*Warning, salty language ahead.
My wife texted me late one night and said, “You wouldn’t mind bringing us some firewood, would you? It’s cold here!”
Such a nice request why wouldn’t I? Seemed like an everyday rhetorical question.
So immediately, I went to my garage and found a canvas bag. I looked at it and it didn’t seem big enough so I kept looking until I found just the perfect one “this should hold a lot!” I proudly thought, happy to do my best for her. I went to the backyard, it was cold and a light rain was falling, so the wood on top of the pile was wet. I pulled the wet pieces down to the ground until I got to the good stuff: there it was, nice, dry, hefty pieces. The time was 3 a.m.
Once I had gathered the most I could, I stepped out of the back gate and walked to my car. My tears mixed with the rain but I could clearly tell that they were tears that reached my lips because of the unique taste and texture. I got in my car and lit a cigarette, I had recently started smoking again—an escape, a medicine of some kind, a necessary evil that kills you and heals you at the same time.
I drove out. The rain seemed heavier on the windshield than I thought it was outside and the wipers were very loud for some reason. And so I headed toward a place that would bring me insurmountable amounts of pain from this day forward—my wife’s lover’s home. Their affair was still in the beginning stages, maybe if I caught it early enough I could somehow save it with insane actions like what I was doing right now.
With time I learned to make the drive more efficient. Pennsylvania to Montgomery, cut through the Jiffy Lube parking lot to save time at the light, cut across and speed up a little just enough to catch the turn arrow at Wyoming, try to catch the green at Comanche, again at Candelaria but never made the Menaul light, so I’d wait. Go up Menaul through Eubank…that was always the hardest intersection…I was practically there. Then just a few blocks to that building where I volunteered for Barack and then turn right into the neighborhood two more streets and I was there. Seven minutes, start to finish. Seven minutes to devastate my heart.
I pulled up to his driveway, driving slowly as if not to bother anyone. I opened my door, the warning bell was super loud so I quickly closed it. My feet felt heavy. I pulled the firewood out and carried it toward the house and when I reached the front entrance, I just laid it on the threshold away from the rain and walked back to my car. I got in, lit another cigarette, and drove away as I sent her a message saying, “I left it on the doorstep.”
I had driven half a block and I just let go of the gas until the car came to a full stop. My hands were clenched to the steering wheel, my cigarette broke in half and fell to the ground and my head went between my fists and I meant to scream as loud as I could—but wasn’t able to. I remember tears pouring down my face like water under one of those campground showerheads. Heavy tears, but my scream went inward almost choking me. It felt like I was swallowing my own heart. And then the pain came all over my body, literally in my bones and down to the bottom of my feet then rushing to the top of my head causing havoc in its trajectory to every cell inside me.
I sat there for a few minutes. I didn’t understand what was happening. Fear, anger, rage, jealousy, regret, doubt, shame engulfed me.
I drove off and lit another cigarette—just a reflex, I really didn’t find any enjoyment in it. I tried to compose myself and somehow in the middle of this horrific situation reached deep and said something stupid like, “Maybe it is not what it seems. What the fuck??? Really Guillermo? What the fuck is it then?”
The question was not something I was even able to process. But the answer was obvious, it was right there in front of me—the end of my 30-year marriage was starting to take shape.
For the next four years this continued. A toxic and unhealthy set of actions and circumstances that weaved betrayal, abandonment, cruelty, indifference, punishment, and insensitivity all together to make a blanket of constant pain in my entire life.
As time went on I sought counseling. And I found someone that would change my life and help me answer many questions—an angel sent especially to help me deal with the destruction, to help me understand many things about myself, and our relationship. I saw this angel every day for nine months.
Now, I no longer do “drive-bys” but I did find out why I was doing them and maybe this will bring insight to others.
When I was home thinking about her and the things she could be doing, I felt tremendous jealousy. Jealousy is probably the worst of all the emotions that come with this. A deep pain in the core of your chest, a constant feeling in your gut as if you were perpetually falling, a buzzing in your head from stress and overwhelm, and a general pain in your upper arms and legs. Suddenly I had to get in my car and drive over there—knowing exactly what I would find.
I knew she would be there—I could feel it, and yet I proceeded. I wondered so often why I would chose to place myself in that situation, and I finally figured it out. As I drove there, jealousy was eating me alive, running through my veins boiling and destroying me from the inside. But immediately upon finding her car on his driveway, my jealousy instantly switched to pure anger—a much more manageable emotion that I felt I could control. It gave me some of my power back and encouraged me to take action to protect myself. Jealousy would only give me desperation, anger gave me strength and helped me begin to heal.
I had several confidants and several other advisers and all of them kept saying, “It’s gonna take time.” I hated that, I hated to hear it and not know what that meant. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t gonna be weeks or months, it was gonna take years for me to decide to love myself and that moment is when “time” begins. The healing process, the confrontation between you and the truths you denied for so long, the nakedness of admitting your shortcomings, and the fear to open your eyes. I decided to recreate my life, to build “Guillermo’s life” something I could make sense of and manage, and it all started with the hardest thing—wanting to.
Years have gone by and the cruelty didn’t stop or even slow down. But after my healing began, the impact became less and less every day as I found the power I had within me. My loyalty and perseverance, my willingness to understand and to deal with the things I did and more importantly, the things I did not do.
Today as I write this, I have recovered parts of myself and I feel confident and powerful. I don’t believe I ever “learned to live with it.” What I understood was that everything in life revolves around one word: respect. And that respect can not exist in any relationship when it doesn’t start with self-respect. Self-respect is not an egotistical demand for others to admire and be in awe of you; but respect in the simplest meaning possible, the respect not to harm others, not to demean them, and not to let yourself be harmed or demeaned. The respect of gentle sarcasm, not the hurtful or purposeful kind. The respect of listening and gently expressing your opinions. The respect of granting another their wish instead of forcing your way or opinion. The respect to cherish someone and know you can be cherished organically. The respect for love itself and its infinite fragility.
That day when I delivered the firewood was the beginning of the pain. The pain of abandonment and betrayal and yes, a cruelty I never knew was possible. But also the day of the beginning of a journey toward a deeper understanding of who I was, of why I would allow such horrible things to happen to me for so long, and the beginning of the process to find myself. To love myself and to care for my emotional safety. But most of all, to respect me.
I want to believe that was a good day. I want to believe it was the turning point of my entire life, an inevitable lesson that life had waiting for me.