My Friend B

So B is getting divorced.  He sent me an email last weekend, from an unrecognized email address, a burner address that his wife doesn’t have access to.  My google mail account flagged the message, sent it to spam, and B had to text me “bro did you get my email?”  Which prompted me to check my spam account, see the message there from his auxillary email address (the extra numbers added to separate it from his regular account), unflag it, read the contents, and feel my stomach sink.

I met his wife E 8 years ago.  Short, Japanese, skinny, ass like a 10 year old boy exactly the way he likes. B is Japanese too.  B invited me to go on a low-budget houseboat trip on rivers around Sacramento, CA.  Here’s how that works.  We rented a houseboat that sleeps 10, rounded some friends up, split the cost, lugged a bunch of food and clothes and miscellaneous other supplies onto a raggedy vehicle built in the late 70s (obvious from the amount of faux wood paneling on everything) and steered it away from Paradise Point Marina into a web of interconnected creeks.

For a week we hung out, drank beer, swam, talked.  I wasn’t sure what to make of E.  She seemed a little tightly wound but okay.  I had trouble getting her to open up about anything.  And I remember she didn’t ask a lot of questions.  I gave up trying to get to know anything real about her after a couple of days.  She would tell me basic details about her life — she was a dental hygienist working at a clinic for low income and homeless people.  I remember thinking:  That’s a really nice career.  It must say something about her — altruistic?  Not concerned about money?  Excelled at school, smart, maybe.

But if you asked her what kind of music she liked she would say “oh anything really” which to me indicates a lack of interest.  How about cooking?  No, not really, I don’t do much of that.  What kind of activities do you enjoy?  Taking walks, sometimes hiking.  What’s the last book you’ve read?  An academic textbook years ago.  Didn’t follow politics much, didn’t vote.  Not overworked, didn’t work more than 40 a week.  So where was her time going?  What was she into?

I couldn’t make it out.  She seemed indecipherable in that way.  I also noticed she had trouble with what I think of as “playing” — just standard teasing, fucking around, shooting the shit type stuff.  Other people on the boat I became friends with more quickly — they just seemed warmer — more eager to get to know me and others — curious, asking questions, and I’d ask questions back.  We played rap music, danced, bullshitted.  I sang the lyrics to Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice at the top of my lungs, long ago memorized.

B asked her to marry him shortly after the trip.  He asked me what I thought of her and I said she’s nice and smart but I can’t pretend to know her that well after a few days on a houseboat.

Inside, though, I thought:  she’s hiding something.  That was my intuition.  I don’t have any sense of what her internal world is like, and when I’m with someone a week and I still have no idea, there’s something amiss.

They were married a year later.  Destination wedding in Hawaii.

I knew she was trouble even at the wedding.  They asked me to hold the rings, two of them, his and hers, in a velvet blue bag that reminded me of a D&D dice sack.  The bag was wrapped inside of another bag — plastic — probably intended to keep water and other debris off of the nicer cloth bag inside.

The day after the wedding, I gave B the velvet bag back.  Half an hour later I get frantic texts from him.  Where is the plastic bag?

i threw it out, it was just a plastic bag

Yeah but it had the jeweler’s logo on it, we wanted it for a keepsake

the plastic bag?


well, I’m sorry — I really am — but it’s gone.

E was so mad about this that she tried to get B and I to go back to the wedding venue to ask if they had the garbage bags from the wedding, so we could search through them for a plastic bag.  I said I wouldn’t do it.  B ended up calling the venue and at least getting an official answer (the trash is gone, forget about it, don’t come back.)

All of this trouble for nothing.  I told this story to someone else at the wedding, my good friend G and his wife D, and they were just incredulous.

I remember G saying, after a couple of beers, what the rest of us were already thinking:  Well, she’s obviously crazy if she’s willing to stir up such trouble about something so unimportant.  this marriage might not last that long.

He married her because she was cute and because she was smart and because she appeared to want some of the same things he wanted:  Kids, a family, the next phase of existence — a house in the suburbs, a decent, comfortable life.

What he found shortly after marriage was that she was controlling, had a lot of anxiety, and very little self awareness.  She was also unkind in close quarters, when no one was watching.  What he said was E does not appear to feel genuine empathy for others.  Even with our daughter.  She wants the best for <daughter> of course but I don’t see actual empathy and warmth.

Covid made things worse — Covid allowed her to isolate and become even less social.

B is now so paranoid about her that we are using burner email accounts to speak to one another.  She monitors his email.  She has an app on his phone that allows her to see where he is.  She hasn’t worked since pre-pandemic.  They did manage to have a child together.  Through IVF no less.  This also was revealed in the email I got last weekend.  B loves his kid, daughter named I, adorable, perfect.  He’s always wanted to be a father.

No sex since the kid.  Not once.  I read this and cried because it triggered memories of my own.  I went through that with my own ex — a woman I’d been with for a decade and a half and should have left five years before I did.  The sexless relationship is a dead relationship.   I don’t want B to be going through what I went through.

My own ex was abused when she was younger and the longer we were together the more she reverted to the scared child, the victim of abuse.  I couldn’t save her and she wouldn’t get therapy — neither for herself, nor me, nor us.  She didn’t want to talk about it.  Didn’t want anything to change.  Thought things were fine the way they were — her needs were being met.  I met them.

But my needs went unfulfilled.

The thing that hurt the most was how little she cared when I told her that I felt unloved.  that’s your problem, she said.

That’s what made me cry.  The memory of this, coupled with the thought that B is now going through something similar.  B’s wife E also refuses therapy.  B thinks she is bipolar and needs meds.  In an incredible coincidence, B read a book called walking on eggshells which is about people with BPD and I found and read exactly the same book when I was going through it with my own ex and trying to figure out what was wrong and what to do about it.

And we both reached the same conclusion.  If you are with a BPD partner who won’t seek help, the behaviors will never change.

So you need to decide whether or not you can live with that.

Neither of us could.

Today I’m finding myself just wishing I could get together with him — have a beer — get out of the house — shoot the shit, tell old stories to one another.  But we can’t.  He’s on the west coast, I’m on the east coast.

Maybe my wife J and I can go see him over the summer.  J has a few friends in the San Francisco area.

This is probably just an idle thought, though, something that will never actually happen, a fantasy I’m building to make myself feel better about B’s situation, like I’m planning on doing something to help comfort him, when in fact I will do no such thing.

I don’t know why I’m writing about this so much today.  I guess I just can’t stop thinking about it.  I know that B is in a constant state of suffering at this point with E and I feel for him.

I need to work though.  I’m behind on a million things and I’m the primary breadwinner in my marriage and I can’t let this job go to shit.  Work is busy, home is busy, and the obligations continue, always.  Time to slug coffee and focus on a whole host of things I don’t give a flying fuck about:  Certificate renewal automation, identity management meetings, a datacenter power management report followup.

I feel happy with J again.  Having the time apart yesterday during the workday helped.  She got home late and I like her when she’s exhausted.  I fed her — teriyaki salmon, half a steamed yam, a bit of mac and cheese — and we watched an episode of The Golden Girls on the couch, the one where Dorothy and Sophia dress up as Sonny and Cher.  She put her head on my shoulder and became absorbed in the show.  All problems disappeared for a little while, replaced by closeness and comfort and warmth.

One thing about J that I’m incredibly grateful for is that she makes me feel loved — even when I’m annoyed or bored or irritated with her, when we are “going through it” so to speak, dealing with problems that virtually all couples have from time to time — I never doubt that she loves me.

I need to work on making sure she doesn’t doubt that I love her back.


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