When it comes to the stories of our own lives we like to play the role of the hero. Sometimes we like to be the victim. But sometimes, we have to choose the role that makes us the bad guy.
I got married to a nice man four days after my 21st birthday. I was being a good Christian girl from a good Christian family - which is completely unfair of me because no one put that on me but myself. I loved this man, of course, but as a young girl it felt like getting married was the only way to be together properly. For some reason I was in a hurry to get my happily ever after and to be able to answer the question to “I wonder who I will marry when I am big”.
My mom spent her inheritance on my wedding. It was a small amount of money but it was literally all she had. “Don’t worry about the money,” she told me. “It’s ok if you want to back out.” I didn’t back out. I loved him. Our wedding was amazing. But our wedding day was the last day the two of us were ever really happy.
I didn’t know just how unhappy I was until I met up with an old boyfriend from a couple of years back.
In hindsight not knowing how unhappy we were was kind of stupid on my part. By that time we had been married for two years and I had taken to throwing coffee cups. I had gone on a five week holiday overseas - alone and though I missed him a bit I had enjoyed every angst-less second of it and for quite a few of those seconds had found myself wishing I was single.
I had thrown myself into work and pretty much anything that wasn’t “us” and had gotten to a point where every single time my husband complained about someone or something, I hated him just a little more. How the heck did I not know I was unhappy?
I went out for coffee with my ex and we went to see a movie afterwards. I have no idea why we decided to see a movie. I just remember that it was Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and not for a second did I ever feel stupid about being delighted by it. My ex didn’t scowl at me if I clapped my hands or gasped too loudly or just fell in love with the fiction before me.
You see, being allowed to love things is addictive, and when you’re in a relationship with someone who finds fault with everything, especially anything pertaining to art, you very quickly learn to stop being delighted.
The morning after we saw the movie, my husband left for a gig in East London. I immediately got on the phone and asked my ex what our plans for the day were. You won’t believe me, I’m sure, but at that point it was still innocent on my part. I just wanted to feel happy. I wanted to do something silly and mindless. I didn’t want to be stuck at home alone again when I could be experiencing something. Anything!
My ex fetched me an hour later. We drove to Plettenburg Bay. For some reason my husband didn’t think this was weird. He simply responded to my letting him know that I was leaving town for the day with an ex by complaining about something else. I wanted to throw my phone out of the window.
I tried to not see that my ex still loved me. I knew that as soon as I admitted the truth to myself that I would have to walk away, and I didn’t want to. It was too nice to be out of the house. It was nice to be out of my head. It was nice to be in someone else’s car listening to someone else’s music and pretending to live someone else’s life. It was nice being happy and feeling weightless.
And then he kissed me. I don’t know if I saw it was coming or it just happened completely out of the blue, but it happened. For a second everything seemed to slow down and then it kind of sped up into a frenzied panic.
Suddenly my entire life was flashing through my head.
Suddenly I was that girl. The adulteress. The Temptress. The Betrayer.
There was too much to figure out, but all I could focus on was 'holy shit' and the fact that I was not angry, which was weird because the choice in this particular situation had kind of been taken from me. It seemed that if I was going to cheat on my husband that I should have at least been allowed a little bit of time to think about it, to agonize over it and come to some sort of conclusion.
Instead the decision had been made by someone else.
And there I was, not remotely angry.
Just a little bit confused. And panicky.
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