The validation of months of suspicions swelled in my chest. Then came the hubris: how dare you Cheat On ME?!!! I flipped back and forth through the three pictures scrutinizing her face, her body, her features. She laid on the floor of her livingroom with her skirt hiked up showing a generous amount of leg. She stuck her tongue out in assumed jest. In each frame her back was more arched than the previous shot. Seemingly innocent, obviously not. She wasn’t even that pretty, I thought. What a slut?! She looked like a horsefly. A cross-eyed horsefly.
It would be months before I noticed that in the right corner of each frame next to the yellow bowl of gold fish crackers was the bent knee and stubby toes of my four-year-old. This had to be a joke. But if it were, why would he delete the photos from his phone gallery. If it weren’t for the automatic upload feature of Google Photos, the evidence of his transgression would have gone unnoticed.
I didn’t give myself an opportunity to second guess it. Something had changed. He had changed. He got promoted. A bigger salary. Twice what he made before. His clothes improved, better shoes. He worked hard. He deserved it. That wasn’t all. He went out more. Honestly he was always a social butterfly, a prevalent point in our list of incompatibilities.
Then there were the strange questions and anecdotes. Once he asked me if I believed in emotional cheating. He insisted the question stemmed from a conversation he and his colleagues were having at work that day. He said the topic was raised by the new girl in the office. According to him, his colleagues believed she had a crush on him. I even played along at home whenever he raised the topic. “How could she not, you’re the cute star-boy salesman. She wants you!” I’d tell him. “Why else would she accompany you to go Christmas shopping?”
Imagine my surprise when I discovered she never worked with him. The conversations with his colleagues were all convoluted creations meant to introduce his new friend. An attempt to acclimatize us to one another perhaps.
I met her once. Barely. He brought her to our home then took our daughter to Gulf City Mall to go Christmas gift shopping. I insisted that year that I wanted a leather jacket as my gift and I saw one one sale on Facebook at a store located in Gulf City Mall. She went for the ride. She sat in the front passenger seat, my seat, smiled and waved at me, “Merry Christmas!”. I half waved back with a sweaty face and cobweb in my hair from cleaning and holey pajamas. I messaged him, apologizing for my rudeness as I really didn’t expect guests.
In February of the following year, while in the pit of my depression, the events of that day came to haunt me in a case of mistaken identity. The mother of one of my exes recognized my daughter and husband with ‘me’ at the mall that day, shopping. She said ‘I’ looked so much slimmer with my braids and baby blue shorts. I got so fat now. I laughed it off insisting it was my sister she saw and not me. “It was my sister”, was a reasonable explanation of why the three of them looked so close and happy together like they were family.
With his phone still in my hand, I leaped at him like a soucouyant seeking blood, demanding answers I truly didn’t care to hear. The thumping of my pulse filled my ear with the opening chords of a song so fitting for the moment.
Who the fuck do you think I am?
You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy!
– Don’t hurt yourself, Beyonce ft Jack White.
“Me! You horn me?! You were a security guard before me! You lived in a rat hole before me!”
There it was again, the hubris that pushed him, emasculated him. A task made easy by the fact that every fibre of his character was riddled with insecurities. He was never confident in himself and what he brought to the table. Frankly, neither was I.