Monday, November 11, 2013

The Crackerjack Philanderer

They'd dated for near two high school years; a whirlwind of events and parties, long strolls and photo ops. The plan was, he would do his boot camp and schooling in the Air Force and then return to marry; whisking Linda off into the wild blue yonder.

He'd been on leave for a few days helping to plan the wedding, only a week off at this point. It would be a low key affair with only those the couple truly loved in attendance; a smattering of friends and family who had taken to Fred like bread to peanut butter. Everything was perfect, as it should be when one is pledging a lifetime to another.

Then the couple attended a Sunday church service, and it was here that Lin got a taste of what was to come; though little did she realize the implications at that moment.

During the liturgy Fred leaned into her and said "There are a few things I need to tell you before the wedding...nothing important, but things you should know anyway."

He went on to explain that he'd had a romantic liaison during his few months away from home; one that certainly was a huge mistake, but that was well behind him now. It was nothing really, he assured his wife to be. Just circumstance/wrong place at the wrong time kinda stuff. "Forgive me?"

Somewhere in this time the sermon began; the large, now overheated, body stuffed room deadly quiet save the drone of the pastor. Linda had no recourse but to stare straight ahead and ponder the news. She was far too proper to chit chat during what was supposed to be worship, much less create a scene.

And true to his plan, by the time the next half hour had passed his fiancĂ©’s balloon of revengeful doom had been deflated, replaced by "let's just forget this ever happened."

Once married they lived in Germany for most of his tour, and it was a grand time had by all. He was a control freak, scheduling every minute of every day. But to fill that time he booked tours and dinners out, bus and ferry cruises to northern Europe; itineraries that Linda would never forget, nor regret.

Fred was all energy, a man that when left to his own devices in silence would start to twitch and crackle, mutter and snap toes and fingers. Many's the night when Lin would lay awake for hours along with her husband while he snapped his toes together while planning some adventure.

He was a guy who would constantly peer at his watch, knowing there was yet another event in the offing and schedules were meant to be kept. He would never cancel something he'd planned in order to extend enjoyment of the moment. In fact I have to wonder how much he enjoyed any moment, being so worried about his day planner being wrong.

He had a thing about his looks, and this likely ruined his time plans more than any other source. He would primp for hours, bathing and shaving and trimming and lotioning and spraying and.. you get the picture. This guy matched his underwear color to his socks; I suppose on the off chance that he might sustain injury in a car crash and Calvin Klien would be the surgeon attending his bedside.

My guess, knowing him a bit more than I should, is that he had/has Napoleonic complex, a size thing that subconsciously forces him to think all the world is watching his freakishly little bitty self, and because of that he must prove his worthiness every moment he's in public. But then I don't know everything...only nearly everything.

The cheating started in earnest two years into the marriage. There were a few incidents, like the time he’d suggested they participate in a three way, and the time he near demanded Linda make out with a “friend” of theirs, but in the main he stayed monogamous for the two years the military would have frowned on his having family strife and didn’t start the party until they’d returned home.

I can't say how Lin reacted, how soon she found out in each case, why she stayed to the bitter end. I don't really get it myself unless it truly was to honor the pledge made, "Till death do us part." It's possible; it's why I found it deadly to let go the first time. I'd married for life-better-worse-good-bad-yadda.

I don't think it was part of his master plan but a simple accident of his nature that he stripped her of the financial means to easily say "screw you" and walk away.

As many couples do, they created a joint account and all earnings fell into a central kitty. He was of course the "manchild" of the group, and so it was his sworn duty to control the finances. There was more than one problem with that scheme, but one stood above the rest; he found it imperative to be the center of attention, the fulcrum of fun and frivolity. As a drinker, there was no better way to be that man about town, that great all around guy that everyone knows and loves, than to buy rounds and generally flash the green for whoever might adore him in return.

An obsessive, Fred knew every nickel available to spend; and spend he did. Linda was always broke, hardly able to keep up with groceries and postage but was told time and time again that their lack of funds was due to their many adventures, their weekend outings and occasional celebrations...and not because of his being a braggart.

The funny thing is, it would likely have not taken any money to earn the respect and even admiration of his peers. He actually is a pretty funny guy, energetic, always outwardly happy, positive, complimentary; add to that his attractiveness and he'd be a welcome addition to nearly any group not snobby enough to worry about his economic status.

But he obviously didn't see it that way and so he spent a lifetime buying friends and doing everything he could to impress peers, including demonstrating his prowess with the ladies.

They joined the "Y" as a couple? He became an aerobics instructor. They took a class in line dancing? He danced with every woman in attendance save his own wife. He put himself in every situation possible that would surround him with female form, and would "charm the pants" off at least a couple of those women per year.

His lies in the beginning were as average as his sack time was short, his liaisons hurried. "Out with the boys... overtime... flat tire" and all that. Until you've been gifted with hindsight, they are a hard bunch to ignore; they sound so... so plausible.

But over time his not being caught, or at least not being confronted emboldened him; and he began to make his trysts last a day, perhaps two, maybe a weekend if he could conjure the right fairytale.

Linda began hearing very odd tales, stumbling across facts that were just too weird to go away.

Fred was by profession a clerk; a buyer, biller, data enterer. He changed jobs as often as I change socks (ok about once a year… yea his jobs not my socks) as they were all boring, all paid the same and all others were hiring at all times.

At one particular job, Linda called his workplace to find out some piece of info, something she'd never had reason to do before in their life together. She came to understand that to his work peers, he was unmarried and that a woman named Linda was his sister...just in case she called. What his story was to explain away that one I have no clue. No doubt it was an incredible tale.

Then, toward the married nine year mark a new job had him leaving town here and there; "road trips" he'd call them, three and four day flights to California and the like and surprisingly they all took place on the weekends. She finally grew tired of his being gone so often and confronted him maliciously. He folded and admitted all.

He'd been having affairs for near eight years, mostly one-nighters but lately entire weekends at a northern Minnesota resort. He'd set up an entire network of lies and fantasies; cover stories and friends who would vouch if ever it became necessary. There were likely a half dozen people that were involved in his play in one fashion or another, none of which Linda knew, but all of whom were versed in whatever information Fred fed them as alibi material should the need arise.

And he confessed to it all in a wild and tearful flurry of "forgive me I'm so ashamed"s over the course of a day or two.

Again, I won't get into what Linda thought...I can't really. Had it been I, I might have shot him dead or at least pushed him off a tall building. She had her reasons for letting it pass and I won't judge her for it beyond wondering what she really thinks of my foibles while keeping silent about them.

In any case, he was ostracized but alive, his marriage still amazingly intact. He'd promised that his philandering days were behind him and the best of their time together was yet to come.

The best was yet to come, but not in that way.

No one knows how long it took before Fred was back in the saddle; the fact is that he may have never dismounted. But a year after "the confession" he again took the stage for an announcement.

Christmas had just passed and in the Linda family, that meant gift lists. Fred's was long and tedious, items in every price range, but all having the outdoors in common.

Lin and Fred had been avid camper/hikers early in their relationship, but over the years that interest had waned until eventually it ended altogether. Linda couldn't help but wonder if Fred saw this as a way to rekindle the spontaneity in their marriage. Perhaps she should have known better. We all make the same silly mistakes.

In January Fred delivered the bad news. He'd been seeing and falling in love with another, and would be taking his leave to grow closer to her within the month. She, as it turned out, was intrigued by the outdoors and "just adored" camping. Go figure.

For her part, Linda was amazingly mature about the end of her ten year connection. The first emotion she felt was relief, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. No longer would she wonder where he was at 2am, no more peering out the windows, sitting by the phone, counting the minutes before calling the police in hopes he'd not had an accident or worse.

She'd realized that it was her training that had put her in this position. While her father was not a philanderer, he was the most verbally abusive man I'd ever seen, and her parent’s relationship was strained to the extreme. In spite of their mutual pain, they held it together with duct tape and shared alcoholism until their miserable deaths.

It's how it was done; no matter the difficulty, marriage vows were not taken in jest. She'd spent ten years trying to right this derailed train and had failed. Now, her once true love was releasing her of her promise, and she couldn't be more pleased.

Certainly it affected her. She wouldn't date, even in a group situation for over a year. To her, it was a waste of time that would have the same bad end...better to not start again. She overcame it obviously.

About that time, Fred had been dumped by his new lover and was trying to worm his way back into Linda's heart, using every ounce of charm he had to secure his coupled future. Surprisingly to him, she wanted no part of his circus and after a month or two of kicking and screaming, he left to find another soft touch.

He'd left his mother for Linda, and Linda for another babe. Being alone was not fun and the sooner he could rectify his condition the better.

But he'd learned nothing from the debacle. He continued to use the tools that had spelled his demise while looking for a new flame to light his pyre, locking into a new fling every few months, and cheating on and then dumping her for the greener grass every few months later.

Until one day he fell into a relationship with a woman that so knocked him out that he did everything in his power to convince her that he was the last man on earth. So infatuated, he created blinders to block out the visage of lesser women that he might not be tempted.

She eventually agreed that they were a perfect couple and the two planned a lovely wedding one year hence. Then of course, once the fly was within the web, the spider began his victory crawl once again.

He really is a nice guy...if you can overlook his total lack of morals, his twisted sense of responsibility and his ethical lapses and only see him as a great bale of story fodder...he's a prince.

But in spite of his goodnesses, his smarminess always ends up slashing his plans and this case was no different than any other. He was seen playing his game once too often by his wondrous fiancé and to his chagrin, she decided the grass was greener and dumped him!

He was devastated and soon, suicidal. This was his first poke in the eye; he'd always been the strik'er, never the strikee and he found it not to his liking. It's only comical that Linda, as much as anyone, was his leaning post who kept him from a self-absorbed bedsheet hanging.

After that event he backed off socially. My guess is he was humiliated that he'd been tossed aside. And my added guess is that he's never yet recognized the pain he suffered, is the exact same pain he delivered onto others...including my wife.

We saw less and less of him until finally he's all but vanished into our past. At last meeting he was remarried to a woman who clung to him like a vise. Or at least the vise appeared to have full purchase in the vicinity of the oft' offending body part I've based this story on.

It was everything I could do to not squish him like a bug at times, once I'd heard this whole tale and had watched his arrogant selfishness in action for a few years. But Linda saw him as a friend for some reason, a harmless cartoon who was entertaining if nothing else. And I always defer to Linda. Unlike Fred, I know my place:)

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