It’s almost worth mentioning that I was riding really high the day the world ended. My job was the best it has ever been, we were doing the most important work we have ever done. I was healthy, eating great, and exercising. My son was about to turn 7, making strides in art and creativity and general wonderfulness. Life was becoming so full, so incredible, that after nearly 5 years of sobriety as an atheist, it was becoming harder to look at all the great things in my life that I had so little to actually do with, and think that there wasn’t some other force in the universe. I was taking baby steps into spirituality- I hadn’t jumped in the pool yet, but I was dipping my toe in and testing the waters. Everything seemed perfect, and believe me I wasn’t shy about letting everyone around me know how that felt. I couldn’t think of anything worth complaining about.
Unfortunately, Justine, my partner of 4 years, could.
For this story to make sense I should mention we had had something like an open relationship, and by “something like” I mean it was an open relationship. We didn’t start out like this, but a series of events caused our trust to be broken, leaving us with a decision to split up or change the rules. From an outsider’s point of view, and feeling like an outsider writing this after the fact, it’s hard to explain why this seemed like a good idea at the time. If I may defend our thinking, we loved each other, we were best friends. I had cheated on a majority of the partners I had been with previously, so when Justine had an emotional slip, I was pretty well equipped to understand how these things happen. Sadly, I would never risk fully trusting her again from that point forward, but why let a little thing like trust get in the way of a good relationship? While I imagined marrying her one day, it was perhaps (it was entirely) more open on my side. But I believed and hoped, and believed that she believed and hoped, and she probably did believe and hope, until she didn’t.
The day before the end of the world, I began noticing a new name popping up on her phone. The new name belonged to an old schoolmate of hers, who was a relative of our tattoo artist, that she also hoped to apprentice for one day. He was a just a friend at this point, but something felt a little more friendly than what was being conveyed to me. I had a terrible feeling about this, and there was nothing this control freak Virgo could do about it but sit back, relax, and lose my mind.
I participate in a daily group chat with three other men in recovery, which centers around us reading and reflecting on a daily short essay. That day (the world ended) we had a great reading on control, letting those around you be as they were meant to be, instead of how you think they should be, and trusting your higher power (however you conceive it) to take care of the results.
Overcome with inspiration, I wrote the following to the group that morning:
It’s bullshit like this that really screws you up when the shit hits the fan later on. I still look back at this spiritual gesture and just say “what the fuck, why? Take it back.”
Justine and her new friend had plans to grab lunch the day the world ended. I thought this was a little sudden considering I just found out about him the day before, but who’s asking me. I was across town, set up in a make-shift situation room. If I could have had a live video feed I would have, but fortunately all I had was my cell phone, plenty of time, and my jealous lizard brain. I’m not sure I would have been any less jealous if I knew this was more than a friendship (which we had agreed as a couple was fair game), but I was jealous. Her new friend was a cool kid, rock dude, bartender, in a band, with long hair and a handlebar mustache. I mean this in a non-judgmental way, but he looks exactly like the stereotype that has popped in your head. As a dorky single dad with a baby face, and a lot of complex but uninteresting responsibilities, I just didn’t feel competitive.
I couldn’t help but notice that 2 hours had passed without hearing from her, so I sent a text checking in, and while the language was friendly, the intent was not. The intent was more information gathering, or in other words, spying.
After four hours, when my paranoid suspicions seemed to be creeping into the realm of possible, I took steps (infantile, baby-man, Fidel Castro steps) to create some sense of control of a situation that was out of my control. I drove over to the house of a beautiful woman I know (and have known) while waiting for Justine to call, in a new situation room with the added amenities of comfort, companionship, and potential retaliation. It was a self-made standoff that, regrettably, she was not even aware she was having.
I sat in the house of the beautiful woman, waiting for Justine to call, an experience that only be described as the Cuban missile crisis meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, meets a Beautiful Mind. Things had gotten a little crowded under the old coconut shell. I became excessively alert; in other words I was becoming unglued. People in recovery like to tell you that moments of suffering are our great opportunities and teachers.
Isn’t that nice.
I never did get that call. Nor, eight hours later did I get the great reconciliation I’d been fantasizing about. Instead, when she got home, I got to experience an anvil dropping on my head
“What should I know?”
“We fucked, twice.”
Ah. Good to know.
This is where as a responsible writer I have to mention Justine hadn’t been dating anyone, and had been asking to be monogamous again for the past four months. I was enjoying myself, at the expense of Justine’s love and trust in me. In my heart I just couldn’t take the leap of faith and trust her again, and I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself either. But suddenly, at this moment, I pulled from behind my back the symbolic bouquet of flowers announcing that I, the late great Sam Lamott, was now somehow ready for monogamy too. It also felt it right to inform her I had slept with the beautiful woman so we were even, the books were balanced, and everything was going to be okay.
This was visibly the moment our relationship ended. She actually recoiled. Instead of saying “Oh my darling, lets never be apart again,” the whole hypocrisy of it all broke something in her. The truth is the books weren’t balanced, they were never balanced. I have a disease called more, and it doesn’t matter if its sex, or alcohol, left unchecked there will be never be enough. I was now facing the first major consequence of more with almost 5 years sober.
“Fuck you!” she said
There actually isn’t a way to write the way she said it, but picture a mafia wife at the end of her rope, with a revolver pointed at her future late husband, telling him why these are his last moments.
The people closest in my life (and apparently the universe) have pretty much given up on using nuance with me. And, as it turned out, so had Justine. I needed to know very specifically why we couldn’t see a therapist, work on our relationship, and live the happy life we both wanted. By way of further explanation she offered me this:
“I don’t respect you, I’m not in love with you, I don’t find you attractive.”
As usual, with my incredible ego, I thought I could work with this, charm my way out, bribe my way out, sleaze my way out. But sadly, no. In two hours, when the reality had been examined and explained, when I had pleaded and asked in every way I could think of, it would turn out that this was definitely the end of the world.