Julie’s Story: 4. Sojourn In The Wilderness, Part I

From the moment Julie told me that she was leaving her husband to be with Philip,1 her life changed in momentous, sometimes dramatic ways. Some of those changes, to be sure, were of the sort many others were going through: completing an undergraduate degree, starting a career, and leaving home.

And, I underwent my own share of transformations. But, were the six years following Julie’s divorce announcement to be served up as coming of age pieces, my life would be a plodding Bildungsroman written in a quasi-Dickensian style by a third rate hack while it would require a Kubrick-Kafka collaboration to produce a movie depicting Julie’s life as it rocketed from the leaden misery of an unfulfilled marriage into chaos.

Only after years of repeatedly hearing about these events from Julie and others did I comprehend the bizarre, almost surreal essence of this period of her life and conveying that quality to readers via this condensed synopsis is an unlikely prospect. I can, however, offer a selection of pertinent experiences set forth in as accurate a fashion as possible in hopes of communicating a flavor of Julie’s life during this time. The headings and sections that follow are, I believe, helpful in organizing this material for myself and for readers, but they are arbitrarily inflicted and are consequently misleading to the extent that they imply a linear flow to a period that was characterized by confusion and disorder. Finally, I must acknowledge the obvious: I was hardly an unbiased observer of the relationship between Julie and her first husband or Julie and Philip. Indeed, I could hardly be considered an observer at all. All the information in this post derives from Julie, her family, and friends and there is no pretense that this is an even-handed account.

The Divorce & Its Sequelae

Before Julie disclosed her divorce plans to me, she and her husband had already agreed to divide their property equally, manage the divorce on a do it yourself basis, and designate Julie as primary custodian of their child. On the day both were scheduled to move to their new homes, the husband fractured these arrangements, not only emptying joint accounts that were to be split between them but also abducting their daughter to another state. Julie initiated what proved to be an arduous, expensive, and frustrating battle to regain custody. In the meantime, the father soon remarried and started a new family, ceding custody of the daughter, de facto, to his own parents. The legal struggle climaxed four years later in a Texas courthouse when a local judge awarded custody of the child to the paternal grandparents, noting reprovingly that they were “the only parents this little girl has known for most of her life.”


Before I knew of his relationship with Julie, I thought Philip was a pompous, histrionic simpleton. (Admittedly, I would have assigned similar assessments to a significant fraction of the faculty.) My opinion of him didn’t improve when I discovered he had tried to list my official grade in his class as an A minus although the school didn’t recognize plus and minus modifiers. He did later apologize, confessing that the petty insult of the A minus was motivated by his view that I was a rival for Julie’s affections.

It’s a testament to my feelings for Julie that I assumed she must have seen qualities in him I had somehow missed. It so, it was one of those rare cases in which she was wrong. Philip was not the nouveau-Thoreau Julie perceived, nor was he the self-aggrandizing, not-too-bright, small town pseudo-academic and all-around jerk I thought him to be.

Philip was, in fact, what discreet folks in a more genteel era would have called “unstable.”

The First Move

Julie and Philip moved from the school I attended in southwest Missouri to a college town in the Midwest where he claimed to have “connections” (his term) and job prospects. He accepted a position teaching secondary school while Julie enrolled in the same graduate school he had attended. Julie and I exchanged letters for a time, and I visited them once in their home, but even this tentative epistolary linkage attenuated and eventually dissipated.

At first, Julie and Philip seemed subject to no more than the routine hassles of a newly wed couple setting up housekeeping and starting new jobs. Julie, for example, was pursuing the custody fight for her daughter, Philip’s ex-wife pushed for more alimony, his son had problems that led to him living with them for a time, and Philip’s job was a demotion in status and pay.

The real difficulty began when Julie’s talents became apparent in graduate school. She quickly impressed the faculty to the point that she was found, ex post facto, to qualify for a scholarship that was not available to her when she enrolled. Her scholastic life there became a recurrent motif of prizes being awarded, accolades being bestowed, and hosannas being raised. And, of course, comparisons between Julie’s performance and Philip’s record at the same school a few years previous were made, to Philip’s disadvantage. Accusations by Philip that Julie was somehow seducing grades and recommendations from the faculty soon followed. His animated conversational style gave way to brooding silences.

After a year, Philip left or was fired from his teaching job and announced his plans to return to school for post-doctoral work. When his application was not accepted, he became increasingly morose and taciturn. His behavior also became ominous. He once purchased, as a surprise for Julie, a large hunting dog that barked incessantly because, they later discovered, the dog was deaf. Within a week, neighbors complained to Julie, who relayed those concerns to Philip. On returning home from school that same day, Julie found that Philip had resolved the matter by shooting the dog in the head. He began talking about leaving the trappings of civilization behind to farm one or another remote property and write books in splendid isolation.

While discontent grew between them, Julie completed her studies and received not only her doctorate and a batch of awards, but also an offer of a well paid, tenure track position on the faculty at the University of Puerto Rico. While this was hardly a hotbed of English Literature studies, it was a steady paycheck, a chance to teach in an era when new faculty openings were rare, and, not insignificantly, an opportunity for Julie and Philip to get a fresh start in a semi-exotic locale that was far removed from their current home and the growing morass of their financial and emotional problems.

Consequently, the job was gratefully accepted, moving plans were made, possessions were packed, excess goods were stored, and finally the flight to Puerto Rico took off – with Julie sitting next to an empty seat. Philip had disappeared.


Julie Showalter

Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman with whom I had a outrageously wonderful marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a brilliant scholar, the mother of our two sons, and a prize-winning author. Many posts on this blog are about her and still others consist of her writings. Julie’s Story is the account of our unlikely romance, Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ.

Julie’s Story

Next Installment: 5. Sojourn In The Wilderness, Part II
Previous Installment: 3. Oblivious
First Installment Of Julie’s Story: 1. This Is How A Love Story Began

Note: Originally posted April 25, 2006 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of AllanShowalter.com


  1. See Chapter 2: The First To Know []

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