :)
Mark can't stand any of Z's family, after that day - he makes up his own mind about people when he meets them instead of basing them on what I or anyone has said (I do the same), but he does it very quickly - quicker than me.
I give people more benefit of the doubt (which he calls "making excuses" for them). But I realize everyone has bad days and you don't know what they're going through, right? Sometimes the first impression is not the full, real picture.
He already couldn't stand Z, because of stuff he was able to find out with a little digging (with help from some friends) - but he really took an active dislike to Z's mother, that day.
He thought she was gloating about her son versus me, and didn't understand why she - and his family - kept asking me that, insinuating I was sick or mentally ill or something - and he assumed it was her that started it, only because she was the first one to ask that question.
Despite Z being her "golden child" to a nauseating degree, I otherwise really like Z's mom, as well as a couple of other members of Z's family (his little brother and wife) - and I didn't take this as "gloating" of her son VS. me at all, nor did I think she "started" it, just because she was the first to ask.
Though confused at first, I quickly understood what must've happened and why they were asking me such an odd question, but that's because I know them well - I realized that she, as well as the others who asked that, must've been told - and clearly believed - some lie about my mental health they'd been told versus reality - and that was their way of showing sincere concern for me. In fact, I still see their questions that way, but Mark - doesn't.
And I'm pretty sure I know who told the whoppers, as well as why (to cover for things they know they shouldn't have done;).
Back to Z's mom, in fact, though I am still grateful to Z's mother for what she did do, she's actually the only person besides Z himself whom I've ever seen make my grandmother angry. (Well, besides my mom, but that was only privately. She'd never admit to it to anyone else but my grandfather and me, because she felt so guilty about being mad at her ;)
That is because when my daughter was about 8 years old, Z's mom all but abandoned her, herself, starting about a year before I married my first husband and we moved to Florida. She just disappeared without explanation, didn't return our calls, nothing. We had no idea what happened (and still don't).
And the last time Z saw her, about a year before this as well, he refused to drive "all the way to Wilmore" from Lexington (yeah, it's literally 14.7 miles from Lexington lol).
My grandmother expected this from Z - because it was status quo - but not from her - so she got extremely mad at her for the same behavior. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen my grandmother actually mad at anyone BUT her and Z (and privately at my mom, though like I said, she'd never admit that to anyone else out of guilt for being mad at her). And she was too terrified of my first husband to be mad lol.
Before I got married and left to Florida, we called her and asked to call me back, it was extremely important. I told her, and Z, that we were leaving, and I asked them how they felt about it, if they were okay with it, we hadn't heard from them - and then she flipped out, acted like we abandoned her, though she hadn't been around for almost a year. It was super strange.
However, to be fair - though she didn't explain why, she DID later apologize for that - regretted it, actually felt horrible about, said it was a guilt reaction for not being around much - so I "thought" it would do no harm to not correct this new lie her husband told my daughter - but in fact, it DID do harm :/
Thank goodness my daughter does at least remember that I was practically an agoraphobic shut-in until she was 5 years old, that I didn't go anywhere, or with anyone, except family; otherwise, only work or classes - and I had her in daycare for that, rather than my grandparents watching her!
So after all these strange questions, when Z hugged me and then made his little falsely-noble comment about parenting at her graduation, I saw my husband set his jaw and make a fist lol.
So I whispered:
"Don't. Do. It. He's not worth it. Plus he wants you to. He wants us to "create drama" and make a scene, knowing what we know but they don't, and ruin her day, play the victim, and say we're BOTH crazy and selfish - when HE's the one making this day about himself and parenting."
"So we just bite our tongues and we take it - for her sake, because she IS worth it and this is HER day. It's not Z's day or my day, it's hers."
"So let me be the joke for whomever feels they need me to be, just this last time - but it WILL be the very last time - because after today, I will never ALLOW them to make me their scapegoat joke, ever again."
"And God help them if they try, ever again - because I will hold up a mirror to them, along with a full detailed list, of exactly of why I'm no more of a joke than they are ;)
(Which they know I can do, with pinpoint accuracy, when pushed too far, for too long. Let them try to play the false victims again, on that day - because somewhere inside, they know exactly why, and that it had been a long time coming ;)
"As for him, what this little dysfunctional unit of enablers doesn't realize is - HE'S the joke. He's a big fish in a small Kentucky pond. He has no college degree, he's a sleazy, alcoholic liquor salesman, for goodness sake!
"Of course he could keep a job, though an alcoholic - he's a liquor salesman, that's practically a job requirement lol. Of course he made money during the recession when the rest of us tanked - liquor sales skyrocketed then. They they think that makes him successful, when the truth is, he spends more than he makes, he's credited to the hilt, he's terrible with money lol."
"I have nothing to prove to these people, and I don't need you to take him down to defend my honor, though I appreciate it - your master's degree, your actual years of combat as an Army ranger, your resume, your local, national, and international references all beat his Kentucky Colonel, good-ole-boy BS any day and he knows it; simply put, he's beneath you and not worth it."
"Let him put on a big show and make this day about himself again. Let him have his good-ole Kentucky boy moment. Because somewhere inside, he's knows it's not true - and this false fantasy moment, built on lies, is the best he can ever achieve."
And yet sometimes, Mark still asks why I didn't say something then, set the record straight, rather than publicly blowing up on Facebook at a couple of people, 5 years later.
"Her graduation was not the time - it wasn't about me, that was her day. Let them ask inane questions and believe what they want and need to believe and have their little fantasy one last time."
"Plus I was just trying to get through the day for her sake, because I knew I was going to be their joke again, I knew rumors were flying from people who had no inkling of what really happened and weren't interested in my side."
"I knew it was going to be one of the most difficult days of my life to get through, what I'd have to hear and be subjected to, and that was my focus - that no matter what came at me, take it on the chin and celebrate her - and I did that - very well, in fact :)"
"I didn't plan on blowing up on FB later, a couple of years ago. And I tried to call them in 2010, two years before her graduation, when the lies were suddenly flowing again - but they hung up on me, so I never tried again. Since then, I've just taken the hits and digs and lies and false accusations and nasty things said to and about me on the chin, figuring the truth will come out someday."
But for some reason, that day on FB on 2017, I was done. I finally let 'er rip. And what happened, Mark? Did it help or matter? Did anyone listen?"
"No - if anything, it only gave them actual "evidence" that I was a nut, instead of realizing this was years of their BS I was sick to death of."
"But you know? As much as I'm embarrassed about that FB blow-up, I'm also kinda glad it happened - because I finally got to tell my side, out in front of God and everybody - even if no one heard it but me. Even if they called me crazy or a liar, it didn't matter - I heard myself and I knew it was truth, that I could prove, if anyone would bother looking at evidence on paper - and somewhere inside, so do they.""But they don't WANT to hear my side and the truth, they prefer the false fantasy - they refuse to even view government-verified documentation of the situation - because dysfunctional families need to believe lies and pretend, close ranks and protect the dysfunction - because what's it saying about them if the lies they've told to justify themselves aren't true?
"So let them believe what they need to. That's not my problem anymore. They can't hurt/blame me anymore. Sometimes they still try to provoke, through my daughter, but I don't take the bait anymore and don't allow that anymore - and my life is soooo much better and more peaceful without them anywhere near it - I'm actually having fun again, I'd forgotten what that was - and I've never felt better about myself - and that is all thanks to YOU :)"
I guess no matter how smart we are, we sometimes see only what we want to see about people until it is too late - especially when we're young :(
It took me years to trust myself and my perception more, but the good news is, I finally do - and I'm not "too nice until it's too late, then finally blow like a crazy lady" anymore. I'm still kind and compassionate, and will give you the benefit of the doubt, but after you've used up your chances, I will tell you exactly where to go:)
I have a man that tells me I'm beautiful and sexy every single day, and appreciates the things I say and do to make him feel special :)
But I still miss Chris, James, Paul, and Bo sometimes - they were the absolute best and most fun friends I've ever had :)