~Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I arrived Friday at lunch time to my mother's house. I had just left Christopher's (aka my girlfriend's house for movies and margaritas according to the story I gave my mom when I left) and I was in a good mood. Christopher liked me. He liked me in the snuggle in his sleep, play with my hair and kiss me on the forehead kind of way.
I was standing in the kitchen with my mom, chatting about nonsense when my step-father got off the couch for no reason and picked up a table he was supposed to carry into the basement the day before. He was so nasty and unnecessarily mean about it that it snapped me out of whatever I was saying. My mother was silent, but my gut instinct took over before I could give it a second thought, I yelled something to the extent that he was being an unreasonable jerk. I don't remember exactly what I said, all I know is that he single handedly changed the whole mood of the house with his actions and he was taking it out on my mother.
My step-father slunk out the back door and got in his truck and left the house. I was angry. It wasn't my place to be angry and insert myself into their marriage, but I could only take so much while living under the same roof and experiencing the same tensions.
My mother was visibly upset that he just took off. "You said you two are under the same cell-phone plan?" I asked.
"Yes, but they don't place the calls on the bill anymore. Besides he pays it so I don't get to see it," she said hopelessly.
I told her all about the world of on-line accounts, something I knew neither of them had experienced yet. I sat down at my mother's computer and created a T-mobile on-line account under his name, but linked to her e-mail address.
The first thing that came up was that they were over their shared minutes. A scroll of the mouse showed that they haven't been over their minutes in the last six months. My mother used 100 minutes; my step-father used 950.
Another thing I learned is that he spent $50 last month in text messages alone. Text messages at 20¢ a piece to one phone number. The text messages started at 8 in the morning and went to 1, 3 and sometimes 5 in the morning. A quick scroll through the calls showed that this number was dialed frequently too. Like say, every time he walked my dog at night and that time he left our family dinner at a restaurant and was gone for 40 minutes.
I was busy clicking and saving copies of the bills to my mother's hard drive while she stood at the printer making copies. "But how do we find out who he is calling?" she asked.
"We have two options. One, go to a pay phone, dial it and see if a man or a woman answers. Two, spend $5 at any of the cell-phone pay directories on-line and they'll tell you everything there is to know about the person, including how much she makes a year," I informed her.
"I don't want it traced to my credit card."
"We'll use mine," I offered. My mother handed me a $5 bill and I stuffed it in my wallet as I pulled out my bank card. I found the most reliable looking site and entered my credit card information. My mom began ironing clothes with her nervous energy.
I hesitated on the final click to get the report. This was a big deal. It was proof of both her and my suspicions. I inhaled, held my breath and clicked.
"Her name is T----."
My mother gasped and clapped her hand to her mouth, the other hand still holding the steaming iron. "She works with him." My mother goes through the list of all the things he's said about her and even mentions she met her 10 years ago. "Those last company functions, he didn't invite me to them," she says as she's processing the information.
"Mom, will you please stop ironing his shirt. You just found out he's cheating and you're still ironing his clothes."
She ignored me. She's a nervous cleaner, just like me.
My mother finally gets angry enough and finds his credit card statement and steams it open with the iron. All those company conferences he's been attending all summer were lies. When he said he was in one city, his credit card statement said he was spending money in another. There were no hotel charges for the conferences either. And the time he didn't come home and left his wedding ring at the house? The charges said he was in the same city as her.
"This is what I needed," she said. "This is what I needed to get out of the marriage."
"Mom, why aren't you upset or crying?" I asked.
"The tears will come. They'll be later. Now it's time for action." She made copies of the records. "If I divorced him without proof, he'd get half of everything. He'd get half of our family money and I would get half of his debt. With this, I can keep what's mine. I paid for this house, not him."
Meanwhile I sat at the keyboard. A quick company directory search showed that this woman was not laid off her job like he said about a month ago. He was calling her to help her find a job, he said.
"Now I need a divorce lawyer," my mom said as she put his credit card statement back in the envelope.
"You have to put the address in the envelope window," I pointed out.
"Oops." She fixed the envelope. "I want my old coworker's lawyer because he was such a shark, but I stopped talking to her because the divorce got so ugly." She ran through all the different ways to find out which lawyer her old friend used, "Maybe I can have my other friend she doesn't know call and ask for her friend."
I thought for a minute. "Mom, what county did she get divorced in?"
"The one I live in, why?"
I furiously typed until the county superior court records were in front of me, "because divorce records are public." Another quick search and I was writing the name and number down of the lawyer my mother wanted.
My mother stared at me, her mouth hanging open. "How do you know all this? What you've done in 5 minutes with 5 dollars would have cost me thousands to hire a detective to do the same thing."
"Easy," I said. "I'm single."
She didn't understand me.
"Whenever I started dating someone new, my friend and I would go to the surrounding 3 counties' web sites and search for that guy's arrest records. And when you've been screwed over by a few bad boyfriends, you learn the benefits of on-line accounts and pay cell-phone directories."
I had managed to impress my mother.
My step-father still hadn't returned home. I began to think that it was my anger at him that blow the whole cheating thing wide open. If it wasn't for my anger, my mother would still be blissfully unaware. Well, she'd still be ignorant.
I began to feel guilty. I was the catalyst for my mother calling the divorce lawyer. If it wasn't for me, she would still be married. I ended my mother's marriage.
But she wanted to know the truth. She already did in a way. Folding his laundry last week, she found a new pair of underpants in a new style. "Men don't buy new underwear unless they're cheating," she had said.
And we both knew the lies. Driving a cousin to visit his sick grandmother and not returning for four days. A conference that started on Sunday, the Lord's Day here in the Bible Belt. His upcoming court testimony for the next five days in which he'll put eight cops in jail for fighting at a restaurant he was eating at years ago. Oh please.
But my mother's marriage is ending, and I feel responsible.