Scenes from a Marriagebyohio©
In their rooms at the other end of the hall the children were both asleep. Matt and Lynn sat side by side in bed, propped up against their pillows. He was reading a book on the Civil War, she was editing a marketing report.
With a tiny sigh, Matt closed his book and rolled sideways to gaze at his wife. He had always loved the way the tip of her tongue protruded just a bit from between her lips when she was concentrating. Pen poised above the paper, she absent-mindedly swept a stray lock of her dark hair back over one ear.
"Mmm," she replied, without looking up. Matt waited, and after a moment she turned to look at him.
"Do you love him?"
Lynn became very still, and a little pale. She looked at him silently. She just couldn't bring herself to play the game—to say, "who?", or to try some ridiculous lie. Matt deserved better than that.
"No," she said.
"So then it's all just about the fucking?"
"Matt, I—," she began, trying to hold his gaze. Then she looked down at the papers on her lap. "Yes—I guess it was about the sex. The flirting, and then the sex."
"I see," he said. Silence.
"I think I'd like you to sleep in the guest room," he said, his voice still calm and quiet. She nodded, and got out of bed, sliding her feet into her slippers. She reached for her robe on the chair.
"Unless of course you fucked him in this bed. If you did that I'm never sleeping in it again."
"No," she said, "I didn't do that." She wanted to say, "How could you think I would do such a thing?"—but it would be ridiculous, under the circumstances.
Without another word Matt turned off the light on his night-table and put his head down on the pillow, his back turned to her. Lynn gazed at him for a minute, her face tight with pain. Then she quietly left the room, shutting the door behind her.
When Matt got home the house was full of delicious smells. He hung up his coat and Lynn came out of the kitchen to greet him with a smile, though she didn't dare come close. She had one of her pretty aprons on, the one she wore when guests were coming over.
"Beth and Jason are having dinner at the Frankels'—I thought I'd cook us something nice tonight," she said, trying to keep the smile on her face.
Matt glanced into the dining room. The table was set with a tablecloth, their good china, and two of their best wine glasses. There were candles, and cloth napkins in silver napkin rings.
Matt nodded. "It smells good. Let me go wash up, and I'll be down in a few minutes."
When he returned Lynn was just bringing the food in from the kitchen. She served each of them some of the roast chicken, along with julienned potatoes and green beans. A nice salad with orange slices stood to one side in a pretty bowl.
They sat down and Lynn smiled brightly at her husband, though the strain was obvious in her face.
"This looks very nice," Matt said. Then, unhurriedly, he stood up and climbed up onto his chair, so that he towered over the table. As Lynn looked on in confusion, then in horror, he unzipped his pants, pulled out his cock, and slowly, carefully, pissed all over the table. He doused the chicken, the side dishes, the salad bowl, and the freshly-filled glasses of wine. His urine soaked their plates and drenched the tablecloth.
"Matt, what—!" Lynn cried out, almost involuntarily. Her eyes were wide with shock and dismay.
Matt zipped back up and climbed down off the chair. He looked intently at Lynn.
"I thought you might like to see what it feels like when someone pisses all over something you care about, something you've put a lot of time and love and effort into. I thought it might be a learning experience."
Lynn didn't reply, just gazed back at her husband, tears sliding down her cheeks. Matt went to the closet, pulled out his coat, and left the house.
"I requested a transfer," she said.
"They're moving me into the domestic marketing section, a week from tomorrow—I wanted it to be as soon as possible. I'll be in the building over on Union Street, away from ... away from where I am now."
"And why did you request this transfer? I thought you liked the international section."
"So I won't be around ... around Douglas. I won't be in the same office anymore."
He stopped raking the leaves and turned to look at her, standing near him in her colorful fall sweater. "And this matters to me, why?"
She looked both annoyed and hurt. "Because I won't be seeing him, that's all. I wanted you to know that."
Her turned back to the raking. "Lynn, you already told me it was over. Surely I take you at your word and trust you completely—can you think of any reason why I wouldn't?"
Stamping her foot a little she said, "dammit, Matt, do you really think your sarcasm is helpful?"
"And do YOU really think that moving out of that office is going to make everything better? As though there aren't motels, and lunch hours, and breakfast meetings? Or 'client meetings' out of the office?
"For that matter, as though there aren't plenty of other men out there who'd be happy to fuck your brains out?"
Matt's voice had risen to an angry pitch. But he kept raking the leaves into orderly piles, not looking at her.
"Matt," she said in a small, sad voice. "What else can I do? I'm trying everything I can, every way I know how to—"
She started to cry. "—to show you how sorry I am, to begin to make it up to you somehow."
He turned back to her. "And you suppose there is some way you can 'make it up to me'—some magic formula, just the right words or actions or gestures? And it'll all be over and done with?
"Get real, Lynn. You're living in a fucking dream world."
He turned away again, back to his raking.
Lynn heard little feet coming down the hall, and then Beth's head appeared in the doorway, looking sleepy and confused.
"Mommy? Why're you sweeping in the guess' woom?" Although she was nearly six she still spoke with a bit of a lisp, especially when she was tired.
"I've been staying up late for work, honey, and I'm in here so I don't disturb daddy. Did you have a bad dream?''
Beth nodded solemnly, and Lynn swung off the bed to pick her up. "Come sleep with me, Bethie, you and Big Bear."
She tucked her daughter and the teddy bear under the covers next to her, and lay down beside them. Within five minutes Beth was fast asleep again, and Lynn carefully picked her and Big Bear up and carried them back to Beth's room.
On her way back to the guest room, she suddenly changed her mind and headed towards the master bedroom. The door was open a few inches and the room was dark. Lynn paused, trying to find the right words, when she was stopped short by an unexpected sound.
It was crying. It was Matt, crying quietly, probably into his pillow. Lynn stood, listening; then she slowly turned away, and walked back down the hall to the guest room.
Each day it got a little easier to sit in his office and actually work, to concentrate on what he needed to do. His mind still drifted away in painful directions, but not so often and not for as long. It was obvious to his secretary Bernice that something was wrong—but she had figured out that he didn't want to talk about it. She didn't ask anymore, just smiled sympathetically at him.
At 10:50 he got up out of his chair, went to his door and closed it. Then he grabbed a dictionary off the bookshelf and brought it back to the desk.
He found the word he was looking for, and read the definition out loud. "Cuckold—a man with an unfaithful wife."
He sat back. "I'm a cuckold." He said it a couple of times. The word felt strange in his mouth. "I'm a cuckold. I've been cuckolded. She cuckolded me."
He sat looking at nothing for a while. Then, with a sigh, he put the dictionary to one side and got back to work.
"Well for Chrissakes, Lynn, what the hell do you expect?"
Lynn didn't reply, and her friend Arlene continued. They were sitting in Arlene's kitchen, two coffee cups between them.
"You fuck some other guy behind Matt's back"--Arlene saw Lynn wince at the word, but she continued--"and now you're surprised that he's angry and hurt?"
"I'm not surprised, Arlene."
"Does he know how long it was going on?"
Lynn shook her head. "I have no idea. I don't know how he found out, or when. He won't ... we haven't talked about it."
"Do you think if you told him it was only a few times it would make any difference?"
"It wouldn't for me." Lynn made a face. "I mean, if it were the other way around. If he'd slept with some other woman. Five times, twenty times--I'd still be torn apart.
"So don't think I'm surprised. I'm not, not a bit. I just don't know what to do. I can't reach him, and I don't know what the hell to do."
She looked down, stirring her coffee with a spoon, and Arlene watched her in silence.
Three weeks later -- Wednesday afternoon
"No," Matt said firmly; and then, a bit more quietly, "no, I don't want her to tell me about it."
The therapist frowned a little. She had short dark hair, almost in a Beatle cut, and she wore a brown corduroy jumper. Her name was Isobel Harshman.
"Don't you think it would help the two of you? For you to know why Lynn did what she did?"
Matt gazed back at her, not even glancing at his wife sitting next to him.
"I imagine it might help Lynn--to get it off her chest. But I certainly don't see how it would help me.
"To be honest, Dr. Harshman, it seems to me I'm in enough pain already."
Hesitantly, Lynn said, "I thought maybe that if I told you about it--about how it happened and why, it might ... you ... might see that it could never, that I could never do anything like that again."
Matt swung around to gaze at her. "Do you honestly believe that?
"Do you really think that there's ANYTHING you could tell me that would restore my trust in you, Lynn? Make me feel like I wouldn't have to worry about you for the rest of my life, wondering when the next time will be that you jump into bed with another man?"
Lynn looked down at her lap. Very quietly she said, "no, Matt. I don't think there is anything I can say that would do that."
Two months later -- Thursday evening
"Oh Matt, it's just so beautiful here!" She smiled broadly at him, squeezing his hand across the table.
They were sitting at a table on the veranda, overlooking the Caribbean. The air was deliciously warm, and the red of the sunset still hung in the sky. A pitcher of Sangria and a plate of broiled shrimp sat on the table between them.
"It is nice, isn't it?" His answering smile didn't quite match hers; there was a bit of strain in his face, maybe around the eyes. He squeezed her hand in return for a few moments, then picked up his fork to spear another shrimp.
"Thank you so much for agreeing to come down with me!" Lynn was aware that he had trouble holding her gaze for more than a moment at a time.
An hour later they were making love in their room. Lynn was on her hands and knees on the bed, pillows beneath her stomach, with Matt thrusting vigorously and powerfully into her, making her moan. He lasted a long time, and Lynn reached two wonderful climaxes before he sped up and came inside her with a loud groan, pulling her ass back hard against him with his hands.
Later they lay together--Matt on his back, his hands behind his head, and Lynn cuddled against him with her head on his chest.
"That was wonderful, baby," she murmured in a low, relaxed voice, and Matt reached down to stroke her back gently.
She seemed nearly asleep; but then she lifted her head to look at him, and said, "not that I don't love it, but it seems like every time we make love lately you take me from behind." She giggled. "Are you making me your bitch?" she asked playfully.
Matt looked at her, his brow furrowed a little. He sighed.
"When we do it in missionary position, I--"
He looked away. "I watch your face, your expressions, and I ... can't stop seeing you with him. Imagining you looking up at him, the same way...."
Matt didn't finish the sentence. They lay still, and Lynn suddenly felt chilled. After a few minutes Matt got up, pulled on his shorts and a tee-shirt, slipped into his sandals, and left the room.
Seven weeks later -- Saturday night
They worked silently for the most part, in front of the bookshelves on opposite sides of the room. Lynn was sorting through their CDs and Matt was doing the books.
He said, "shall I leave the Dickens novels? I've read them all."
"Whatever you want--take them if you like. I'm never going to read them."
She pulled out another handful of CDs and put the ones belonging to Matt on a little pile next to her. Then she turned around and gazed at him.
She watched the way his back muscles moved under his teeshirt, the way each of his movements was smooth and precise. It was all so familiar that it brought tears to her eyes.
In a low voice she said, "you know this is not what I want. I never wanted this."
Matt stopped moving for a moment; but he didn't turn around. He bit back a reply, and returned to the books. He didn't have to say it--they both knew what he would have said.
Five weeks later -- Sunday evening
"Mommy, mommy!" Beth and Jason shrieked as they jumped out of Matt's car and came running up the front walk into her arms, their overnight bags forgotten behind them on the ground.
Both talking at once, they told her all about the zoo, about how the giraffes were their favorites--"their necks are THIS LONG!"--and about how daddy had bought them each a cotton candy.
Then, their greeting done with, they ran past her into the living room and turned on the TV.
Matt smiled as he walked towards the house, carrying the kids' abandoned bags.
Lynn smiled back. "Sounds like the zoo was a hit."
"I could never tell whether they were delighted or terrified. We got really close to the giraffes--they were towering over the wall right over our heads. And they loved the giant turtles. It was a good day."
They chatted for another minute or two. Lynn said, "want to come in for a cup of coffee? There's a pot on the stove."
"Uh, no--no thanks," he said, looking a little uncomfortable. "I really should get going."
"Okay," Lynn said, trying to keep the smile on her face.
"I'll see you on Wednesday night," he said, and turned back towards his car. She stood watching until the Taurus reached the end of the street and turned left, out of her sight.
Four months later -- Monday evening
Beth sat at the kitchen table, coloring, while Lynn made dinner. Jason was on the floor doing his favorite wooden jig-saw puzzle for the 500th time. It was a multi-colored clown; it had seventeen pieces.
"Mommy, do friends hafta kiss?" Beth was looking up at her mother expectantly.
Lynn turned to look at her. "I don't know, honey. What do you mean?"
"Well, I never kiss Artie or Melissa or my friends at school." She made a face. "That would be yucky, kissing Artie!
"But we met Daddy's friend and they kiss all the time."
Jason looked up from the puzzle. "Angela's nice!" he said.
"Yeah, she is nice. She--"
"She made us hot dogs AND macaroni and cheese!" Jason interrupted; and then he lost interest in the conversation, and went back to his puzzle.
"Yeah, and she said we could go out for ice cream next time.
"But she and Daddy kept kissing, you know, like you and Daddy used to do. Do friends always kiss?"
Lynn closed her eyes tight for a moment. Then she opened them and smiled at Beth.
"Well, honey, some friends kiss and some don't--it all depends. But kids your age don't kiss their friends, so you don't have to."
"Okay." Beth nodded and returned to her coloring. She was making a duck, apparently, though it looked a great deal like a stegosaurus.
"Dinner," Lynn called. "Go wash your hands!"
When the kids returned to the table she said, "two pieces of broccoli each--at least!--or there won't be any dessert tonight."
She watched them squeeze ketchup all over their hamburgers and start to eat them; then she walked back to her bedroom and closed the door. She sat in the armchair by the bed, put her face in her hands, and began to weep.