WARNING: 4,544 words. (Did you think it could be simple?)
My previous court appearance was in March 2014. I believed that if I failed to appear in court, I would lose my legal rights to the cash settlement. A freak blizzard occurred that morning, burying my rental car in over 8 inches of snow in the frozen parking lot of a cheap motel in Lansing, Illinois. I borrowed a salt spade (not a snow shovel) from the hotel desk and proceeded to dig out my car. Underneath the powder was slushified ice. It was heavy to remove and even after I could see the black asphalt beneath my tires, I still could not get the car to reverse out of its parking space. The wheels spun and spun.
Then a black man showed up because he needed the shovel for his car. I don’t know who he was or where he came from, but he freed my car so I could go to court. He attacked the ice and drove my car loose from the slush. I believed he was an angel sent to help me.
Because I had not been to the area in 3 years and because the entire landscape was blanketed in deep snow, I got completely lost… and missed court. Frantically, I called my attorney and he said not to worry. Driftwood had forced a continuance because he did not want to settle with me, so I had not lost my legal rights by missing court. I think I cried with relief.
That trip (airfare, hotel, rental car) cost my dad about one thousand dollars – and then, no settlement.
Fast forward to now, September 24th, 2014 – in theory, my final, FINAL court date. I wanted my dad (step-dad) to go to court with me because I knew that Driftwood would have his whole family there to stare me down and testify in court that I “am a liar and a thief”. Plus, I was afraid I might get lost again. If you have been reading my blog, then you know that my dad (step-dad) doesn’t actually like me, love me or care about my priorities. He didn’t want to go with me even though he was flying in with me so he could visit his 87-year old mother. My mommy forced him to accompany me. It was good because it meant that he would drive and use GPS to get us to the courthouse in time.
We arrived at the courthouse and my name was NOT on the day’s docket! I was supposed to be pleading my case at 930 am. Inside, I was freaking out because if I did not settle this lawsuit during this trip, my father would NOT give me the money to return a third time. For sure, I would forfeit my legal rights. Strangely, my attorney was scheduled for 930 am with a different client, so I sat on a pew and waited for him.
Now I have to reveal my dirty secret. The dirtiest, most shameful secret that haunted my soul and my every breath for 9 years . For months, I have been writing the Driftwood story around the dirty secret, while keeping the shameful secret hidden. I debated revealing it at all, since there is no pressure to do so. I don’t have to tell. No-one has cornered me. I’m telling it now because it’s over. I won and it has no more power over me. The narcissist known as Driftwood has no more power over me. I left Driftwood, my husband, in November 2005, but we never got legally divorced.
There are several blog posts about this secret that have been begging me to write them. For now, I want to say that my ever supportive father was pressing me to move back in with my abusive husband, which was a significant factor in me slitting my wrists. The reason it was so imperative that I appear in court in Armpit, Indiana was because the judge does not have to grant the divorce if either party fails to show! Yep. It’s Indiana, folks. No divorce from my torturer unless I face him in court. There are ways around it if the parties are in agreement, however, Driftwood had refused to cooperate. Now here’s another miracle: when I failed to appear in court in March because I got hopelessly lost in the freak blizzard, Driftwood could have accepted the divorce and kept the entire marital assets – because I failed to show in court! He is such a narcissist that he refused to release me even if he could have kept all the money and the stuff. (Note: Skipping to the end of the story, SPOILER ALERT*** – I am now legally divorced. Yeah!)
So there I was, sitting on the wooden bench in court, and I was not on the docket. I was not going to receive my settlement and I was not going to be granted a divorce. My attorney showed up for his other trials, explained that the court had made a mix-up, but offered to settle the suit that same day in the office of Driftwood’s attorney. Miracle number one: my attorney showed up when I was scared. Miracle number two: he says we can end it that very day despite the court mix-up. Miracle number three: then Driftwood’s attorney sauntered up to say hello and we made the arrangements right then and there. THANK YOU, GOD! (Miracle number four: my dad decided to go with the flow.)
An hour later, the five of us were in an attorney’s office to end my 14 year “marriage” to Driftwood.
Five of us: husband, wife, his attorney, my attorney, my dad.
This is really important. Driftwood is a narcissist. He was going to publically shred me in court because he felt abandoned and enraged that I would leave him. He would have brought his entire extended family to humiliate me like an old-fashioned Indiana wife-beating. This is no joke. And all of it would have been fully entered in the eternal court records by the court reporter. (typing noises) Humiliation forever. Somehow, I was saved from that ordeal. Also, it highlighted the fact that we could have settled ten months ago if the narcissist had not forced court. Three continuances he got because he wanted to punish me.
At this point, I would like to mention that I completed all of these tasks without the use of any Xanax, drugs or alcohol. I did it clean and sober. Why I was able to accomplish that after 14 years of Xanax dependency, I cannot even tell you. I just did it. Miracles abound for me. Baruch Hashem.
In the attorney’s office, my attorney began to list the six items I was allowed to remove from the marital residence: my (dead) grandmother’s dresser, her desk, my Mikasa crystal that I came into the marriage with, my American cut-glass collection that was worthless but easily made kosher, my clothing, and any photographs and scrapbooks of mine. Driftwood wanted to keep everything else, but he still had to buy me out of the house. His attorney asked, “How much is the amount?”, and the room went silent. I could hear my breath in the pause. “Eight thousand dollars!”, I shouted assertively. (That was the original figure I had asked for ten months earlier when Driftwood refused to negotiate, based on the equity of the five years that we cohabitated. Perhaps a judge may have given me double that; I will never know.) Driftwood’s attorney said that since we had not planned to be finishing that day, he hadn’t asked Driftwood to bring his checkbook. At which point, my father, the businessman with an MBA from Clark University spoke up and said, “We can swing by the house and pick up the check today.” Both attorneys glared at him. I swear. hehehe. I guess he just cost them fees on their bills. Driftwood agreed and signed the Dissolution of Marriage decree that I had pre-signed six months earlier. The attorneys agreed to finish the financial agreement paperwork over the next few days, and Dad and I agreed to meet Driftwood at the house in an hour.
We told him that we were going to lunch and then to the house. “Bye. See ya.” I felt so guilty. I cannot even describe how badly I felt to tell Driftwood that we were going to lunch without him. It seemed so unfriendly to me. Eleven years of marriage and now we were strangers? Dad and I went to the Indian food buffet and gorged ourselves on vegetarian fare. It was awesome. To think I was in a homeless shelter four months ago…
After our lunch, Dad drove me to my former house. He waited outside in the car. I warned him that it would be at least half an hour because I would have to play nice and listen to the narcissist’s monologues until I could get him to write the check. Dad gave me a peptalk. “You are the fleeing Jew. You’re running away from the Nazis. Grab the jewelry and go!” (He knew I had significant amounts of gold and silver jewelry in the house because his mother had worked at an elegant jewelry store for decades and had given me fine jewelry for every holiday for all of my youth.) We laughed about grabbing only the jewels and sewing them into the hem of my cloak. That’s exactly the situation I was in. But where would the jewelry be? I hadn’t been in the house in three calendar years and Driftwood is a hoarder. Hmm.
I went into the house. He talked and talked. It was all very amicable. We went into the basement and I spotted a train case that used to contain jewelry. I asked him to give it to me and jackpot! It was a stash of gold and silver jewelry. Meanwhile, he’s chatting, chatting, chatting. Finally, I sensed that he was calm, so I asked for the check. He wandered off, muttering, and returned with a single check, a personal check. He sat down and scrawled me a personal check for eight thousand dollars. It was a Wednesday, just hours before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the “Hebrew New Year”. For the next three days, I would be celebrating, consequently, Driftwood and I made arrangements that I could return on Sunday and take some items from the house in my rental car. I left feeling very peaceful and good.
Day 2: Rosh Hashanah
Day 3: Extra RH
Day 4: Shabbat
Day 5: I wanted to get an early start, but Driftwood told me to come over at 2 pm because he was scheduled to work at 9 pm. I had a list in my head of a few certain items that I must find and retrieve possession of: a gun, a private photograph, an oil painting that my grandfather made. I also had a mental list of items I hoped to collect: a $500 sewing machine, my favorite kosher cookbook, my crystal wine goblets, the rocking chair my Grampa bought my mother when she was pregnant with me in 1967. During the drive to Indiana, I felt cheerful. I listened to American radio and it was all new to me.
When I arrived at the house, the narcissist had run interference. He had cluttered the doorway with a dozen boxes of what he wanted me to take, which was mostly boxes of yarn and assorted craft supplies. Worthless. And not on my list. However, I knew that Driftwood had always been uniquely psychically attuned to me. During our brief marriage, I could think of a thing I needed, such as a book, and he would miraculously come home with it, saying, “I got you a present.” Therefore, I consented to allow the narcissist to interfere with my plans.
I opened the first unwelcome box and, sure enough, there was my yearbook from junior high, Ecole Internationale de Geneve. In order to get that yearbook, I was obligated to take the entire box of garbage. So I went through his dozen chosen boxes and found many treasures. Again, for each one treasure, I had to take the entire box. Why? Speed, efficiency, and to prevent a narcissistic outrage.
From moment one, my intention for the day was to return to the moldy basement and search for the most significant items – but I never made it downstairs. I filled the back of my brother’s pick-up truck with two layers of boxes. I had meant to take Driftwood to dinner, but once I saw that I already had far more stuff than I had planned on taking, I realized that I needed a storage unit and that I had to get back to my brother’s town before nightfall. I was frustrated and confused. My plans had been changed for me, not by me, and I had tried to go with the flow of the Universe, Hashem’s Shefa. I apologized to Driftwood for being unable to treat him to dinner and took off.
When I got back to Illinois, I had missed the storage place by 20 minutes, so my brother locked the loaded truck in the garage for the night. I tried to explain to my brother what had just happened to me at Driftwood’s house but I could not convey the weirdness of it all. I worked myself into a frenzy and my brother lit himself up a bowl of marijuana while he listened. He did not interrupt or give advice as I would have done. He just listened, and eventually I stopped talking. I had said what I needed to say.
Day 6: A good night’s rest and I had zero desire to return to Indiana. Furthermore, I had absolutely no idea what was in the boxes I had retrieved. Honestly, I had no clue. Maybe I had treasures, maybe I had trash. I put them in storage without opening any of them and set off for trip number three.
The first thing I noticed when I got inside the narcissist’s house was that anything my eye had rested upon the day before was now hidden. Any item that he suspected I wanted was now missing. I asked him about certain things and he admitted to hiding them from me. He said he wanted the pictures of my now deceased dogs because I had “abandoned them” (and him, of course). I knew better than to push. Instead I concentrated on getting downstairs that day. I had a large glass collection that I was taking because a) it is worthless and b) it can be made kosher for Shabbat. It took me much longer than I anticipated to wrap all the bowls, serving trays, relish dishes, punchbowls, etc in newspaper. Wrapping the glass for transport ate up most of the afternoon, but I had five boxes when I was finished.
At that point, I asked the narcissist about dinner and he revealed that he was scheduled to work earlier than usual and the clocks were off by one hour (don’t ask), so it was almost time for me to leave. Damn it! He was keeping me from my bedroom! I went downstairs and opened the first box nearest the door. There was my gun. Driftwood never knew there had been a gun in his basement for 3 years because it was inside a guncase inside a totebag. That was a relief. All I need is for some crime to be committed with a gun that is registered to my name. Besides, it’s a “Saturday Night Special”, which means it is made out zinc and dangerous as hell. It should never have been there with him. I grabbed two boxes and we went upstairs.
Next, we had our first argument. I told him that I had over 150 pieces of Fiestaware in the basement and that I was going to give him all the white pieces, which included the serving bowls, the yellow pieces, which included the platters, the rose, the light blue, the medium blue, the orange, the yellow, even the light green, the seafoam green, and the kelly green – but I wanted him to separate the lavender, the purple, and the red-violet for me. He argued that the Fiestaware did not exist. I replied that just because he says it does not exist, does not make it so! Next, I asked to take one of eight ivy plants, but he refused me even a potted plant. Also, he wanted my 106-year old dining table. It is a lovely piece of furniture that has been through 2 marriages, 4 houses, and many dinner parties with me. Yet, I wanted to give it to him because I remember things that make me sad when I look at that table. It was better for me to release it. I was tired and frustrated, so I scolded Driftwood that he needed to take better care of the table since it was over a hundred years old. He responded that I had probably been “ripped off” when I bought it because I am so irresponsible and such a push-over. In one of those bizarre moments of the week, I instantly found the 1908 Sears Roebuck catalogue which showcases my table! I scolded him again. “How can you call me a liar when it is right here in front of you… in writing! The table is in the 1908 Sears catalogue. The book stays with the table because it increases its’ value. Please take better care of something that is 100 years old.” He started stammering. “I didn’t mean to call you a liar.” He wasn’t used to me setting boundaries. It was time to go. I left the house determined to never go back. I said to myself, “I don’t give a shit what is still in the house. I am not going back there.”
Day 7: Driftwood’s personal check for $8,000 was completely uncashable. Even his own bank branch refused to cash it. I phoned him and told him that he needed to get me either a bank check or cash money. That was awkward. All during our marriage, he had controlled me via money, verbally abused me via the mask of “discussing our bills”, physically abused me by withholding money when I was struggling. Another miracle: he agreed to get the bank check. I drove to Indiana for a fourth time.
He let me into the house and we sat across from each other at the antique table that was now his. We exchanged checks and began to talk about our shared interests. We had done many things together that were enjoyable. We used to play heads-up poker. We went to art museums. I took him to Paris. We reminisced about how difficult it would be to find another person who would enjoy the same activities. It was true. I said we would have been great friends under different circumstances. I cautiously invited him to dinner, but he wanted to argue. He said, “You may not want to go to dinner with me after you hear what I have to say.” So I decided to go first, in a pre-emptive strike.
Rivka: “All of this”, I said, motioning with my arms to include the ramshackle, cluttered house; the chaos of dust, the chaos that used to be our marriage, the chaos that was now ending in divorce. “All of this”, I said, “I blame on your mother!”
Driftwood: “My mother?” He paused, befuddled. “I thought maybe your mother or my sister, but my mother?”
R: “Yes.” I continued fiercely. “There was a point in our marriage, in 2005, when I went to Florida. We had a difficult marriage, to be sure, but we really loved each other.” I choked on my emotions and paused. “I loaded up the station wagon, drove to Miami, started my internship, rented a house for you and the dogs to come down, and then you refused. “My mommy says I’m not allowed to move to Florida”, you said. Your mother put a wedge between us. She put a wedge between husband and wife. Now you tell me that she is old, can’t get around anymore, and may die soon. Good. Let her be punished for coming between us.”
Neil looked shocked but said nothing.
I continued. “The worst thing your mother did was to cheat you out of the chance to have children. We were working with the fertility doctor. We were considering adoption. Now you are almost 50-years old and have no children and no grandchildren. It’s terrible that she cheated you out of the chance to be a father.” Driftwood agreed that we were just beginning to discuss adoption when I left for Florida and he stated that it was unlikely that he would, at 49, be able to find a wife and she would be young enough to have children, etc. I told him that he’s not Avraham Aveinu who had his first kid at 103, but it could still work out for Driftwood. We don’t know his future. Driftwood did not argue or comment, instead he told me the following story.
THIS IS THE PART WHERE I GOT CLOSURE FROM A NARCISSIST.
You know how some people are missing some of their senses? How someone may be blind or be deaf? And how some people try to explain to a blind person – I don’t mean someone who is legally blind but can still see a little, so the DMV won’t give them a driver’s license, but someone who is completely blind. They really can’t see at all, and you try to explain to them what “white” is or what “blue” is, the color blue?
I said there are a lot of sappy romance movies based on just that premise. I remember one where the teenage blind girl goes to a summer camp for blind children and they learn to ride horses. The teenage boy is the volunteer camp counselor and he tries to explain colors to her by putting a fluffy cottonball in her hand and telling her that, “This is how white feels”.
“Pfft. That’s baloney.”, says Driftwood. “White doesn’t feel like a cottonball.”
“I know”, I said, “but it makes for a very romantic movie that makes the audience cry.” So we were in agreement, so far…
Next he postulates,” What if the thing that a person is missing is not a sense, like vision, but an emotion, like love?”
Now I am listening more carefully, afraid to breathe, lest he stop talking.
“What if a person cannot feel love? They can see someone as… well, a sexual object, for sure, and they do things together and it’s fun; but if you say that they are in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together… What does that mean? I don’t understand what it means. What does it mean “they’re in love”?” He folded his hands, looked at me with defeat and said, “I’ve known for a long time, Rebekah, that something is wrong with me. I don’t understand what people mean when they say they are in love. I don’t feel love.” Driftwood started describing a textbook sociopath who uses people for personal enjoyment and becomes a serial killer. He wasn’t describing himself, rather he was talking about characters he had come across in classic novels. He then expressed his fear that he was somehow like these characters that were universally considered “evil” and he was somehow not human.
I responded, “You’re not a serial killer.” Mentally grasping at straws, I said, “You loved the dogs.”
He thought about what I said and answered, “I did feel quite sad when they passed away and I did cry. Aggie was old when she died, but Zach died so suddenly and it was a shock to me.”
I purposely avoided labeling the narcissist. I considered teaching him about Anti-Social Personality Disorder, how there were differences between sociopaths and mere narcissists – but I decided against it. Instead, I told Driftwood that I knew he was “different” from the six months we lived together before we got married.
“And you still married me?”, he asked with audible shock. “You must have been crazy.”
I was being very gentle with the narcissist, that he would not shut down and become defensive, possibly undo all the learning of his epiphany.
“You were the crazy one.”, I said softly. “I had terrible financial problems because I wasted so much money, meanwhile, you were more than miserly with your money. I thought you would balance me out. That didn’t happen. Instead, we spent our whole marriage arguing about money.” He nodded in agreement.
I reminded him that he loves being an uncle, which launched him on a brief tirade about how much money it costs to take kids to the movies and buy popcorn and how he is forced to sit through stupid action flicks that he would never want to see: Spiderman, Transformers – or stupid vampire romance movies with the girls. I reminded him that had I been there, I would have asked him to sit through the very same bad movies with me!
He complained that all of my friends had hated him and talked about him behind his back. Narcissists are very paranoid. I replied that my friends did not hate him, rather, “they found him to be different, strange, and difficult to deal with, so they avoided him”. I assured him that he was mistaken and that no-one “had turned me against him”, as he liked to say.
We left it at that and went for a pleasant dinner at the local Indian restaurant, where I ordered vegetable pakora and vegetable samosas and he ordered lamb stew. We had pleasant conversation for an hour. He explained to me the science behind The Uncertainty Principle of Photons. This was totally normal and typical conversation for us. Then I paid for the meal (because it would never have happened if I expected the controlling narcissist to pay). He drove us back to the house, loaded my truck, and I left – planning never to return.
So the narcissist knew that he was damaged and it made him feel like an alien from outerspace. He recognized that he was not only different from other human beings; he was also defective. He had fears that he was destined to be a serial killer because he did not know that there were lesser degrees of ASPD and he accepted that he would be physically and emotionally isolated from relationships for the rest of his life. He held no hope of ever finding another woman who would marry him or put up with his inability to love.
I got closure from a narcissist. He spoke the words himself, of his own free will. “There’s something wrong me.”, he said. “I don’t feel love.”
“I GOT CLOSURE FROM A NARCISSIST.” is copyright © 2014 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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