A New and Delicate Balancebyangiquesophie©
There are a million signs to tell you that your wife has found a new and delicate balance in your marriage. The balance of cheating on you while still loving you. Don't ask for the logic in this.
You most probably are the only one who doesn't see even one of those signs. Or recognize them for what they are. Because all those signs are positive. They are also a balm for your ego. So why would you?
She starts looking great. She becomes self-assured and outgoing. Her tastes in make-up and fashion get a daring touch. She is great company at parties and evenings out. She laughs about your jokes. And she sometimes even takes the initiative in bed.
Who would worry, who would complain?
My wife found her balance relatively early. We had been married for just over eight years when I found out. I had no idea, of course. I was still too busy admiring her as the saint and the sex goddess rolled into one delicious package.
Don't tell me I should have seen it coming. Don't tell me we had less sex than we had at the start. Of course we had. But we also had what we didn't have at the start: the thousands of other great things a loving couple can acquire outside the bed.
We had shared interests. In arts, theatre. In travel and books. In cooking great food and entertaining friends. In finding new restaurants, great little delicatessen. We went and learned how to tango and salsa. We were busy being happy all over the place.
We had developed these interests together, they were ours. For yes, we adored each other. I married the wittiest person I knew. And what she had wasn't too dull either. We made friends together. We discovered things together, like eating raw oysters. We experienced first things. Found favourite cities, dreamed shared dreams...
Like having a child together. Or even two.
We loved to talk about that dream. Over dinner, in bed, on vacations. We hugged each other and imagined the children, even thought of names. Funny thing is, though, that we always talked about it in the future tense. It was something we would do, might do one day.
Our lives were full, maybe too full for a third person. That is to say, as I discovered later, not too full for a third person, but for a child.
Elaine, my wife, works as an editor for a fashion magazine. A rather well known magazine too. I am Eric and a client services director at a New York agency. A rather good one too. We made a lot of money, but as you know, New York has this way of making you feel you'd always need more.
So we worked long hours, travelled for work, had shootings and late conferences. And as anyone who works hard can tell you: it is addictive. It starts feeling good. It makes you feel that you belong, that you are more alive. It makes you feel important.
But sometimes the body wants a time-out of that game. You get sick. You gulp handfuls of medicine, but even at 31 there is a limit. I reached that limit on a Friday, around lunch. The mere thought of eating drove me to the men's room to throw up.
So I left the building early, hailed a cab and drove home.
No, there were no sounds from the bedroom when I got home. There was nobody, actually. The house was empty, the bed was empty. That is, until I dropped my aching body on it and fell into the swirling eye of a feverish dream.
It was a very strange, unsettling dream. It had voices in it, and peculiar sounds. It felt like walking through a Hiëronymus Bosch painting of sounds. Groans were there, moaning, even shrill screams. And under it rolled deeper sounds that grunted and rumbled.
I dreamed that I woke up. My throat felt parched and my head seemed on fire. I dreamed that I rolled out of bed, bare feet on the cool slick floor. I dreamed that I went to the bathroom to find some water, but my dream must have made me take the wrong door.
I found myself in the corridor that led to the sitting room of our one floor apartment. And suddenly the sounds were all around me, getting louder and more intense.
One or two times I have dreamed of Elaine fucking a guy that wasn't me. Both times I woke up with the huge relief that it had only been a dream.
Not this time.
This time the dream went on and turned into a nightmare.
Did I tell you Elaine has the most glorious legs? They never end. And now they lay on the bare shoulders of a man. I remember noticing the dark red polish on her toenails. I also remember her yelling: "Yes!! Oh yes... so good...go onnnn...harder...harderrrr..."
It may have been the shock. It may have been the fever. But it seemed as if time had taken a vacation. Things moved in a jelly. Elaine's mouth opened and shut like that of a goldfish. And her hips pushed into the man as if she rode a sea of lazy waves.
I dreamed that it was beautifully elegant. My mouth must have fallen open as I just stood there in this crazy space of no-time.
Elaine was the first to see me. The man could not. His back was towards me. And he was way too busy. But Elaine's eyes met mine. They focussed. Then they turned away again and she resumed her litany of lust.
"Yessss...ooooh god yessss...do me harder...oh god, love, make me come...make me commmmmeeee....."
She wailed like I had never heard her do before. Her cunt was a blur by now. He was jamming his cock into her as if it were the piston of a crazy machine.
The moment time kicked in again and I stepped forward to interfere, she came. She came hard. In fact she did come harder than I ever saw her do. It was almost frightening. Her hips soared and her body arched on the leather couch.
She was an animal.
The man came too. I heard his deep, barking sounds mingle with her keening wails.
They went on and on until their bodies slumped and they lay crushed together on the pillows. There was a sheen of sweat on their skin.
Somehow I had fallen to my knees. And the only thing I thought was that they lay on the leather couch we had bought from our very first bonuses in the second year of our marriage. We had visited all shops in the city. And we were so proud of it. We could hardly afford it, back then.
Elaine pushed against her lover.
"You better go now, Jason," she said in a hoarse voice.
He protested, but then he saw me. For a few seconds he didn't know what to do. Elaine kept pushing him. He got off the couch, avoiding my stare. He gathered his clothes and started dressing.
Elaine had by now found a way to sit up and cover her cunt. It was a silly modesty, but it felt quite natural for her to do that. The man had by now pulled up his trousers.
"We'll phone," Elaine said, waving him out.
"But honey, I love you. I'll always love only you."
Her voice was soft, as were her eyes. She even smiled.
I hadn't said much since the guy had left, minutes ago. She had been doing most of the talking in her calm and precise way. I had risen from my knees. My head seemed to float away from my shoulders. It contained a feverish buzz.
When the door fell in its lock, I had looked into her calm eyes.
"Why?" I had said. My voice seemed wrapped in cotton.
She had begged me to sit with her, but I ignored that. I just leaned on the arm of the club chair.
"Honey," had been her first word. It made me wince.
"I never had the intention for you to find out. But in a way I am glad this happened."
I felt as though I had never left the dream, really. I just stared.
"You love him? You want to leave me for him?"
That is when she said that I was silly. She only loved me. She even said that she could never have done this hadn't she been so sure of our love. Yes, don't try to fathom her logic, I never could.
"You see," she went on after my baffled silence. "What Jason and I have is wonderful, but it is only sex. What he gives me is something I never found with you. It fulfils me in a totally different way. It is primitive, it makes me soar. But it isn't love. I could never live with him and be without your love. You are my only love."
I turned away from her, leaving for the door.
She called my name. "Please," she said. "Don't be childish, honey. We need to talk."
I stopped at the door.
"I am sick. I have a fever. I can't talk now."
I went to our bedroom, where I stood for a second. Then I walked over to the guestroom, locked the door and fell on the bed.
Strangely enough, I slept immediately.
When I woke, the sheets were soaked. But I felt clear headed. The fever must have broken during my sleep.
I rose and crawled out of the bed. My knees were weak, I felt very faint.
I smelt coffee from the kitchen. It didn't turn my stomach, so I went there. Elaine sat at the table, wearing her bathrobe. She sipped coffee. At my arrival she rose and asked if I wanted a cup. That was the moment when all of yesterday returned.
I froze and swayed on my feet. She came to me, arms stretched to keep me from falling. But I moved out of her way, grabbing the table's edge.
"Are you all right, honey?" she asked.
I groaned that I was fine, I didn't need her.
At that her eyes widened.
"We really must talk, Eric. This is all getting way out of perspective. Please tell me you can talk now."
"I could use that coffee now," I said.
She poured it and when she put the cup in front of me she tried to touch my arm. I withdrew.
Her eyes flinched. She returned to her side of the table.
"Really, Eric. We are not children."
That exactly was the phrase that woke me. A flood of hot blood rushed to my head. I put the cup down hard, spilling black coffee on the white top.
"Are you out of your mind, Elaine?"
She hesitated, obviously confused by the direction the conversation took.
"Me?" she asked, her voice a bit higher.
My voice trembled. I hated that, but it did.
"It seems you don't care that you ripped my heart out and trampled on it?"
Her eyelashes fluttered. A colour rose from her throat.
"But...but, no!" she cried, a hand in front of her mouth.
"Honey, you got it all wrong. You must not see it that way. I don't love him at all. I love you. He...he is a treat, a pastime. Please, honey..."
She rose again and came to me.
"Stay where you are!" My voice was sharp, it stopped her.
"How long has this been going on?"
She slumped back into her chair. Her eyes never left mine.
"You...you should never have needed to know, darling," she whispered. "Oh God...why can't you see it as it is?"
I then knew Jason had not been a one time "treat". And maybe not the only one either. I found back a calmer voice.
"I guess I do see, Elaine. I see it, don't worry."
Worrying was by now exactly what she started doing. The knuckles of her hands whitened on the table's edge. The blush had pulled away to be replaced by an ashen paleness.
"Honey..." Her voice broke. "Please don't shatter all we've got. Don't do it. Don't throw it away. Believe me, it isn't worth it. I love you, Eric. Please!"
My head spun. Who was this woman? Did she ask ME not to shatter what we had?
I sat back, pushing the coffee mug away from me.
"Yes, Elaine," I said. "You must be crazy. I guess you always were."
I rose, making the chair screech on the tiles.
Eileen also rose, hands in front of her, in a beseeching gesture.
"No, Eric! Don't leave now. Please let me explain."
She talked very fast now.
"It is all different from what you think. Jason is nothing. He is a game, a pastime. You must see that. It is like my BMW Z3 little sports car. I bought that just for me to enjoy. A private thing. You never minded that, did you?"
She looked up at me, all eagerness.
"What the hell do you mean, Elaine?"
"Ehm...eh...last week I went to that expensive spa with Cynthia, remember? That was just for me too. Pampering myself, see?"
"Please, Elaine," I said. "Let's try this again when your brain kicks back in. Until then I have no time for your bullshit."
I left to take a shower. She tried to stop me. There seemed to be a first tear in her voice.
When I returned, all clean and dressed, Elaine wasn't in the kitchen. She wasn't in the living room either. I made myself a cheese sandwich and started reading the paper.
The phone rang. It was Cynthia, Elaine's friend. She asked for Elaine. I told her she wasn't in. Then I said:
"Cynthia, I found out that Elaine is fucking behind my back."
There was silence on the phone. I went on:
"You knew all along, didn't you, Cynthia?"
There was another silence. I said:
"And of course you knew it all the time this went on, didn't you?"
Her voice now came in timid and low.
"Eric, that is something between you and Elaine. Please understand."
"Thanks for being a friend," I said and killed the connection.
A few minutes later Elaine came in. She carried a big brown bag of groceries.
I watched her as she put them away. I watched the almost feline grace of her movements. The beauty of her hair, her face. And I learned that I could no longer look at her without feeling my heart touch my throat.
I turned away and asked her if she wanted a sandwich too. She declined, but poured herself a glass of buttermilk.
I guess my offer made her think there were new openings for reason.
"Honey," she said. "You obviously take this all way too seriously. I feel so sorry to have hurt you. You really should not feel hurt. It never meant a thing to me. Not really. And it should never ever make you think that I don't love you."
I stared at her, making her nervous with my silence. Then I decided to talk with her as if she weren't totally demented.
"Elaine", I said at last and saw her exhale with relief.
"Please look at that couch." I pointed over into the living room to the leather couch they had been fucking on. She followed my finger.
"We bought that with our first hard earned money, remember? We went to see half New York for it. It took us two months to decide. We could hardly afford it."
She nodded silently.
"I can never again sit on it, Elaine. Not alone and certainly not with you. You poisoned it."
"Oh, but Eric..." she started. I stopped her.
"Remember that night, two months ago? When we ate at that new restaurant in Tribeca? It was for our eight's anniversary. I can't go there anymore, Eileen. I think I'll never be able to get down one spoon of that saltimbocca, which as you know used to be one of my favourite plates."
She just stared now, pale as a ghost.
"Afterwards we went to our favourite club in the Village to hear jazz and do some dancing. I doubt if I can ever hear jazz again."
I pointed to the far wall.
"See that picture? We bought it at Jean and William's gallery. We had seen it separately, but we knew both at once that it was ours. I remember how thrilled we were about that. How we raced over to the place to get it before someone else did."
My voice had risen in enthusiastic remembrance. It almost brought a smile to her face. Until I went on.
"Please, honey, if you don't want to get it destroyed, save it. Put it somewhere out of reach before I tear it up."
By now her tears matched mine. She reached over the table to touch my hand, but I pulled it away. Her voice was a whisper.
"God, sweet Eric, please. I had no idea. Believe me, honey, please, nothing changed. I love you as much as ever. God, I should have known. I feel so sorry. Me and Jason, it just..."
"Don't say that name in front of me!" I screamed. "Or those of the others you fucked behind my back! Don't pollute this house more than you already did!"
I stood and pushed the chair over. Then I walked away to a closet and pulled out two suitcases. Elaine screamed when she saw what I planned to do, but I walked past her to our bedroom.
Half an hour later I carried the suitcases to the door. Elaine had long since stopped protesting.
"Don't call me, Elaine," I said at the door. "Don't try to find me. I'll call in a week. I need time to think. I guess you do too."
It was a week of numbness. Nothing seemed to touch me. There was an invisible mist between me and the world. I went to work without really being there. I ate food without tasting it, drank a lot of strong drinks without feeling them.
I had found a small suite in a modest hotel in Chelsea, close to the post office headquarters. The days were drab, the nights endless. On the evening of the second workday my boss came by to ask what was going on. I told him I had left Elaine, whom he knew well. He never asked me why, but told me to take a few days off, as I wasn't worth anything anyhow.
I spent the next day in the park, watching baseball and skaters. It also seemed that there were more kissing couples around than I ever saw before.
I spent the next morning in Barnes & Nobles, trying to find a book that would hold me longer than the first few lines. I did not succeed.
I got a call on my cell. It was the first one that was not from Elaine, so I did not have to ignore it. It was Everett, a very good friend who owned a gallery in SoHo. We went to college together. He asked me what was up, as he had not been able to catch me at home.
That night we met at a small restaurant and talked. Halfway through the first course I knew enough. I put down my napkin, took fifty dollars from my wallet and thanked him for nothing. I left the restaurant and stopped at the first bar, a dark Irish hole. I got very drunk.
The next morning I woke quite a bit later than my body did. I took some painkillers and was amazed at the clarity of my head. I went over to have a good hot breakfast. Then I flipped through the numbers in my cell phone. They were mostly colleagues and business numbers. But some of them were friends and good acquaintances.
Quite a few worked or lived on Manhattan Island, so I decided to start and visit a few. After the second visit I regretted the plan and decided to forget the rest. The bar that night wasn't Irish, but it served me and my liver just as well.
When the next Friday rolled by, I knew that I was probably the loneliest person on the island, which must mean a lot, considering. I did not have contact with work, nor with friends or colleagues. Elaine kept calling me. I kept ignoring her, wiping off voicemail and text messages.
The last few days I had walked the length and breadth of Manhattan. I must have walked at least fifty miles and it did me well. I started seeing again. I saw buildings, birds, trees, cars, even people. Many of the places were connected with Elaine. Over the years we had loved to walk the streets of New York City, from Harlem down to Battery Park, from the piers to Brooklyn. So a lot of what I saw, I saw with her eyes. And it hurt. It hurt like a blazing iron cauterizing a bleeding wound.
I guess it helped, though. By Friday afternoon I felt quiet inside as I sipped a cappuccino at Starbuck's. That's when I decided to no longer ignore her calls. I guess she hadn't done much work this week either, for she was at the Starbuck's only minutes after I called her. She looked good, but drawn. I did not touch her or even say hello when she came in.
"You look tired and sad, Eric," she said after sitting down. "I am sorry to have caused that."
I felt my mouth try to smile. It failed.
"Last time I saw you, Elaine, you tried to explain things. I was not in the mood then. But maybe things are different now."
Her eyes lighted up, but I raised my hand.
"One thing you should know, though," I continued. "I have been seeing people, this week. I have talked and heard things. You should realize while explaining, that I know a lot by now."
"I won't lie to you, Eric. You know I never would."