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It’s sad because it’s true.

Submitted by Liz P. on April 19, 2010 – 4:00 pmComments

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr

In the fall of 2008, I met a man named John.  He approached me at bar and although I wasn’t terribly impressed, I decided I lacked the energy to be rude, and so chatted with him. Everything from the baseball cap to the north face fleece to the pleated khakis screamed typical finance guy. However, once we started talking it became clear that he was exceptionally gifted in the genre of witty banter I so adore. Before I knew it, I had spent hours and swapped countless stories with this stranger. 
John was 35, said he traveled a lot for business, and told me that he had been married. And I quickly found myself liking him.  We started texting daily, but the next time we met he said there was something important he needed to tell me. [Author’s note: hence forth glaring red flags will appear regularly in this post.]  It turned out John’s marriage was in the present rather than past tense. He was in the middle of a divorce, and said that it was “messy” and involved “a lot of money.” He told me that he felt like we had a great connection and that he really wanted to get to know me; that it didn’t have to be anything physical, we could just be friends.
Of course, we were not just friends and started seeing each other every Friday night. It was our standing date; except, we never went on actual dates. Instead, we met at obscure dive bars, always late at night because he always claimed to be “just getting in” to the city. When I challenged him on our arrangement, he’d regale me with tales of what our future would be like, just as soon as his divorce was settled. The Friday before Christmas I left a party with my friends to go meet him at some obscure whole in the wall across town.  I was in a mess that I would have told any friend to get out of.  At the bar, I told John it was over, stormed out the door and down Second Avenue proclaiming, “I never want to see you again!” 
The next morning, I woke up to multiple texts from John wanting to know if I was alright and asking if he could come over so we could talk. Against my better judgment, I texted him back, “Fine. Come over.” But he never did. Hours passed, I texted and called him, leaving countless voice mails. He didn’t respond it was as if he had vanished. I never heard from or saw John again.

 That is until last week.

 As part of an ongoing attempt to be a better person, I recently arrived at the conclusion that it was time for me to start volunteering.  I found a nice animal shelter in Soho that needed people to come walk rescue dogs. I went to an orientation and chose a date to make my voluntary debut. I spent my first hour taking the dogs out to get some air, and then the shelter manager put me on “puppy duty.” There was a new litter of adorable half pit-bill, half hound puppies that had drawn a lot of interest and they needed someone to stay with the pups and bring each one upstairs as potential adopters came in.  I got a call, grabbed a puppy named, “Ike” and came upstairs hoping that he’d find his “furever” home as the shelter people like to call it. A professional looking woman was sitting on the stairs waiting for “Ike.” She was clearly excited about getting a dog, and started asking me all sorts of questions about the puppy’s background. I explained to her that it was my first day working as a volunteer, but if she could wait a few minutes a manager would be able to provide more information about Ike. She said, “Sure! I have to wait for my husband to get here anyway.”  [Author’s note: At this point reader, I think you see where we’re headed. I have to reiterate- this.actually.happened. Last Monday night, specifically.]

Moments later, I heard the door open and looked up to see John stroll in. He walked right over to the woman who was playing with “Ike.” I was stunned. I was also trapped because I had to stay with the dog, it was shelter policy.  I couldn’t stop staring at John and watching how he was with her. John was older looking than I remembered, and was, of course, now wearing a wedding ring. He didn’t seem very interested in Ike; in fact he didn’t pet the dog once.  He was making eye contact with me, but said nothing. Did he not recognize me or was he just playing it cool? I couldn’t tell.

He and his wife both seemed to think Ike looked a little too much like a pit bill so he asked me to pull up pictures of the other puppies in the litter on the computer. I couldn’t believe he was directly addressing me in front of his wife.  Was this his way of conveying my insignificance, of intimidating me into keeping quiet?  I needed to do something, to stand up for myself, to somehow let him know that nothing about this scene was O.K. That said I felt neither the inclination nor the responsibility to break-up their marriage. 

Finally, I looked up at him and calmly asked, “Is your name by any chance John Simpson?” “Yeah,” he said his wife nodding in pleasant agreement. “Oh, I thought so. I’m Liz.” He instantly lost his confident stance and stammered, “Oh. Hey, how are you?” His wife shot me an inquisitive glance. “John and I met at a bar years ago,” I said and she happily focused her attentions back on the puppy. John, however, started to pace. Obviously panicked, he told his wife that he thought they should think some more before they adopted a dog. He suggested they get a drink, and I noticed as he walked out of the shelter that his hand was trembling.

On the walk home from the shelter, my mind was racing. How could I have been so blind? More importantly, how could she? When he texted me on Thanksgiving, was she sitting next to him at the table? Where did she think he was when he was with me? What bothered me more than the lies themselves was that his scheme had worked. John is positively average and lacks the trappings of fame and fortune that seem to enable high- profile philanderers. Yet unlike Tiger Woods or Jesse James, he got away with it and I find that to be nothing short of terrifying. I am not attempting to prescribe his behavior on all of mankind; I know there are people capable of faithfulness. But the situation highlighted the uncertainty of trust and commitment. Can you ever be sure that your partner is truly with you? A liar is easy to spot, but a good one isn’t.

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  • D.Harvey

    I would have called him out on it! That type of B.S. absolutely ruins a faithful man's reputation without being present! I have a couple of friends who do the same thing on a regular basis. To be quite honest they thrive on the ability to re-create h.s. drama! As far as john's concern he was playing it cool in front of you, but not b/c of you more or less for the wife. I live by one quote and one quote only(98% of the time that is).
    "Think for yourself, Question authority!"
    Though this quote may or may not work for this particular situation in your case. I choose to make it work for every situation replacing authority with the known subject at hand.

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