The electricity was out that evening, and it was hot and stuffy and dark inside the house. We sat on the porch to enjoy the last bit of light and the slight breeze. We sat in silence in the fading light and rocked while he held my hand. I felt complete contentment in that moment right before his confession.
When he started rubbing my hand with his finger I knew something was wrong. Then he softly blurted something out. I didn’t understand right away. If what he just said was true, then everything else wasn’t. He had been successfully keeping something from me for years. And the remarkably few times I had thought I noticed something off and asked him about it, each denial was a lie. He knew how important the truth is to me, it’s one of the things that drew him to me.
I felt sick and fled to the bathroom where I crumpled to the tile. I sobbed over the loss of my certainty. I had years of memories to replace with the truth. Each new connection brought a different emotion…betrayal, anger, humiliation, and fear.
How could he have done this? Why didn’t he just say something? How could I have missed this? How much damage has he done?
Questions filled my mind, each one unanswered before the next one began. He came into the bathroom and gingerly sat down facing me. My frustration was heightened by his inability to answer any but the most factual questions. He was able to explain the what, but not the why. He didn’t fully understand his motivations.
Unfortunately, I thought I did. The worst of the emotions pounding on me was guilt. I was taking an objective look at myself and imagining the kind of reaction I might have had to learning the truth earlier. I shuddered at how punishing I can be, how punishing I likely would have been. Would I have offered him forgiveness, without really letting it go? Used it against him at the slightest provocation? Oh God, probably.
While not an excuse to lie, I certainly didn’t create an environment in which it would feel safe to tell me truths I didn’t want to hear. I wouldn’t have wanted to tell me this either.
What kind of person was I, so intolerant of weakness in others and in myself, and so oblivious to the struggles of others, even those I love? What could I gain if I stopped the denial of weakness and embraced vulnerability? Providing forgiveness was not a sign of weakness, it was a gift to myself to be a person I could be proud of and to build with him what I believed I already had.
By this point, it was almost completely dark and I struggled to make out his features. He looked sad and worried. He didn’t know what I was going to do. He didn’t know I would not leave him. He didn’t realize that I would forgive him. So I told him these things. And I meant them.
The title of this post comes from the song “Postcards from Hell” by the Wood Brothers, which I interpret to be about the dangers of protecting yourself from things you don’t want to know.
This week’s prompt from the Red Dress Club is about forgiveness.