Over the years, I've been surprised by notes from long lost friends, acquaintances, and classmates who've found me on the Internets. A guy I had a crush on in high school wrote a few years ago to say he'd found some of my poems online. He sent pics of his wife and kids, and in a sweetly oblique way seemed to be apologizing for being an asshole back when.
And then there was the message from my mom's brother's (Yes, my uncle--but he's a year younger than I am, so...) half brother, whom I haven't seen since I was 15 or so. He and I used to sing Leaving on a Jet Plane together, over and over, wearing the record out on the turntable. He wrote about how he'd always looked forward to visiting our house growing up, because my parents were "young and hip." He remembered seeing Star Wars with us when it first came out. It was fascinating to me--that he could have such an idyllic picture of MY childhood when it was anything but. Yet, I enjoyed hearing his memories, his version.
When I wrote about my friend Scarlette's (Carle) death, another friend of hers, someone I'd never met, found my post and called me one night, to tell me about his last visit with her.
I've made friends online too. Allan, for example, who wrote ten years ago to tell me he liked my poem "Feeding the Worms," which he'd seen on The Blue Moon Review. We've been friends ever since, though we've only met in person twice.
Sometimes a blast from the past pulls open a scar--but often in interesting, positive ways. I get to see the wound differently--see that it wasn't as deep as I thought--or that it was deeper. Or I get to clean it better, or close it up more soundly.
Sunday morning before last, though, sitting down to drink my coffee, I found another unexpected note in my inbox. It has continued to eat at me over the course of days, like something caustic that won't wash off. The letter was from the girl, woman, my ex husband was having an affair with before our divorce. Separated from her own husband now, she had googled my ex to no avail and tried me instead. The subject line of her email said "Beautiful Children," which is the only reason I clicked on mail from someone whose name I didn't recognize (her husband's account).
The message was very chatty, sweet even. She'd read the entire blog and wanted to "share some thoughts." She told me she missed my kids, that they had taught her a lot about life. I wondered what their pain over the divorce had taught her. I thought she might not want to hear what she'd taught them about life. Indeed, when I mentioned she'd written, they were appalled.
She said she had a "Jack" too, and there is no word for how I feel about her naming her son after mine. My Jack was three when his father left. He has no memory now of his father living with us. But a few months after the man left, Jack was helping me make my bed and said he knew his dad was coming back, since I still had two pillows. I remember clearly that sad moment.
She reminisced wistfully about the ex: "He also turned me into a foodie and ruined me from ever buying ready-made salsa and from putting sugar in my coffee." She said it was still his music she listens to and that she can still hear him singing. I thought, 'While he was cooking dinner for you, Otis Redding playing in the background, I was home alone with the kids, believing he was at work--always at work.' Oh, and he never sang for me.
She recalled their taking my kids to see her parents in Florida that first Thanksgiving. I remembered how strange it was, my children being gone for the holiday. I remembered finding a pair of her dirty thong underwear in their suitcase when they got back.
If I have any fond memories of my ex, I don't remember them. Ha! They're overshadowed by the years of suffering his lies and cruelty, by the way I lived then--afraid to even make minor home improvements because of his threats. Once, I mentioned my father was coming over to drill holes in our entertainment center so that we could thread the stereo wires through the back instead of having them piled in front of that massive piece of furniture. (He could never find time to do it for me.) He told me if my father or anyone else did that, he'd tear the cabinet apart and burn it in the fireplace.
As I said, he was never home, so it didn't matter to him that the kitchen had no cabinet doors, that the wallpaper had been stripped but not replaced, that the yard was full of dirt and overgrown weeds.
Where had my self gone, all those years back, to have allowed such a thing?
(Before the divorce)
(After the divorce)
Those are actually the best memories I have. The worst ones, I'll keep to myself today.
She apologized for the day we met, when I cornered her in the Bank of America parking lot across from Emory, where she was a grad student. I'd chased her down, to see her for myself. She said, "I was so shaken that I never made it to class that day. It would be the only class I ever missed. I am sorry for that day, for making you feel like that." She missed her class.
That was it--sorry for that day. I'd hoped for bigger.
I wrote her back, not unkindly, and asked her what she'd been thinking--dating a married man with three small kids. I still want to know why women do things like that, hurt other women, hurt children that way. I wanted her to offer a good reason, one that might make some sense to me after all these years.
But she hasn't responded.
Hit and run.