Here I was on this dreary Wednesday afternoon in the very place I fought tooth and nail not to be in! I shook the residual rain off my umbrella as I entered the building. I walked to the elevator and pushed the button to ascend. After waiting impatiently for several minutes, the doors opened and I climbed aboard. As the platform transported me to my destination, I thought about the events that led up to this moment. As much as my mind protested being here, my heart encouraged me to keep moving.
I was tired of living a lie. My mind had manipulated my soul for months, persuading me that prayer (and prayer only) would get me through this affliction. But after all the prayers, all the hands laid on, and all the oil rubbed across my forehead, the pain was still present. Why wasn’t God answering my phone call? Was there something I needed to atone for? Was this God’s way of telling me that my marriage was really over? Whatever the cost, I was determined to find the solution. . . . even if it meant coming here.
The truth was that despite her indiscretion, I was still in love with Cassie. And if I wanted our relationship to be more than the sporadic midnight drive by, I needed to do this. I had to throw everybody else’s opinion out the window and think about my happiness. Our happiness. So here I was, waiting to confront the truth head on . . .
“Excuse me miss, but I have a four o’clock appointment”
“Are you here to see Dr. Ford?”
It took a few minutes for me to respond. After she repeated herself, I begrudgingly answered . . . . .
“Okay, and you’re . . . . . “
“Minister Stanley Phillips”
“Okay. C’mon to the back and I’ll show you to her office”
I followed the young attendant back to the small office where a rather stout, black sister dressed in purple awaited my arrival. She reminded me of one of the ushers from the church, minus the white gloves.
Mr. Phillips, let me start by saying that I’m so happy to see you! I hope you had no problems finding the complex?”
I simply nodded as she motioned me to the empty chair. Before I took my seat, I inspected the witch doctor’s office. The artwork and floral arrangements were similar to the ones in Cassandra’s office. I saw the degrees and certificates that adorned the walls as well. A picture of the good doctor and her husband were on the book case next to her. I could see why Cassie would feel comfortable in this setting. As I got comfortable, I also noticed my favorite candy enclosed in a fancy glass dish.
“Ahhhhhhh! I see you spotted the Werther’s Orignal candies! Your wife stated that they were your favorite and that they may bring you some comfort during this session”
“If I can be honest with you doc, I don’t understand why I had to see you by myself. I mean, I wasn’t the one who cheated”
“I understand Mr. Phillips, but after a few sessions with Cassie, I thought it would be best to get your side before meeting together”
“Hmmmmm. . . . my side huh? She must have slept with several other men if we need meetings to prepare me for the joint session”
“That’s not necessarily true Mr. Phillips. If both parties come in at the very beginning, I spend most of the time being a referee!”
“Is that right?”
“Yes it is. Knowing both sides gives me more insight and I’m better equipped to help you”
“Well you can help the both of us by just telling me why she cheated. If she could just tell me why she did it, maybe we could move on with the rest of our lives”
“Do you honestly believe that Mr. Phillips?”
“Sure! I would listen to her . . .”
“Are you sure about that? It’s difficult to listen to someone that has betrayed your trust. Normally, the person is acting out from past hurts or something their spouse refuses to do”
“What haven’t I been doing?”
“That’s what we’re here to find out. From what Cassandra shared with me, she stated that you found out about her affair when her lover showed up at your door?”
I could feel the anger starting to build, but I kept my cool as I reached for one of the candies. I let my tongue run over the smoothness of the melted butter and brown sugar several times before I responded.
“Yeah he did . . . . .”
“I would ask how that made you feel, but I can see that this still bothers you . . . . . ”
Before I could put on the reins, my tongue broke loose . . . .
“Wouldn’t it bother you if another woman came to your door saying that you weren’t satisfying your husband?”
“Mr. Phillips, I’m not here to share my feelings. It’s about you sharing yours. How did that make you feel?”
I didn’t want to answer, but my tongue brought my heart out of the stable.
“Fuck! How was I supposed to feel? When that man came to my house, my house, and said I wasn’t fucking my woman right?! That I was holding her back because I didn’t have a job?! I felt worthless! I felt less than a man! And there wasn’t anything I could do about it! He was too big to fight! My wife had to be the one to get him to leave . . . . . .”
“So do you believe having a job makes you a man?”
“Yes!!! You see what happens when a man doesn’t have a job! A woman looks for better elsewhere! Cassie doesn’t love me! She just tolerates me . . . . helping me keep face in front of my congregation”
I wanted to cry. All of the frustration was seeping out of my pores.
“Mr. Phillips, I don’t get that impression from your wife at all. She really wants to make it through this storm in your marriage. I think you do too. That is why you’re here right?”
“I just want things to go back to the way they were. When she didn’t look down upon me because she’s the bread winner”
“You feel like you’re being looked down upon?”
“Yeah, ever since I lost my job . . . . and it was all my fault”
“How was it your fault? Mrs. Phillips stated that they laid you off due to budget cuts”
I took a deep breath. The room started to get hot. I felt the sweat trying to seep through my sports coat! I could feel my throat closing in even though the butterscotch was still on my tongue.
“There’s bottled water to the right of you in the mini fridge Mr. Phillips. Please help yourself to some”
I opened the small door and partook of the beverage.
“Well doc . . . . . the truth of the matter is that I interviewed for a job at another company”
“And what’s wrong with that Mr. Phillips?”
“Nothing outside of the fact that it was on company time . . . .”
“So I take it your employer found out?”
“Yes. I made such a good impression to the team at the interview that they immediately contacted my supervisor for a reference right after I left”
“Oh wow. . . . .”
“My supervisor watched me come back to the office knowing that I had the interview. I thought that I was okay as long as it was during my lunch break. However, the meeting ran much longer than I expected and it was about an hour and a half away from the office”
“When I came back to work on Monday, my boss told me to stay in the office. I knew something was up because my manager is never at the office that early! Then after an hour, I was called into the director’s office where they told me I was fired effective immediately. I had to go back home and retrieve the additional laptop and cell phone before they would release my check”
“Yeah, it was a horrible day because this happened right after Father’s Day. Cassie and Ronnie had taken me to Dave and Buster’s, bought me a new suit, and prepared a feast after Sunday service. It was the best Father’s Day ever and then I got hit with the pink slip! I was feeling so good about my interview with the other company that I could literally smell the money! I could feel like a man again while Cassie could focus on her dream. Instead, I felt like a burden. We had to do without health insurance until I got my gig with DCA”
“That is a lot, Mr. Phillips. It seems that you should be better now with the new position right?”
“If it wasn’t for Cassie, I would still be on the couch. I’d still be going over to my next door neighbor’s house smoking weed in the basement trying to forget my error. If I wouldn’t have lost my job, Cassie would have never had to look elsewhere. In a way, I’m to blame for for all of this”
“Mr. Phillips, I don’t believe not having a job led to the adultery. How did you act to Cassandra when you lost your . . . .”
“. . .but she wouldn’t have cheated if I didn’t lose my job! I know I mentally abandoned her. I know this! I didn’t mean to, but I was trying to come up with a contingency plan. The sad thing is that most companies are not hiring forty year old social workers! I was too old to start from the bottom and my dismissal gave pause to other agencies that wanted to hire me”
“Mr. Phillips, I believe you need to forgive yourself first in order to forgive Cassandra”
“I’m trying too, but every time I want to kiss her, I imagine her sucking another man’s . . . . that’s why I can’t kiss her! I’m sure she’s told you that!”
“Yes she has. But I’m glad I know the why. I believe that you should tell your wife what you just told me in our joint session”
I paused and took the final sip of water from the bottle.
“See doc, I don’t think that’s going to work. If I told her what really happened, she really wouldn’t forgive me! Because of my blunder, we had to deplete our retirement funds just to stay afloat. With that kinda mistake, she would look down on me like she did before. Now, I’m the only man she sees. Now, I’m the only man she wants. I need her to continue to see me like that”
“But do you see yourself like that? Forgive yourself and you can see who you truly are. Don’t allow your mind to deceive you”
“I’ll forgive myself when I make the money back that I lost. That’s why I took the job in Atlanta. It’s a drive, but between that and the church, I can slowly climb back”
“Mr. Phillips, I think you have already climbed back”
“You think so huh?”
“I do. If you don’t tell your wife about this, how will you be able to move forward? When we hold secrets like this, it changes our behavior whether we notice it or not. You still won’t be able to kiss your wife if you can’t see yourself as the man she truly loves. You need to accept what happened, learn from it, and move on”
“What does hmmmmm mean Mr. Phillips?”
I looked down at my watch. I didn’t need to share anything else. I was starting to feel smaller than I did when I walked in. The best thing to do now was to keep it moving. So after I pocketed a few candies for the road, I rose to my feet.
“Well this has been helpful doc, but I really need to get going”
“But we still have twenty minutes left. . . .”
“Nah, I think we’re good. I think I’m ready for me and Cassie to be in a session now”
“I don’t think you are Mr. Phillips”
“Well when you do, that’s when I’ll be back. Thank you for the candy”
So today’s question is two fold. Is it true that women think less of a man when he’s not working or makes less than the woman? Can Stanley truly move forward without forgiving himself?
Written by The Wednesday Gentleman