Good day to you!
I’m sure you’re wondering why a formally-educated 29 year old lady of seemingly normal background and stable mentality would quit drinking for a year. Welp, it’s a funny story. Eh, it starts out a little tragic, but it gets better. I promise.
It started September 2013. I had accepted a position as a teaching assistant at a school in the Bakken oil field. I was living with my sister, her husband of 13 years, and their 4 children. I wanted to reconnect with family, try to get back into education after screwing it all up (shameful story to follow). I was in a seemingly happy relationship with a kind man for over a year. This was/is the longest relationship I’ve ever had, and probably the most healthy. While I knew he wasn’t the one for me, I had diluted myself into thinking we could do long-distance. We couldn’t. He dumped me 2 weeks after moving out there. Perhaps I wanted to force the breakup by moving out there, or knew it was an inevitable action. Either way, I was single in a place where men outnumber women, 10 to 1. My sister texted him the next day, asking if she could still be friends with him. She likes to be friendly with everybody.
My sister introduced me to a single father (we’ll call him Alex) who was going through a horrific divorce. We went on dates, texted frequently, and he fell hard, and I with the idea of not being alone. He would send me Facebook messages of how beautiful he thought I was, how he would love to end up with a woman like me, I’ve made him happy again, he can trust again, etc. I bought into it all. Hook. Line. Sinker. I would share these messages with my sister. She was my best friend growing up. We had to be. We were bullied every day. If I ever find out why, I’ll be sure to let you know. That answer has eluded me for the past 20 years. It was us against the school board, district, students, and teachers. Being only 2 years apart helped us to be the best of friends and the worst of enemies. She was jealous when I got a boyfriend. I got jealous when she got a boyfriend. We were jealous when the other had something we wanted. From what I understand, that’s typical sibling behavior. However, I like to think we grew out of that mentality. When I was 15, a senior from another town was interested in me. He met my sister. They ended up dating. While I was unhappy about it, I got over it. He was a scumbag anyways. He dumped her after her graduation open house. I knew my sister had been having problems with my brother in law, and she (over)shared frequently out of frustration. I listened dutifully, trying to understand the mind of a 30 year old married, mother of 4. She was jealous of my relationship with this new guy. She wanted what we had. Maybe just wanted to feel what I felt? The excitement, the butterflies, the feeling of exploring something and someone new.
Saturday, November 2, 2013. I was babysitting my niece and nephews. They were playing, yelling, playing games, coloring, and were all over the place in an impressive burst of speed and energy. I was sitting in the chair, reading a book. On the coffee table beside me was my sister’s iPod touch. I know she has music on it, and without thinking of asking permission (who asks permission to play free music anyways?), I opened the Spotify app, started some great classic rock. And here’s where my life begins to fall apart.
I knew I shouldn’t have betrayed my sister’s trust in me. I couldn’t help myself. Years ago, she would pitch a fit whenever I snooped through her room at home, so I knew how she would have reacted now. But we lived apart for so many years that it was easy to slip back into the “snooping” stage. I wanted to know what she wasn’t telling me, which I knew was quite a bit. It was like old times! The thrills! What dirty secrets could she possibly be hiding! I looked through her Facebook profile. I creeped on her friends’ pages. I went to the messaging folder, then I died inside.
My sister and Alex had professed their love for one another, and were planning to be together some day soon, but would wait for the “honorable thing to happen.” That, folks, would be the death of my brother in law (who is significantly older than my sister) or a divorce after the youngest child turned 18 (another good 15 years from then). Only then could they go “walking and strolling down the street, hand in hand, not caring who stared”. Their idea of romance, I guess. They were joking about who was going to tell me. “Well, she’s going to shoot me, you better tell her.” “Well I’m her sister, she’s going to want to shoot me. haha.” “Well we could tell her together and then she’ll have to try to shoot both of us, me corazon. haha.” “Nah, she’ll be pissed, but she’ll get over it.” They started talking like this when my sister told him how she felt, 3 weeks before I saw the messages. They had been having an emotional affair for weeks. The messages implied “sweet kisses”, so I’m going to assume their affair turned physical. Of this though, I have no concrete proof, but now, I certainly don’t want any.
I ran to my car since cell phone reception is ridiculous hard to find on this farm. I called my friend and unloaded on her, telling her everything, word for word. After the phone call, I went back to the house, where the kids had no idea my mental and physiological state was compromised and hanging by a thread. “Auntie, I want to watch a movie and the boys won’t stop playing the game.” “Auntie, can I have chocolate milk?” “Auntie, can I have a pop?” “Auntie, I want to go to Grandmas.” “Auntie, I want to play outside.” “Auntie, I can’t find my other glove.” This, ladies and gents, is why children come across as needy, neurotic, and stage-5 clingers. They had no idea what just happened. I paste and copied the messages. I emailed the screen shots to my account. I wanted to gather dirt and keep it.
I’m a huge fan of Meghan McCain. In her book, Dirty Sexy Politics, she says, “Talk is cheap, especially during an election year.” Honey, talk is cheap any time of the year. I learned this lesson, multiple times over, but I learned it the hard way this time.
I held on to this secret for 3 weeks. I would stay out late at the bars, gambling a bit, drinking quite a bit, and trying to wrap my head around the betrayal and the feelings of knowing I was not enough. Some guy thought my married, mother of 4 sister was a better option than me. How could someone who grew up with the same parents be so totally different? How could she sell me out? In what part of her brain did she think her actions and words were acceptable? Alex had pushed and pulled me around before I found out, so when I said he needed to focus on his kids, he was curious as to what changed, but accepted what I said. After that last text, I stopped talking to Alex entirely. It pissed him off. I was glad. I would get text messages of, “If I stop by work, will you kill me?” “Why won’t you talk to me?” “I miss you.” “What did I do?”
My sister tried to put front a facade of unity, happiness, and zero-tolerance for the degradation of the American family. “There was this Missouri Synod priest who came out as gay to his congregation, divorced his wife of 20 years, wrecked the family, hurt his kids, and is now working at Tractor Supply and shacking up with his new boyfriend. I mean, how gross! He ruined his family! Couldn’t he have waited until the kids were grown and out of the house before throwing his wife away and ruining his? What is it with gay men not being able to keep their dick in their pants?” Cue Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler: Really? Really!? REALLY!?
You know that moment when your neck hairs stand up, your ears and forehead get tingly, you arm pits start to sweat, and an all-around panic/light-headedness comes likes a flood? That was the moment when I couldn’t take it any longer. I was not going to pay for her mistakes. I confronted her in the bathroom on Thanksgiving, of all times and places. I screamed, shouted, cried, and all around terrified my sister. I had never exploded that way before. I screamed, “You had BETTER tell your husband by the end of the day, or I will!” Hours later, I approached her. I was not going to “get over this”. I wanted her to delete Alex as a Facebook friend. I wanted her to delete his number. She refused to do any of that, arguing that “he’s still a friend. He needs friends because of his divorce.” Why would she remain friends with someone who was tearing up her sister, her family, and threatened to destroy her family? Couldn’t she see that he was playing us both? Did she not want to see Alex as an emotionally twisted individual who used us both so he could feel better about himself, consequences to families be damned? No; she had lost all sense of pride, strength, and logic. She never had much of a moral compass. Her 2nd grade teacher wrote on her end-of-year report card: Whatever she wants, she takes, even if someone else is using it.
The next day, she said she told her husband and thanked me for yelling at her. She felt betrayed that I had snooped on her Facebook, and in the following weeks, she put passwords on all her digital devices. She and I would get into fights, and we would argue in front of her husband. She told him, but she would degrade him in the process. No wonder they were having problems. “Well, dear husband, it’s not like you did much to stop this.” “You couldn’t have done what I did, because no woman on the planet besides me wants you.” “I never had an affair! You act as if I was screwing half the town!” Yes, she denied anything physical, and that it was just talking. Readers, if you’ve made it this far, then I congratulate you, and if I be so brazen as to give you a piece of advice: It’s never “just talking”.