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Since my ‘affair’ with E began, I’ve asked myself over and over again: ‘Why? Why me? And how? Just how does a woman of my intelligence and success and (relative) beauty end up in this ignominious situation?’ How did the girl who once had dreams of being settled and satisfied, in a high profile career, living with a handsome, kind and steady husband, come to this?
For if I strip my situation down to its bare bones, my position is stark: I am making do with second best; have resorted to accepting scraps of affection from a man who is, on paper at least, another woman’s official property. I’ve always thought I respected myself more than that. The truth, I find, is shocking.
Perhaps this situation will provide me with enlightenment and self-knowledge I can’t now foresee. Or perhaps it will just leave me with a broken heart and a sullied spirit, without even any moral clemency to cushion the blow. Who knows? It’s only been a couple of weeks. We are both still finding our way through the maze of it all, both blind and gasping, somehow still in shock at what we’re actually doing. It feels unreal, as though it is something that is just happening to me, outside of myself, and not because of me and my perverse will.
Neither of us know quite how, or why, it started. Neither of us know who initiated it, or how it will run its course. Neither of us know how, or when, it will stop. It’s like dreams (or are they nightmares?) where you’re driving fast and your foot is on the accelerator and you want to stop but can’t find the footbrake. It’s exciting at first, you feel free like the wind, as if your life could take any direction at any moment, but you know that at some point you’re going to want to stop. And you won’t be able to.
By the time I met E, a few months ago, I’d already been single for four or five years. Had the odd date that came to nothing. People might accuse me of being so lonely and desperate that I’d accept any third-rate notion of a ‘relationship’, accept a man on any terms, but really, it wasn’t, isn’t like that. If anything, it was a relief for me to have things my way, my life at peace, especially after marriage and child-rearing with the most unsuitable specimen manhood had to offer me at the time. I was content, happy even.
My career is going well. I’ve worked my way up through the ranks without sleeping my way there (why are successful women in my business always accused of this, as though it’s impossible that we should excel merely because of our talents and guts and determination?). I have a house, money, family and some friends, one son and no desperation to have any more. I make no demands on anyone. So when E arrived in my life it wasn’t as though I was in a vulnerable place. I certainly wasn’t desperate for a man. Maybe that makes what I’ve done, what I’m doing, even more deplorable. I could at least have the decency to be so desperate that resistance to this philandering man was beyond my power.
Perhaps it does make it worse, but I can’t change the facts. We met, we flirted, we dined together, slept together. It was enjoyable, so we decided to do it again. That’s all.
Except it isn’t all. All of this would be fine if E was, like me, single and legitimate. If he didn’t have someone waiting at home for him, someone texting and ringing him ten, twenty, thirty times in one evening, asking where he is and if he’s on his way home yet, and if he can get a pint of milk, and does he want dinner later or shall they get a take-away, and why hasn’t he answered, where is he, is he driving, what’s happening? God, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. How exhausted must she be, going through it all?
But I’m not ready yet for reflecting too much on how she does it, how she feels, whether she suspects, what she will do if she finds out. None of this is my business, my responsibility.
For the time-being, E and I are in the present. It is too dangerous to go anywhere else.