Don't really know where this one came from. Read so many BTB stories of people actively doing stuff to their spouses when they discover infidelity. I wondered if you could have the same effect without all that heavy duty planning. I dunno if this works or not. You be the judge.
Edited by JonB1969.
I got home a bit later that night than I expected. There was a meeting I had to be a part of. I didn't really want to be there. The two people I was mediating with were both, frankly, not that nice. Both were more interested in putting as much hurt on the other person as they could. They weren't interested in resolving the situation, they were interested in damage. I could understand why. The whole situation was a disaster from a business point of view, but still, it was my job to find a happy medium, so that both sides could walk away, feeling like they got what they want.
That's almost impossible in situations where one or both sides were more interested in hurting the other side than resolve the situation, or, worse still, when it was the act of resolution itself that would actually be the hurting part. No one walks away from that situation feeling satisfied, I can tell you.
There have been more than one occasion where I've had to admit defeat and just tell both parties that at this point, the lawyers are going to have to get involved, because it's ONLY the hurting of the other person that is going to give the situation resolution.
At least in situations where both parties are trying to hurt each other out of blind rage and hurt, there is the chance that one or the other will come to their senses. And that's where I come in.
I guess it's customary to introduce yourself. I'm Mike Absalom. I'm a mediator – and a good one, if I may say so myself – for a company who is hired as arbitrators by legal firms. Most of the time our work is woven into contracts – if the contract breaks down, rather than running to lawyers, the two parties (or three, or even four sometimes) come to us. We sit down, try and understand the situation, what everyone wants, and try and come to an agreement. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
What we do isn't legally binding – we hammer out an agreement in spirit, rather than in law. Oh, sometimes what we do gets put into contract form, but mostly it's a way to get people to come together and find a solution for their problems. Less about the letter of the law, and more about the spirit of it, sort of thing.
So yeah, that's what I do. I have always done it in one form or another, and I have a particular way of working. I come from a large family – six kids; five boys and a girl. I was the second eldest and, it seemed, constantly mediating disagreements.
Mom was a single Mom – our Dad died two days after Benji, the youngest, was born. He was killed by a drink driver, crossing a road, after buying flowers for my Mom. She never really got over it, but buried herself in providing for us. She did the best she could, but the reality is that even with two parents, providing a roof, clothes, food and attention in equal measure for all six would be hard, let alone one parent. She did her thing, selling real estate, and we were what our generation called Latch Key Kids. We came home, made a snack, watched TV, irritated each other and some how, I always ended up mediating.
Mediation is an interesting career path. I didn't intend it to be a career choice – it just sort of happened. I originally worked for a plant on the shop floor, making metal widgets for all sorts of things – golf carts, ball point pens, you name it, if it had small metal bits in it, we made parts for it.
Long story short, I was the voice of reason on a number of issues, and when it was necessary, sorted it out. I have no idea why I was picked; perhaps I was the most reasonable.
So anyway, I was working at this metal shop place – a college thing while I was doing a course in Creative Writing – yeah, I've no idea what I was thinking, either – and there was a dispute between management and workers. Some of us were union – some were not. I wasn't, but somehow I wound up being the workers representative anyway. There was a union rep, and he showed up some of the time, but half the time that management wanted to talk to 'the workers', he was no where to be found. Part of me still believes they – the management – did it on purpose.
Anyway, I ended up talking a lot and while I think management was loaded for bear, we managed to work something out.
It happened again four months later – same kind of thing, some demand that we not have vacation in August because there was a big order coming in or something. Anyway, this time they brought in an arbitration company, who basically did the same thing I had done, only 'without bias', as management put it.
It didn't really matter. The arbitration company ended up talking to me and the union rep anyway, and then just passed it on to the management. All they really did was act as a middleman.
We got something sorted that avoided 'unpleasantness', as management put it, and everyone got something out of it. I know I did. I got a job offer from the arbitration company.
And so I changed my college major to business studies, with a minor in psychology, and went to work for them instead. It was certainly easier on my hands, that's for sure.
I graduated two years later, and have been a mediator ever since. And trust me, I've mediated some weird stuff. Movie companies and actor's agents, Car companies and their workers, lawyers who are partners, even a bunch of competitors in a surfing competition, and the company who organized it. I've even done more than a few marriages. I didn't try and be a marriage counselor; I figured those guys knew what they are doing – I just come in when all else has failed and we have to separate out the cd collection.
I have a particular methodology, though. It's what works for me, rather than anyone else. People respond when they see vulnerability and when they see honesty. So, when I mediate, I try and show people my vulnerability, and my honesty. I sit there, talk with both sides independently, to try and get a feel for who the people are, what they think is important and how they feel about the situation, what they want from it, what they think of the opposing side – basically I try and get a feel for both combatants.
I should point out that I've been chastised by the senior partners more than once for using that terminology, but it's how I start out viewing the clients, and it works for me. I just have to shut up about using the words!
From there, I can usually figure out a way to get each side thinking in terms of what the other person thinks is important. It may not be to them – or it maybe, and that is the cause of the conflict. Either way, getting them in touch with the other persons needs is paramount.
Orson Scott Card, a noted science fiction author, and general religious nut wrote a story once about a girl who could 'see' the connections between people – she saw them as lines of force, and they made a web between everyone. And she could see how to cut those lines with a few well-chosen words.
As an aside, how is it that some people can be monstrously intelligent and write incredible stories that are tied together, with interesting people and great dialog, and then have this incredible blind spot in their lives where they believe in invisible people who live above the clouds? I just don't get it.
When I read his story, I did note the similarities between what I do and what this fictional character does. I can't see what connects people, but with enough prodding, I can usually work it out, and it's my job to either untangle the existing connections, OR create new ones that cancel out the old ones.
At least that's how I see it. It's all really just touchy feely stuff, and it's not something I seem to be able to pass on.
And it's certainly not a skill I practice at home with the wife. Oh yeah, the wife. We've not even mentioned her yet. That's a bit crap for a story in the Loving Wives section, I know. But I needed you to have some background in what I do and how I do it, because it'll have import later.
Do I have to do the self-description? Do I? Really? When I read a story, it's the last thing I care about, what the guy looks like. Ok, ok. I'm six foot, spot on. I'm 197 pounds – at least I was a week ago. I drink vodka, I like wine, I bike for exercise and yes, my hair is starting to thin and is definitely gray at the sides. Fuck old age. Is that enough? Do I have to go on about skin tone? Or being clean-shaven? Or any of that shit? Does anyone care? Really? Yes, I have a cock. No it's not huge and no it's not small. I do ok. Jeesus.
So the wife. Yeah, I should talk about her.
Love of my life. I know, everyone says that, right? But it's true. It's like one of those things you say about having kids – How Great Having Them Is – it's just words to people who've never had them.
I find the whole thing about announcing you are having kids really interesting and not a little bit funny. You say, "We are pregnant" – and even that makes me smile. "We?" I would have just stuck my dick in her and had a grand old time, and from that point onwards, it's 100% her. She would grow it, suffer the discomfort, have to give up drinking, end up peeing a lot and finally, suffer the indignity of the actual birth, not to mention the bodily issues that can happen after, both from stretch marks to post partum depression. And yet the guy gives out cigars. Yeah, you did a whole lot, asshole.
Then there's what all the friends tell you. "Go get drunk, you won't be able to once the baby comes.", "Go to the movies, you won't be able to once the baby comes.", "Go eat out, you won't be able to once the baby comes.", "Go sleep, you won't be able to once the baby comes." And my personal favorite – "Go have sex, you won't be able to once the baby comes." And then they drop that one line at the end, "But it'll be the best thing ever!"
Yeah, sounds like it. Sounds great. I mean, so many people say it, so they must mean it, but damn, you get all sorts of very explicit and specific reasons why it's going to suck, and then be told at the end, "But it's great – best thing ever" and I can't help but notice there are no specifics on that.
But, given how I feel – felt – about Kristi, I can well believe it. That's her name, by the way. It was Kristi Fenton and is now Kristi Absolom, at least it will be for the next couple of months.
Anyway, I felt that way about Kristi and she did about me. When it came to kids, I knew that my little party shtick about it was both true and also coming from a place of darkness.
For us, the whole prospect of having kids was a non-starter. Kristi had discovered, on her first period, immense pain and 'women issues' as she put it. She'd been taken to hospital by her parents and found that her tubes were malformed. It had taken surgery, them being tied and the egg parts of the tubes removed, because if they weren't, it would be at best agony every month and at worst, life threatening. Apparently it had been described to her as 'cancer waiting to happen'. So out they came, and with it, any chance of Kristi bearing children.
By the time we were together, she'd gotten past it, or as past it as a woman can really be. My understanding is that a woman doesn't count herself a woman if she can't fulfill one of the most basic of womanly functions. I don't know that I buy that, but in Kristi's case I knew it was a dark pool that neither of us really wanted to look into too deeply.
I was ok with it. I loved children and had assumed they would be in my future somewhere, but when it became a choice between having Kristi in my life, or children, it was a no brainer decision.
We talked about it a lot, and a few years back, Kristi even announced that we should get donor eggs, combine it with my sperm and do a surrogate pregnancy. We looked into it, and I was tested – turns out my swimmers are fine – and even started looking into surrogates and the procedure. But I was never totally sanguine about it, and something just felt off. Kristi was all gung ho, but when the time came to do it, I just couldn't. I don't know why, but something was off. It was when Kristi collapsed when I said no that I discovered what it was.
Kristi had been carrying around some major groundless guilt about not being able to bear children, and the whole surrogacy thing was both an attempt to make me happy and also what she deemed her 'punishment' from god. I have no idea where any of this came from, but it was there and it took some therapy to piece together and start the repairs. But you do what you must. I knew something wasn't right and it appears my subconscious knew more than my conscious mind. Although, while it was right on then, in this case, it let me down pretty drastically.
So, kids never happened. We never adopted – it just also didn't feel right, although I've no idea why – and we decided that if we had to be childless, to embrace it. We traveled, saw the world, ran with the bulls, had breakfast at the feet of the pyramids, played hide and seek in the ruins of Pompeii, dived in Pearl Harbor, spent weeks drunk off our asses 'wine tasting' in Napa Valley and Bungie jumped off the Sydney Harbor bridge. We lived life.
Life long friends drifted away when they had kids – they had a different life from us, and we all knew it. There were lots of "we must get together" and to start with, we tried. But no one was ever available; no one could get sitters, and even when they could, they had to be home by eleven and couldn't even get nicely loaded, since they had to be sober to be in charge of their children when they got home.
When they'd leave our downtown condo, in Bellevue, a well to do suburb of Seattle, we'd look at each other and giggle and say, "Glad we don't have kids!" It was all a bit pathetic and we were obviously covering our own voids, but we were also drunk and then we'd have slow lazy sex on the balcony. We were three stories up, so we weren't worried about being seen, so there were upsides.
We were good. I had my work, which sometimes was intense, and she had hers. She was a curator of a technology museum in Seattle. It was funny – she was into all the little gadgets like Iphones, Ipads, fitbits and all the other things that are traditionally a Man Thing, and I liked classical music and sculpture and opera. We often joked we had bits of our brains switched around, like in that Star Trek Episode (Original Series, natch. I have Been Educated on that by my occasionally nerdy wife, have no fear).
We've been married almost twelve years. We'd met at, of all things, a lawn hockey match. I'd only just moved to the Seattle area, from my college in Missouri, and before that, the suburb of Chicago where I'd been brought up. I didn't know many people and someone from work had invited me and I had honestly nothing better to do that Saturday.
Two co-ed teams, going at each other. The level of violence was a thing to behold. As far as I could tell, it was a great excuse for women on both teams to bash the living shit out of the men on the field, and be applauded for it. Sometimes it was hard to tell who were the women and who where the men. The women were so butch and roided up.
I'd just been watching one man get a hockey stick in the shins so hard his shin guard had split and there was blood everywhere, when I was aware that there was someone beside me, holding a glass of something and gazing at the scene in front of her.
"You think he'll ever want to be on coed team again?" she asked, glancing up at me.
"I know I wouldn't. Limping home is not a way to finish anything," I said, somewhat lamely.
She smiled at me, looked back at the man being escorted off the field, supported by two teammates and said, "Oh, I can think of ways of getting to that situation might be fun. Not like that though. Nice to talk to you." And she nodded and wandered off.
For me, it had been electric. Kristi was about 5 foot 7 inches, brown haired, but streaked with blonde, a somewhat round face, beautiful eyes, accentuated with dark makeup and long eyelashes (real too, I found out later), a proportional up turned nose, awesome cheekbones and a round pouting mouth, that if you concentrated on it, all you wanted to do was kiss it. She had incredibly blue eyes and blinked just a little too much.
She was nicely proportioned – nothing too big, nothing too small – an actual ass that had shape but not huge or wobbly. Somewhat narrow hips, but all in all, just a delightful package.
I watched her wander away and almost kicked myself for my lame responses, shaking my head ruefully.
I got another opportunity later that day, when I was visiting the temporary bar set up off the field. They only sold cheap shitty wine and beer and premade cocktails, that tasted, well, premade. I was buying a glass of the least offensive wine – yes, I'm a snob. I know my wine tasting. Mom's sister, my aunt Nancy, had a part time job reviewing wine and I learned a lot from her about nose, bouquet and all the other rubbish that went with reviewing. I also learned that 95% of it was utter bullshit, done to impress other people who didn't have a clue. At the end of the day wine, like art, is about what works for you and what doesn't. There is nothing on earth that makes a wine worth $100, let alone $1000, apart from your willingness to pay for it.
I'd bought the only thing that didn't make me wince and turned to go, but found this delightful creature who'd talked to me earlier standing behind me in line, fiddling with some little black box with what looked like a pen attached. She was concentrating on it so hard she didn't see me standing there, patiently waiting for her to notice and get out of my way. In the end, I cleared my throat.
She glanced up in somewhat annoyance, realized the situation and said, "Oh, so sorry. Just got this and I can't stop playing with it." She held up the box, which had some kind of grey LCD screen on it.
"It's a Visor. One of the new PDA's." she said, as though that explained everything.
I just looked at her, and she said, "Never mind. Sorry, let me get out of your way."
She sidestepped, I stepped around her, then just stopped. She got a drink, turned around and now I was in her way. She just looked at me, a hint of a smile playing around her lips.
"We must stop meeting like this," she said, with mock intensity.
I smiled back. "So, what's a Visor? Let's get out of line and go talk."
And we did. For an hour.
I learned a Visor was one of those new digital personal assistant things, that Palm had first produced. I learned she was a gadget junky. I learned she was a trained librarian and historian. I learned she had only come today because a friend was playing and she couldn't figure out how to turn him down without seriously hurting his feelings and I learned she was free next Friday and really wanted to see the latest Harry Potter movie, but hated going on her own.
The hint was heavy and by god I took it.
And that was the start.
We were in bed together at the four-week mark, and married about ten months later. I could go on about the chaotic wedding – all my family showed up and it was like a Clampet reunion. Hers were there too, much more upper class than us, looking over their bifocals at us suspiciously, and then having a whooping good time when someone on my side noticed and dragged them into the fray.
I could go on about her family – one sister, a brother in the army doing god knows what god knows where to god knows who, and a father and mother, long since divorced and now friends. I'd only met her brother a few times, him being out of the country a lot, but he'd seemed like a decent enough guy. Concerned about his sister, but not one blind to who she was. We'd shared a beer or ten - those army guys can drink – and had some, well, I'd call 'interesting' conversations. I learned way more about her early boyfriends than I honestly wanted to know.
I could go on about our years together. Growing together, having fun, exploring life and generally acting like teenagers whenever we thought we could get away with it. We were partners, in every sense of the word.
We belonged to several groups together – I read poetry and she ... well, she came along and tried. She painted and I ... if I'm honest, I didn't even try. I could read and write but my skills ended there. I didn't even know which end of the paintbrush to use. I'd try and do abstracts and she'd come over and look and make comments like "I see you are still in your seven year old period." And then laugh hysterically.
Oh she cracked herself up, my wife.
We both had state of the art mountain bikes and made heavy use of them. The Seattle area is littered with bike trails and we made the most of them. It was our main exercise and we loved it. We even went on biking weekends to Portland and Vancouver.
I don't mean to make it sound like some kind of hippy dippy nirvana, though. We fought. We had disagreements. By god the woman had a temper on her – when she was royally pissed she could make every room Siberia. She had a wicked sense of sarcasm that could really cut right to your core, and when she was really angry, she'd do it right in front of other people, where my only recourse was either to retreat and look wimpy or have a knock-down drag-out cat fight in front of our friends.
I tried both approaches and neither really worked. Me retreating often made the problem go away faster, but made me look like a turd in front of our friends, and me fighting her preserved my pride but made our new fridge, the bed, last that much longer. She knew damn well what she was doing.
It was weird, because to everyone else, she was an absolute delight. Even if she abhorred the people we were with – and she could be biting about some of the people we knew in our social circles – she was so polite and excruciatingly nice to them. It was only me she showed her vast displeasure with, when she felt the need arose. In some ways I felt hugely privileged – it was only me that she felt comfortable enough with for the mask to come off. That's a compliment. On the other hand, sometimes I seriously worried for her mental health.
But what really pissed her off, more than anything, was me attempting to use my 'fucking Jedi mind tricks' on her.
Apparently, when I get into Mediator Mode, as she puts it, I unconsciously adopt a particular stance and facial expression. She picked up very early on what that looked like and that was one thing that no matter what we were arguing about was guaranteed to put it up a level or two. It was at those points that the inevitable "Your family sucks too" kinds of taunts came out. There is no argument that can't be made worse by dragging family into it.
Mind you, she also learned that bringing my mother into it was not a thing she should embark on. A weekend spent in a motel because I threw her out made that point.
In the interests of fairness, though, I should also point out that it's not like she often didn't have anything to scream about. I was – no, am – no picnic to live with. I am moody, I can fly off the handle about something insignificant (never drive with me when I've had a bad day), I tend to look down on stupid people (and we are ALL stupid at some time or another), and I have been known to enjoy the strip club on occasion, even knowing what it represents in terms of women's exploitation.
I was as capable as she was of provoking a bad situation, although I did prefer to deal with it behind closed doors.
She knew when she'd overstepped the mark. She knew it very soon after, once her heat had died down and I often got lots of apologies and then the next week, I'd be hard pressed to even get up in the morning.
I should talk a little about our sex life. It was nothing short of spectacular. Well, I thought it was, anyway. We were nothing short of perfectly coupled in the bedroom. Or the living room, or even the back of the car, one night in Victoria, up in Canada.
We explored each other, were honest about fantasies (at least I was. Turns out she wasn't – not completely), we did some risqué things – going out to dinner with her wearing no underwear and a short mini dress, never knowing who she was flashing, stuff like that. We played a couple of games of me picking her up in a motel bar, till one night some guy hit on her and didn't want her to say no, and it took me explaining the facts of life to him while gripping his balls through his suit pants, and we never did that again. Again, I never did. With what I know now, who the fuck knows if she did.
Sorry. Shouldn't swear. Sometimes, well, life gets the better of you, you know? Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.
For all that, we were happy. At least I thought so. I was. My work occasionally got consuming, and in some situations, I had to travel. I was work for hire for my company and to a certain extent I had to go where the work was. But it was never for long and I would be home again, and it didn't happen that often.
Kristi occasionally traveled to see some tech company who wanted to donate old equipment to her museum for posterity and a couple of times I got to go too, although sitting around watching a bunch of beards droning on about how some hard drive the size of washing machine used to be worth three quarters of a million dollars, and now you could get earrings with more storage capacity than that, was not my idea of a good time.
But hey, I got to play golf in Arizona, in the dead of winter, on Intel's dime, play nickel slots, and do nasty things to my wife on hotel property, so what the hell did I care?
So, back to the evening I was talking about, which is what the story is really about anyway.
I walked into our condo, with its nice view, and threw my jacked on the chair and yelled out, "I'm home. What's for dinner?"
The lights were on, and I knew she was home – I had parked next to her little Mazda Miata Mx5 convertible in the under building parking lot. The entry of our condo was into the kitchen and I busied myself grabbing a beer (low calorie Diet beer, as she called it) and wandered into the living room.
And there she was, sitting on the couch, knees together, looking up at me and biting her lip. It wasn't her that arrested my motion though – it was the guy sitting next to her.
"Honey..." she said, weakly.
I just stopped and stared, not believing what I was seeing. Her body language was contrite, upset, nervous, and stalwart, all in the same set of posture. You can't live with someone as closely as we had for that many years and not know what you are seeing. Well, apparently you can, as I was discovering. But right then and there I could read the entire situation as plain as day.
The guy, well, he was young, had a smile on his face that was just this side of non-confrontational. Not a sneer, but definitely in the same family. A cousin perhaps. It was classic arrogance that was being masked with some semblance of 'sensitivity' on his part. Hell, for all I know, he might even believe it, but the body language was classic possession demonstration and the need to imprint that on the events that followed. I was being told without words that he was the Alpha male here, in terms of owning her.
She was leaning forward, and he was leaning back, both arms spread out along the sides of the couch, one behind her. You could see she was leaning forward a bit so as it to not appear like he had his arm around her. But it also didn't take Einstein to see what she hadn't removed it, either. She was doing her best to not have the situation look too bad, missing the point that the more she tried, the worse it actually looked. Now she just looked guilty rather than contrite.
Just looking at the two of them, I knew what the situation was, at least part of it. I knew what had been going on. I didn't know where they thought it was going – whether this was a confessional and a promise to not repeat, or a 'dear john' moment, or what it was, but I knew what had occurred prior. You can't not, when you see something like this.
I just looked at them for a moment more, then flopped into the chair adjacent to the couch, at right angles to it. It put me right next to this guy, who looked at me with I'm sure he thought was concerned. I could see Kristi frown at me sitting down, and I could read the expressions crossing her face – their placement of sitting was really bad. If I got violent, she wouldn't be able to stop me. But it was too late now.
There was obviously a script here they were playing to, and I had to hold back the anger that was forming in my stomach to understand what that script was.
I popped the beer and sighed, and took a long drink.
She bit her lip again, and I could see she was about to say something but didn't. I assumed it would have along the lines of, "Yes, a beer would be a good thing about now."
I chuckled as a thought occurred to me. It's funny your reactions to sudden extreme stress like this. I'd seen it before and it had always puzzled me. People say the most asinine things, or make some remark, or bring up some point that has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation. In my line of work you see it a fair amount and I'd always quietly wondered at what was going through their minds at that exact moment. Presumably a complete denial of the reality of the situation, and here I was, feeling it myself.
"What?" asked Kristi, a tiny bit of annoyance in her voice that she masked instantly.
I took another drag of beer, then said, "I was just thinking. I know you so well. I can read your body language. I was just thinking that you couldn't possibly hide your body language like this in a situation like this, not when you know them so well. And then it occurred to me that you've done exactly that, haven't you? I had no clue."
She grimaced slightly, then took a breath.
"Well, yes. I guess so. But that's partly what this ... intervention, I guess, is about."
"Intervention?" I interjected, dripping sarcasm from the word. "Is that what you are calling this little event? Why not something nicer? Get together, perhaps? Come to Jesus even?"
It came out before I could stop it. I shouldn't have though. I am usually better than that.
"Mike..." she said, reproachfully, using that two-tone way people use to verbally stress a two-syllable word.
"Oh by all means, dear wife," I said, stressing the word 'wife' in the same way. "Do go ahead. I wouldn't want to derail your script."
I glanced at the guy sitting next to her, and noticed he had one of my beers open in front of him. The white-hot rage I was feeling – really starting to feel – got an inch whiter.
"Mike, you just said it yourself. You had no clue. I think it's fair to say then that in reality, you not only didn't notice, but there was nothing to notice. Right? No tell tale signs, no dropping in affection or sex. Right?"
She was right. I hadn't noticed. I wasn't really looking either, but implicit trust will do that to you. But still, I'm an observant guy. My job depends on it, and it's not like I take her for granted. Even eleven years in, I was still buying her flowers for no reason, having them sent to her work, taking her away for weekends, buying small trinkets – anything to keep showing her how much I cared. Which made this all the more sick, from my point of view.
My mind was going at 320 miles an hour, asking questions I had no answers to. Had I not given her enough? What else could she have wanted? What drove her to this? WHY???
I struggle to get control of my emotions. I would never get answers if I went off, severely really tempted as I was. I was smart enough to know that at some point I was likely to, but I wanted answers first and this was a way to get some. I wouldn't get all of them, and she'd outright lie to me about some it – that was inevitable. I knew she still loved me, and she wouldn't want to hurt me any more than she had to, so I knew she'd lie about the things that she judged would. It was only human.
But that was the thing. I knew she loved me. I was a 100% sure of it. Even with the evidence that that love had been shared around, I was still convinced of it. Maybe I was fooling myself, but I dunno – you just know some things in your life, and I knew she loved me. I guess I was just fooling myself about the 'to the exclusion of all else' part of the sentence that should have followed on.
I just gestured with the beer, not trusting myself to speak yet.
Kristi took that as an affirmation and continued, in the most measured voice she could.
"So, logically then, if I never gave you less than you had always had from me, how are you impacted by this? I'm still the same person I always was. This... ," she gestured at the man sitting next to her, "is just an ... extra dimension. That's all. Nothing changes. I still and will always love you and be everything to you that I've always been. And I want the same back. Surely you can see that? You've lost nothing here."
So that's how it was. She was actively hoping that I'd go for this. See it from her point of view. It was clever. She was attempting to do to me what I do professionally. Make me see it from her point of view. Walk in her shoes, metaphorically.
There as silence for a second. Then she said, "It's not you, Honey. Not in any way. You are not lacking at all. Please understand that. You rock my world and always will. I just..."
"You just what, Kristi?" I said, marveling at the fact that I hadn't turfed the coffee table over yet and maimed someone. "Just needed more than I could give? The flowers, the presents, the weekends away, the love, " I sneered on the last word, "just not enough for you? Does he have a huge dick? Is that it?"
"I..." Kristi's reserve began to crack and her voice and face trembled. I could see tears starting.
The guy sitting next to her leaned forward with a worried expression on his face, glancing at me with animosity.
"Kristi," he said, with a surprisingly deep voice, "Babe ... it's ok. Hold in there, like we said."
His arm along the back of the couch came forward to cup her body.
I did loose it a bit then.
I leaned forward, and said, "Hey dickwad. I can call you Dick, can't I? We are almost blood brothers." And in doing so, I put my hand on the back of his, that was still on his lap.
In one smooth motion, I grabbed his index finger and just pulled it up and back. He had no option but to go with it, or risk it being broken. With his arm around Kristi, he had nowhere to go and as I raised the finger and put more pressure on it, bending it at an angle, he contorted his body to relieve the pressure. He couldn't move more than that, being trapped with his arm behind Kristi.
"Mike, please..." Kristi said, helplessly. I threw a very quick venomous look in her direction, then concentrated on this dick head in front of me. She didn't move, which was wise, although she looked like she wanted to. Even she wasn't that stupid.
"Listen, asswipe. That's my wife there. Whatever you think you've been doing, she is still my wife." I put extra emphasis on that word, being the finger back even more.
"That's my couch you are sitting on, in my apartment, drinking my beer. And frankly, shit for brains, I am not impressed with any desire you may have to be a white knight. You are here because the slut," Kristi moaned slightly at that word, "wants you here, but I don't want you here. So shut the fuck up and don't say a word, or more bad shit will happen. I've got your ass and I've used four fingers on one hand to do. Don't piss me off any more than you already have, or more bad shit will happen to you. Capice?"
He nodded somewhat desperately, and let his finger go, and he sat back, removing his arm from Kristi, rubbing his wounded finger hard, looking at me through narrowed eyes.
I kept his gaze. "Not a fucking word, asswipe. Remember that."
I turned my gaze to Kristi, who paled a bit more, then recovered herself. "That was un-necessary Mike. James wouldn't have tried to hurt you. He's just here for me. To show support. To let you know he's no threat."
"Really? How nice for him. He'd still better shut up, though. I won't hit you but by god I feel like hitting someone right now, and he's here."
"Mike, please. Please understand. We didn't choose this. It just happened."
"What happened, Kristi? Did you trip and fall on his dick?" I'd read that line in several stories and it just came out.
She sighed. "No, nothing like that. We just worked together and ... it happened. I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I love two men. I love you. I always have and always will. But I love James, too. I can't explain it. It's not the same ... there are parts that are, but, I love you both in a bit different ways. Please, please try and understand."
I took another drink of beer while I considered my response. I put the beer down and then just said, "Bullshit."
She bridled. "No it isn't. You know I love you. You can't doubt it. I've never shown you anything else but consideration and love, and you know it. Even when..." she faltered, then continued, " ... other things were happening, I made doubly sure you never got less than the full of me. That will never change."
She looked at me, intensely, as though willing me to challenge it. She was already stating things in a way that denoted that this was the way things would be, going forward. Classic leadership wording. You talk as though this was already the situation, and people then believed it was, and started finding ways to accommodate it in their reality. Not today Kristi, I thought.
The thing is, with what I do, the whole vulnerability thing, bringing people together through common themes, playing on their sense of importance and fair play, while it can really work wonders in bringing people together, it can, in the right hands, do exactly the opposite.
I don't do that – or at least I try not to. While I can see what binds people together, I can just as easily tear them apart. It's like a massage therapist. They know where the nerve clusters are and can, if they really want to, make as much pain as they soothe, with their hands on your body. I can do the same. I just really hate having that ability. When you are angry, you can really destroy someone.