I pulled the sexy underwear from the dryer.
It had been months since I’d touched her. But it felt longer. I’d been sleeping in the guest room for what felt like an eternity.
That is the loneliest place in the world. A different bed in your own house. The one situated just below your old bedroom. Where the sound of each soft footstep feels like an air hammer being shot into your head.
The second loneliest place in the world is the laundry room in my basement. It’s just dead silence if no one else is home or awake. And you just stand there folding laundry, piece by piece, and it takes you a long time because you’re not good at it, and even with a very bad cat meow-meow-meowing at your feet, there’s so much quiet that each minute feels like five.
When you never have sex with your wife, but want to, something bad happens to you. Or maybe just me. I don’t know. It was like a switch was flipped.
The old, traditional, safe, Catholic version of me turned into someone else. Whatever I am now.
I’d always wanted her. I’m a red-blooded male and she looks exactly like the kind of thing you want to see first thing every morning.
But now something else was happening. You know how you always want the thing you can’t have? It’s exactly like that except a million times worse because she lives in your house and everything’s different now and it’s in your face, and you have to see her walk around the house or imagine her behind the closed bathroom door while she’s undressing before a bath.
If the emotional and psychological beating from knowing your wife no longer wants anything to do with you doesn’t destroy your soul while you’re hoping and praying and unsuccessfully trying to reconnect with her every day, then this physical longing combined with that will come close to finishing the job.
If you don’t go crazy, something close to that happens.
I’m not a particularly jealous guy. I always prided myself on that, too. I knew girls who dated jealous guys and I was friends with jealous guys.
I liked not being that way.
If my high school or college girlfriend went out in groups and to parties without me, I didn’t even think twice about it. I was confident. Secure.
Even my wife, in the first year we dated, wanted to go have dinner with an ex before she and I moved to Florida. She asked me how I felt about it.
Wasn’t thrilled. But I’d like to think I hid it well. Sure, babe. We’re about to move to Florida together. Go have dinner.
But everything changes when you spend a year sleeping in separate rooms after more than a decade together.
A little bit of crazy seeps in.
Every business meeting or after-hours work event represented an opportunity for her to find my replacement.
Every text on her phone from a guy—even if I knew him—caused jealous feelings that up to that point I’d never before felt.
I can see why guys lose control sometimes. Jealousy hurts.
And if you’re honest with yourself, you realize how pathetic and insecure you are now.
Then you feel shame, too.
And you sink even deeper.
I held the sexy lace underwear. Just breathe, asshole.
I felt something I have never felt before. My entire body, tense. Breathe.
Maybe women wear sexy underwear just to feel pretty, or because they’re wearing a certain outfit and the underwear offers some utility that a moron like me could never understand.
Maybe there was no reason for me to lose my breath. Or feel paranoid. Or feel jealous.
But I was a new person now. Different. I was scared now. No more confidence. No more security.
Your mind starts telling you what an unlikable person you are since the person you want to do everything for thinks you’re shit.
I wasn’t funny. Or smart. Or successful. Or talented. Or strong. Or confident. Or sexy. Or desirable in any way, shape, or form.
I was just some loser she’d made the mistake of marrying. Just a stupid bum folding her sexy laundry in the second-loneliest place on earth.
And when I was done, I retreated silently to the loneliest place to lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself some more.
Thirteen Months and Nineteen Days Later
Your mind is so powerful. That’s why all the self-help gurus try to remind you to stay positive and believe in yourself and focus on abundance and gratitude and success and the belief that you can be anything you want to be.
That might be true. I want it to be. I’m trying.
I just know that in the absence of information, your mind will fill in the blanks for you. I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with a pretty talented imagination.
It doesn’t matter why my wife wore that underwear. Because my body created the worst-case scenario and then felt it.
My mind made it real.
After she left and started dating someone else… I don’t know. It was—literally—my biggest fear coming true.
There is no way that being brutally murdered doesn’t feel better than that.
Like, if you could choose, based purely on anguish, you totally pick being murdered.
“Hey Matt! Two choices: You can receive confirmation that the woman you love is having sex with someone else and feel the shit actually festering inside your soul…”
“Or we can have you murdered.”
I would have had to think about it 13 months and 20 days ago. But not anymore.
“Murder, please. Let’s go with the murder option.”
And it doesn’t stop.
You don’t get to shut it off. Maybe it shuts off on its own one day, but you don’t get to decide when.
She called me yesterday. My ex-wife. A totally reasonable conversation about a few odds and ends. She mentioned in passing that she’ll be out of town this weekend.
I don’t know what she’s doing. I didn’t ask. It’s none of my business. It’s not.
Panic. She’s met someone else. I bet he’s funny and smart and successful and talented and strong and confident and sexy. I bet he’s everything she thinks I’m not. I bet she thinks he’ll make the perfect stepdad for my son.
Maybe she’s going to visit family with a relative.
Maybe she and some girlfriends are getting away for a weekend of relaxation.
Maybe a million different things.
In the end, it’s no one’s business but hers. I am not owed any explanations. And it’s my bitter pill to swallow.
And it doesn’t matter.
What matters is what’s inside me. What happens to me. Down deep on the inside.
Those months in the guest room fundamentally changed me.
I emerged from the laundry room a different person—giving me yet another reason to not want to go down there anymore.
My favorite writer James Altucher wrote this in his latest post “How to Deal With Loss”:
“One time I was driving around a private racetrack, taking racing lessons. The only one before and since to ever go on that track without a driver’s license. The instructor told me I was the worst student he ever had.
The instructor, a former professional race car driver, asked me what I should do if I spin out of control.
I, of course, said, “slam the breaks” and he said, “No! That’s the worst thing. Just look the opposite way you are spinning.” Otherwise you crash into the wall.
He said, “its hard to do that. It goes against your natural instincts. But you have to do it or die.”
I will tell you how I deal with loss now.
You only can lose what you cling to.
Practice unclinging. “Unclinging” is not even a real word. That’s how much “they” don’t want you to do it. The aliens outlawed it from English.
Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m clinging to but I can feel the residue of ancient clinging that’s still there.
Something in my gut and chest and head that won’t go away. Loss. Fear.”
This is part of the luggage that comes with you after your marital journey ends. And all that heavy shit is filled up in your bags. Maybe they have broken zippers like mine.
And it’s really hard to carry all of it around.
It’s taking me so much longer to get where I’m trying to go because I’m dragging all this crap along with me. Maybe you’re pulling around luggage, too.
And maybe there’s a better way.
Maybe we can lock it away in the attic and hope it doesn’t try to come out at night.
Maybe we can find someone (or Someone) to help us pull all this along.
Or maybe we can stop. Right here, right now.
And let it go. Just abandon it. Right in the middle of the sidewalk. No more.
And then maybe we can run.
So fast, so far, so free.
Maybe we can.