Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The All-true Adventures of Elastigirl

Anyone is capable of anything. Any. Thing.

I know this because I once showed a surprising aptitude for espionage when circumstances called for it.

After I shoved the cards and letters back into the Wasband’s trunk (if you’re coming into the story late, check out yesterday’s post), my main concern was not letting him or the kids see me until I’d gotten myself together. I crouched in the sewing room closet with my body wedged between boxes of quilt fabric and my head tangled in the out-of-season clothes hanging there. Some chiffony thing kept wrapping itself around my throat and a stray knitting needle poked my side a time or two before I shoved it into the corner.

I concentrated on breathing until my heart slowed down to a survivable rate. When I could think again, I reviewed the situation, which held both good news and bad. The bad news was that my worst fears were true. There was no longer even a shadow of doubt that The Wasband was having an affair. (There never really was, but that didn’t stop me from trying to believe.)

The good news was that I now had my one true thing. Now I could formulate a plan, could figure out what the hell to do next.

But first, I cried. Oh Lord, how I cried. Silent streams until The Wasband and kids left the house, then loud, aching sobs that racked both my body and my brain. Over the next few days, I took refuge in the shower anytime I couldn’t contain the tears when someone was in the house. When alone, I cried with reckless abandon. My eyes were semi-permanently swollen and ships could have followed my nose to safe harbor, but at least I was keeping my misery to myself. (Yeah, sure I was.)

But back in the closet on that Saturday morning, I gathered myself for the acting performance of my life. I knew that my only chance to keep The Wasband from annihilating me was to continue the charade we were living until I had a plan in place. It was time to contact a lawyer, time to protect myself and my children. He could screw my life—and had—but he was not messing with my children’s future. That, I would not allow.

While the house was silent, I emerged from the closet and straightened my face and my attitude. Truly, Oscars have been handed out for performances less convincing than the one I put on at dinner that night and over the next few days.

When The Wasband announced that he needed to move out in order to get right with himself, I agreed it was a good plan. He rented a house and packed his things. I helped. In fact, I bought a housewarming present for his new place—a duplicate set of the mixing bowls I wouldn’t give up to him. Before he walked out, he assured me he’d probably be moving home in a few months. I smiled and said, “I hope so.”

Oscars, people. Oscars.

For some reason it seemed important to me to have proof—absolute proof—of the affair. Honestly, I think it was just so he could never convince me I’d imagined the whole thing. Whatever the reason, the moment I decided to photocopy those damning pieces of paper, I transformed into Elastigirl, able to stretch my boundaries beyond anything I ever imagined. A week after the Big Move, an appointment with our family counselor provided the setting for my debut.

After a quick review, the counselor suggested that The Boy and The Wasband spend a few minutes with him alone. Perfect. While they were in the counselor’s inner sanctum, I would be alone in the waiting room. Showing no more enthusiasm than seemed reasonable, I politely excused myself.

As soon as the door closed behind me, I slipped out the door and crept quietly down the stairs. Out in the dark parking lot, I walked to his BMW, glanced up to the counselor's windows to make sure no one was looking, and opened the trunk. (I still had a key to his car because when he asked for it, I just couldn’t seem to locate that set of keys.)

My breath caught in my throat when I peeled back the carpet over the spare tire and saw the folder still in place. I was nervous about taking the damn things, but if he discovered them missing, what could he say? “Where are the cheesy cards and creepy letters from my mistress?” Probably not. Besides, having pictures of the truth seemed worth the risk.

I snatched the folder from its hiding place, closed the trunk firmly but quietly, and walked quickly to my van. After opening the sliding door, I shoved the folder under the front passenger seat, then closed the door and hurried back into the building through the frosty November night.

The next morning I was on my way to Kinko’s before the school bus doors closed behind the kids. I copied the cards and notes with single-minded thoroughness and plotted how to replace the folder without getting caught.

A day or two later I suggested the kids and I meet The Wasband for lunch at a restaurant we all knew well. The restaurant was near his office, but I didn’t choose it for the location. Or the food. I chose it for the design—three solid walls and one bank of windows.

The kids and I arrived early and parked the van on the far side of the parking lot, well out of sight of the windows. Before leaving the van, I tucked my purse beneath the front seat, directly on top of The Wasband’s infamous blue folder. Inside, we seated ourselves at a booth near the back and I strategically placed myself on the side facing the windows.

When The Wasband showed up, he greeted the kids and, naturally, took the other side of the booth, away from the windows. While the kids were chattering excitedly, I “realized” I’d left my purse in the car and went out to get it.

So full of adrenalin that my ears were buzzing and my head felt hollow, I walked to my van in a daze. I’d never done anything so deceitful in my entire life. How in the world had I even thought up all this? I didn’t know then and don’t know now, but surprising things happen when you find yourself backed into a corner.

At the van, I quickly grabbed the file and my purse, and then approached his BMW. I unlocked the trunk, replaced the folder in its hiding spot behind the spare tire, and closed the trunk again. It took several minutes to stop shaking enough to walk calmly back into the restaurant. Once there, we each continued the conversation as though we were normal people and not the liars and sneaks we’d become.

I never did anything with those photocopies, never even told The Wasband I had them. But any time he tried to gaslight me, I remembered them and knew that I knew. They helped me hang onto what little was left of my sanity at that point. And that, let me tell you, was worth every single one of the risks I’d taken to get them.

2 comments:

Suzy said...

I know what you can do with those photocopies.....you know that book you were wetting your pants over- the one in the post you wrote about...PUBLISH THEM AND LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF because someone else has this loser....
LOVE your writing.

Mystic Wing said...

Elastigirl, huh? Funny, I've been thinking of you as Wonderwoman all this time.

Great story by a great writer.