As in, Kitty is out of the bag. I ‘fessed up to the kreteks last night.
It began as a stubborn seed that begrudgingly germinated in my mind, starting with the freedom I felt during times when I was alone. The freedom didn’t come from being alone without my partner; it came from the fact that when he wasn’t around, I didn’t have to sneak around or hide anything. Whenever he returned, I felt like I had to stuff my secret back down and clean up any evidence.
The dichotomy between my Alone Time and our Together Time grew, to the point where I felt I was leading a double life: on the one hand, an innocent, health-conscious person, and on the other, a kretek user. And I felt this dichotomy had the potential to tear holes in the fabric of our marriage.
The catalyst came when my father found out. He wasn’t exactly pleased. He asked if my partner knew; my answer was a reflexive, definite, NO. Immediately both parents agreed that he must find out, and that it’d be far better if I told him as opposed to him catching me one day. It was about trust, they said. Once it’s gone, you can never get it back. Given various moments in our history, in which I’d been on the receiving end of that betrayal, I knew they were right.
So I started to plan it out. How would I tell him? A blank laptop screen with nothing but a blinking curser is cold and intimidating, but I plunged in, simply starting with writing out my various thoughts: medicinal reasons (allergy management), last resort, the least amount I can do and still accomplish the job, that the first time I stopped, I never intended on looking at kreteks again until now, and that I wanted to be honest and not sneak around, because deep within me, I knew that wasn’t right.
A half hour later, I had a disorganized and wordy skeleton, which I pared down to something cognizant. I printed it out. My notes were written word-for-word, to be used as a security blanket if need be.
Then we went for a walk, around the adjacent neighborhoods, stopping in a quiet park that was pleasant despite the fact that it needed upkeep. I had debated about when to tell him: now or later? Deciding on “now”, I knew the timing wasn’t wonderful, as we’d been through three stressful weeks with my partner’s best friend being admitted to the hospital after driving himself to the ER, then our cat being differentially diagnosed with either Irritable Bowel or a lymphoma (thankfully, the former is the most likely), and then the hospitalized best friend passing away. Combined with the fatigue and stress of excessive travel on top of that, this revelation seemed like the last thing he needed at a time like this.
On the other hand, I didn’t think it would do him much better to process all of the stress and grief of the last 3 weeks, only to be hit again in another week or so with more bad news. I decided it would be better to tell him now, so that he could recover from everything at once.
I removed the folded printout of my notes from my pocket and simply read it. He stayed silent the whole time. No outbursts, protests, or emotional reactions. He was numb, I think. I finished, and he was still quiet.
A few agonizing moments later, he spoke. Is it recreational, he asked. No, purely medicinal. He expressed concern about addiction. Honestly, I can’t promise that it won’t happen. I can’t even be 100% sure that it hasn’t happened.
But I do know that if I have too much in too short a time, I don’t physically feel right. There are times when my body says, “meh” and I could take it or leave it, and in those cases, I usually leave it. There are also times when my body says, “no”.
As I figured, he had already suspected it. I asked him when he first suspected it, and he said months ago, and was surprised when I promised him it’d only been 2 full months. I asked him what first prompted him to suspect it, and he couldn’t remember, which surprised me and I can’t 100% believe. I would think that’d be something he’d remember. I know I would.
From my end, not much changed. I still go outside, and I do so quietly. I won’t do it near him. I won’t let him see me do it, if at all possible. I’ll still keep all the supplies in my usual places, out of sight. But now, if I want to go outside, I can just do it. I don’t have to wrestle with telltale bolt locks anymore. I don’t have to worry that I might leave an occasional lighter in a different place than it was before. I don’t have to worry about being discovered at the pool or the park. I don’t have to spritz essential oils in the truck unless I want to.
From his end, I’m not sure what’s going around in his head. I know that he appreciates the potent anti-allergy effect. I know that he despises the rest. I hope I haven’t damaged things beyond repair. I hope this’s something he can make peace with and come to perceive as no big deal, at least until it no longer has to be a part of my life. The most important thing is, I was honest, even if that took me a while.