The Scintilla Project is wrapping up its fortnight of story-telling. I know that I at least have plenty of prompts left over to mull over for the next little while. Today I am answering the prompt: The saying goes What you don’t know won’t hurt you, but sometimes the opposite is true. Talk about a time when you were hurt by something you didn’t know.
I remember the first time I saw her name. She’d posted something to his facebook wall, telling a random third party that they shouldn’t harass him because that was her job. I did what any girl in her first truly serious relationship would do, I pretended that I didn’t see it and never made mention of it to him. It was only facebook and I didn’t want to be one of “those” girls. The second time her name popped into my life, she was harassing his brother about the cookies she’d given him and asking if they were good enough to send to my boyfriend. I drove straight to my friend’s house and we made “F*** that b*****” cookies to send to him. Later, he would joke about his airmen thinking he had three girlfriends because his mom, his girlfriend, and this random girl he knew all sent him cookies in the same week. He didn’t know what I knew and what I didn’t know.
What I didn’t know was that she was his Ex. Capitalized because she was his significant ex. The one he broke up with shortly before meeting me. The one he’d dated for a year and a half. The one he’d tried to get back together with only the week before he met me. The one he’d visited while driving home to North Dakota three weeks after meeting me.
We were getting ready for our wedding. I was sitting on the bed in my blue dress, slightly bitter because of being told I shouldn’t wear my black lace dress that I loved, slightly sad because we’d have no family there with us, but thoroughly excited to be marrying the love of my life. He was frantically searching his closet for a black belt, when he asked me to text his friend who was coming with us to the wedding. While I was holding the phone, waiting for a positive response for a belt to borrow, a text chimed in. There was her name. I blinked back tears and handed him the phone. He glanced at it and tossed it aside saying it wasn’t important. Later that week, or maybe the next she texted him again randomly. I thought it odd, but I didn’t want to become “that” wife so I said nothing.
What I didn’t know was that they’d stayed in contact after breaking up. That they emailed or texted regularly if not frequently. That she considered him an important part of her life that would always be there. That it wasn’t one sided, because he messaged her too. That he hadn’t wanted to tell me because he was afraid I wouldn’t understand.
We’d been in Germany for barely a month. It was one of those days. He had a training camp an hour away and I had to pick him up late that night. The door jam of our apartment had fallen apart while I was doing laundry. We were sharing a computer. He’d left his account up, so when I clicked to see my new messages I saw hers to him. I closed the computer down, then brought it back up, wrote out what I felt four or five times, deleted it all and waited for it to be time to get him. We talked late and long that night. About how he felt the need to hide her messages from me. About my feeling like I had a lesser place in his life because he’d hidden this from me. About my asking him to not message her unless he told me first, at least for now. One week went by, then another, we were still sharing a computer, we still had the same profile picture as the other. I saw another message from her. And I flipped out.
What I didn’t know was that he hadn’t messaged her back. That she had contacted him again because of his silence. That she just wanted his advice on some random something. That he felt like I was trying to control who he was friends with because he didn’t understand where I was coming from.
There was the Christmas package with inside jokes to their dating history. There was the message to me telling me that he was now like a big brother to her and that she would always be an important part of his life. There was his exasperation that no matter how long it took him to respond to something she sent, she would reply within an hour. There was her request to have dinner with us when we were in the US. There was my counter-request for plenty of wine. There was the awkward dinner between the three of us. There was her mentioning things that if I hadn’t known them would have caused major issues. There was a final goodbye. And then, there was silence.
What I didn’t know as we went through all of that was that he was hopeful if she met me and saw that he was happily unavailable that she would disappear. What I didn’t know was that he hated seeing me hurt by it. What I didn’t know was that all of the not-talking about it early on led to the heartache of later. What I didn’t know was that staying hurt by it for an extended period of time would have lasting consequences. What I didn’t know was just how hard it would be to get over and learn to trust again.
What I do know is that he loves me and I love him and in the end that is enough to get through anything.