Sharing Grief: What Happened That Night

A little warning, first. This is the one where I explain what happened. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t nice. It isn’t healthy. It isn’t good. I made mistakes. I did bad things.

And right now, I am gonna write about some of them.

Gotta gotta be down
Because I want it all
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this?
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I’m falling asleep
And she’s calling a cab
While he’s having a smoke
And she’s taking a drag
Now they’re going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it’s all in my head
But she’s touching his chest now
He takes off her dress now
Let me go
‘Cause I just can’t look, it’s killing me
And taking control

Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibi
But it’s just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr. Brightside

–The Killers, 2004

Gotta gotta be down / Because I want it all

In October of 1999 — 20 years ago — my wife told me that she wanted to have open relationships. And because I knew that it was this or losing her, I chose this. I did it.

Wait. There’s more.

It started out with a kiss / How did it end up like this? / It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss

In December of 1999, I made a stupid fucking joke. I was angry. We were with a bunch of people, stationed in Germany. I introduced myself and my wife. I said, “We have an open relationship.”

The guy standing there licked his lips, and I continued:

“She keeps her legs open; we have a relationship.” I was angry. I chose to say this. I did this.

Still with me? Because there’s more.

The Middle Part

I can’t even write the lyrics. This…shit. This shame and this next part is so fucking burned into my brain that I can’t even begin to explain. But I will try.

In January of 2000, we were almost finished. She was seeing a guy named *****, secretly, and I desperately needed to know. So I found out from *****. He was very open about it.

But instead of shutting my fucking mouth, I did the “Gotta gotta be down” part again. Talk about codependency. Talk about anxiety. Talk about stupid.

I told my wife that she should either see him with me knowing, or that we should all three have a…thing. So we did. We had a thing. This was my fault. I did this.

There’s more.

But it’s just the price I pay / Destiny is calling me / Open up my eager eyes / ‘Cause I’m Mr. Brightside

In maybe March or April of 2000, I consented to a thing. A three-part rendezvous. What the French call, “This is gonna fuck you up, man.”

Except it got out of hand. And then way more out of hand.

Before long, I was reluctantly dressing in humiliating clothing and cutting myself. Before long, I was less reluctantly…willingly? …doing things…and willingly? …letting things be done…and afterwards, they would touch me, and place Neosporin on the cuts, and I would fall asleep, in their laps, dreaming of the how peaceful the drop would be from our 5th floor walkup.

This was my fault. I did this.

There’s a little more.

Let me go / ‘Cause I just can’t look, it’s killing me / And taking control

In April / May of 2000, ***** and I took her to the airport in Frankfurt. It was a 90 minute drive, and I was in a lot of pain. But as she drifted away towards her gate, ***** looked down at me and smiled. He said, “You know, she wants me to find you a girlfriend so she can be with me.”

“Yes,” I said. “Need to go to the bathroom quick,” I said.

And I left him at the Frankfurt airport. I didn’t drive back. I flew on air. I was free. I flew and I didn’t look back. Until August, anyway. But this is enough for today.

The Next Part

From about August – October of 2019, I participated in therapy for my PTSD from Iraq. That’s another story, but for now, it is enough to say that my PTSD did not start in Iraq. I uncovered all of the above. Lemme bullet this for easy access:

  • I did it.
  • No, you didn’t.
  • But I allowed it.
  • No, you didn’t.
  • But I consented.
  • Did you, though? Did you really?
  • I was too weak to stop it. Emotionally. Physically.
  • So would you hurt a 20-year-old because it broke its leg when it was a baby?
  • Well, when you put it like that…
  • So why you? Why do you beat yourself up.
  • I.
  • TO.
  • DIE.

No. You don’t.

but i couldn’t even stop it

The Difference Today

Every day, I tell myself the following:

  1. This was not consensual. inhale; exhale
  2. Today is not then. inhale; exhale
  3. My partner, today, is kind and loving and good and honest. inhale; exhale
  4. This was not consensual. inhale; exhale
  5. I am loved in healthy ways. inhale; exhale
  6. I love well. inhale; exhale
  7. Today, I am safe. inhale; exhale

Someday, I really will believe this. Someday, I will be on the other side of this, and my relationships will be strong, and I will be whole.

But for today, I have to know that I love well. That I can inhale; exhale.

To all my dear friends, I have you to thank for reminding me.

And to my partner:

I’d sing for you, and if by doing so, I caught a glimmer of your joy, I would embarrass myself a thousand times on a thousand stages to catch that joy.

But that’s the thing about joy — you can’t bottle it. You can’t freeze it. And it certainly doesn’t come out of a spigot. 

But what we can do with joy is to share it. Joy that is shared becomes bigger and bigger, like the rolling of a thousand young adults in a club, yeeting like there’s no tomorrow. That joy can’t be captured, for can you capture a hurricane? Can you direct the flow of that torrential downpour of happiness and peace?

(Well, if you have a sharpie, you can try, I suppose…)

But for the rest of us, what chance do we have? Oh, my love, the chances are real and tangible, like suction at your feet where the waves meet the earth. We turn our faces to catch the joy, and when we do, the ease of the day and the breeze of the night come together, a border that somehow, captures the all the joy in all the universe, and still, there manages to be more than enough to go around.

If I could live a thousand lives, each a thousand years, to see your joy, I would plunge myself into the task of sharing each other’s joy.

Your health and your life are an inspiration to me. Thank you for loving me well.

I promise that I am working to make myself healthy.

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