The scene before me was majestic, as perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting. The sky was full of pastel blues, pinks and oranges. No one but me would ever see it, which was, in some ways heart breaking. Things become complete when they are shared, yes? In the same way love between two people becomes whole, complete, when it is shared.
The scene before me, the sky and landscape, was something free for anyone who wanted to appreciate it. Take a moment and look up and out your window. Maybe you would rather do a little late night star gazing or moon watching.
The scene before me quickly morphed into a nightmarish scene. A newly discovered video was rolling across the screen before me. It blotted out the majestic sky beyond and was the single most heart breaking vision I'd ever witnessed. If I'd had the will and fortitude I would have switched off the recording and pretended it didn't exist. But my sick curious self-needed to know what she had done with someone I'd never seen before and probably would never meet. I was helpless to stop what was before my eyes even with the knowledge it had happened many years ago.
For me the problem was that I was seeing the video now as if it had just happened! My emotions were an experience in real time and I was helpless to comprehend why.
The woman in the video recording is Claudia. She was not necessarily a raving beauty or a model out of a glossy magazine. At 5 feet 9 inches she supported a tall, slender frame with long lithe legs she kept tone by running 3-4 miles each day. Her hair was very long, reaching to her waist but she almost always wore it tied atop of her head leaving her long white neck vulnerable. It was a neck I had enjoyed caressing, kissing and loving for the last 7 years. It was a neck she'd freely given to me along with everything else.
Okay, so I have this thing about her neck!
Seven years of blissful ignorance, of marriage I'd thought was perfect, now relegated to a video recording that left me physically nauseous and sick at heart. If my heart could vomit I would have long since made one hell of a mess.
Claudia's nose is almost pointed as it leads her face forward. A face that always looked scrubbed clean with a polished look. Claudia's smile gave her a little-girl innocence that never failed to raise me from the dead even if I was in a state of exhaustion. Her breasts, though not large by anyone's standards, stood almost erect and firm against t-shirt-like material. Claudia always wore a half bra of soft cotton material that contributed to the little-girl mystique that drove me absolutely crazy.
Yes, I loved her with madness and could watch her sleep all night long!
I especially loved her tightly pursed lips that seemed to always part slightly when I was around. When words passed her lips I listened and watched with a kind of rapture as she would speak deliberately and with confidence. Claudia never slurred words or spoke with the "ahm, well, maybe, I don't know" forms of communication that drive me absolutely bonkers. Claudia was also confident and self-assured whereas people who stuttered often lacked genuine confidence.
Did I say we'd been married for seven years?
It is Claudia's eyes, eyes of a deep and dark mystery that never averted my gaze. Her eyes always seemed to be speaking before Claudia spoke. They glittered with a kind of caring insight that had always made me feel like I was the only one alive in her world. We frequently carried on entire conversations without speaking by simply looking at one another. And I could look at her for hours and never get tired or bored.
Did I say I loved this woman?
Yes, I have loved her more than anything in this life and for longer than I can remember. Hearing her laugh and touch my shoulder was all that she needed to do for me to be happy. To be the recipient of her love, her smile, her touch was enough to send me into a state of oblivion. I could have died and gone to heaven knowing she loved me and only me.
The home movie, a cam recorder video recording, was of poor quality and was held in a fixed position. I was guessing it had been set atop of a dresser, TV or credenza. Most likely the room was a hotel room and I was guessing it was the Weston Hotel where Claudia had stayed 7 years ago. At that time she was in Mammoth Lakes attending a conference for advertising executives who were there to learn how to develop commercials for the ski industry.
I sat wondering how many conferences or photo shoots she'd attended over the last seven years. When away from me was she sleeping with a lover?
Mammoth Lakes is known for its "Mountain", Mammoth Mountain and Ski Resort. Both Claudia and I have always been avid skiers and oriented towards the outdoors so skiing Mammoth had always been a special trip. The Mountain has 36 chair lifts and several gondolas. It offers the best of skiing for everyone, regardless of their level of proficiency. The rich came from as far away as Japan and as close as Los Angeles. For Claudia attending a conference where she could ski to her hearts content made attending special, even if I had not been able to go with her, or at least that is what she'd told me one evening on our I-miss-you-so-much calls.
I have always preferred rugged backwoods cross-country style skiing going where the average person will never consider than the comfort of a gondola and constraints of a well groomed path down a mountain with a snow base of 75 feet. This meant Claudia and I frequently would compromise by doing downhill skiing one day then tackling deep snow Nordic style.
The man in the video recording with Claudia appeared to be a few years older than she, ruggedly handsome and in good physical shape. From the looks of the video recording, which was very difficult for me to watch, he seemed to be speaking with an accent, though I couldn't really discern where he was from. He could have been French? No, more like Austrian. It didn't really matter; the act had already been consummated. The deed was done. I was guessing that the act had been done just after we were married which would mean during the conference she attended in Mammoth Lakes.
I never had any clue she'd cheated on me, on our marriage. I remembered our nightly phone calls had been almost "syrupy" with a plethora of I-miss-you-and-can't-wait-to-kiss-feel-and-fuck-your-brains-out! When Claudia did get home our lovemaking was almost frenetic, as if we were once again on our honeymoon and there was no one on the face of the earth as important as the two of us. For me that was the truth. We were still in that newlywed stage of our marriage. Trying new things made love making a wonderful adventure so I wasn't surprised when Claudia got home, ran and jumped into my arms knocking me to the floor. We didn't at first talk except for things like, "God I've missed you and want you now!"
Passion had never been missing from our marriage. Now I could only wonder if that passion had been Claudia's way of making sure I never suspected her of indiscretion, or was it indiscretions? I just didn't know what or why and probably would never really know the complete truth regarding why she'd slept with another man. For that matter, for all I knew, she could have been having an affair all these years. I just did not know.
The more I watched her and her lover I found myself getting progressively angry. I tried to remember if anything had changed since her return from the conference seven years ago. For the life of me, over the years, I never noticed any changes that indicated she'd been fucking someone on the side.
I was already crazy with disgust and hurt. I was telling myself I could never look at Claudia again and kiss her beautiful, slender lips knowing she had never been faithful to me. I wanted her to feel my pain, my disgust. At that moment I wanted her to know our days of unconditional love-making were, over.
The innocence was shattered and I believed, in my angry hurt way, I would never really heal.
To complicate this picture Claudia and I have, at least for the last 3 months, we have actively been trying to have a child. After 7 years of marriage we both decided it was time. Now I was sure the quest to have a child would be put on hold (at least by me) until I could reconcile the video before me, and I had no idea how that was going to happen. The only way to do this would be to give Claudia the opportunity to explain and make things right. But how do you have something like fucking another man suddenly be right? There was nothing "right" about her fucking another man! How do you reconcile something as egregious as what she'd done in Mammoth?
The other revelation was that my now not so innocent Claudia, my wife, had most likely not intended for me to see the video. Surprise, surprise, I've discovered Claudia's dirty little life lived with me yet behind my back.
"Well this certainly puts and end to Italy." The words slipped past my lips for no one to hear.
We have been planning a trip to Italy for a long time, probably since we were married. Just last night we'd identified a two week period in the future where we both could get away from our respective jobs to make the trip. It would also give us time to make sure we'd set funds aside to do the trip comfortably. I'd immediately gone online and began to research the trip. I have always been the one to plan our vacations, identify hotels and make flight reservations. With the internet as user-friendly as it is today it was a simple task. In fact, airlines provide financial incentives to do this.
I'd gone through the process of booking flights from San Francisco to New York then on to Frankfurt, Germany. From Frankfurt we would catch a flight to Milan where we would spend 3 days before traveling to Venice. I'd gotten to the booking stage where the airline wanted the full names of the passengers and their passport numbers. Not knowing the passport numbers I'd gone on the proverbial search for our passports and ended up rummaging through our dresser drawers where we concealed such documents.
Yes, it was on this search for our passports that I made my discovery that I'd found the video recording.
It was in Claudia's over-flow lingerie dresser drawer where I located her passport, three boxes with diamond jewelry I'd given over the last few years, along with a turquoise wrist watch, and the infamous video tape. It was one of those small video tapes that fit our cam recorder, a cam recorder we had not used in years. With the age of digital technology and smart phones that are able to record, we no longer used anything else.
Curious I'd located our old cam recorder, plugged in the AC adapter and then the video tape. In retrospect I wished I'd never had to search for the passport. Being happy, ignorant and dumb now sounded pretty good. Up until that moment in time when I hit the "play" button, I'd been the happiest person on this earth.
I never did finish making the flight reservations and left the passports on the bedroom floor abandoning the documents to watch a little homemade pornography!
After watching the video, seeing Claudia fuck another man I began to crash emotionally I moved to my desk top and made a copy to my hard drive. I did this with difficulty, not because of the technical aspects involved, but because I kept breaking down like a baby. In all the time I'd been married to Claudia I can only remember crying when we found ourselves laughing so hard that tears flowed. And yes, we had always laughed frequently. We laughed at everything. I think it was the one thing we did frequently that made living together such a joy. We never laughed at people but we did frequently laugh at the stupid things people did, especially our own screw-ups. Laughter was one of the ways we managed the stress of our jobs. We even laughed when we made love!
Finding the video recording was no laughing matter. I silently thanked God Claudia and her lover never laughed out loud when fucking one another.
I'd stopped to wipe the tears from my face and blow my nose before proceeding with my task of converting the cam recording copy to a digital format. I suddenly laughed the sad laugh of a man who could not remember the last time I'd really cried. Even as a child I was always stoic and fought back tears after being injured or embarrassed. I can remember breaking my arm after falling off of a bicycle and never shedding a tear. I reminded myself I was not riding a bicycle.
I had always had an extremely high tolerance for physical pain. Emotional pain is something that hurts just as bad but cannot be bandaged or treated with an opioid medication like Violin. Yet, at that moment, Violin may have been just what was needed?
I am also not the kind of person to pussy-foot around with trying to discover what had happened or getting more facts. I had hard evidence and if our marriage was going to end I didn't need any other reason. Masochism is not at all pleasurable for me!
Quickly, after wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve, I wrote Claudia a quick email. I sent it to her work and personal emails saying, "Please explain how, why, who, and how many times over the years you have fucked other men. Please have the courtesy not to come home until you have answers I can accept and understand. Maybe I will find a mountain to climb? Claudia, you need to know I probably will not believe a word you tell me!" I then attached the video recording and hit the "send" button. I did not sign the message. There was no form of endearment with the message. It was delivered cold and direct.
Claudia worked for the same advertising agency she worked for 7 years ago and was, purportedly (I was beginning to question everything) in Utah directing a photo shoot for REI. I was not going to sit at my computer and wait for a reply. I needed to clear my mind. I was telling myself I needed to climb as high in the sky as possible. Some people destroy furniture while others get drunk when their world seems to fall apart. Some people just go looking for someone else to fuck and even the score.
The best way for me to cope with what I'd just seen is to seek refuge beneath the sky and on some piece of rock that would force me to concentrate on what I was doing. Rock climbing was just what I needed so I quickly tossed my gear into the back of my FJ Cruise and began the drive towards Half Dome in Yosemite.
It took me less than ten minutes to pack climbing gear and start my drive.
The drive to Yosemite from the Bay area was approximately 4 hours, depending on whether or not I could beat the afternoon traffic. I stopped in Tracy to make sure I had a full tank of gas and purchased a few granola-and-cheese kinds of food supplies, canned tuna fish and made sure my water bottles were full. By the time I reached the Westside Yosemite gate I was physically and mentally exhausted but felt I could at least complete the drive to the base of Half Dome where I would sleep for a few hours. Then I would wake to watch the sun rise illuminate the Sierra Nevada Range and climb.
When the sun streamed in through the car windows I was stiff from sleeping in my FJ. At first I was disoriented then recalled where I was and why I was there. The cam recording came back like bricks through a glass window and the images seemed to be the most horrific I could remember ever seeing. The memories were bad for me because I think my manly pride was injured and I had no answers. Claudia would be in Utah for another 3-4 days on her photo shoot so I needed to be someplace alone, to think, to commune with nature and be "above it all":
For me there is no place on earth quite like Half Dome to accomplish these things.
Someday, sometime in the future, I would have answers to my haunting questions but today the sun was shining and I was going to climb Half Dome, alone. It occurred to me as I strapped on my harness and slung my climbing pack onto my back that this was the first time I was doing this climb solo. There was no one to "spot" for me or take up the slack in my rope. Hell, I wasn't even carrying rope! This meant I was not carrying additional weight from packing pitons or carabineers, except for what I might need to strap myself to bare rock in the event weather suddenly turned bad.
I chuckled to myself and shook my head as I thought about how quickly the weather in my marriage had turned to shit. The weather in Yosemite was nothing by comparison. I would at least be prepared and know what to do. When on a climb you could always hunker-down and wait for the clouds to pass.
The rock beneath my hands, fingers and feet was cold, hard and did not yield. It felt good!
Claudia in Zion, Alone
I glanced at my emails and saw that I had 36 that were unread. It had been a long, long day. We were shooting in Zion National park and it had been well over a hundred-and-ten degrees all day every day! The shoot included everything from jackets, parkas, winter boots, skies, snow shoes and items customers would need in winter. The catalogue we were working on was due to be released the end of next month. I was fried and was in no mood to go through 36 emails. Most of the crew were mostly models, which meant working in the heat was crazy. But that is the nature of the advertising business. In winter we would be freezing to death as we prepared for summer.
It was easy to mark the spam emails as "junk" and then identify emails that I needed to respond to before going to sleep.
There was only one email I really wanted to read and that was from Eric, my husband.
It was killing me to be away for so long, especially since we'd decided to try and have a child. We were also planning a trip to Italy before pregnancy saddled us with the need to be "responsible" parents. I smiled thinking about how much I was looking forward to becoming a mother, a more complete family, just after seeing Italy.
I really didn't know what becoming "more responsible" meant.
There was one email from Eric. Seeing his name caused me to get all week in the knees. After 7 years of marriage he was the only man who made my heart do summersaults. I sat on my hotel bed getting ready to open the email and noticed there was an attachment and thought he might be sending me something special, something to put me to sleep and help me dream of him. Maybe it was one of those funky greeting cards designed to make me laugh? We laughed a lot and I smiled again knowing I didn't need anything to help me dream of Eric.
Then I decided to take a quick shower, wash off the heat and dust of Zion and wait for the air conditioning to cool off the hotel room. Then I could sit in bed, comfortable, and enjoy Eric's email before drifting into dreamland. Just thinking about Eric made me want him by my side. He was the only man I'd ever known who could turn me on just by thinking about him!
I closed my eyes to try and recall Eric. At 6 feet 2 inches weighing 195 pounds he is the image of chiseled manhood. He is muscular and lean giving him a lithe appearance. His sandy blond hair is almost always unruly and he usually needs a shave. His eyes are a light blue and they always seem to look directly into my soul calling me to him with love and warmth. I love everything about him but most of all I love how he "loves" me. I'm not talking about how great a lover he is, I am talking about how perfect and pure his love is. It is a love that makes me trust him so completely, a love that always makes me feel safe.
After tossing my clothes in a corner of the hotel room, far enough away so I couldn't smell them, I climbed into the shower marveling in how good the water felt. Yes, women sweat! As I closed my eyes letting the water cascade over my white skin and those places where the sun never touches me, I imagined Eric standing behind me, his hands softly teasing my nipples while his lips played havoc with my neck and ear. At the same time I could feel his rising erection behind me, nestling in the crack of my naked ass. It is a beautiful erection that tells me I am also desirable and that he is all mine!