Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dear Former Cousin,

I guess this note has been a long time coming. Most days, I don't even think of you. It's much easier to hold the pain under the surface that way. But there are times when I feel that knife in my back, and it makes it hard to breathe.

Over the last week or so, I've been struggling. Sometimes it surprises me to be jolted by the hurt. But there were a few reasons I was reminded of your betrayal, and it made every other aspect of my days feel ugly.

First, as I'm sure you are accutely aware, the divorce is moving forward. Mine. I'm sure your own has been neatly wrapped up already. Unless, of course, your very agreeable ex has allowed the finalization of your equitable distribution of property to wait on the results of mine. Is that why my husband is in such a hurry to sell the house out from under his children? It must be a comfort to know you won't lose your home, and that you ended up with the man who can rebuild it for you...who can make a palace out of a shack. What a lucky woman you are! And where will my children live? Well, neither of you seems terribly concerned about that.

Another twist of the knife was last weekend, when my daughter came home from a visit with her dad and told me of finding the note you left on his door..."Don't forget to take your lunch! XOXO". That was difficult. Not because I felt jealous in any way, but because it hurt my girl. You committed the ultimate act of betrayal against her mother and against HER, and she has to have reminders of you in her face. We all know you are together. There is really nobody you have fooled. That note was sloppy on both your parts. It hurt my girl, who never deserved any of this. It will never be better. She will NEVER want you in her life. Even as you entertain the happily ever after in that fairy tale head of yours, it will never include the loving relationship with a future stepdaughter/former Godchild. Oh, yeah...her Godmother. What a travesty.

In the last week, my mom has been stressing over an upcoming family event. You know the one. She wants to go. She wants to be there for her sister on such a momentous occasion. But she's not going. None of my siblings are going. I'm sure nobody will much give a shit. We always were the outsiders of the family. But it hurts my mother that she can't go. Your mother will be there. She'll look like the supportive sibling, while my mother looks like she turned her back on a family that never respected her anyway. You can say whatever you want about my mother, but she was there for you your whole life. And now, she can't participate in a single family event because the idea of having to see your face makes her violently ill. She can't envision any scenario where she would have to be in your presence and NOT punch you in your traitorous face. The anxiety she has battled all week, trying to come up with a reasonable excuse for not being able to attend her sister's party was exhausting. I had previously requested that none of my immediate family members mention the turmoil you have caused but in the end, I told her to just tell the truth. It was eating her up. It's all making my whole family feel sick. So while I lost a husband, and my siblings lost a brother in law, I guess neither of you gave a shit that we would all have to give up an entire extended family. Our three aunts, two uncles, twelve first cousins, all their spouses, all their children...but you get to keep them all. To be honest, since not one of them has ever thought to pick up the phone to ask how I might be see if I had something to say about the whole "falling out", I don't really miss them as much as you might think. People who clearly never gave a shit about me the way that I did them, they aren't worth my breath. I just have nothing to say.

The thing that hurts the most in this whole mess is, I miss you. I miss my best friend. I miss the laughter. I miss the noise of having all the kids together. I miss our Lucy and Ethel existence. Which one of us was which depended on the day. I miss figuring things out together. I miss knowing you were always there to have my back.

You had my back.

And then you stabbed me in it.

How could you do that?

How could you allow this to happen? You knew how I felt. You knew your relationship with my husband was causing problems in my already shaky marriage. Instead of backing off, you indulged his ego. "You're the bomb!" "I'm gonna bake you a cake!" "You're so great!" For all the complaining I did about him, (for perfectly valid reasons), you know I praised him just as much. But he chose not to see that. He chose, instead, to fall on your every word. When I told you it was a problem, you chose to make it MY problem. It never mattered that after your husband walked out, I was pulling my own husband to help you with everything. I was there for you. I was supportive of MY HUSBAND being there for you. Until it got to be too much. In hindsight, I wonder if your husband left because he saw something that I refused to believe. So many signs, but I trusted you both. I trusted you with my life, and you took it from me.

The time my California family came to visit, and you asked if you could borrow my husband to take down a heavy box of winter clothes for you, and you were gone for an hour and a half...and then came back to my house, and you both went into my office so he could take out the electric massager for your back...WHO FUCKING DOES THAT?

All the nights you sat together looking at photos I took, and I had to squeeze into a spot at the corner of the made me feel like an intruder in my own marriage...that was shitty of you! I trusted you, and you treated me like I was in your way.

The day he said he was going to Home Depot and I found him turning the dirt in your yard. How convenient your hubby had just taken the kids out.

The day he came home from work early, but I found him coming from the direction of your house. First he said the exit to our main road was closed. Then he said he was lost. So many story changes.

That day, after your husband left, and you came to my house crying. I wasn't there. My brother was there. I asked what happened. He said you came over, got upset and started crying. I asked if you said why, but he said, "No. MAC went inside with her and talked to her." Oh. How noble. I believed my husband was being good to my cousin. I never imagined back then just how good he was to you.

And that day...we already weren't speaking. I wanted so badly for us to make things right. I stayed up all night writing to you. I needed you to know how much you had hurt me. Even after you had the audacity to accuse ME of being selfish, because I didn't want him to come to your house to put a gate on your deck, I still wanted to find a way to make things right. But I knew. I hadn't slept, and the alarm in my gut wouldn't be ignored. I loaded my kids into my car at 5:30 in the morning, because I KNEW where he was and I had to see for myself...I drove around for an hour. His car wasn't parked in the lot where it should have been. I drove past your house five times and saw nothing. And as I prayed, "PLEASE, GOD...just give me a sign. Show me I'm being crazy. Show me I have invented this all in my head! I can't go on wondering and feeling like I'm out of my mind. PLEASE just show me the truth!!" And as I was making my last pass down your block, there he was. Driving his car out of your back yard.

But he promised. Til death do we part.

And were the other half of me. You were more my sister than my cousin.

And now, none of it matters.

You can both try to tell people I was crazy. You can say everything I imagined was a product of my own jealous anxiety. You can try to tell people you were never together until he left. But the fact that you ARE together now makes it perfectly clear that even in the BEST CASE SCENARIO, where you really never were together until he left, your current relationship says otherwise. There was something there. Something was going on, and looking back, it was right under my nose. Does that make me a fool? No. I chose to believe in the two people to whom I was closest. There was a time I would have given my life for you. Now,

I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.

I'm sure we'll be passing through each other's lives. My daughter will have milestones in her life and there will be celebrations. I'll find a way to get through it all. And while I have forgiven you, for my own peace, I will never feel the need to have you included in ANY part of my life. I will never have anything to say to you. The person you were to me no longer exists.

We were close as kids, even though I was three years older. We grew closer as adults. When we had our own families, our blood was the foundation of an amazing friendship. And I'm so very glad I had that experience in my life, because thanks to you, it will never happen again.

Most days, the pain of what you did isn't even a thought to me. Sometimes, it rises up and comes tearing through my heart. Do I hate you? No. That would give you too much value. But even on the days when I have the burning pain neatly locked away, and I am managing to dance through every challenge life brings, there is always the presence of an underlying sadness. It's the heartbreak of being so heinously betrayed by someone I loved so deeply.

They say the worst part of betrayal is, it never comes from a stranger. That's so true.

And I wonder how you sleep at night.