“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” ~ Louis L’Amour
It was after 11:54 p.m. on the last Saturday of the last February—the night I learned I was going to get engaged; the same night when my engagement ring was thrown off the balcony, then ended up in the trash.
It was the night when only earlier, I said with pride that I don’t cheat, and hours later, incoming messages on my phone quickly took the shine off that veneer, as dignity went to dust.
To make things ugly, and of course things got ugly, my head is still numb from the blackout and crashing, because lies are a dangerous thing to build a spine on.
That same night, I was told to “quietly go away,” and to write about how women cheat on great men, since I’m such an expert on love. Except that I’m not an expert on love, and this is not a love story; but here I am, with a story about love, along with some lessons distilled from life’s sharpest pains I’ve lived and caused.
If all things truly wicked start from innocence, then we have to go back further, because the last Saturday of the last February was not the first time when I believed everything was finished.
It was Friday the 13th—a decade and some into dating, I discovered for the first time, that I had been cheated on, by a man who claimed to love me and who claimed we were soul mates, and who painted a picture of marriage.
It was the lowest and darkest time of my life. Yet, I stayed shackled in the picture-perfect relationship, despite repeated offenses, because he said all the right things, and I believed in all the right lies.
Then finally in April, just days before my birthday, I caught the then boyfriend (let’s call him ex-C) sexting another woman just 10 minutes after he had left my apartment.
The facts finally sank in my feelings. I ended the relationship that same afternoon, because I wanted nothing more than to finally live in truth. Yet, truth is a wicked thing to define, because truths and facts are not always the same.
My truth from the moment I discovered the cheating onward was that I felt less than nothing, even though the facts of ex’s sex addiction pointed away from me, even though I was 20 years his junior and modeled to pay my bills, even though I was told repeatedly, by so many, that it wasn’t about me…I couldn’t help but sink.
He probably did love me, or at least tried to, but the facts again pointed away from that. Facts are science; truths don’t always align with reality, because emotions are fickle, perceptions are fickle, and we are but flawed sentient beings. Truth is an even more wicked thing to pursue, as oftentimes, our truths don’t make for correct choices.
Pain is a louder dictator than the moral compass we forget to carry, and pain feeds on pain.
My truths since ex-C have been gravely confused, corrupted, perverted, and time stamped. I had carried on with life, having never dealt with, or truly recovered from that fall, and every time I’ve proudly said I’ve never cheated, it was a time stamped statement that dated back to that year. While I had removed myself from life with ex-C, I was still living with and to an extent, serving and feeding the ghosts left behind from the cheating.
There is no logic to any of this, which is precisely why I’m writing about it, because none of this should have ever happened. Yet, I believe that cognitive reasoning and judgement have disappeared at the convenience of pain, and everything else fell where that cut. My pain muted my values. These are the truths that derailed me.
Living in truth and living in New York City is the paradox that led me here today. If all things truly wicked start from innocence, then bad behavior is, too, taught. I wouldn’t be the first, nor would I be alone in saying that I’ve never been in a mutually faithful relationship in New York.
What I learned from the men I’ve dated and slept with, is how to lie and cheat, and get away with it. What I’ve learned from the women I’ve shared studio and stage time with is how to lie and cheat, and look pretty doing it. They all put on a great show; we all did.
Because New York is a place where our values are made to be forgotten, as we remember and justify how we feel (and justify we did) in every aggressively haughty manner that crossed every line our younger selves would have been frightened of.
Like any big city, no less the capital of the world, New York had always been, and will always be a city of whores—whores for approval, power, money, profession, connection…anything that resembles love, and certainly everything that is more important than love.
I put work first, because as the creed of workaholics know, it’s the only thing that could ever possibly stay faithful.
Darkness resonates with darkness. With every disappointment and betrayal, I confided deeper into the black hole because I knew I couldn’t get hurt in a place void of love, and in that detached darkness, for the very reasons I go to therapy today, I felt safer the further I strayed.
The four years that followed, I was normalized, sexualized, and indoctrinated in my lover’s monster’s den—a space where grey walls were blatantly covered with sketches, prints, and photographs of nude women by quasi famous men—“art” as he called what looked to be 19th and 20th century pornography, a time when women exhibited hair down there, as detailed by Picasso’s extra chicken scratches.
He didn’t believe in relationships or didn’t “do” dating but he found sex “inspiring,” and in the art world, what impressionable female wouldn’t want to be the muse?
The benefits of a situation like this, was a seemingly no games, no petty guessing, adult arrangement—there was zero need of analysis of texts, their frequency or affection, and zero emotional response, investment, or toil expected on my part—the very things love necessitates, but love was not a currency we dealt in.
He wasn’t monogamous, and frequently encouraged me to date other people, too, namely younger guys, but I was always too much for guys my age, and far too complicated for them to understand.
In a city like New York, fresh skin and youth seemed only of value to those too old to take it for granted. And that alone, cancelled out any qualities that would otherwise make generally much older men repellent to girls a decade younger even than their daughters.
There is insurance in knowing that you wouldn’t be traded in for a younger model, because then that would be precisely criminal. Sex with the monster was not an expression of love—it was the antithesis and disassociation from it; it was corruption, exercise, and deviation of power, and that power kept you cold, moving fast, unfaithful, and bereft of values. But it didn’t keep me hopeless.
Except for I wasn’t cold enough, nor did I move fast enough.
A fool, yet again, who had fallen for words, I had spent 19 months too long as the girlfriend to a married man without a wedding band (ex-D). In fact, I had never seen him with a wedding band, so when I learned that he was married, I asked him why he was without a ring, and he responded by saying, “because I haven’t met you yet.” Quite the daring statement for someone who had claimed his marriage was on the rocks before I had even appeared in his life.
Yet, I was kept a secret, as he wanted to “do the right thing,” by slowly folding in his marriage. But “doing the right thing” was doing wrong by me, and as long as he didn’t leave his wife, I didn’t leave the monster, because I wasn’t going to commit to someone who couldn’t commit to me.
I never imagined that I would be the other woman, just as how I never imagined that I would cheat, and do unto others the crimes that were done to me. Yet, our values are made to be forgotten, as we remember and justify how we feel.
The four years that followed, it seemed as though the only person who truly cared for me was the monster, as he was the first to respond to anything and everything I shared.
Sometime last year, a unicorn of a human being came into my life, and as the Unicorn always said, “As long as you stay true to your own path, the right people will show up,” and he did for me. I only wish my time with the monster had ended there, but of course, it didn’t.
In lieu of the nocturnal excursions that had decreased but not deceased, coquettish communications ramped up because I had this pathetic feeling to please and protect the monster’s ego while an earthquake was happening within me.
I wanted to leave gently, because his world was where I sought comfort for the four years that had passed. His ways had been my modus operandi and in his company, I survived. There was nothing pleasurable about any of this. It was both effect and product of guilt and gaslighting.
I used to tell ex-D a quote I’ve seen often, the one about how you can never cross the ocean, if you cannot lose sight of the shore. In the middle of the ocean, if you sink, you drown.
Instead of deep healing from the tip of the roots of darkness, I learned how to cheat death by drowning by never straying too far from the shore. The monster was my shore. I cheated pain by hurting others, and I hurt the one person, the first person, who truly and fully loved me and committed to me.
Our values are made to be forgotten, as we remember and justify how we feel, except for there is no degree of justification for a crime onto the pure, and true light will pierce through darkness, anytime, anywhere.
Security is a fact, while safety is a feeling.
The problem with starting a relationship with a unicorn, was that my New York shield could no longer detect what was real. To complicate things further, there had been a constant presence of bad characters and their malicious intrusions, thus accompanied by the advice to keep our relationship known to as few people as possible, for protection, and for professional reasons.
But if I truly wanted to get to the other side of the ocean, and more than anything, I did, I should have broken away from the shore. But I wasn’t conditioned to be correct, I was conditioned to be discrete. I wasn’t brave enough to cut ties, nor was I honorable enough to come clean, because the dirt somehow grounded me, and in that endless black hole, I was trained to sleep with secrets, my own, and that of others.
But the deepest secret I had, was that the truest part of me was constantly searching for the light. I looked for love in all the wrong places. For four years, I pursued every streak of seeming light, and for four years, I was deeper into the black hole.
As every other guy came and left, the Unicorn was the one, for whom I was going to leave the monster for good. But walking away came with its own price.
Every phase of our lives will require a different version of ourselves. The Unicorn is the first person to show me what values, honour, and true love are. The months that preceded this, I’ve been called all the worst names and more, and as the African proverb says, “Until the lion learns how to write, the story will always be written by the hunter.” The lessons I have are many. But I can at last write about love, because I finally know what it is.
They say that everything heals with time, but only because time makes you forget; the deepest cuts can only heal with love, because only true love has the power to truly transform us.
Love is the antidote. Even the monsters know this, and this is why it serves them to keep us broken. We cease to be useful once we are whole, once we have become immune to what corrupts us.
History repeats itself when we fail to learn and when we fail to heal. History repeats itself because human behavior repeats itself; pain cycles through; we repeat who we are, and we repeat our wounds onto others.
I took the crimes that others couldn’t, and I showed that I could commit them, too. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We also have the capacity to multiply light, just as we have the capacity to learn, and to heal, so that the worst of our pains will not get sharpened through the next person, so that we could arrest the violence where it is.
They say that before you die, your whole life flashes before you, accompanied by moments of realizations. Below are mine:
- What you cannot talk about will always have power over you.
- The rejection of love may keep you cold, but it does not make you adamantine; it isolates you, makes you more fragile, and available to the wrong people.
- Not everything charming is fake, but conceit is almost definitely always wrapped in charm.
- Vagaries and questions are white noise that will never silence.
- Deal with pain. Don’t repeat it. Because the worst diseases fester and pain is a sickness that spreads without mercy and does not discriminate.
- Honor exists. If you can’t find it, you can create it.
- There is a difference between being respected, being valued, and being useful. We are always serving something bigger than we are.
- Life is a constant cycle of learning and unlearning, as determined by company. As a wise man said, bad company corrupts good morals.
- Cheating leaves ghosts, and ghosts leave real imprints. You wouldn’t build a house on a graveyard, as you shouldn’t carry the past into the present.
- Mistakes, as life experiences are, do not have to be definitive. What happens after cheating is both alchemy and labyrinth between two bodies of pain, and there is no blueprint to follow.
- Have the courage to burn to ashes everything that no longer strengthens you. Have that be the ceremonial fire of cleansing and rebirth.
- Let the safest place be where your love grows.
There was a time when I didn’t compromise integrity for anything, and I can finally shift that back to the present tense. The aftermath of any cheating scandal is self-imploding in nature.
The bravest two words I’ve encountered are “begin again.” They were printed on a poster, stuck to the top of the Bedford station subway stop in Williamsburg, amidst other hipster new age art. I would see it twice a day, while I was unfaithful, and each time I told myself, what would I not give, to begin fresh again? That let today be the day, where I could truly begin again. Yet somehow, there was a crack in my code. It was where courage had slipped out, along with any moral codes, and that was the beginning of the end.
Every exit marks a new beginning. Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction. Much of the sentient world is characterized by dualist philosophies. The crack in my code may be what sank me, but it’s also what saved me, as “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
I’ve lived among wolves in sheep’s clothing, but there was always a bluebird in my heart, that wanted to get out. Now that it’s finally out, I refuse to be diminished by the past, just as I refuse to be shamed into silence.