If my husband had been Pinocchio, his nose would have been a giant redwood. While we were married, I thought he was a real boy. Once he disappeared, I learned otherwise.
My husband and I used to watch "Lost" and shake our heads in disbelief at Sawyer's deceptions. We laughed at "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" when the con artists were conned themselves. We were shocked at the audacity of Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "Catch Me if You Can", and we were disturbed when we discovered the movie was based on a true story. While I thought he shared my disdain for the trickery and fraud in these tales, it seems as though he had been taking notes. Overnight, I went from an ordinary life to one that felt more like a movie.
My husband was a brilliant and talented man whose skills included creating and maintaining a separate existence. He had two cameras. Two bicycles. Two wallets. Two wives. Two distinct lives. When the financial mess he created in his life with me became too great to keep hidden, he broke up with me via text and vanished. That was when I learned that my husband was anything but a real boy -- he was a con man. My life was a virtual reality -- my home a movie set consisting of false fronts.
He was an expert lie crafter; he always knew the exact proportion of truth to weave into the falsehoods to make a story believable. He always had an answer; he never hesitated. His office must have been like a busy air traffic control tower as he directed emails, texts, and phone calls to support his various tales. The extent of his deceptions was made clear when I sat with an auto insurance card in my hand -- my name had been digitally removed -- while I pulled up the file from the insurance company and verified that both names were present on the actual document. He thought he could erase me as easily as he could my name using Photoshop.
While my husband was in jail after being arrested for felony bigamy, I talked with his other wife, who was as stunned by the situation as I was. No woman should ever have to have a conversation about "our husband," even if it is a cordial and informative discussion. I learned that when he was pulled in for questioning, his lies became increasingly absurd as he struggled to maintain his façade. My favorite? He claimed that he and I had divorced years earlier and I had since married a chiropractor named Mark Mercer. Mark, if you're out there, I'm sorry that I have no recollection of our marriage and that I have never recognized our fictitious anniversaries.
One of the saddest aspects of the situation is that he was conning himself just as much as he was fooling those around him. In trying to pull the wool over others' eyes, he inadvertently knitted himself a mask with no eyeholes. He told so many lies for so long, he began to believe his own fabrications (he even admitted as much in a text to my mother). It became impossible for him to tell where the lies ended and the authenticity began. In trying to keep everyone else in the dark, he lost himself. The real boy was replaced with a hollow man.
I came out of the marriage confused, unsure of what was real and what was fabrication. I was embarrassed. How could I have been such a fool? My anger was explosive as I came to the realization that I had been literally sleeping with the enemy. The crime was intensified by the fact that it was carried out by the man who had sworn to love and protect me. Yet, eventually, I began to feel compassion for him, as I saw through the lies to the pain that must have born them.
I have come to the realization that the life I knew was real to me, and that has to be enough. I will never know what prompted his moral malignancies nor will I ever find certainty in truth. I was conned, but that is not the end of my story. I am now exploring the world un-shaded by his lies.
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