Marital Dispute Email

(Retrieved from the 2008 AT&T data breach)

I’m typing this out while the thoughts are fresh in my mind. I think it’s best that way. I also think it’s for the best that I write this at around 11 P.M. because when you wake up in the morning, we’ll have left. I’m going to start packing in about an hour.

I really wanted to make this work, you know. I tried everything. We tried counseling, you tried getting motivation from your coworkers, even the vacation to Tijuana where I insisted that you leave the camera behind. And you did. I think that was your strongest moment, possibly. It was almost startling to see you standing upright in the Mexican sun, breathing in the saline air, without that stupid thing on your shoulder. But I should have anticipated that you would relapse the minute we got back. Because of course you would. At this point, I’m convinced that I can’t do anything for you.

I know I should feel guilty, leaving behind someone who’s served as a shoulder for me to lean on and someone for me to confide in for so long. But I’m not leaving the boy I met in high school. I’m leaving something else. Some horrible mutant thing without a shred of compassion- if not for me, you could at least have some for your children.

I don’t know how it happened, or whether I bear any responsibility for it. Maybe I do. But you do, also, and I hope that when you wake up and each room you pass is cold and empty, the memories slowly leaving them, and then you catch a glimpse of this on the monitor, you feel at least a small scrap of remorse before this- whatever it is you’ve got- consumes you whole, and at that point I don’t even think you’d be capable of any kind of remorse or self-reflection. It’s as if that witty kid I started dating was slowly replaced, piecemeal, through some kind of invisible process. It’s not just that we said our vows. Plenty of couples I’ve seen have made it through spats and quarrels. What you have is beyond that. It’s a borderline psychosis.

In about a week and a half, once you’ve had time to process everything, accept the way things are, I’ll call you on the phone and we can talk about who will get what, signing the paperwork, visitation, alimony payments. Dad says he knows a good firm. But we’ll talk about that when we get to it. Right now I’m focusing on taking care of the kids. I woke Jodi and Doug up, they’re getting their things. Packing their suitcases. Not that they have much to pack. You spent so much on Hi-8 tapes for your stupid Camcorder it’s honestly a wonder they have any clothes at all.

Oh, you’ll find another surprise. The basement. I went in there. I took the chef’s knife to your precious stereo system and your all-important video deck. Slashed 3 holes through the top. I don’t know if I broke anything, I probably did. All your tapes are in 5 large white plastic trash bags out back. Better not sleep in or they’ll be picked up before you can go out and get them.

You might find some of what I’ve done callous, or even cruel by some operable definitions. I call it your just desserts. I call it an eye for an eye. I think you’ve had it for a long time coming- the neglect of our lives for your own, your inability to sacrifice anything for anyone- you can’t live that way and expect nothing but positives. If I didn’t do it, if I didn’t make you aware of the mental and emotional stress you put on us, somebody else would. It would only be a matter of time.

Jodi just went out and she’s sitting in the front seat. If you could see her- I mean REALLY see her, with your eyes, not with a lens- and you could see amount of gravitas she’s been put under as a result of your choices, I think you might reconsider things. But you won’t ever see her except through your lens. You see everything through that fucking lens. A lens that distorts reality, and warps your mind.

A lot of my friends, who I discussed this with, warned me that I would feel guilty about it, that it’d weigh on me and that nothing is worth throwing away a decade of marriage for. But like said, I didn’t promise to spend the rest of my life with whatever you are now. I promised to marry what you were then. I’m not abandoning my husband. I’m abandoning a stranger. A stranger who, 365 days of the week, sits in the basement reviewing footage, compiling it all for some nonexistent film project or documentary series or- whatever the Hell you call it. I don’t care what you think you’re making. What you HAVE made is an irreparable shambles.

And I don’t like shambles, I never have. We’re leaving this mess, and we’re going far away. Tonight we’ll probably drive around 200 miles, maybe more in the week ahead. Don’t try to find us. Don’t point your camera at us. Leave us alone, and I’ll try to promise that I’ll do the same to you. Forever. Cold shoulders, cold turkey. You might have an addiction, but you’re my addiction, and breaking you is the best choice I’ve made in a long, long time.

There are no other options, nothing else I could do to prevent this. Every contingency has been accounted for, everything I can think of points me here. It’s 11:32 now and Doug is out front, sitting behind his big sister. I’m waving to them, telling them that I’ll be out there really soon. There’s fear in their eyes. Fear of what you’ve been hiding, fear of what you’ve been doing. If you could only see it. They probably see it in me, too. I probably display it more. Really, their bravery and courage as far as this plan goes is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We raised them well.

There’s really nothing else to tell you, so I’ll get my luggage and then it’s que sera sera. If you want, film your reaction to this email. Film this in triplicate. Film yourself tossing the computer off the Hoover Dam for all I care. That’s all you can film now.

Goodbye.

-Valerie