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Certain things stick in your head forever. I’m not sure what makes one thing more memorable than another, what it is about an event that affects us to such a degree that we never forget it.

If you’ve been reading a while, you probably know I used to be married and that I am still sort-of-half-ass-kind-of friends with my ex-husband. We don’t hang out, but that’s only because I wouldn’t want his girlfriend to feel uncomfortable. I call him my mother’s favorite ex son-in-law and when I (very rarely) call him at work, I identify myself to the receptionist as his favorite ex-wife. He always picks up the phone and says, “Cap!”

One thing I haven’t shared is that before I met my ex, I was engaged to someone else. I’m guessing I am not his favorite ex.

John was a Catholic. Religion was never very important to me and because John never went to Mass (not once in almost two years) and never talked about it, I assumed it wasn’t important to him, either. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was wanting to make sure the relationship would survive and so I told John I wanted to live with him before we got married. He agreed. He never said it was against his religion, never told me he disagreed with me, never said he was uncomfortable with the idea.

In the middle of this turmoil, my father was dying. He was diagnosed with lung cancer that quickly spread to the bones. My sisters had moved away, my brother flaked out completely until the last few months of my dad’s life, and I was alone. I went to my parents’ house every day after work, stayed for a while, then drove back home to my fiancé. I also had been promoted at work and was learning a new job. I was completely stressed out. The trainer told me I wasn’t cut out for the job if I couldn’t separate my family problems from work. And the frustration boiled over and I told her to fire me. I remember the look on her face when she yelled back, “I don’t have the authority!”

My father passed away a week before Christmas – never my favorite holiday anyway. But that summer, he was so bad that I thought every single day was his last one. I couldn’t see how he could keep going when he was in such agony.

Spending so much time with my family made my fiancé edgy and unhappy. Plus, when I was home, I was distracted and exhausted. He kept pestering me to talk about it, but I didn’t want to because I was wrapped so tightly that if one thread came loose, I would just unravel. John had good intentions, but he was bone-headed about it and pushed me too far. That’s when I finally yelled, “I wish he would just die!”

Not because I wanted my dad to die but because I couldn’t stand that he was in so much pain, couldn’t take the stress, and couldn’t deal with what I perceived as my mother’s denial. And John lost it. He berated me for wishing my father dead, for not having any empathy, for not being strong for my mother, for being evil and selfish. I let him rant. I had neither the energy nor the will to defend myself. Because I never explained it and didn’t bother to correct his impression, he thought he was right about me. For him, that’s when it was over, I think.

It wasn’t long after that he told me that he couldn’t live with me any longer because it was a sin and that he couldn’t marry me. After a long conversation, I went to take a shower (physically and metaphorically). I asked him if he wanted to join me. He said sure – and I laughed in his face. He looked confused so I explained it to him. Nineteen years later, I remember that exchange verbatim.

“Living with me is a sin, but it’s okay to fuck me? I’m just not good enough to marry?”
“That is NOT what I said!”
“That’s exactly what you said.”

I moved out shortly after that. Sometime around this point, my brother started coming around the house again. I remember sitting in my parents’ kitchen crying because John was such a hypocritical prick.

My brother listened to me for a while. Then he said something that made me laugh and that I will never forget. “Do you want me to beat him up?”

I heard later from a mutual friend that John knocked up some chick and married her. All these years later, that still makes me smile.