tagRomanceGrow Old with Me

Grow Old with Me


Note: A follow-up to Plunging Into the Abyss per reader request.


If my wife Diane were the sort of spouse that begrudged my passions, that nagged me every time I left the house alone, it wouldn't be as difficult to face her after what I just did over the last twenty-four hours. But she isn't. In fact, while she doesn't share my passion for exercise generally, cycling specifically, she doesn't begrudge it either. 'Have fun, have a good ride,' is what she said to me before I left the house to meet Addison Weil for what Diane thought was a group bike ride in Ocean City, New Jersey. It WAS a group ride, a "group" ride of two; namely, Addie and myself, and we did things that married people aren't supposed to do—at least if they wish to stay married.

I cringe at the specter of divorce, all the emotional and financial mess that comes with the territory. I've never been there, but couples I know have, and what they go through is not a pretty sight. I love Diane; I'm IN LOVE with Addie. The distinction is clear as fine glass to anyone with the misfortune to stumble into that frustrating situation. Look, I've been married for thirty years. The novelty wore off eons ago. I had accepted the boredom that comes with all that and needs that went unfulfilled simply because I know that no one person can fulfill all needs. In my thirties and even forties, I still lived under the illusion that one person could. At sixty, I know better. In short, I was reasonably comfortable, the best one can expect from being married to the same person most of one's adult life.

Then came Addison Weil to knock me out of my comfort zone. She didn't mean to, nor did I mean for her to. It just happened, as they say. And now I'm just a few miles from my home, where my good wife Diane, I'm sure, is eager to hear what happened in Ocean City. What will I say and how will I say it? The whole truth and nothing but the truth? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe something in between.

Thoughts still meander as I pull my Toyota Matrix into the garage, rack my bike on ceiling hooks and lug my equipment bag into the kitchen. Diane is mixing the salad that will go with our late Sunday lunch, spaghetti and meatballs. She wears an apron over casual blue slacks and a blue pullover blouse. She looks up and pads toward me in house slippers.

"Have fun?"

Something is clearly out of kilter. Stay married as long as us, and you pick up subtleties in behavior. Normally, she'd be all smiles. The smile she wears is pregnant with something other than sweetness and mirth.

"Lots of fun and great weather besides," I say. "Those meatballs look delicious," I add, trying to skate free.

She opens the fridge and takes out the Italian salad dressing. "Glad to hear it. So how many made it down?"

"How many?"

"Yeah. I mean, did you have your usual full crew?" She knows there's about ten riders that make up our 'full crew.'

I dump my equipment bag against a wall, then go to the sink to wash up while Diane sets out the silverware on the kitchen table. "No, not quite."

She stands by the table, arms folded against her chest when I turn around. "Well, I'm curious how many because three people from your group called on the landline on Saturday afternoon wanting to know if you were riding on Sunday. Silly me, I thought they knew all about your group ride in Ocean City. 'Group ride? He didn't tell us,' was their basic reply."

My stomach churns. "Right, well, only one person showed up."

"And who was that?"

"Um, nobody you know. A new rider that joined the Daring Derailleurs a few weeks ago, Addison Weil."

She nods. "Addison. A female, I assume."

"A female, correct." I look down at our meal, the salad, meatballs, spaghetti and Ragu sauce, all in separate serving dishes. It smells delicious—and I'm losing my appetite.

Briefly, Diane looks away, then faces me again. "And did you know this before you left?"

"Know what, that she'd be the only one coming?"

"Huh huh."

"I figured as much when I got to the ride start and she was the only one there."

"So you lied to me on the phone when you said the GROUP was having such a blast that you all decided to make a night of it."

"Not exactly."

"No? What do you call it?"

I take a deep breath. "Look, I knew how you'd feel if I told you the whole truth, understandably so. She's married too, by the way."

She looks wounded, wounded and mad, glaring at me as if she knows the whole truth but is afraid to ask. "Bet her husband wasn't there, was he?" She bares her teeth.

"No. He doesn't ride."

"And if he did, would he have joined you?"

"Possibly. Look, Diane—"

"Don't look Diane me, okay? You fucking lied to me. Next, I suppose you'll tell me this isn't what it looks like. Or, to drudge up another cliché, you can explain everything."

I imagine myself on the edge of a quarry, daring myself to plunge into the deep, cold water. Friends egg me on, shouting for me to jump. 'Chicken, gutless wimp,' they yell. Still, I freeze, knowing I'm damned either way, risking life and limb by jumping, risking cries of coward by not.

I sit down and motion for her to do the same. We face each other over a wood table large enough to sit four. She puts her hands in her lap, tucks her arms close to her sides, hunches her shoulders. It's a comfortable AC-cooled seventy-something degrees in here, but you'd think it's around freezing with the way she's sitting. Steam no longer rises from the spaghetti, meatballs and sauce. Our meal is getting cold.

"I can't explain everything, just some things," I say.

"That's a start."

"I've been faithful to you as long as we've been married, thirty years. I never cheated, not once. I didn't plan on what happened this weekend. Addie and I planned to ride down the coast, hit the beach if we had time and then head home. Same as we would have done had the rest of our group showed up. That really was the plan. Then, well, something else happened."

"Something you weren't about to tell me had those riders not called, right?"

"Honestly, I don't know. I wasn't sure how to handle the situation."

She bangs her fist on the table, begins to cry. Her pale skin reddens. "Damn you, Tim, damn you! So what is this Addison to you, pussy on the side or something more?"

"I don't know." I lie.

"You don't know? The hell you don't know. See, Tim, if she's just pussy on the side, you'd tell me. 'Oh, it doesn't mean anything, we were both horny.' Something like that. And that might even get you off the hook. It would take me a while to trust you again, but I might so long as you promised to end it. But your reaction tells me she's more than just a POA." She reaches for a tissue, blows her nose. "There's more to it, isn't there?"

I still stand on the edge of that quarry, frozen and sad. God, how I hate situations in life when you're confronted with nothing but hideous choices. "I still love you, Diane," I say, and mean it. "I never stopped loving you."

She looks down, shakes her head, chokes back sobs. "But you also love someone else, don't you? Some young chick who's in good shape, who rides bikes, who's slimmer and trimmer than your aging, dumpy, overweight, sedentary wife."

I squirm and grip the edges of my chair, desperate for wiggle room. "First of all, she's no young chick. She's around your age, mid-fifties. And second, love her? It's more infatuation than anything else." The second part isn't a lie but hardly the whole truth either.



She wipes her nose. "Great. I feel so much better now. Do you plan on seeing her again?"

Her sarcasm almost gets me laughing. "Probably, she's part of our bike club."

"Don't patronize me, Tim, you know what I mean. Will there be any more GROUP overnights?"

"No, not with Addie." I get up and reach out for her.

"No!" she snaps. She jerks her chair back, thrusts her arm toward my face. "You need to keep away from me for a while, let me process all this, sort things out."

I nod, back away and watch as she leaves the table, bolts from the kitchen and heads upstairs. There's nothing for me to do now but put the food away. Leftovers.



Not five minutes after driving off the park and ride lot in my white Hyundai, I get another call. The screen tells me it's Helen Markham, the gossip who dropped by my house this morning, hoping I'd be home for a bike ride. My hubby Jim had told her I was in New Jersey on a group ride. News to her, Helen said, thereby blowing my cover, albeit unknowingly. Jim then called while Tim and I were on I-95, driving back from Ocean City. Already suspicious, he asked who besides Tim Farnsworth (I admitted being in the car with him) had showed up for our alleged club ride down the South Jersey coast. I then dropped Helen's name. Big mistake; I walked right into his trap.

So now there's Helen ringing my cell, wanting to know, I suppose, why she wasn't informed about our club's South Jersey bike jaunt—the jaunt that never was. Anticipating a confrontation with Jim is enough to deal with. I owe him an explanation, not Helen. She can talk to my voice mail.

Backing into a parking space in front of our lovely restored Victorian, with its turrets and gables, I see Jim dressed in plaid shorts, a white t-shirt and sandals, watering our flowerbed in front. He enjoys lawn work. That and walking are his main forms of exercise. He turns to watch me take down my bike from the roof rack. He isn't smiling.

"Have you had lunch yet?" I ask.

"A tuna sandwich. There's still some left over if you'd like."

He turns back to his work while I take my bike and luggage inside. He's pissed. Duh. He's no doubt doubly pissed that I blew him off the phone earlier. Another man might have jumped on my case as soon as I returned home. That's not Jim. He's a slow-fuse type guy, lets things simmer a while before he confronts someone he's upset with.

It comes after my stuff is put away and I'm a few bites into my tuna on toasted wheat. I'm sitting on a stool pushed up against the island, a combination cupboard and table that sits in the middle of our beautiful kitchen, with its hardwood flooring, tasteful cabinetry and stainless steel appliances. Victorian-era designed furniture is okay for the rest of the house, but we both wanted a thoroughly modern kitchen.

Jim pulls up another stool and, anxious as I feel, I can't help but cringe inside at the sight of his belly protruding over his shorts. Maybe it isn't fair of me to compare him with Tim, but I can't help it. What a contrast between Jim's "spare tires" and Tim's solid six-pack.

"I didn't appreciate you hanging up on me," Jim says, watching my profile as I eat. "It was incredibly rude, and even ruder when you hit me with voice mail after I called back."

After washing down a bite of tuna with sips of iced tea, I turn to face him. "You're right, I'm sorry. Like I said, I was on the road with Tim Farnsworth, not the best time or place to discuss whatever Helen Markham told you."

Jim backhands sweat from his forehead. "Helen Markham told me she knew nothing about any group bike ride in Ocean City. Why did you lie to me, telling me she was there?"

I feel cornered with no way out. Lame explanations sound worse than no explanations. Even pleading ignorance sounds better, so that's what I do. "I'm not sure, Jim, it was dumb, something I did on impulse without thinking."

He says nothing while I start on the second half of my sandwich. Then: "You and this Tim Farnsworth were the only bike club members to make the trip, weren't you?"

"Yes." 'Don't break down, Addie,' I tell myself, 'hold it together.'

"And you shared the same room, didn't you?"


"And I'm guessing, not assuming but guessing that you slept with him."

I toss my sandwich aside and look straight into his hazel eyes. "Yes." Feeling the tears well up, I look down. "I'm sorry, Jim."

He grunts. "You're sorry, you're sorry you couldn't hide it, you mean. Are you thinking of leaving me for him?"

"Not really." I grab a tissue.

"Not really? Well, what REALLY do you plan on doing?"

I blow my nose. "We have a lot of years invested in this marriage, Jim."

He raises his voice to a decibel just below shouting level. "Twenty-five years' worth to be exact. So why the hell did you go jeopardize it by jumping in the sack with another guy?"

Sound waves reverberate off our beamed ceiling and French vanilla/glass cabinets. I cover my ears.

"Why, Addie, why?!" He kicks his foot against the wood island.

I bend over with my hands still pressed snug against my ears. "Stop yelling at me!"

"You're lucky I don't do more than that. Any other man sure would." He slips off the stool. "Is Tim married?"


"Oh, shit, I should have known. Do you have his number? Lemme see your phone." Under his breath, he mumbles something about kicking Tim's ass. That'll be the day.

"Jim, this is something we need to work out ourselves."

"The phone, Addie, the phone. Either that or give me his number."

I jump off the stool. "You need to calm down."

He stamps his foot. "Don't tell me what I need to do after what you did. You won't give me his number? Fine, I'll find it through your bike club's web site."

With that, he storms outside.



Later that night, Addie calls, gives me a head's up that her husband Jim might contact me. "So be prepared," she says. "He's been hunting through the club's directory for your number and home address."

She tells me this while seated on her front porch rocker. Diane is in the master bedroom with the door shut, making good on her wish to keep her distance. That's both good and bad—good because it's convenient for carrying on this kind of relationship, bad because it adds more tension to an already tense household.

Addie tells me she misses me already.

"I miss you too," I say, "miss your firm, warm body and soft kisses, your laughter. Just holding you, being with you."


"Still with me, Addie?" I hear her choking up.

"Yes." She starts to sob. "Tim, what I'd give to be with you at this very moment, cuddled in bed like we were in the Seagull. I feel so lost, so vulnerable. What are we going to do?"

I can't give her a definitive answer because I don't know myself. "Just hang in there. Things will work out. Try to be strong."

"When can I see you again?"

I'm leading another ride this weekend. Can you be there?"

"Just try to keep me away. Of course I'll be there."


The week drags by. Diane and I barely speak; in fact, we barely look at each other. Per her wishes, I take the guest bedroom, aka the "doghouse." We eat alone. Is this the beginning of the end of our thirty-year marriage? She doesn't say, nor do I ask. She's "processing," as she said. Well, so am I. Maybe I should move out altogether. Then again, maybe not. A thirty-year investment of this nature isn't easy to toss out like some rotten piece of fruit. We've dealt with crises in our marriage before, though nothing this serious, this threatening to our body politic.

Come early Thursday evening, somebody knocks hard at our front door. Diane answers. I'm upstairs in the hall, well within earshot. It's a man asking for me. Without even seeing him, I get a sick feeling who that man is.

"It's for you," Diane hollers, her voice still tinged with contempt.

She backs into the kitchen after I come down. Having just come from the gym, I'm dressed in shorts and a tank top.

"You're Jim Weil, I presume," I say. Only the screen door separates us. He wears long khakis, a blue v-neck t-shirt and white Nike cross-trainers.

He nods. "Can we talk? Preferably in private."

I size him up, sees he's a few inches taller than me. True to Addie's description, he's overweight and paunchy, looks like a devotee of fast food and couch sitting.

Once outside, I take notice of him taking notice of me; specifically, the muscularity I can't help but hope he envies. The only thing I envy about his appearance is his hair. He has much more of it than I do, dark brown with very little gray.

We stand by my car in the driveway of our suburban split-level, hands on hips. "You probably know why I'm here," he says.

"I think I can guess."

"I think you can too. Does your wife know about what happened in Ocean City between you and Addie?"

Call me insensitive, but I don't feel I owe this guy the time of day, much less what I told or didn't tell Diane. "Not to be nasty, but that's between my wife and me." I lean against the front quarter panel of my Matrix, arms folded against my chest, biceps bulging.

"Fine. Okay, than in keeping with the spirit of my visit, I'm telling you to stay away from Addie. Got it?" He pokes his finger a few inches from my chest. If he's intimidated, he hides it well.

I drop my arms to my sides, preparing for something more than just words. "You're on my property telling me what to do. You shouldn't be doing that, pal."

"Is that right? Well, look, PAL, contact her again and see what happens." He takes a few steps backwards toward the street, still poking his finger on the hand that bears a large, black onyx ring.

Just then, Diane walks out, wearing slippers and a yellow house dress. "You must be Mr. Weil," she says.

"And you must be eavesdropping," I say, the most words I've said to her since Sunday.

Jim Weil stops dead in his tracks, only a few feet from his Ford SUV parked by the curb.

Ignoring me, Diane says to him, "Yes, I know all about my husband and your wife Addison. Tim told me. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, me too," Jim says. He then addresses me. "Keep away, I mean it."

Diane is back in the house by the time Jim drives off. I can't blame him for being angry and hostile; I'd feel the same way. He doesn't scare me. Still, I wonder what, if anything, he has in mind.



"Just so you know, I took a drive over to your boyfriend's house and told him to stay away from you. If he doesn't, well..."

Jim tells me this in our basement while I adjust the brakes on my bike. I knew he had gone out, just not where. He's sweaty and red-faced and angry after his confrontation with Tim.

Pliers still in hand, I look up. "If he doesn't, well...well what?"

He slips off his sweaty t-shirt. "I don't know, but I'll think of something. The prick looks in great shape, I'll give him that."

I toss the pliers on our workbench and release the bike from the stand. "Look, Jim, I don't plan to ever go away with him again. But we will be riding together along with others in the group. He's leading a ride on Sunday."

"And you'll be on it I suppose," he grumbles, slipping off his sweaty t-shirt.

"I plan to be on it, yes. Don't worry, we won't be doing anything but riding our bikes." And probably kissing each other like mad, but there's no way I'm telling him that.

He balls his hands into fists and shakes his head. Jim has never hit me, though he looks like he's angry enough to right now. He stands there, opening and closing his hands, as if debating the idea. Finally, he sighs and tosses his shirt over his shoulder. "I'm taking a shower. See you in the bedroom."

Unlike Tim, I'm not in the doghouse (figuratively yes, literally no). Jim and I still share the master bedroom. We haven't had sex since before I joined Tim in Ocean City, though it's not for lack of trying on my cuckold husband's part. By 'see you in the bedroom,' he means for more than just sleeping. Never mind his flabby body; emotionally, I'm not there for him. I'm in love with another man, a man I'd like to spend more time with, possibly make a life with. Then I should simply leave Jim, right? Except it's not that simple, not when you juxtapose my passion for Tim with all that's invested in a long marriage.

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