When I returned from New York, my first ever trip with no kids, no husband, no one to take care of, I had more to unpack than a backpack of souvenirs and soiled clothes. I traveled with my sister-in-law and her sister, two women who knew my husband well, who have lived my stories with me. My husband had no worries about my behavior while I was away, beyond whether I was taking my medicine and staying safe in Central Park, Brooklyn. I didn’t have that luxury. The friend I had entrusted my family with for playdates and extra help for an overworked husband was the real danger of my trip.
After 4 days of discovering hidden parts of the city, I came home to explore hiding places in friendship. I wanted to talk with my husband about the impact of the 9/11 museum, how devastated I still was, instead my tears were spent over the shock and betrayal of a different kind of terrorist. The planning those 19 men put into the acts that unfolded in one day kept me wondering what I had missed in the weeks before my trip. How long had she been planning to destroy my marriage? What signs did I miss? Why did I let her into our family, not checking her passport fully for entry in to my most sacred place?
The anger and shock slide away as betrayal takes over, then more information is released, just as the news reports continued about those terrorists. Reports about their families, stories about hers. Secrets kept from me, only shared with my husband. Horrible language never used in my presence, a willingness to sacrifice a child to secure her immediate desires. I remembered those men who gave up incredible educations, families, their lives for this insanely selfish act. That they were motivated by a radical extremism, had been led to believe in an ugly God changes nothing. She was motivated by the same selfishness, by no god that I have ever met.
As surely as the two towers fell, she could have taken down both of our families as well. Fortunately our steel beams were forged in faith. Our tower has withstood forces more powerful than her flirting and advances, her pleading and dancing. I can’t imagine hers will, on such unstable ground. When confronted, she pled guilty. But just as we nervously watched planes in the sky for months after 9/11, our world has changed here too. We now avoid places, activities, that once were joyful weekly playdates. We cringe as we drive past her neighborhood, we fill the space with chatter, thoughts full of words unspoken.
The texts have been deleted, the drunken voicemail is gone. The memory will last longer. After that horrific day in September, we came to realize who we were as a country. We reached out to others, we pulled together in crisis. We gave blood, we cried, we searched for meaning. When I came home from those 4 days away in March, I felt the same need to continue processing, asking questions, reliving and wondering how it could have happened. We pulled together, affirmed our strength, but I still see some ashes falling, smell the smoke. My marriage stands but the friendship lies in ruins. There will be no memorial for this one.