I flew across the country to catch a cheating husband. What I discovered was much better.
It’s 5:44 am at the airport where I just landed on the East Coast and I’m wearing what could be the world’s worst surveillance shirt. It’s pretty but also orange. The good news is I have a two hour layover. There is enough time to change. The bad news is, it’s 2:44 a.m. CA time and I’m delusional and about to convince someone at a RV campsite that I need to visit the area to see if the My friend’s future ex-husband is harboring another woman while he is supposed to watch their son. WTF.
After a year and a half of a global pandemic, who can say what is crossing the threshold of deregulation? Blockages, birthday parties behind the wheel, no one feeling safe, and people feeling a little angry most of the time have made nutty the new normal. But even so, this caper seems capital. Sometimes you jump with no idea where you are going to land because a friend is asking for help. Reason takes a back seat to friendship, and powerful forces will come to your aid – or they will not.
Three days earlier, one of my dearest friends told me she was going to get a divorce. We have the kind of friendship where immediately leaning into plane tickets and flying alongside him made perfect sense. But the day before my scheduled flight, my friend texted me asking if I could switch to red-eye relief sooner so we could do a lookout to see (and photograph) if the woman’s car. that my friend suspected her husband was connecting with. was parked next to his newly purchased motorhome. She didn’t have definitive proof of an affair, but she did have a hunch.
I was a bridesmaid at this friend’s wedding, but their entire wedding took place thousands of miles and in many states from where I live in Los Angeles. I’d only seen him a few times in person, so there was a good chance he wouldn’t recognize me from a distance if he saw me.
Back at the airport, I decided not to change. I first chose my orange shirt because it reminded me this Mum PTA – you know, the one who cooks really good breakfasts and volunteers for everything. I clung to my first instinct that the shirt helped support our cover story, the one where I’m just there researching potential sites for a big family reunion. I remembered we weren’t going to be in a parked van looking for night vision binoculars.
But, alas, our surveillance was not to be. Before we could exit the highway and head for the campsite office, we walked past its platform. We could see it from the freeway and no cars were parked next to it. Most people would have been happy if his RV was within the perimeter of the campgrounds, so no undercover visit was necessary. And since no other woman’s car was present, we did not have to stop on the shoulder of a freeway (albeit single lane) to take pictures. But the frenzy and adrenaline levels were skyrocketing and I found myself disappointed.
âThe surveillance was a failure, but my weekend in the Great South was a call to arms. Instead of taking photos of an affair, we ate carbs, remembered how to chain smoke, and became more and more dreadful as night turned to morning.
Capturing proof of an affair, hot, would have added a worthy chapter to my friend and I’s story. We met cute over two decades ago when we started reporting for Vail Daily on the same day. Our editor tried to wrest more industries out of both of us by taking advantage of our insecurities. He spuriously told me not to be intimidated by the fact that I was starting out alongside someone who regularly wrote four articles a day in Sterling, Colorado (population 11,000); at the same time, he casually mentioned to my friend that i had just completed an internship at the New York Times. Her tactics prevailed until the end of the first day, when I stuck my head over our room divider and asked her if she wanted to go to happy hour at Paddy’s across the street. Street.
Surveillance was a failure, but my weekend in the Deep South was a call to arms. Instead of taking photos of an affair, we ate carbs, remembered how to chain smoke, and got more and more dreadful as the night turned to morning. I introduced her to the glories of a jalapeÃ±o margarita and she showed me that it’s possible not to flinch when a once-cherished partner becomes a ruthless stranger.
Some describe true friends as choosing your own family. I’m saying it’s more like choosing your own army. There are friendships that make you braver, smarter, and stronger. Alone, it is easier to be discouraged by an opponent who seeks the advantage by finding new lows. Fighting badly can be a winning strategy. I cannot sit next to her in mediation. But what I can do is remind her who she is, strengthen her defenses, and in doing so, remove some of the toxins from my own life.
Before I buckled up for my cross country flight, my head was messy. COVID had sounded the death knell for my book club, my monthly writing group, my political postcard writing group, and local girls’ nights that involved more than two people. Then the Delta variant, in turn, presses the pause button when attempting to resurrect them. Yes I know. Ridiculously small COVID potatoes compared to what a lot of people have faced or succumbed to in the past 20 months.
But sometimes it’s the little potatoes that attract you. Darkness is darkness when you are engulfed in it. And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter how frivolous the original source may be. I missed the psychic food gleaned from live meetings with like-minded people and / or just wanting to laugh together. I’m sure the sentiment is quite common. However, the damage came when I mentally self-flogged for how much real estate this desire was taking into my head.
My watch weekend kicked off this unnecessary but very real punishment. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards got it right: you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need. I am fortunate to claim some of the most remarkable people on the planet as friends. It took a chaotic flight and a shameless future ex-husband to see that I wasn’t even close to appreciating how much it mattered.
Sarah Paik is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor-in-chief of Best of Korea. Her work has appeared in The Aspen Times, Vail Daily, and The New York Times. Although she is a member of the PTA, she only cooks a slightly above average lunch.
Do you have a compelling personal story that you would like to see published? on the HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch.