Daily Prompt: Set It To Rights
Think of a time you let something slide, only for it to eat away at you later. Tell us how you’d fix it today.
Once upon a time, when I was young and stupid I lived in Oklahoma. I was married to a man enlisted in the US Air Force.
By the very nature of the beast…military…I was cast into a group of wives that were also married to military men.
I met a woman named Laura who was married to Mark. Mark and my husband worked together. Laura and I both had little baby girls…hers about 2 months younger than mine.
We would get together for assorted gatherings and what not. I didn’t really care for her but that seemed irrelevant as wives of serviceman are supposed to stick together. She was also prior military and was currently a member of the Reserves.
One day Laura decided to pay me a visit, brought her daughter over to play with mine. My daughter didn’t like Laura’s daughter but…oh well. Laura sat on the floor of my living room and started telling me everything wrong with my husband. Why he wasn’t a good man, a good provider, a good person…if you wanted to go that far in her character assassination.
I was pretty astounded. You are talking about MY husband in HIS house! You need to leave!!!
Certainly I had complaints about my husband, but they were MY complaints which I earned by being married to him and living with him. For her to talk about him as if I would agree with her, in the house he lived in, seemed just utterly wrong on so many levels.
We didn’t maintain a friendship after that. But it can be a small community in the military, among those doing the same type of work…the same division, squadron or in this case, “flight” and their spouses.
Laura’s husband Mark and my husband continued to work together. The questions started circulating among “the group” as to why Laura and I were no longer friends. Laura didn’t know and I wasn’t talking.
Months went by and I avoided Laura completely. Since she was in the Reserves she got an assignment to go to Germany for a couple of months. Off she went to serve in whatever capacity they needed her.
It was understood she would be gone about six months but she returned in about 7 weeks.
Her story about her return earlier than expected was one thing…her reason to me was another. She told me the truth; the real reason for her early return.
She came over my house, as if we were still friends. She brought her daughter with her and perhaps she knew I’d let her in because I wouldn’t want her little baby girl to be out in the cold. I let her in, though I didn’t want to.
She brought some red wine and filled a large goblet full to drink while she chatted with me. She sat on the floor with her daughter and placed this large goblet on the floor next to her. The floor was carpeted in a very light…almost white carpet. While she was talking about her trip to Germany her daughter was crawling about as babies do.
Oops! Baby girl knocked over the wine glass!!! The wine spilled everywhere! And Laura sat there talking. Ignoring this huge stain that look like blood seeping into the carpet. Ok…wait…let me go get some towels and clean that up…ok? Hint hint. She just kept on talking about Germany.
While I cleaned up the wine I started listening to what she was saying.
She was telling me that she got kicked out of Germany for sleeping with an officer.
Ok…what? Kicked out? Sleeping with an officer? As in CHEATING on your husband?!
Yes. She was not remorseful. She was not apologetic. She thought it was funny or entertaining. Why she elected to tell me this sordid tale I did not know. Did she think I wouldn’t tell anyone? She was right. I wouldn’t. Did she think I would condone this bad behavior? She was wrong.
She finished telling me all the details in this affair she had while in Germany and then finally left.
I stared at that wine stain…you cannot get red wine out of white carpet unless you cut that section out…and wondered about Laura. What motivates her? What was she thinking? Did she not care about Mark who just adored her? Did she not care that she was exposing her daughter to potentially messy custody battle? I had no answers to any of those questions.
Maybe I just didn’t care; after all I really disliked her and now she’s given me a valid reason to dislike her. But I said nothing to anyone. I did not tell my husband…I kept my silence on everything Laura told me.
Flash forward a couple of years and we’re now living in Japan. For a break in the routine of being a wife with two babies now I put my husband in charge of the kids and took off to Korea for a week or so.
While in Korea I ran into Laura’s husband Mark. We were in some local bar downtown in Osan where Americans were somewhat of a novelty. I saw Mark and he saw me. We started chatting.
The subject of Laura came up. Apparently they had separated and divorced…the circumstances behind that I was not privy to as it occurred after we had left Oklahoma. Mark sat on a bar stool in this crappy little bar in Osan and told me that he missed Laura, that he wanted her back….etc.
He then brought up the time she had gone to Germany. He said he knew I knew something about it….what did I know he asked. Even then I was reluctant to say. But Mark started blaming himself for the divorce. He started telling me he should have been this or that or whatever so Laura would have been happier. On and on he beat himself up. On and on he lamented not understanding why Laura became so distant to him and so forth.
He repeated himself that he wanted to reconcile with her.
I don’t really know what came over me…was it that I didn’t like Laura? Was it because I had known Mark for some years and knew he was a good man? Was it spite I had for Laura because of her bashing my husband in his house? All these years was I still harboring that?
Apparently so, that and more. I suddenly said…I know why Laura came home from Germany so soon.
Yes. It wasn’t because she came down with the flu, like she told you. It was because she was kicked out. She was having an affair with an officer! I just blurted it out. I told him that she had come over my house upon her return and told me. She laughed about it.
She was cheating and she got caught and she got kicked out Mark, that’s the facts, that’s the truth, I told him.
He looked at me for a half a minute and his face just melted. He crumbled in front of me. What I had said just crushed him. He looked at me a moment longer, assessing me, considering what he knew about me—do I lie? Exaggerate? Is she spiteful? He knew I was none of those things.
I saw these thoughts as they crossed his mind. They were plain on his face. He wanted so badly to scream at me and tell me I was a liar. But something inside him knew I wasn’t lying. He knew, just knew I was telling the truth and it destroyed him. My words took away his hope with Laura. He looked around and then got up and ran out of the bar.
I’ve never seen nor heard from him since. I do not know what happened to him or Laura. But I carry that with me each and every day. That one random night in a crappy bar in Korea. I remember.
I said something that crushed a man. I had no right. I had no justification. I had no valid reason for doing so. That I didn’t do the “act” that I talked about was irrelevant. I told him something that was pretty much common knowledge as Laura liked to brag about her escapades—but something Mark did not want to believe. He wouldn’t listen to gossip; refused to hear what others might say about Laura, until I told him. Out of the blue in a shabby bar in Korea I shattered his world.
I didn’t do it on purpose. But maybe I did as a last screw you to Laura.
From that moment on I realized I was wrong. I should have said nothing. Let life do what life will do and Mark will be fine one way or the other.
I remember that lesson that night…do no harm.
I remember it daily. When someone asks me something, I consider the question but I also consider the potential damage my answer might give. If it is hurtful I do not answer. If it is damaging I will keep my silence.
I wish I could take that moment back…that moment where I decided to expose Laura for who she was. Expose her to the man who should know her the best—her husband.
I cannot undo what was done. I cannot unsay what I said. But I can certainly never ever do or say anything like that again!