I remember an argument that jack and I had on the way to the airport as I was dropping him off. A favorite part I suspect of his routine. The loving wife and beautiful daughter standing with tear filled eyes at the curbside check in while he kissed us goodbye and we waved until he was out of sight. A ritual I am sure was in actuality little more than camouflage for all he was about to leave us to do half way around the world. Yet to Katy and I for many years it was real. It was true sadness of the departure of the man we loved and hated living without.
On this particular day as we were driving, I asked him. “Jack, would you be happy if Katy married a man who treated her the way you treat me?” Instantly, I knew the question was much to accusatory and rephrased and asked again before he had time to “Jesus Christ Annie me” or even worse ignore the fact that I had spoken. “I mean, if Katy had the marriage we have, would you be happy and supportive of her and her husband?”
His answers never failed to kill me each and every time he obliged me with a response to anything I asked more meaningful than what would you like for dinner or what’s on TV tonight? He laughed his typical cold and callously dismissive laugh, and then as he always did, he answers my question with a question. “So, you think I’m a shitty husband Annie?”
Every ounce of my being wants to scream, “Yes!” “Yes. I do!” However, I know better than to start a war as he is walking out the door. For if I felt isolated and alone even when we parted on the best of terms, having him leave angry made the whole intolerable experience even worse.
I was shocked at his absolute denial of anything in our marriage that he would change in hindsight or wish to do over. More so his lack to admit that he wanted better for Katy was perhaps the first real “sign” that I wasn’t ever dealing with someone “normal”. Normal meaning capable of admitting faults, normal as someone who seeks to change and grow from past mistakes, and most heartbreaking normal as in someone who regardless of all he had tried to be to me would always want better for his daughter. I thought if I put his behavior in the perspective Katy and that rather than my tears and pain he envisioned hers he would somehow be softer more reflective? I was wrong.. I was always wrong when it came to believing that somewhere inside the man I had married and for far too many years loved unconditionally with love that was never returned equally that he was capable of more. He never was. However, what I first thought was a choice, a horrible sad choice he made time and time again when he seemed to be able to so easily hurt me, I learned in the end was not.
For a “sociopath” lacks the fundamental capacity to react and engage with others in what those of us who are not sick like Jack do and what is naturally our behavior from birth.
Jack got out of the car, as I cried and Katy began to cry from the backseat as she sensed the tension and sadness that must have felt so heavy in the car, and probably a weight that she too carried from the repercussions of my choices and my need to understand and love a man who saw none of it. Yet the more Jack pulled away the harder I tried. A futile attempt at loving someone so much if nothing else in the hopes that by extending and demonstrating love without end he would let down the walls within him. Walls that were constructed long before I met him and walls that would continue to stand strong even after my death.
I asked, Jack “where are you going?” “What are you doing?” “How can you leave like this?” He took one last look at Katy, never met my gaze and shouted “ Who knows Annie? But what I do know is I’m getting drunk tonight!” and slammed with all his might the car door and walked into the terminal and never once looked back. Never once acknowledged my tears, my hurt, my pain nor Katy’s as we sat parked on the curbside. My hysterical sobs prohibiting me from driving and my disbelief causing absolute confusion about where I even wanted to go?
I hated myself for every cruel word I let jack inflict upon me time and time again yet I was unable to leave. Unable to walk away! What was wrong with me? How could I know all the ways he was capable of hurting me and still standby him? As my distaste for my Jack and our life grew, ever bigger was the disgust I was building within towards myself. For I was living a lie and one I knew better but still did nothing. I was a hypocrite of the worst kind and the only innocent victim was my daughter, and still I stayed.
Still I answered his call twenty-four hours later when he called from somewhere in the world. His voice soft and kind and professing to miss me so much and how badly he wished he never had to leave us. Why did I even answer his calls? Why did I race to my phone each time it rang having just sworn to myself that if and when he did call I would not answer. I would give him a taste of his own medicine and make him see how it felt to be the one needing me. I of course was never strong enough to ignore a single call, a single text or even breakdown and call him first.
What was the weakness in me and the hold that Jack Harlow had over me? One that even when I thought to myself and even professed to my friends and when it was truly unbearable to my family, that I would not fall under, I did! Time and time again until I was sick of saying the words, and the people I loved although they never expressed it completely grew sick of hearing it all. They became tired of lending their ears, offering advice, constructing solutions and making sacrifices of their own lives all in a wasted attempt to help me solve the problems in mine.
Jack not only made me feel horrible inside but he slowly isolated me from anything else that I loved or who loved me in my life. One by one my friends stopped calling. My family while always loving me stopped planning holidays with us and participating in the things that normal families did together. They rarely attended Katy’s school productions or sporting events and dance recitals when they knew Jack would be present. They never came to our home other than when he was for certain out of the country.
I was alone. I was always alone. Jack seemed to enjoy that for it bothered him so when he would be on a trip. Waking up in Paris and dining in Rome and yet if i hinted towards any enjoyment in my days, he became irritated and accused me of only being fun or not busy writing when he was gone. Jack was always the victim and I always the persecutor of his misery. I would explain that he had no right to pick and choose the activities and the life I tried to continue on while he was away. I told him that he couldn’t possibly blame me for the moments and memories he missed as the result of the job he chose and the career he wanted. He was never grateful for the support and the things I needed and went without because he was living his dream all the while killing mine and without care or concern.
He complained when I called him and cried about him being gone and told me for years that I made his life on the road a living hell. A living hell for my constant need and want of a simple telephone call or assurance that if there was ever an emergency he would answer my call. He would tell me that it was unfair and unreasonably that I wanted him to be chained to his phone and forced to be waiting in his room just in case I ever needed anything. I used to send him messages when he didn’t answer my calls simply expressing the fact that Katy wanted to speak to him before bed and he would still ignore me. When I eventually would get a hold of him and I would be angry about the ease in which he displayed no care or concern of even Katy’s needs. He would again, say “I am across the ocean and there is nothing I can do for her.” Or tell me that if she saw him over the computer it would only make her cry for him and therefore he chose to ignore my calls as he was really doing both Katy and I favor.
Jack was always right, always the victim, always perfect in his actions and his words. If he ever even hinted at the tiniest bit of regret for the truly horrible times he treated me like garage or spoke to me in ways that even he felt would look bad if I repeated them he would blame me. He would try to convince me that if I had only excepted his messages to “stand the fuck by” while he was missing in action in the middle of the night in New York then every word that he spoke in retaliation for my relentless phone calls could and would have been avoided. If only I didn’t constantly check his emails or locate his flights then he wouldn’t have to change and lock up his every email account, bank account and have his mail sent to a PO box. If only, if only, if only……..