"A Fool's Paradise" ... On Being the Focus of Another's Self-Deception

Life, in all its wonder, has the capacity to amaze us humans on a daily basis. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of wondrous joy and excitement as we successfully work our way toward the finer things in life. Sometimes we experience crushing defeat that leaves us, bewildered, back at the beginning of the race. And sometimes we find ourselves thrown under the proverbial bus, into a shit-filled gutter, by those we love.

Yes, if you haven't guessed, the point of this post is to explain how I found myself in said shit-filled gutter.

I will not send mass emails to everyone I know defending myself against nonsense. I will not post my issues all over social media to get my "side" out there. I will not pull anyone into this gutter who doesn't want to go there. In fact, I have not and will not post anything on Facebook or elsewhere discussing this matter. What I will do, however, here and here alone, is shed some light on this shit storm that I did not ask for, but found myself dragged into nonetheless. For those who want to know ... here it is.

I don't know any other way to recount this than a simple play-by-play. So I'll start with the fact that my sister and brother-in-law moved here to Las Vegas back in February. I was happy that this happened, as I had been close with them ... they had supported me through my divorce years ago, and I, also, supported them in various things. I taught her book in my college-level classes. I read her work and offered feedback. I drove them places and offered myself when I could. And ... you know. On and on. We, I thought, had a good relationship.

I became aware of the fact that my sister was not happy with me the day before my son's birthday. I invited the entire family over to watch movies, play video games, and eat birthday cake in celebration of my child. She chose not to attend this event because, as I learned later on, she was convinced that I had a crush on her husband, and that he was falling in love with me, too. So she stayed home because ... she was too upset, I guess, or else wanted to punish me or my son. Or maybe make the evening about her. I'm still not sure.

During the party, she called my other sister over to talk with her about her woes, so my brother-in-law filled me in on what was happening -- that she had been feeling bad about herself and drinking heavily, and that she had become convinced that mutual flirtation had been happening between the two of us. I'm still not sure what she considered to be flirting from my end. My brother-in-law, however, revealed to me at that point that he had actually told her that he was falling for me. I'm sure this didn't help her state of mind.

I'll throw in at this point that I am currently, and have been for the past few years, actively dating men (there is one in particular that I am presently fond of, but my dating pool is certainly not lacking). At risk of sounding pompous, these men, without exception, are attractive men who enjoy traveling the world, and have plenty going for them. They are not only educated and intelligent, but hard-working in their careers. I honestly don't mean to sound pretentious here, but my point is that I definitely have a "type" ... and, while he had been a good friend, my brother-in-law is not, and never has been, that "type."

That aside, I have a lot going for me, and I really enjoy my life. When I already have a vast dating pool of men that fit my desires, I really don't see how risking much of it to sabotage my sister's relationship in order to be with my brother-in-law makes any sense ... but I digress. I'll return to what happened.

I drove my other sister home from the party that night (she lives in Summerlin and I in Henderson, so this was a round-trip excursion of an hour), and my brother-in-law stayed behind with my son while this happened. The sister that I drove home has three children (her husband was at work), so the four of them plus myself filled my car. My brother-in-law offered to stay with my son until I got back. When I did get back he told me that my sister (the one who stayed home) had become convinced that we were having sex. I didn't think too much about it at that point -- I honestly thought he'd put her fears to rest and we'd move on. Well, I'm not sure exactly what he told her when I wasn't around (my own ex-husband used to use other women's "attraction" to him to make me feel uncertain in myself and lucky to be with him, so maybe it was some form of that), but no such thing happened.

The next day was my son't actual birthday, so I took him to the Adventuredome. On our way there, my sister called me and left a voicemail message to apologize for missing my son's party. I thought things were going to be okay. A few hours later, however, she sent me the following text message: "Btw, thanks for destroying my marriage." I didn't respond. After all, it was my son's birthday and there was fun to be had, and I was not going to let any drama spoil it. I was, however, a bit taken aback that she was still blaming me for whatever marital woes she was experiencing.

On our way out of the Adventuredome, my brother-in-law called to let me know that my sister had attempted suicide and was now hospitalized. The story, as he told it, is as follows:

Apparently, my sister had attempted to overdose the previous night (when she thought her husband was having sex with me at my son's freaking birthday party), but he had missed the suicide note and didn't realize it (he later found it and, according to him, it featured such eloquence as to hope that I was a "better fuck" than she was). When he came home, he said, she was asleep and he didn't know anything was amiss. Despite an apparent overdose, however, she woke up the next day and proceeded to walk around threatening a new combination of pills and tequila. My brother-in-law told me that he basically forced her to call and "apologize" to me over missing my son's birthday (as taking her issues out on my son was not warranted), which she did. Things, however, escalated and her second attempt at overdosing led to him taking her to the hospital. At first, she'd hidden the phones, according to him, but when he threatened to call from the apartment office and reveal everything that was happening to the managers (and whoever else happened to be around), she agreed to go with him.

He told me about some things she was saying about me behind closed doors. That I'd also slept with another brother-in-law (not true). That I plagued men with STDs (not true). You know ... anything to paint me as nasty homewrecker. I really had nothing to say to her, and so when he told me that she'd written me an apology note from the hospital, I told him I wasn't ready to read it. Especially, you know, after her last "apology" turned out to be coerced and insincere.

My sister was in the hospital for a week, during which time I hung out with my brother-in-law so that we could help each other through the accusations that were being thrown our way. I thought we were on the same page. But during the course of that week, a few things happened which revealed we were not.

First, he began a long tirade against my sister. There was plenty of shit said about her that weekend -- yes, I had frustrations as well that I voiced, and I won't deny that -- but the serious "shit talking" came from my brother-in-law himself. He told me that he had been miserable for about eight years (they've been married for nine). He said things started going downhill when she became obsessed with the notion that she had Lyme disease (which he claims now she never had). He told me that she was a hypochondriac who searched for doctors who would diagnose her with whatever she wanted to have.

He told me she was an out-of-control alcoholic.

He told me she treated him like shit.

He told me that he believed my sister needed him, but did not love him.

He told me he was tired of living in a bubble -- of never going anywhere, of not having friends, of having to call her every five minutes when he was out.

He told me he was going to leave her. That one came up continuously -- "You know I'm not going to stay with your sister, right?"

He also told me other things, such as how, when I was in the midst of moving from the Bay Area to Las Vegas, he wanted to come help me with my move. I had been looking for someone to help me drive my moving truck so that I wouldn't have to resort to hiring expensive movers, and he told me that he'd wanted to help. But you know, my sister was so afraid we were going to have sex that she wouldn't let him (so, apparently, her issues regarding me and her fears about the two of us extend much farther back than when she arrived here and supposedly saw us "flirting").

There was so much said from his end. And he started talking about how much he really did like me, and how he was falling in love with me. He started to ask if I'd ever liked him, and if he had met me first, if I'd have gone out with him. He started asking my other sister and brother-in-law similar questions -- what would the family think, he'd ask, if he left one sister for another? Did they think I had feelings for him? The more the days pressed on, the more he refused to change the subject on this matter despite the fact that I was clear about not returning these feelings. I am a nice person (much to my detriment sometimes), but I in no way led him to believe that he had a chance with me at all. Still, he persisted. It became uncomfortable.

I finally reminded him that I am seeing someone whom I really like. He proclaimed to be jealous of this person and, when I was out that Saturday evening spending time with this guy, my brother-in-law sent me the following text:

"If I possessed the eloquence of those greatest masters whose words move the mightiest of souls, I would yet utter no word that might capture your singular beauty."

On Sunday, he went to visit my sister in the hospital. When he returned (my other sister and brother-in-law were over for beers, so the brother-in-law in question joined us), he claimed that he had done his best to push my sister's buttons to cause a fight. He said it had worked, and that she'd blown up at him and had to be removed from the hospital's cafeteria, and that this was a good thing because it meant she wouldn't be released the following day, as planned.

He said that he didn't know how he was going to leave her. We told her that if he was going to leave her, he should do it while she was in the hospital, where she'd be safe.

He proclaimed that night that he was aware I didn't return his feelings ... for, he said, if I did, he wouldn't be struggling with how to leave my sister. He would have done it already.

I became somewhat uncomfortable (a common theme during this time), and, against my better judgment, started discussing details about the great sex I'd had recently with the man I'm particularly fond of. My brother-in-law left after that, angry. He opened the door and walked out, not even turning around to close the door behind him.

The following day was Monday, so I went to work (as a teacher, I have a pretty nice M-F work schedule). Throughout that day, I was informed that my brother-in-law had deactivated his social network accounts, and that his phones were off. My other sisters tried to get in touch with my sister at the hospital she was supposedly at, but could not find her. They, along with my father, were concerned for mine and my sister's well-being, and asked me to call the cops. I did, and they showed up at my sister and brother-in-law's apartment to check on her, and to tell him to cease and desist advances on me (I had nothing at all to do with the police at this point, mind you, so I don't even know what was said to them; I'd been at work all day). It turned out my sister had gotten out of the hospital that day after all, and things seemed okay.

At this point, I wanted nothing more than to mind my own business. But things continued to escalate, as family dramas do. My sister contacted my other sister and brother-in-law (the ones who had witnessed the advances on me) for details about what had happened. They told her everything they knew, and then my sister contacted me for "proof." I sent her the text message that my brother-in-law had sent me, and left it at that.

I'm not sure what he was telling her from his side, but, whatever it was, she chose to believe it all. And I realize that she had to, in order to keep her world from crashing in on itself. However, she didn't leave it at that ... the shit storm truly began when she insisted on spreading lies about me and the situation to everyone she could, rather than try to work things out (or at least keep our problems between us).

So the accusations flew. Apparently I was trying to destroy her marriage for no good reason (because I'm an evil comic book-like villain or something). Apparently, I'd done this before with another brother-in-law (because I'm an awful, sex-crazed homewrecker or something). And apparently I spread disease wherever I go, and so my brother-in-law would never even think about wanting to be intimate with me. It was all me, and he the innocent victim of my dastardly ways. Apparently.

She became so obsessed with the notion that I'd done this before that, according to my other sister, she contacted this ex-brother-in-law (whom I'd supposedly seduced and slept with). She wanted to know how I seduced him. She wanted to know what we did together. She wanted to know how I convinced him to be unfaithful.

I don't know exactly what was said during this exchange. But, according to this ex-brother-in-law, he told her that such a thing never happened (surprise, surprise ... what I've been saying all along). But I'm sure that she'd only take him at his word if his story aligned with what she wanted to hear and believe, anyway.

Again, I don't know what my brother-in-law has been saying to her. At this point, it doesn't even matter because I know she's going to believe whatever she wants to believe, regardless of anything else. I know that my brother-in-law and I could take side-by-side polygraph tests, and he would fail and I would pass, and she'd still find some way to work around it in her mind. I know this. I get it. She needs his story to be true.

But I don't think that her needing to believe warrants the meanness that has come out of this situation. I have not contacted her, have not said anything horrible about her. I have not bombarded people's inboxes or phones, demanding to be heard. I have not spewed my two cents all over Facebook. I have not been shown the same consideration, despite her only "needing to believe."

For those on the outside, there really is no "side" to take in this matter. The bottom line is that I've been accused of things that are not true, and my name and reputation have been dragged through that shit-filled gutter over it. I know that the people who truly matter to me don't buy into it at all, but my point here is that there reaches a point where enough is enough.

It takes more than one person to fight, and I refuse to fight or engage in any of this -- I really don't have room in my life for this level of bullshit. I love my family and always will, but I will not welcome people into my life who treat me this way. Family is family, yes, and I, too, wish we could reach a point where this kind of bullshit isn't happening anymore. But I have been turned into a villain after doing nothing but support this sister for years. I have had enough. My self-respect is too high to deal with these kinds of accusations from anybody, be they family or not.

I don't expect anything from anyone. But if you're honestly asking yourself whether this absurd story is true, please consider the following: If you know me, think about the person I am. For all of my faults and mistakes as a teenager and young adult, I am a good person. I am a responsible person. I am a successful, reasonable person. Does it really make sense that, for no reason, I would try to destroy my sister's marriage? Does it make sense that out of all of my options in terms of men, I would choose this brother-in-law? Does it really make sense that my scruples are so low that I would do such a thing even if I did like him?

Or does it make more sense that he desired me, tested the waters, and is now back-peddling as quickly as he can because it didn't work out? And that back-peddling includes lying to the point of isolating her from the people who have the guts to tell her the truth? And that, to avoid having to recognize, own, and deal with the truth of the situation -- that there are issues to be dealt with in her own marriage -- she's turned me into the proverbial scapegoat so that she can carry on without having to admit that there were ever any issues between her and her husband?

I suppose it doesn't matter. People are going to believe what they want. And my life will continue to move forward in all of the wonderful ways that it has been, regardless. I won't engage further on this issue. But it really is important that the truth of the matter is out there. Do with it what you will.