“So you just get as much free beer as you want?” I ask. “Not exactly,” you reply and then you launch into the intricacies of the credit system followed by, “would you like some?” If I was being honest I would tell you I don’t like your beer all that much. If I was being honest I’d tell you that I’ve actually never sat on someone’s face and if you asked me to I’d be confused by which direction I’m supposed to be facing.
We arrange a day for you to swing by and drop off a six-pack. Only our second time meeting in person but with all the photo-swapping, joke-telling, and secret-sharing, our relationship feels much more intimate. I tell you my street address and you spit back my postal code. “Stalker much?” I say, to which you reply, “I used to live in that building.” Our love story according to Nora Ephron would start with a montage of all the times we missed each other before we met. Her version would also paint me much less like a home-wrecker than you tend to make me feel.
I find you waiting in the lobby holding the six-pack. I extend my hand and go in for a handshake to ease your philandering nerves. You handoff the beer and skip the handshake. “Wanna come up?” In my apartment, I have the time to take you in. You’re every bit as attractive as I remember but I do my best not to let that show. Despite the safety of you having to get back to work and me having a roommate, you are still cautious to maintain a great distance between us. I’m not a predator. I won’t jump you. Those feelings that you’re visibly wrestling? They have nothing to do with me. Though I like having you in my space, I don’t like the stench of guilt that you brought with you. I have to get to my job and you should get back to yours. You offer me a ride. I decline. I want to be in your car. But more than that I want to be in your heart and right now, I can see, all I am is in your fantasy. After you leave I look around my apartment which now resembles a dingy motel room with drawn blinds and dim lighting. I vow to keep our meeting places neutral because that’s more important than vowing to respect myself.
We go see Iron Man 3. You preface the outing by saying “no touching” as if I’m an animal you need to cage. You don’t understand me at all. I want to be with someone who can’t wait to be next to me. Not someone who has to send me ground rules. I should’ve backed out when I read that message. But I suppose if you being married wasn’t the line, then you being an asshole wasn’t going to be it either.
Our emotional affair has continued long enough that it’s time for you to swing by my work again. We make eyes at each other while maintaining discretion. It’s fun and sexy and I remember how it was before you were married. Or rather, before I knew. You’re done your work and you leave. You take the rose-coloured glasses that veiled our relationship with you and I see the reality of the situation. “I can’t do this anymore,” I text. And I work the rest of my shift with equal parts confidence in my resolve and mourning for the loss of you. I do my cashout and check my phone. “We should probably talk about this in person.” My heart pounds. Another text, “Here.” I consider heading straight for the exit but my curiosity keeps me there. I plead my case. You understand. You plead yours. I understand. We share a drink and agree to be friends. Friends? Yes, “friends.” Look at us being adults. We say our goodbyes. The hug lasts too long. It says anything but “friends.” The movement we made seemingly erased in one silent moment of contact. It was electric. It was tragic. Despite that, we respect our mutual decision and maintain distance. I have an affair with an Irish man that feels like something from a movie. I live, I laugh, I love, and I try not to beat myself for that one time when I fell for a married man. I feel good.
“I’m moving out.” There it is again. That ominous glow from my cellphone. But this time it isn’t bad news. You follow it up with apologies for being a stranger and for all the times you may have put me in a shitty position. You left your wife? Am I the exception to the rule? I celebrate by drinking one of your beers. I still don’t like it. And now I feel the freedom to tell you that. I can have an opinion. I’m no longer scared of turning you off because your separation is the ultimate declaration of being very much turned on. The emotional rollercoaster our tryst has taken is finally coming to an end. You send me a photo of you and some friends that helped you move. I send you a selfie of me celebrating.
The next day I check-in. No response. You must need space so I give it to you. The day after that, “everything okay?” and still nothing. I get confused. “Did I do something?” Silence. I read back through our message history to verify that you leaving your wife wasn’t something that I dreamt up. “I’m getting a little worried. I understand you may need space but at least tell me you’re okay.” Nothing. In an effort to ward off neediness I delete our message history and your contact info from my phone. You’ll come back to me when you’re ready. But you were never going to be ready. All along I kept telling myself that this wasn’t about me. I wasn’t the one doing something wrong. This was about your feelings for your wife. Turns out it wasn’t about her either. It was about another woman. The one that you now had permission to be with after my affection sparked in you the promise of something more than a loveless marriage. The one that I learned about from a friend of yours. The one that proved to me I wasn’t the exception to the rule. The one that… the one.
I purposely don’t grab a basket at the grocery store to manage my spending so all I can buy is what I can carry. Arms full I make my way to the cash and choose the shortest line. My body reacts to the man in front of me before my brain clues in. “Mmm… cute,” I think, as I begin to unload my items on the conveyor.
“Hey!” you say with warm familiarity. The woman next to you turns to see who you’re addressing. A moment of confusion and then everything snaps into focus. My smile fades. Hey?! HEY! FUCKIN’ “HEY?!”
“HA!” I blurt out as I retrieve my items and head to another line. I keep my back turned to you. I want so badly to know what lie you are concocting to explain to your lady friend why a woman she doesn’t know would react to you in that way. I look back long enough to see her mouthing “OHHHH” and staring in my direction. I’m certain whatever you just said to her was unfair to me. And though that should make me mad, it actually makes me happy. Happy that I am not that woman. Happy that I am not with a man who lies about his indiscretions. But most of all happy that I never sat on your fuckin’ face. Either facing away or towards your body. Like seriously, am I supposed to pop-a-squat facing your head or rest my knees against your shoulders facing your feet? I just don’t get the mechanics!