There is a lesson in every moment of our life, if we take a moment to step back and reflect.
On September 2, 2011, in a crowded backroom of a traditional Irish pub, I saw a man sitting by himself listening to the music that played nightly. The sounds of laughter and music filled the air and spilled beer was a musty scent. I was with my friends, who after 10 years of being married, decided to have their official wedding in Dublin. I couldn’t be more happy for the two of them. I had meet them as neighbors and saw their love grow for each other since they had their court house wedding so many years ago. The smile on my face hid the pain in my heart, the tears in my eyes and the uncertainty for the future.
I had hoped to be in Dublin with the man that I loved. The one that I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. The one who even though it was not perfect, I could work though anything as long as he loved me.
Standing in that room that night, I saw it through a filmmakers lens. I was there but not really. So when I saw this man, whose name I never learned, sitting there alone with a pint of Guinness on rickety old bar stool, I asked him how he was doing.
I’m not exactly sure what he responded initially but he told me he signed his divorce papers today. A broken hearted person finds another broken hearted person because there is a mutual understanding and a look in ones eyes. An outsider will ask questions but the broken hearted never ask, we just listen. We understand that there are questions we’ll never find the answer too. Alone, we’ve asked ourselves every question, we’ve gone through ever detail and still no answers.
His story begins in 2004 when he met his wife. Believing he had met the person that he was going to grow old with, he bought a house and planned a future. He admitted that there were a few problems but at this point in life, no one is perfect, you make things work. 2008, his mom got sick and he became her caregiver, she died shortly there after. Then in 2009, his father died suddenly. He believed it was of a broken heart because they were each others true loves.
The man said that during this time, he didn’t pay enough attention to his marriage. He had to manage the care of his parents, their eventual deaths and he transitioned jobs. He wasn’t happy. He was depressed. You would expect that when one is in difficulty, the partner understands and is there for you. They realize that they need to give to you because you are giving so much to other people. You would expect at this time that they don’t leave you. They help you through, help heal your heart and become your serenity.
The man shared that while he was being the caretaker for his mother, she would go on weekend holidays to “get away from the stress.” Every time she left, it pierced his heart but didn’t say anything because he had to stay strong and take care of his parents. He avoided the situation and focused on his mom because he knew that these were her last days. He did what any son would do. He loved his mother and took care of her as she took her final breaths.
After the death, the management at his job let him go due to an economical downturn. He ended up finding a new job a few months later. A few months later, his father passes away. With both parents now gone, he had to box up the memories of their lives. Sell their home, possessions and put into perspective what they meant to him.
The man did this all on his own. His wife was barely there to help him. She found it painful to watch. He admitted he never told her that he needed her because she had a hard time coping with loss. She lived her life, he cleaned up the fallen pieces of his.
During this time, he thought that once he gets through this, they will be happy again. Distance will make the heart grow stronger. She’ll miss him. Feel sorry for him and how realize how she’s acted, remember their vows to support each other and it will be okay. He never thought that she would leave him.
Sitting in this pub, with music swirling around us, it was only the two of us. A wall had been built around us. It was as if we were in a movie, isolated in time. My heart was growing heavy, not only for my pain but for his as well. I listened.
His wife had changed jobs and made new friends with people who were younger than her. She started going out with them first, just after work, then on the weekends. She shared stories of what they were doing since he never joined due to his care taking responsibilities. A few times that he did make an attempt to go out and meet her, the plans suddenly got changed or cancelled. He noticed a few text messages from her new friends and feeling a little uneasy about them, he asked. She would shrug and tell him, he was just a friend and it was a joke.
The grief and responsibilities of his parents death finally subsided in 2010. He was trying to make attempts to be the good husband again but nothing was working. They fought more than they ever did before and she picked on him for the way he dressed, how he spoke, nothing made her happy. She belligerently agreed to go to counseling. Agreed to make it work out. A pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.
In January of 2011, she withdrew even more. Went on more weekend holidays with “just the girls.” Their mutual friends of many years took notice wondering why she never came around anymore. One day while he was at work, she moved out. Never said a word. He came home to an empty house with no note. He called, texted, emailed. No response. She vanished. During this time, he found out that she has stolen part of the money from the sell of his parents house, opened credit cards in his name and took money from their joint accounts.
A month later, she called to say she wanted a divorce and that she had meet someone. She had been having an affair for almost two years and didn’t want to tell him while he was depressed because he might harm himself.
At that moment in the story, he chuckled a bit commenting that she waited until he was happy again to break his heart. I bit my lip. I knew that what he had said was the truth that I had not been wanting to admit.
I reflected on his story. If felt like hours and day but it was only moments before he asked me why I was so sad. Encapsulated in time, with music swirling around us and laughter in the air, I said, “my father also died in 2009 and everything has falling apart since then.”
After 35 years of fighting Multiple Sclerosis, he lost. His body gave up the fight but his soul continues to by my angel.
Ali had promised my dad on his death bed that he would watch over me and take care of me but I believe, when my dad’s body separated from his soul, my father saw that these were all false promises and he was not worth his daughter’s love.
Paralleling my Irish heartbroken soulmate, I too had meet my love in 2004 at a debate party I was hosting. He was a friend of my neighbor’s friend. We both lamented over the Presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the polarizing wars that we were in and how we got there. Religion, politics, social justice and shoe shopping with his ex filled the conversation. He told me of his two son, 3 and 5 and of his recent divorce. He asked if I wanted to go to dinner later that week and I said yes.
I had been wanting to find that person that you were suppose to grow old with and had been asking for advice from others. I didn’t trust myself or my choices. I had been in an abusive relationship in college and the last man I loved, cheated me. As he admitted, he then turned into a pot head eating only cheese pizza knowing he had lost me forever.
People said I should find someone a older than me, with a good job since I was going to work in the arts, comes from a good family and has at least some common interests. It shouldn’t matter if he is creative or not, it matters if he appreciates the arts. I would find out that all of these qualities I thought he possessed, were false.
It was an instant relationship, the kind that after two months he says he loves you and you say I love you back even if you’re not sure. There are red flags. He’s argumentative, cultural and religious differences and after a year of being together, he told me he was 10 years older than me, not five and had a daughter in high school. I admit, I rationalized the lying about the age thing as insecurity, the daughter because he was 18, and I made excuses for everything else. I tried to fit his mold of what he wanted. A trophy wife in training.
He took me to his political events for programs that he “volunteered” for, later, I found that all a lie. It was a game of smoke and mirrors. He would buy me things that I said I didn’t need but he said he wanted to spoil me, to show me he loved me. An iPod, a trip, new clothes, you name it. Getting dressed up, meeting politicians, talking to influential people and it was exciting.
With all of the excitement came the fights. They started off small about something I wore, something I said or the way I acted. Eventually, he would say I was talking too much at a party and no one wanted to hear the stupid things I had to say or my opinion on global events. Over the years, it turned into verbal abuse. Manipulation was a key card in his game. When a person in caught in a spider web, you don’t see how every word and action eventually sucks the life out of you and you become dead. I became dead inside. I went about trying to make this relationship work because on the outside it did. My family who I never got along with, loved him and they in turn acted nicer to me.
But it was all smoke and mirrors. In 2008, my father was given three weeks to three months to live. Shortly before this phone call, I had broken up with him but it’s hard to end something when they live with you. I put my relationship on hold to be with my father. I drove weekly 86 miles to stay a night or two with my parents. I trusted that the person who said they wanted to grow old with me and always be there for me would.
I got accepted that fall to teach in India and my father said “go.” I knew that I would never see my father alive again but he would finally be released from all of his pain. January 12, 2009 everything changed. The loss of a parent changes you in ways you would never expect until it happens.
The memorial service. The dinner. Obama’s inauguration. Reality sets in. Back in Chicago. He says to me, he can’t handle the cold or seeing me cry, so he’s going to Hawaii for a month. I am in shock. The person who said he was going to be by my side is leaving. I never forgave him for this. I put my relationship on hold again.
For the next year, I contemplated what would have happened if my father wouldn’t have been diagnosed with MS, would my life be different and how? Many memories came up. I healed, I forgave. I stopped asking myself how would things be different because I realized I would never know because we are only given this one life to live.
The year ended with a trip to Guatemala. Three weeks, a chance for us to reconnect, let go of the year. While I was there, he was distant and we fought more than any other time on a trip. He told a few women at the hotel he was single; they were surprised to see that he wasn’t. He made a joke that he was just trying to practice his game and that at “45” he still had it. Still grieving, I brushed it off.
2010 came and that summer, I saw emails from a woman and confronted him. After much denial, he confessed that he was having an “emotional affair” with her because I had been so distant due to my father’s death. Troubled, confused and once again, alone, I left my house for several days. Crying in my car, not knowing were to go, I finally went back to fix things after he said he was sorry and wanted to change.
They say that infidelities is a symptom of a broken relationship but it can be fixed. I don’t believe this any more. Maybe it’s true for people who are honest but when dishonestly is the ruling factor, there is no fixing. A lesson learned from experience.
He asked me on August 31, 2010 to marry him on what would have been our sixth anniversary in six weeks. We would have a recommitment ceremony and then do an official legal wedding later. Of course, I said yes. I had invest almost six years into this relationship, was helping to raise his two boys and my family really like which meant they were liking me more.
October 13, 2010 was a rare warm fall day in Chicago. About twenty five people were planning to come to the little ceremony that we planned. The days leading up to it, he was particularly on edge, he would yell, he would say he was sorry, he was afraid I was going to leave him because he had been divorced twice and didn’t want a third. Two hours before, he told me that he owed $30,000 in child support, in fact he never paid child support ever, he owed $40,000 in taxes, had been cheating the system from his hedge fund that he ran and that he had been cheating on me for the last two years. He said that he never loved me and that he was using me for child care and a place to live. Of course, I was in shock. After an hour of crying, he told me it was all a lie and that he said this because he wanted to test me to see if I would leave him. I didn’t know what to say or do because people had already started showing up. He was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Okay was the only thing that came out.
What occurred next was straight from the wedding scene in Princess Bride, except there was no Westly to save the day. The wrong music played. The ceremony began. It was beautifully played by the actors in which I was one of them. The words that we had written two weeks before were once meaningful and now hypocritical. Then, when it comes to the vows, I said what was written on the paper. When it came to his, he was about ready to say something when some one interrupted asking him if third time was a charm. Everyone chuckled but then, just like in the movie, he didn’t give vows, they were skipped over. Rings were exchanged but no husband and wife, nothing about forever being married to this person. This part was left out. Skipped over accidentally. He, like Humperdinck, rushed the ceremony and skipped to the end. I watched the video once to see if my memories were correct and they were.
After all the guests left, he went to bed without a kiss. The truth was said in this moment. The next day the phone call came from his mother saying his father had died.
Time seem to speed up from this moment. He spent a week with his mother and family. He came back, he left. They cycle repeated. I didn’t know what to do. Once the boys were fighting as they do, I was in the kitchen cooking, when I heard the sound of him breaking up the fight by him hitting his son. He had no remorse in his eyes. It was only going to be a matter of time before he did it to me.
A week later, he bought plane ticket to Columbia for us for the holiday. A month away. Time to talk. Time for me to figure things out. In a honeymoon phase, things start off nice but with a flip of the switch turn to explosive.
We started our trip in Cartagena, Columbia and while we were they, he met an Indian man who ran only Indian restaurant and was wanting to sell. I thought it was only a joke but this turned into reality.
On January 1, 2011 at 1 a.m. he received a text message from a girl who said “happy new year, I can’t wait until we can finally be together.” He didn’t mean for me to see the phone. It was left on the table when he went to the bathroom. When I asked him, he screamed, called me names and punched the wall. I was afraid. I left. I went the next day to an island with some people I had met. When I returned four days later, it was true, he bought the restaurant and said that they girl was stalking him and that is was truly over. We returned home to Chicago. He went to see his mother, saw the boys and a week later he left for Columbia to take care of the restaurant and would be home in a month.
Four months later he finally returned. During this time, he stopped answering my text messages, my phone calls, Skype messages, emails. I didn’t know what happened to him. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. I made up stories to people about where he was and what he was doing. After sometime, I started to look through his mail and opened letters from the IRS and yes, he did owe the $40,000 in back taxes that was gaining interested and yes, he never paid child support and then I figured it out, he had been scamming everyone that he invested in the hedge fund that he started. I still didn’t no where he was.
In May, he finally returned but didn’t explain himself. He was here and then left to go to his mothers, saying he needed to spend more time with her because she is depressed. I asked, no I demanded for explanations but they were only filled with violent threats and hateful speech about how stupid and fat I was and at least he never hit me or raped me like my college boyfriend did. I wish I could say that was the first time he told me this but it wasn’t. Told him he needed to get out of my life, my house and take his stuff but he didn’t respond, he just left.
On the 4th of July, he came back that morning and said he wanted to talk. We did for about twenty minutes, he said that he want to be polygamous and that it was his right as a Muslim man and that I made a promise to him that he would never leave. I’m not sure what came out of my mouth but it wasn’t nice. He left. I called. He wouldn’t answer. I met up with a friend and tried to call him again, this is when I heard another woman’s voice on the phone. He said if I called again, he would beat the crap out of me and kill me.
Shocked and knowing that he had been cheating on my for at least two years by this time, I went home. After taking with a neighbor friend, decided I needed to change the locks to the house. It was the only way. So that night I did. He tried to come back the next day to get things he needed for the boys who were coming to stay. I sent him a message that I dropped off the items at his mom’s house.
Over the next month I messaged him to get his things, he never did. He never responded. I cried. Not because I was missing him but because I didn’t understand how this all could have happened. I didn’t miss him because he wasn’t the person I thought he was. I didn’t know who he was. Over the years, I would come to find out, that no one knew who he really was because the beginning and endings of his lies were so carefully crafted.
Dublin. I am at a bar. I share my story. My parallel story with a man I whose name I never asked.
I did ask him, “if we are such good people, who love with all of our hearts, then how could this have happened?” He simply shook his head and said “we just got duped.”
We just got duped. There is no other way to say it. I came home a bit stronger and really wanted to get his crap out of my house and move on.
When my father passed away I went back to my roots of meditation in the Sufi and Buddhist tradition that I let slip away from being in this relationship. On May 31, 2010, I started meditating everyday, which helped me get strong for this current moment in time. I accepted that I cannot not control other people, just how I respond to them. I accepted that really only God know what is our exact future. I accepted that only love heals because love is the essence God and reason we exist. I learned to let go of the hurt surrounding my father’s illness, my past abusive relationships with myself and others. I knew that everything that was happening at this moment would eventually end. Since I didn’t know who I was with for six years, I couldn’t miss him. I only missed the boys who had moved with their mother to another state, which would be for the best.
He finally came over and we got into an augment about the bills that he hadn’t paid since January, which he insisted he wasn’t going to. He told me that I threw him out of the house and that he was the victim because I changed the locks. I changed the locks because he threatened to beat me up. Then a classic phrase came out of his mouth that he had said so many times before, “you can’t hold me accountable for words said in anger.” I guess I finally did. He eventually calmed down and asked me to go to lunch with him. I told him “no, I do not need you in my life any more, why are you still here?” He said that I needed to proof to him that he was still a good man. I simply shook my head and said, “you’re not. I don’t know who you are.” This was the only time, I saw him start to cry because he knew I was right.
On October 13, 2011, what would have been our seventh anniversary of being together, he finally admits some of the truth, that he has been with someone since 2009, the year my father got sick. Had my father not gotten sick, I would not have left him and he would not have cheated because it was my job as a woman to keep him faithful and because of it, he has broken his vows as a good Muslim. I told him, he was never a good Muslim because he doesn’t no what that means. He went through the actions of prayer and fasting but that is all it was, actions. Finally, all of his things were removed from my house, I could move on.
I was wrong. A week later, Ela, the girlfriend emails me and says she wants to meet. With a friend, we meet. She starts by saying she didn’t know anything about me except what he told her which was I was on the verge of suicide when my father died so he couldn’t leave and that I was fat and unsuccessful so he had to buy me a condo as a parting gift. All of that was lies, especially that part about the condo because I purchased that a year before we met. All lies.
I asked her how old he was, she said 40, I corrected her and told her 46 and that his “cousin” was really his daughter, who happened to be 2 years younger than her. She didn’t no about the taxes, the child support, the money problems or the not for profit that he started, Abraham Faith Foundation was really a tax shelter and that the money she “donated” to it, he used to buy T.V’s and vacations.
She told my friend and I that in August of 2010, she married him, which would explain why he couldn’t actually marry me. He was already married. Over the years, after conversations with people who knew him, we believe they got married because she needed a green card. He told me once that he needed to be with a skinny supermodel looking woman that would shut up and let him talk. Well, he got that.
My friend said, “he might have gotten a skinny supermodel looking women but he lost a super model of woman!” I couldn’t agree more.
I had to clean cobweb of lies and deceit that kept coming. Like how he took my companies not for profit status and opened five phone lines and never paid the bill. He traded away my IRA for his own investment. It was only $2,000 but $2,000 he took. He continued to email and text stalk me, so I had to get a restraining order on him. From time to time, he makes a new account and social media stalks me. I’ve had to have everyone I know block him. If he was so happily married, why would he do this? I renamed him Elephant because no one wanted to talk about the “elephant in the room” with me. After my trip to India and meeting elephants and learning about Ganesha, I renamed him Hyena, a more appreciate description.
By the time the last bill was paid, I was $10,000 in debt from him. One would think that going through this experience would harden a heart. I hasn’t. It has made me a bit more cautious.
Going back to what the man on the barstool said, “we were just duped.” This doesn’t happen everyday. You can’t miss someone you never knew. You have to move forward because staying behind will only stop you from being your authentic self.
Since going through this experience, my life has changed so drastically. They say our lives are in seven year cycles. This cycle is coming to a close. I hope by finally sharing this story the questions of what happened to “Ali” will finally end.
There is a lesson in every moment of our life, if we take a moment to step back and reflect. The last seven years, I have gained a new sense of self. I’ve learned to love myself. I’ve created a new family who have taught me how to allow myself to be loved for no other reason than me being me. I have found my voice as an activist artist, a leader, a teacher and a mentor. Most importantly, I am connected to the reason we exist, love. For love must always guide us. The quest for love is what guided me to Hyena and yes, it was horrible what happened but I’ve ended strong. I came out connected with the woman I was suppose to be.
I like to sum up those seven years of my life with him as a place holder to where I am now. I wore a dress but never got married. I may have been in a relationship but I was alone and always feeling lonely. Now that I am single, I am alone but not lonely. I am loved.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be lucky enough to find my person, my one true love but if I do, I know that it will be filled with acceptance and unconditional love. I know that I will not carry the relationship with Hyena forward because these stories really only happen in made for tv movies and maybe someday, I’ll turn this story into one.
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