A Ghost in the Machine

Traces of a past best forgotten pop up in the most unexpected places.

This morning, I unpacked and installed my HP color laser printer. I’d been using a cheap Brother laser printer — the one I’d bought years ago for home when I moved my office to a condo in Wickenburg for a few years — since moving to Washington state two years ago. The Brother is very fast and reliable with perfectly fine print quality for the limited amount of printing I do. But I needed a color printer to print some satellite images for the pilots who will be working with me this summer and since the HP was packed in its box in my shop storage area, I figured I’d bring it up.

I honestly can’t remember where the printer was when I packed it. I’d had it in my office in Wickenburg for quite a while but in 2011, in a failed attempt to appease my husband (now wasband), I’d moved my office to the condo he was living in during the week in Phoenix. The idea was to spend more time with him, which he led me to believe he wanted.

But that move also came with a lifestyle that had me shuttling back and forth between Phoenix and Wickenburg every week — weekdays in Phoenix, weekends in Wickenburg. After spending the whole summer living in an RV every year, I wanted to be home. In one home. With my office in Phoenix, whenever I had a book project, I needed to be there. And I work weekends when I have to. So instead of spending most of my time in my comfortable Wickenburg home, I wound up spending most of my time in a dark, depressing, noisy, and privacy-free condo in Phoenix that I never even liked. Meanwhile, he kept going home on weekends, making we wonder, at times, why I’d moved at all.

Anyway, I don’t remember if I moved the printer down to that office. I might have. If I did, it was likely one of the possessions I had to beg him to let me have back when he and his mommy/girlfriend began their reign of harassment in the early days of divorce proceedings. In any case, I still had the original box — I kept all boxes in my hangar — and I packed it in its original foam. I’m pretty sure the Brother was in the condo — it was in the cabinet under the TV — and I can’t remember if I got it the day I came to retrieve my possessions or before that.

Honestly, the whole thing is a blur and that’s probably a good thing.

Today, I moved the Brother off my file cabinet — another possession I had to ask for — dusted the cabinet’s top off, and set the HP in its place. It uses the same cables, so I just hooked it up to power and USB. It immediately came to life with a Paper Jam error message.

I opened the printer’s big front door. The sheet of paper was clearly visible and easily removed. As I pulled it out, I wondered why I hadn’t removed it when the jam occurred. Then I looked at it and realized that I hadn’t printed it. My wasband had.

Email Jam
The ghost in my machine was a jammed email message printout.

It was an email message I’d written to him back in 2007. It had two attachments, one of which was a PDF of my flight plan. The message told him that I was flying from Page, AZ up Lake Powell and into Canyonlands National Park. I was apparently on a charter flight — probably a photo flight I did with a photographer trying to get images of certain landforms from the air for an advertising poster. I vaguely remember the early morning flight and the photographer holding a camera sitting on a Kenyon gyro. I could probably track down more details in my log book.

I know I’d used the printer after 2007. Heck, I’m not even sure if I owned the printer in 2007. That meant my wasband had printed a long-saved email message while I was gone, probably in the summer of 2012, when he hooked up with his girlfriend/mommy and his delusions went into full swing.

I have an idea why he might have printed this old email. In his deluded mind, he was convinced that he had helped me build my helicopter charter business. That’s how he justified going after half its assets in the divorce. He was unable to prove his case in court — most likely because it wasn’t true — but I assume that he was collecting email messages related to that business as part of his case.

Of course, the reason I sent him an email message with my flight plan that morning at 3:06 AM was because he was my husband and I thought he’d care about my route. At that point, before his delusions began, I think he really did. He might have even still loved me back then.

But mental illness does funny things to people. Once the love was gone and the greed-fed delusions took over, he saw everything even remotely related to my business as evidence of me using him without compensation. I’m sure his lawyer(s) got a stack of email messages from me to him that he thought could help his case in court.

Printed on my printer.

Finding this message jammed in my printer makes me even sadder for him than I already am. His illness, fed by bad advice by manipulative people he trusts, caused him to throw away so much — not the least of which was a friendship and a ton of money. I doubt anything remains of the good, honest man he once was.

I’ll throw this ghost into my recycle bin. Another reminder of a lost life swept away.

2 thoughts on “A Ghost in the Machine

  1. There’s a line of thinking that states people never change. In my opinion there’s nothing further from the truth. People DO change, for a whole host of reasons.
    I’m not certain how one could anticipate changes in their partner…

    • Of course we change. People who say that we don’t must not be paying attention. Or perhaps they are simply in denial.

      I know I changed in many ways throughout my life. My wasband changed as well. But in the end, it wasn’t the normal changes of growing and aging individuals that tore our relationship apart. It was a midlife crisis gone horribly wrong and my inability to understand the real problem and get him the help he needed before it was too late. Every bit of news from my divorce lawyer paints a picture of an angry and desperate man, still clinging to the notion that I’ve done him some horrible wrong and must be made to pay. Nearly three years after he left me for another woman, he’s still paying lawyers to keep our case, now twice decided by judges, alive. He’s a sick, deluded man. Sadly, the woman he’s now with seems to be making his condition worse instead of better, possibly because she’s got even deeper psychological problems than he has. It’s a sorry state of affairs, heartbreaking to the people who loved him.

      Now I warn my friends — both men and women — about how midlife crises can start an avalanche of confused thoughts, blame, and bad feelings that destroy a long term relationship. Honest communication is vital in any relationship; counseling — with an experienced and qualified counselor — should help. There’s no reason why people who spent decades together as lovers and friends should split with such anger and hate. Yes, people change, but psychologically stable people don’t lash out at the people they claim to love.

What do you think?