“Gabriel, I've told no one what you told me about Judy. Now I too have something to reveal. Like me, you can tell no one what you hear. Listen, as I explain why I’m tainted, not admirable."
How to start? Will he talk?
"Did you ever think about becoming a priest, to be Father Gabriel?"
"No, like you I experienced a soapy shower transformation."
"Pretend you’re a priest, hear my confession. I will do your required penance. Do you know the confessions inviolable seal of confidentially, a most sacred vow?"
"Something’s troubling you. Like me, you’re carrying too much inside. I know the priest’s sacred vow of confidentiality and will honor it. You can confide to me what troubles you."
With his promise, lying next to one another on the bed, fully clothed I did what I promised never to do, reveal my sins, not the venial but mortal.
It was a taut, music box confession, told in a low disconnected monotone, as if the sins of another. Staring at the ceiling, my mind cranked the handle. One by one my long-suppressed puppet shadows sputtered out after years of confinement. I confessed to myself, of course, he the sounding board to echo my words but it was the first time I heard them.
I started with revealing I’d accepted a marriage proposal for security instead of love, skipped to Gary when the thrill of beauty and a simple kiss as a train passed, caused me to waver.
Then, I went deep mortal, not in erotic detail as related here but by deeds and numbers, without excuses. I told of crossing Edward's threshold, my transformation into his fantasy of Asian doll, the clothes, jewelry, Porsche, upscale restaurants, and the upscale social status he presented which I confused for love.
I admitted my conflicts with Enrico were my manipulations of an Alpha male, done not for sex but to belittle and bully him for my ego satisfaction.
I told him when I relocated to the Pacific Northwest, I tried to reform but failed in a one-night stand then libidinously seduced Daryl for excitement and affair club membership.
I droned on how, for flattery, I let Elliot pursue me as his trophy and instead how he became my trophy, to be tossed aside.
I explained facing middle age, I retrofitted my breasts and used William as an ego sop and sex toy and of being caught in the act and hit with a shoe.
I ended with Paul’s debasement, God's punishment for my wantonness.
Like a good priest, he didn't interrupt. After Paul, I whispered.
"That's it, father. I'm not admirable. I'm tainted."
Silent, awaiting judgment, a feeling of relief swept me, the long-suppressed hidden burden carried inside eased, the secret puppet shadows finally exposed to another.
After his long, silence for digestion, he replied.
"I feel so sorry for your husband. Once I'd have thrown stones, perhaps thrown the first. You're a sinner but a Mary Magdalene. You help people, like the Good Samaritan. You’re trying to save me. Your sins, terrible and many, are not lust. Something else troubles you.
In wantonness, you search for something missing. It’s not for me to speculate or judge your sins. Forgiveness comes from within and from the one offended. It will take time for you to heal. Only you can do it. That’s all I can say.
“The rosary, three times, before Mary Magdalen."
"Thank you, Father."
The penance, meant as a levity response to my heavy sigh, caused no smile. Too lenient for my infractions, I added renewed Mass attendance with three rosaries to sanctify each service.
Back at the bank parking lot, I told him not to hide the motel credit charge, to let his wife notice it by leaving the receipt out and if she mentioned it, to say he needed a place to go to and think about himself.
She didn’t notice it. That night, after she left to meet her lover, he moved her belongings and took possession of the master bedroom. He was no longer Mr. B & B. He was evolving into Mr. A & A, Alpha Awesome. The next day, when she did mention the motel receipt, he stared at her, made no reply, and left for work.
We became lovers of a sort. Although there was sex it was dispassionate for me. His sexual tension was released to rebuild his shattered male ego. My adultery were acts of charity. I did my penance but confessed no more. My helping him was sufficient for my self-esteem rebuilding. It was always at the same motel. We split payments. I paid cash and he used his credit card. We met only during lunchtime and less than once a week.
I was restoring a fractured male. My satisfaction was emotional helping him. He tried to please me but he wasn’t "my type". I was there for a spiritual need, not sexual.
In the motel bed, I imagined the innocence of youth again at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, riding the Merry Go Round to the relaxed gait of the wooden horse’s up and down trot and the music organ’s melody. As I rode, I reached for the brass ring, caught it, and tossed it at the clown's mouth on the canvas wall. Like when young, it didn't matter if the buzzer rang or not, I was simply helping someone.
I told him he had to be ready to lose Judy if he wanted her back. An attorney drew up divorce papers and she was served at work. In the decision position, he could move forward or cancel divorce proceedings based on what her actions deserved. She needed to understand, he was no longer Mr. B & B, her footstool. My instructions were to act as if the marriage was over, except for paperwork.
As expected, she panicked. Her secure haven to explore her fantasies was no longer safe. In irony, she accused him of cheating, true, in a manner. She stopped belittling him, dropped her lover and started pursuing him which she assumed would make him grovel back to her.
With me as a backup, he remained aloof and forced her to reconcile on his terms. He told her she destroyed their marriage and she had to had to rebuild it, answer all his questions, write down a timeline and undergo an STD test. She balked and attempted hysterical bonding, but he stuck to Alpha mode. After a few tantrums, the progression march of divorce proceedings, she caved.
Full disclosure hurt. Things that he could not make sense of during the last ten years at last added up. In the end, however, after twenty-five years together, reconciliation made the most sense, financially and for the family.
Gabriel and I stopped visiting the motel when he allowed Judy back into the master bedroom.
He had a new marriage based on his forgiveness and her appreciation for it. The bank noticed his change and he got a raise.
Helping Gabriel and my confession to him removed Paul’s shadow stain. Cleansed, I returned to being a chaste wife, my secret puppet shadow locked in memory’s storage closet. At age 43 the second half of my life would be hubby’s.
With his business income we traveled the world, saw the landmarks, ate at famous restaurants, stayed in classic hotels, while holding hands.
We also became hosts for foreign exchange students from Russia, Japan, and Germany. The German one lived in Bad Tolz, Bavaria. We visited him and his parents at Christmas after his return due to my love of Holy Night when sung in German.
Christmas day snow fell and created a beautiful white Christmas while we and the family sat near the fireplace. The grandfather grunted in German. We asked our hosts what he said. The grandson, replied.
“He said he can sleep naked in the snow.”
“After a sauna?”
“No, no, he was a prisoner during the war. He didn’t get back to Germany until 1953. You ever hear of Stalingrad and Siberia? That’s where he was captured then sent to.”
“He must have a story to tell.”
“Yeah, his story will vanish when he dies.”
It’s then the seed to write Balinese Puppet Shadows was sown in my mind. It made me think about my story.
A week later, sitting in a French chalet, sipping late morning tea a simple truth swept me, the start of honest introspection.
What’s my story to tell? It’s a story of things.
Their discarded trail is my life’s summary. Desired, acquired, used, discarded, their tossed that reveals who I was, am and will be. Junk’s my life’s portrait. Where is my childhood, bike, the 57 Chevy of my first kiss, Edward Porsche which zoomed me to San Francisco, the station wagon with the kids in the back? Oh God, clothes!
It’s not the photos saved that reflect who I am, it’s my trail of things.
Back home, I swept closets and the garage for things. The subsequent trips to the Salvation Army included a silken mini dress and a pair of shoes that crossed a forbidden threshold. I put aside writing my story.
I never suspected future adulteries would outnumber past.
Author Notes: After confessing and helping another the wife re-commits to her husband and enjoys life with him.