Posted by: shelliejelly | June 21, 2010


His e-mail messages usually carry the same subject line—question—and start with the same tired word—hi. The solitary nature of the word always makes me imagine that his voice would be low, barely audible, if he spoke the greeting, and he would be peering at me over his glasses while nervously glancing around. Why this image pops up I have no idea; he was never shy when we were together.

This e-mail came to my in-box exactly as countless others:

Hi. I wanted to talk to you about something. Sara’s asked me to
accompany her to Las Vegas and I was considering going. I was thinking
about going for two weeks, if you wouldn’t mind keeping Sabine. I
could take her for a couple of extra weeks to give you some personal
time when I get back. I know her school year is drawing to a close and
will probably need to be watched so I wanted to check with you about

I can easily admit, on most days, that my patience with O. has long ago grown thin, transparent. My blood simmers at the mention of his name and I know just the slightest move on his part is all that’s needed to ignite my anger. He doesn’t stand a chance. Memories flood back like water rushing banks that were never meant to hold such force, and my mind is awash in every gruesome detail, every hateful word that stumbled from his mouth when he was drinking, every time he promised something and came up short.

I don’t care abut you, slurs into my ear smelling of stale beer. Fuck you, follows, smoking a cigarette.

Reading his plans to go to Vegas with his 22-year-old (or is she 23 now?) girlfriend, though, unleashed something in me I hadn’t known. Rage. Hatred. Disgust. Ugly, ugly feelings that led to even uglier thoughts:

But you haven’t paid a penny of child support in close to a year, I hissed to myself. Where are you getting the money to spend two weeks in Vegas? And I answered as I knew he would, She’s paying for it.

Why for fuck’s sake don’t you just don’t you just kill yourself?


I felt the higher ground slip beneath my feet as I slid, inch by inch, to the depths I promised I’d never reach—where nothing good could happen under the shadow of pent-up anger, where rage and hate strangled the naive and unassuming good intentions.

My saving grace, the only thing I didn’t lose sight of, didn’t mow down with exacting anger, was Sabine’s need to love her father.

Leave her vision of her daddy untouched. Let her love him without thinking of what he has and hasn’t done.

I walk a thin line, much thinner than I ever thought possible, between trying to understand O. and his illness and simply giving in to the overwhelming frustration, turned anger, turned hatred. I wobble between genuine concern and the space where doing so leaves me looking like a fool.

You don’t understand, he is so fond of telling me, his bipolar diagnosis neatly tucked into the accusation. And neither do you, I whisper, more to myself than to him, my patience and good will pooled at my feet, evaporating, disappearing, rising up under the heat of giving too much for too long.



  1. grr. how clueless can he get? grrrr. and sigh.

    why he thinks you should do him any favor of any kind in any situation given his total inability to participate in basic parenting is beyond me.

    until he participates in the everday realities and responsibilities of parenthood, he should not “enjoy” any trip to vegas, or anywhere, regardless of who is paying for it.

    (kind of like how a child loses a privilege if they aren’t able to meet basic expectations, yes?)

    i guess i’d just write back:

    This doesn’t work for me.

    (let him take it any way he wants to…)

    • If you can believe this—I did just that, Cat, and he responded by leaving town anyway. Double sigh. Some basic things about responsibility just don’t compute with O.

  2. well, damn.

    not too surprising on his part though, eh?

    i feel for you. i also know in my heart-of-hearts that you will find someone better, and better for you (and to you).

    i wish we lived closer and could help out w/ sabine (esp. in cases where o. prances off on a whim for 2 weeks). my husband is home w/ both boys all summer (since he’s not teaching). i’m sure sabine would fit right into the rough and tumble of their daily antics. (she likes baseball, right?) 😉

    hang tight. chin up. don’t let “the bastard” get u down.

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