Date: September 11, 2017 01:00PM
I was not born of goodly parents, they are alcoholics. Not fun. I am on the mild end of the Asperger’s spectrum. I am socially awkward and I obsess over things. I have trouble focusing on what is important. Growing up, the gospel ideals were everything to me, my only anchor. The members of the church my age were horrible with their perpetual tormenting and bullying. I did not think I could serve a mission but the bishop convinced me that I could. I was terrified when the call came to Japan.
I loved the Japanese people and culture and even the hard language. I felt more accepted. I struggled with doing missionary work and especially the authority structure. I never had leadership assignments but I finished honorably. I decided I wanted to marry a Japanese girl. Many of them flirted with me on my mission and I had never noticed any romantic interest from any American girl. They seemed to be more beautiful and relatively low maintenance and tolerant and easy to get along with in comparison.
MM was a Japanese girl living in my ward when I came home. She had a tarnished past. She was promiscuous before her baptism and had slept with the missionary who converted her. She repented and completed her discipline and was in good standing. I knew of another guy in my high school who served in Japan and he had moral problems before his mission. I introduced them and they began to date seriously.
I went to a fireside and first met AK. She was the most attractive Japanese girl I had ever seen. She was barely 5 ft tall and about 90 pounds and had the most exquisite, delicate little flower-like features. She was aloof and shy and ignored the many guys trying to attract her attention. I told MM that I had a crush on AK and asked MM for advice. She arranged a double date with us and instructed me how to treat her. Later she asked me if I found her acceptable and I responded affirmatively. With MM coaching me on how to treat her and express affection to her, we were soon dating exclusively.
We were very religious. We studied scriptures together. She did not like any public displays of affection or anything like kissing privately. My worst transgression was idolatry, worshipping her. One Sunday morning we got up early to go to the mountains to watch the sun rise. We prayed and experienced sort of a vision together. We could taste the glory of the celestial kingdom. The next 80 years seemed like a small thing before we would be together eternally. This was the single most powerful spiritual experience in my life. I proposed marriage to her and she accepted.
AK was estranged from her family in Japan after joining the church. My family did not like her and I delayed visiting them for several weeks but it was unavoidable. They told us we were too young, without money or education, incompatible culturally, lacked adequate communication skills, etc. They set up an interview with their bishop who had been one of my youth leaders I admired the most. He rehearsed the same reservations and added a quote from President Kimball: “Let Chinese marry Chinese, Japanese marry Japanese, and Mexican marry Mexican.” He convinced me that I was deceived by a lying spirit and in the throes of lust and we should terminate our engagement, it was not of God.
I thought I broke AK’s heart when I told her of my decision. I didn’t think she would ever get over it. But within a half a year she was dating one of my zone leaders. She married ZL about a year later in the temple and I thought she had found someone better than me. So I was happy for her. I tried to date other girls but they never seemed to measure up to AK. I buried myself in school and got an engineering degree.
I joined the Navy after graduation hoping to expand my social contacts but this had quite the opposite effect. Most of the girls I met were slutty or tacky and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I loved being out on the ocean where sometimes it seemed like that glorious day when we had our sun rise vision. I also didn’t know how to deal with sailors and military leadership was a bad fit for me so I served out my 4 years and went home.
I ran across MM who had 4 children and seemed very happy. I didn’t want to ask but I did eventually inquire about AK. I was shocked to hear that she was divorced with twin daughters and living in California on welfare. I took a risk and called ZL on the phone because he was still living near my family, ostensibly just to tell him how much I appreciated his example in the mission field and how much I admired him (sort of true). He blathered on about his callings in the bishopric and his family. I causally mentioned AK and with a brief slip of the tongue he referred to her as “that frigid bitch.” But recovering, he glibly told me that it just did not work out between them. I asked about their children and he claimed they were not his children because she cheated on him. I found this difficult to believe especially if she was ‘frigid,” but only listened.
I was drawn to California and it did not take much effort to get MM to tell me which ward AK attended. I found a mediocre job there. The first week I showed up for church in the same ward as AK, she was aloof. I spoke only briefly and politely to her, week after week. She was sad, poor, jobless, did not drive but she was still beautiful beyond my memory of her. One day she needed a ride home from church and I was walking up to her while she was asking the RSP to arrange it and I volunteered. I told the RSP that we had been friends once and that she had even been to my house. AK agreed.
We made small talk but once parked at her ratty apartment, I decided to lay all my cards on the table. I told her I was so sorry for ending our engagement, that I thought about her every day and that I still loved her and wanted to maybe start over. AK said, “the girl you once loved does not exist anymore.” I replied that I had changed quite a bit myself and we would have to start at the beginning like we didn’t really know each other before. I asked her if I could treat her and the twins to nice visit to a park (far enough away I doubted she ever went there) for a picnic lunch and we could talk for a while. She agreed.
I won the twins over pretty quickly, I don’t know how because I am usually not good with children. I realized the last thing AK needed was a boyfriend in a typical dating relationship. She needed help around her apartment since her slum lord never fixed anything and she needed transportation and help with errands and negotiating with people since her English was not that good and even babysitting to give her an hour of two of time alone to rest. I determined to gradually give her more help in a causal way in an effort to win her affection.
We spent more and more time together doing things sort of like a family. She started sitting by me at church. Sometimes when the twins were put to bed she would sit by me on the couch and snuggle a little and I could dream that our sun rise vision was not impossible. I did not push physical affection and she did not seem to want it. But I was happy spending much of my spare time with her.
One quiet night when the time seemed right I told her how much I loved her and asked her to marry me. She said she had been a bad person and now could never fulfill the duties of a wife. I fleetingly remembered what ZL said but dismissed it. I knew of men who asked multiple times before succeeding and I was not very discouraged. After that I made it a point to tell her I loved her at least once a week and to tell her she was beautiful. AK believed she was not very beautiful and related some of the insults she had suffered from ZL including not being a real woman which she actually believed were true. But sometimes she told me she really appreciated all that I did and was glad that I was her close friend. In a way we were in a stable place and I remained relatively happy.
My job dried up and I could have found another one. But I started to think about the future. The twins would be in school in a few years and they had already started swearing and picking up the vulgar slang of the apartment dwellers. They needed a yard to play in and decent friends and AK needed a ward where she had not always been a project. AK really needed a provider, she was not making it as a single mom. Why not me?
I found a job out of state, with excellent pay and benefits. I told AK that I wanted to move and buy a nice house but I didn’t want to be away from her. I offered to hire her as my housekeeper, cook and maid to take care of the house. The wage I suggested was generous. I promised her there would be no change in the status of our friendship and no additional duties of a wife that she did not desire. I think she knew what I as trying to do and she wanted a better life for her twins and so she accepted it. Tongues wagged when we both moved away at the same time.
At our new ward we didn’t say we were married but we didn’t say we were not and most people assumed we were. Of course our membership record did not indicate it but we avoided the topic. We did not make any close friends and the ward was more affluent and not very friendly. We were given no callings either. People didn’t do much home teaching or visiting teaching. Cleaning the church seemed to be our role.
Another duty I assigned to AK was to manage the money and she did an excellent job. But at tax time she realized we could have a substantial marriage bonus. I think the real ringer was when her daughters started asking if we were married or if I was their daddy. We had a discussion and she could see the advantages of being married legally but only if the physical aspects of the relationship remained the same. She explained that in Japan many women no longer are intimate with their husbands once they have their children. We went down to the courthouse and were legally married and nothing much in the relationship changed.
The nice house we bought suited our needs. It had one bedroom and bath away from the other bedrooms and baths. One bath room was over the top with lots of tile and mirrors and a big hot tub. Neither one of us used it. AK preferred to take a shower late at night and I preferred the morning which was great. We were like roommates.
One Saturday night I was going through the next day’s lessons in church. It seemed the only words that needed translated for AK were the ones I didn’t know and it helped to study ahead and be prepared. AK came into the living room wearing only a robe which was extremely unusual. She announced that she thought it only fair that I know why she could never perform the duties of a wife. She took the robe off.
At first I thought how silly, she was surely not trying to show me that her breasts were too small (they were not huge) but they looked pretty nice to me. Then she turned around and I will never forget the ghastly sight. She had these horrible, thick, rope-like, parallel, evenly spaced, horizontal scars across her bottom and upper half of her thighs. They were about 2 inches apart and about a half an inch thick. I could not image a disease that would look like that and I knew they had to be severe inflicted injuries that had healed. She was crying and I wrapped her up in the robe and sat with her on the sofa and hugged her and told her repeatedly that I loved her heart and her mind and her soul and her body, even the parts that were scared.
I asked her how this happened. She said she deserved it for being a bad person. ZL was so angry with her that one night he heated up the patio grill until it was red hot and then he caught her and held her down sitting on the grill for what seemed like eternity until it sizzled. She screamed in agony. Something broke inside of her heart and she would never completely surrender her love to a man again. She couldn’t walk for several days and couldn’t sit for a month. Even then she could still feel the scars every time she sat down as a reminder.
I tried to tell her that not even the worst criminal deserved that kind of torture. I wanted to call the police, she insisted that I not. She never wanted her daughters to be able to read in a police report what their father did to their mother. I suggested therapy and she said she went to the bishop many times and he only told her that she must submit to her husband. I don’t think she would have told the bishop the whole extent, but at any rate she no longer trusted church leaders at all. She stopped wearing garments at that time and never started again.
I suggested we go to therapy and she could not bring herself to do that. Perhaps an older Japanese woman might have been acceptable to her but she did not want anyone to know about this. I extracted her permission to seek the advice of a therapist myself, but it had to be a woman over 60 years old.
The therapist wanted me to learn more of AK’s history and what prompted this “punishment.” She doubted it was an isolate incident. Slowly AK drew a basic sketch for me of her previous marriage. The problems began from the start. ZL’s idea of a honeymoon was to consummate the marriage in the first 10 minutes they were alone and as many times after as possible. AK’s idea was to take several days to build up to it once and then a couple of days to recover.
AK was terrified of sex, of having a big frisky man twice her weight bounce around on top of her. She knew it would hurt and it would bleed and it seemed almost like an operation in the hospital and she was right. She feared even more not pleasing her husband and that soon proved impossible. He forced her multiple times every day on the honeymoon and she grew to hate it and dread it. After that it was usually every night whether she wanted it or not.
It took months of agony to get pregnant but then she had the perfect excuse. She got sick or could tell it would hurt the baby. So ZL withdrew from her, physically and emotionally. She had a very difficult pregnancy being alone and the birthing of twins was nearly fatal. After that she had the perfect excuse of healing for many more months. Eventually he wanted her again but not as often and it didn’t hurt as much. But the pain seemed to get worse not better with more practice.
The physical abuse began within a few weeks of the wedding. At first it was a slap here or a kick there and always when she didn’t obey him or please him. She was convinced she deserved it especially at first. Eventually it escalated to punches and body slams. She had bruises on her face that required her to miss church or wear tons of make-up to hide them. She felt her ribs crack sometimes. He used kitchen utensils to hit her or got them hot to burn her.The patio grill incident seemed to shock him into less abuse after that but it did not completely stop.
AK was not the one to initiate the divorce. She would have stayed in the marriage until death. She became suspicious of his cheating on her when he wasn’t making as many demands for weeks at a time and the long trips and late nights. He became furious when she made the slightest suggestion and denied them. But one day he came home and announced he was leaving her and the ordeal ended suddenly.
The therapist was curious about her financial circumstances. Where was the child support? AK told me that he claimed she cheated on him and the children were not his. Her court appointed attorney wanted to submit the question to DNA analysis but AK refused. She was so insulted that he would make that claim and she wanted nothing to do with him ever again. If he didn’t want the children then there would be no visitation problems and that was worth it to her.
She did get a lump sum settlement and she spent most of it having large breast implants removed that he had insisted she get. She said this had ruined her breasts and thought they would never be normal again.
I was blathering on about our useless bathroom once when the therapist had a great idea. Didn’t the Japanese like hot tubs? Didn’t they bathe naked together asexually? I asked AK if we were in Japan would she to go to the bath house together and she agreed to sit in a hot tub together, no touching. She would go first so that I would not see her scars, or anything else really, and leave last. She also wanted it to be a family bath and brought her daughters in with us which felt uncomfortable at first but got better.
I made the large unoccupied master bedroom next to the big bathroom into a Japanese room. I raised the floor up to make it seem the ceiling was the correct height and we had tatami mats and wooden doors with paper window panes and closets. She helped me get the details all exactly correct.
I convinced AK to see a plastic surgeon. The scars were reduced to thin lines not visible in faded light by a series of procedures in the office. I took the opportunity to wash those incisions every night as slowly and carefully as I could while they healed and AK appreciated my care. He also let us look through some books with pictures of breasts and he did a little bit of modification to make her look like she thought she did originally.
The surgeon wanted to do a pelvic exam on the first visit and that was not easy. But it made sense to not delay it and get it all over with at the same time. I heard her cry out in pain from the waiting room. The good news was there were no injuries. She had a treatable condition called vaginismus. She experienced painful involuntary muscle contractions when anything more than a very soft napkin was placed in there. AK eagerly translated the instructions into Japanese detailing the physical therapy for it and after a few weeks it seemed to work.
I thought we might be years away from healing the psychological damage before we would be able to have a normal marriage. But one night AK put the twins to bed without a trip to the hot tub. Then after the bath she had me towel her down which was a new activity, I really never touched her that much before. Then she led me into the Japanese room and unrolled a new large futon purchased a few days before. We consummated our marriage more than a year after the trip to the courthouse. She did not experience any pain. We began a rich and mutually enjoyable intimate relationship.
After a few months AK became pregnant. She worried about hurting the baby but branched out into more creative activities. It became a pinnacle of our marriage. We would probably never be more fun-loving and adventurous. The sun rise vision seemed to be coming true.
The last few weeks of the pregnancy were very difficult. AK just didn’t have the body for a comfortable pregnancy. With about a month to go she went into premature labor. She got really sick and the baby was born. A few hours later he died. They suspected the cause and proved it in the laboratory about the time he died and were treating her for it from the beginning. He died from herpes encephalitis. AK had contracted herpes from ZL without knowing about it. Even years later he had managed to reach deep into the future and kill our first son and send our marriage into a tail spin. The outbreaks of painful little ulcers were minor to the pain AK suffered from the beating and she hardly noticed them. And when tested I was also positive for herpes. We could have more children but we would have to monitor it closely and maybe an early C-section would save the next child but maybe not. We might have to face losing a newborn child again.
We waded through much sorrow. It was hard to turn to each other. We went weeks in almost silence. Even the twins grieved with us. I had a hard time being strong because this was now my burden, not just hers to carry. Before I was atoning for a past mistake, but now it was so unfair. My delicate little flower had been battered too many times. A more robust thistle grew in its place. Still beautiful , but with thorns.
We became increasing isolated from the ward. Gossip spread quickly about what our baby died from and we became a quiet object lesson of why to keep the commandments. I thought ZL deserved some retribution. In another age I would have challenged him to a duel. AK quietly disagreed. One thing had happened at the death of our son, the public health department wanted to know who might also need treatment for herpes. ZL had another wife and I could never wish what I was suffering with the loss of a child on even my worst enemy. So ZL and his wife were quietly contacted and tested and he was undoubtedly positive. He could blame it on AK and his wife suffered the same (perceived ) unfairness that I did.
One day a year later AK announced it was time to move on. She dried her tears and began to come back to me at night to try and have another child. But a year of healing was not enough. We returned to visit my family and risk them ridiculing my wife and I contacted ZL’s bishop. He would not talk to me and told me to go through proper channels. So I summarized it in one sentence, you do know ZL beat his previous wife which required months of plastic surgery to repair and he cheated on her. His bishop completely dismissed my accusations.
A few weeks after the precarious vacation we were called in to visit with our bishop. ZL had gone through proper channels and accused AK of cheating without repenting of it. Our California bishop when contacted reported he was fairly certain we were living together in sin when we moved out of that ward. Our membership record revealed we were living together not married.
Our bishop was not impressed by our legal wedding at the courthouse some months after living together in the new house.
AK weakly retorted that ZL was the one who cheated on her. The bishop told us he suspected that was not true. ZL was one of the pillars in his ward and was above reproach. Our bishop counseled us that it was unacceptable to criticize and mock church leaders. He reminded us that if AK managed to repent and live worthy of the celestial kingdom, ZL was sealed to her and would be her husband. And no matter what, ZL would be sealed to their twin daughters (who saw me as their father), and to our son who only survived a few hours in this trail of tears (and was killed by his bringing this disease into our marriage). And sealed to any future children we might bring into the world!
I can see how our bishop came to believe this. We moved in, not exactly married and they knew it. We had a baby who died of herpes. Obviously we had to be immoral in his eyes. And I had stirred the hornet’s nest by telling another bishop one sentence of the truth, an outrageous truth about one of his friends and loyal supporters.
The thistle came out in AK when she told the bishop she wanted no part in a religion that gave people’s children in the next life to an abusive beast like ZL. She didn’t say anything else. We walked out of the building and I think it might be a cold day in hell before we go back.
It is time to move on. We will survive and our love will grow stronger again. Our sun rise vision is gone. We might replace it with another vision. Or we might just grow old together and suffer more of the tribulations of this life and try to find a few tidbits of sweetness now and then together.