The first year Linsey taught second grade, she made friends with several new teachers. We got close enough to Karen and Lynne that they came with us for vacation to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Linsey and I had been married six years. Ashley was a year old, and stayed home with my parents. Why would we bring a one-year-old on a vacation that involved walking around underground for hours looking at dimly lit mineral formations? I just don't get families who would do that voluntarily.
Since it was New Mexico in August, we spent a lot of time at the pool. One afternoon I was feeling frisky and wanted to spend time alone with my hot wife. I invited her to come back to the hotel room and take a “nap” with me. She wouldn't go – she said she felt rude leaving Karen and Lynne at the hotel pool. They knew what was going on and started pushing her playfully in my direction. Go take a “nap” with your husband, they said. We'll stay and read our magazines and swim – you don't have to babysit us. Lynne said “If I had him for a husband, I'd be all over that.” Lynne had poor boundaries, and kind of lost it a few years later. But that's a different story.
Linsey wouldn't budge. She stayed out at the pool with her friends. I went back to the room and masturbated.
Me and Linsey have played out this scenario many times over the years. Too many times to count, unfortunately. You'd think there'd be a limit to how many times I would let myself get excited to sleep with her again. You'd be wrong. No matter how many times she found ways to avoid sex, after the most romantic dates, in the most romantic hotel rooms, we'd “talk it out” and I'd find another way to let myself get aroused by her.
What stands out about the New Mexico day is that it was witnessed by other people. Obviously, not that many people really heard about our sex life. I thought I was imagining our problems but this made the rejection more real, and more humiliating. And I think most importantly, my feelings began to be colored by anger in addition to the familiar shame and disappointment. Because, what was that thing coming out of Lynne's mouth? I'd made sense of me and Linsey's sexual desert by reasoning that I was unlovable. If Linsey responded to my caresses as if my fingers were sand paper, there had to be something wrong with my “caressing technique.” But Lynne's inappropriate comment just hung in the air, “I'd be all over that” juxtaposed against Linsey acting disgusted about the prospect of spending time with me.
Whatever. I feel really fucked up inside when I write that stuff because it dislodges all kinds of searing pain from the dark places I've carefully buried it. But stuff's coming up lately, whether I like it or not. Like when I saw Karen at a dinner party recently. I had completely forgotten about the trip we'd taken ten years ago. Strangely enough, we were talking about taking Ashley to the caves this summer. I think now that she's eleven she would enjoy it.
Then boom. Karen. Carlsbad Caverns. Hotel. It all fell on top of me, like a sequence in a movie with black and white flashback photography and lots of echo-y sounds. Karen started telling old stories about our trip. It didn't matter because I didn't hear much after that.
I took Karen aside during all the goodbyes later. I asked “Do you remember that day” and she interrupted with “Yes” before I finished the question. Karen has been a sweet friend over the years. She's close enough to talk to so we traded a few memories. I told her that trip had been a beginning of sorts. Of many things.
Of marriage counselors and therapists. Of drinking some, then drinking more, then using, and doing whatever it took to turn off the pain. Of figuring out that Linsey had been sexually abused as a child. Of figuring out that I was an addict, no matter what was going on around me or who I was married to.
As we started unwrapping all the shit and looked for healing in therapy and books and in recovery I thought it was the beginning of the end. That we would get better, and that next time Linsey would come back to the room with me and we'd make love. But it's just never that simple. It's just not.
I wish I only had to introduce you to ME: dad, husband, songwriter, pastor. That’s the guy I see in the mirror. I love my kids, I’m good at fixing things, I love to read or chase my dogs around the house. But I lose track of myself sometimes when I’m hurting. That’s when my addict comes around, the bastard who would throw it all away for a moment alone with his drugs and his porn. He cuts me with a razor and he steals things just for the rush. He’s even tried to kill me. But there’s a huge difference between us, and I’ll tell you what it is: He’s a coward. And I’m not. I won’t let him have my kids, my beautiful wife, my job or my home. And since he hates exposure, I’m going to tell you all about him. I’m Eli, and I’m an addict.