Friday, September 02, 2016

Adulteries and Epiphanies

Independence Day 1985

There’s nothing like being yanked from slumber’s womb because someone left an alarm on. A persistent, jangling alarm poking my eardrum.

“Hello?” in my best I-wasn’t-really-asleep-you’re-not-imposing-at-all voice.
“This is Jane. Please tell Charlie I’m alright.”
“Wait. Jane? What is going on?”
“Just tell him I’m fine.”

What the fuck was that about?
The sleep fog cleared. Oh, shit. Jane. The wife of the man I was trying to end a crazy affair with. The pieces floated out of the dreamy haze and landed with a jarring thud on the floor of my consciousness.

Oh, shit. The exact same phrase I repeated when I “fell into” the affair. Okay, okay…need to regroup. I came home late last night after going to a movie with a friend. Charlie called. He was a little desperate because I hadn’t been home. Jesuschrist, there’s nothing more annoying than a clingy lover.

“Where the fuck are you?” I asked him.
“In the garage.”
“Shit, Charlie, this doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Jane’s fast asleep.”

And if the conversation wasn’t a wise idea, phone sex was probably high on the list of truly stupid ideas. But it served two purposes: first, it got Charlie off the phone faster than the endless conversation of why we needed to stop this nonsense and second, I was wound like a top.

I like words; phone sex employed many I didn’t use in my daily vocabulary.
Charlie wasn’t bad either.

And Jane, it turns out, was not asleep.

I still don’t know at which stage of the descriptive conversation she picked up the extension. There really wasn’t a good entrance point. Not during verbal foreplay, mid-crescendo, certainly not during denouement…not even the post-coital chit-chat. It didn’t matter, the whole mess exploded (pun acknowledged) and I was standing there in the middle of the shitstorm.

So was Charlie but honestly I didn’t much care–his shitstorm was his problem. I was at metaphorical center stage for public stoning.


Charlie and Jane were friends of my husband and mine. Actually Jane may have been my husband’s supervisor at the time. That still makes me cringe. (This was the husband I had left some seven months earlier and was on my way to divorcing. This was my husband of seven-and-a-half years who had asked me for an open marriage two years after our über-traditional wedding.) I’d always liked Charlie. 19 years my senior, he had a warmth and genuineness that I found somewhat lacking in my husband’s fellow corporate climbers. He was a throw-back to an era of patchouli and political rebellion. A grown-up Texas hippie with a job. Funny and sweet.

About the time I moved out of the house, Charlie had had a stroke. He was in his early forties. Within our circle of friends, we all took turns helping out. I went over and made him lunch one day. As a student, my schedule had a little more flexibility than others so I got lunch duty. His left side was affected. Or was the right? What difference did it make? He was wearing a patch to strengthen his stroke-weakened eye. It was like he was playing pirate. Oddly charming. He could walk but was not completely steady. He was in good spirits for having had a stroke at such a young age.

I made lunch and we chatted. It was delightful. When it was time for me to go, I went over to the couch where he was resting to give him a hug good-bye. As I turned from hugging him, our lips met. I swear on a stack of scarlet letters, it seemed an accident. How could I have been so naïve? I should have known that the man schemed that. Anyway, it didn’t matter—the fuse was lit and we were covered in accelerant. Oh, shit.

This was February. By April his obsession had cooled my passions and I was looking for a quiet exit. Well, that ship had sailed and sunk. He wanted to marry me. I promised him that the very last thing I was interested in was another marriage. If he left his wife, he’d better be ready to live alone because I had no intention of filling that void. In May, we had a moony, candlelit rendezvous in Taos under the guise of his going on a Buddhist retreat or somesuch bullshit. It was supposed to be our affair farewell.

But things dragged on. Until the July 4th explosion. Then, I told him, we were completely done. Over. Finis.

He started showing up on campus just as my classes would let out. Then, one day he waited for me outside my job. I threatened him with a restraining order and that threw some cold water on the crazy. He was no modern stalker. Just a lovesick, impulsive, relentless, self-absorbed man. A real pain-in-the-ass.

Saint to Whore

The simplest backstory to all this was that I was raised Mormon. It’s complicated but safe to say I was the most straight-laced girl to emerge from my high school class. Pristine. Prudish. I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs and I was Acolyte to the Goddess of the Intact Hymen.

Engaged to marry as a college freshman, my fiancé’s clarion call was “Marry or Burn!” Nice. I followed the letter and the spirit of the law with zeal. I didn’t just avoid sin—I avoided even the “appearance of evil.” At 18 I went to my wedding bed with my Girl Scout Virginity patch sewn on. Tight.

I loved my husband. I did. Three days after my 23rd birthday I gave birth to our second child. By that time, the concept of happily ever after was seriously tarnished. One day not long after, I woke up and thought: I saved myself for this? Still, I loved being a mother; my life was quite traditional, more like my mother’s than my peers’. So I went to therapy to bridge the widening gap between my dreams and my reality.

When I left him almost 3 years later, my halo took a solid hit. Then, eight months after that, on July 4th I completed the transition that had terrified me as a young zealot: I went from Saint to Whore. In 24-hours. The news was out. I was a double-home-wrecker.

The most amazing thing about the crossover was the relief. Not just relief but all-caps RELIEF. Suddenly, people viewed me as a Jezebel. I would never again have to hold up that façade (equally flawed) of perfection. Accepting that people saw you as contemptible, however untrue that felt, was intoxicating. I was okay with being judged and misjudged. I was free.

Silly postscript: Of course, the names of the cuckold and the cuckolder have been changed because this is thinly veiled enough.


david said...

this is wonderfully written. thank you.

Marisa said...

Excellent. I want to know more about the free part. What was it like to be free?!?

Epiphenita said...

It is hard to express what it felt like to be released from the grip of propriety and piety. After 25 years of having my identity locked into being a "good girl," I felt liberated from MY need to have their approval. I felt unburdened by the desire to convince anyone that I wasn't evil. I was actually happier that they thought terrible things about me because it didn't matter. It was amazing.