A few minutes later, when my son had fallen asleep, I passed by our bedroom on the way to the bathroom. My husband had left the room and forgotten to turn off his computer, so I went to his desk and sat on his chair. I scanned the desktop and began opening files at random.
I wasn't always the type of girl who would snoop through her husband's files. Even at the beginning of our relationship, I was determined to be a cool girlfriend; when we got married, a cool wife. When his friends saw us walking together back then and made jokes about other girls, I would laugh them off, totally unfazed.
You see, my husband courted me for nearly four years before we became boyfriend and girlfriend. After that, we spent another four years together before we got married. We went through a lot. He endured a year of me being away for post-graduate internship. I was there when he graduated from technical school, there as he struggled to put himself through engineering school, there when he took the oath as a professional mechanical engineer. He resignedly obeyed my parents' rules about visiting me at home and cooperated with my own self-imposed standards, even quitting smoking because he knew I hated it. I supported all his endeavors in whatever way I could, held his hand when he got sick, remained loyal to him all the way. We got married in 2010, in a ceremony filled with smiles and full of promise.
Not only was I determined to be a cool wife, I was determined to be a good wife. I am one of the least domesticated persons I know, but I tried my best to cook and clean the house and all that. Oh, I wasn't good at it, but I tried, even when my husband's long hours at work meant that the dinner I made would be eaten at 9 PM (or many times not at all), even when the food I cooked did not meet as much appreciation as I would have hoped. On top of that, I worked. I had a regular job, which I kept to supplement my husband's income because, well, it needed supplementing. And he insisted I work; he'd never want me, he said, to be a housewife who spent all day wondering what her husband was doing.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to paint a glowing picture of myself as a near-perfect wife. I have lots of flaws. I'm sapoton, and when provoked I can be very maldita. I can be bossy. And, okay, I'm not the prettiest person in the world, if that's a flaw. Nevertheless, I was all that even before I got married, and my husband knew it. My husband, for his part, won't exactly win trophies for Best Person Ever, either. Some of his habits and some aspects of his personality drive me crazy. But we've always known -- we were told before we got married, and we did know -- that there are always things about your spouse that you won't like, and things you won't discover until you're 90 and can barely recognize each other. But you always stick together. You encourage each other to be the best versions of yourselves, but you accept each other and love each other anyway. That's what I always believed, and I believed, too, that my husband felt the same way.
Two and a half months after our son was born, barely a week after our second anniversary, my husband's phone alarm went off. He was in the shower, so I got the phone out of his pocket and hit Snooze. Then -- I don't know why, but maybe because we'd been fighting a lot lately -- I checked his Inbox. And his Sent folder.
It was a beautiful morning, that day. The sun was shining. The dew on the leaves was gleaming. The birds were chirping. It was a great day to be alive.
It was a beautiful day for the world to end.
And it did, my world. I found out that my husband had been cheating on me for months. He cheated on me with their department secretary, who started kissing him, he said, when he was drunk and couldn't think straight. He was also, apparently, on drugs. It just got out of hand, he said. The girl threatened to kill herself if he left her, he said, and even slashed her wrists once. He wanted to kill himself, he said, and showed me the gun. So why -- I wondered distantly, as I numbly tried to cope with the reality of my world crashing down -- why was I the one who died, not physically, perhaps, but as surely as if I had been the one who'd slashed her wrists or put a gun to her mouth.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant to meet with your husband's mistress? I have, and I can tell you it felt just as teleserye-like as you can imagine it to be. The secretary apologized and fought back tears. I even found myself comforting her at one point. I can't tell you why I did that, or why I didn't poison her food or beat her bloody like I wanted to. Everything felt unreal to me. Surreal -- that's the term.
I can't bear to go into all the sordid details. I can't even begin to describe the gut-wrenching pain of those days, or the misery that followed in the months after. All the fights, all the tears, all the moments wanting to die and knowing that I can't. Not yet. And I can't satisfactorily explain why I stayed with my husband after everything he did. I guess the shortest answer is that I didn't want my son to grow up without a father. And that in some secret place in my heart, I still held on to the hope that my husband would change, that he would see how blessed he was and how loved he was. I hoped, to put it simply, that he still loved me.
Fast forward to my 33rd birthday. Yes, from the girl who wanted to be a cool girlfriend, I had become a wife who opened her husband's computer files when he wasn't looking.
I hated it, you know. I hated what I had become. I hated this life of distrust and fear. I hated that I couldn't believe my husband when, after talking in his sleep in Tagalog, he explained that he had been spending a lot of time with a male colleague from Manila, talking about their dissatisfaction with work. They spent so much time talking, he said, that their other colleagues had resorted to teasing them about being gay. That was why, he said, he had mumbled, "Yakapin mo ako" in his sleep, because he and his Tagalog colleague had gone along with their friends' good-natured banter. It was a woefully inadequate explanation, one that rang silent alarm bells all over my being. But I had no proof that my disquiet was justified, not then.
I hated it, but what was I supposed to do? Ignore the unanswered calls late in the evening? Ignore the days he went home at 3 AM? Ignore the fact that I had spent more time in meaningful conversation with the delivery van driver at Prince Warehouse than I had with my own husband in two weeks?
And so, on my 33rd birthday, I found files in my husband's computer that proved he had been cheating on me. Again. With a Tagalog colleague: a female, of course. With, specifically, Karen Joy Elequin, from Marketing. Who knew very well that he was married. Who knew very well that he had a 1-year-old son. Who, despite knowing all that, still had it in her to send him a message back in May saying, "Btw, smallville537 is my ym ID, just msg me when u got bored of facing the boiler. :))." Who enjoyed days at the beach and nights God knows where with my husband, while my son and I resigned ourselves to the fact that his Tatay had to work overtime again. Who sent my husband texts like "I also have the sweetest and loving boyfriend in the world. I love my A more than he knows. And to say that he is my hero is an understatement. For me, my A is better than Thor, coz my A don't need to have that mighty hammer. Harharhar" while my son and I waited and hoped for the time and affection that would never come. Who knew very well that he had cheated on me before, and that we were trying -- struggling -- to save our marriage. At least I was. I realize now that perhaps the struggle, the desperate wrestle with reality, wasn't as mutual as I had hoped.
There's not much more I can say about it, I guess. It's unbearably painful. It's unbelievably cruel. It's degrading and humiliating and it feels like being kicked and spat on while you're already bruised and broken. It feels exactly the way you would expect it to feel when everything you know and everything you believed in is crushed to irreparable pieces, except that it's much, much worse because it happened twice. Twice that I know of, anyway.
I write about it because...I don't know. I've spent months keeping the agony of betrayal to myself and trying to protect everyone else, but maybe it's time to finally set the truth free. I tried desperately to save a dying marriage, but it had been dead, I realize now, for a long, long time, had perhaps been dying even before it began. And maybe I need this -- this long overdue confession of my soul -- so I can start picking up the pieces of my life, the life of my son.
This is how it is. This, now, is the adventure of my life.