25 Years of Secret Love, Why?

When you say you had an affair, all anyone thinks of is tawdry sex

After a 25 year affair with a married man ever on the verge of righting the wrongs and too many nights of his coming to see me with teary apologies, begging me to just hang in there – to give him time to think, to clear his head, to come to a decision - it’s over. It’s Over, capital O over and I can’t care anymore. I can’t care that I was never the Wife, capital W. That I never was the chosen mother of the blessed children (two boys). Or that when he moved to California, he basically left me for dead.

And when I googled him last week the only thing that came up was his new 3.5 million dollar home in 90210 California.

XXX left no forwarding email, no cell number, no contact information whatsoever. The man who swore, “I will always be there for you. No matter what,” Who asked if I could possibly imagine how hard it was for him to leave me every night, how it was killing him. Is gone. Capital G. Now what?

When I first met XXX, he was single. I was 23 and he was 27, and we flirted madly at comedy showcases all over NYC. We were both starting out as stand ups. XXX was extremely tall – and dark and handsome and had a physicality that was so graceful it bordered on effeminate.

Just like on Seinfeld, groups of comics would go out to eat after the show and when all the guys ordered burgers and fries, XXX would order salads. That alone made him highly suspicious. An enigma.

But one night, I got bold and challenged XXX to take me home. I wasn’t sure myself if he was straight or gay, but either way, I wanted time alone. When we got to his apartment he pounced and we didn’t come up for air for two days. I wrote a poem, “Rainy Lust” to celebrate the marathon. It was not only my first time with XXX, it was my first time.

I got wildly lucky; those two nights were an initiation into bliss. XXX hardly cared about himself, it was all about me.

We went out for breakfast -- he was working as a lawyer at the time – and he made fun of my poking at my food – saying my plate was the Battle of Bull Run, potatoes on one side and eggs charging down the other. We talked about what was going on in the news, I didn't have to finish my sentences, he understood. When it came to a unified and shared comprehension of the madness around us, people, politics, prejudice, war -- we were of one mind. XXX was smart -- sharp smart. He could think on his own. It didn’t take long – maybe one month – maybe two – of lusty marathons and breakfasts out before all I could think was, “I do.”

Meanwhile, XXX was thinking, “this is fun.”

I didn’t know that he’d already counted me out, unchecked the box that said – “could be serious.” I didn’t know his ex-girlfriend was moving back to NY and staying with him while looking for a place. There was a lot I didn't know.

"Anna" was an art student at Parsons and made designer jewelry, I found photos of her and XXX swimming in a lake somewhere. Somewhere in his past. He had a beard then.

When she moved in, XXX swore it was only temporary. And we were still – whatever it was we were. What XXX said with his body, with his hands and with the way he held me was no lie. But finally he admitted they were back together but he was torn, he said. He loved me. He would tell her.

I didn’t want to push, he was such a treasure -- I didn’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to “all or nothing” him. I didn’t want to live without him. I thought – if he wasn’t pressed – if I didn’t push - it would happen, I had to let things be.

So months went by – two years went by – and finally Anna left and finally, I thought, finally -- this is it. So I talked about us moving in together but XXX turned blue. It was too soon, wasn’t it jumping the gun? Shouldn’t we see how things go?

I found out he was dating a woman he met at an office party months before. And when he told me her name -- "Margaret" -- It was the death knell. Margaret. I knew Margaret was everything I wasn’t. On some primal, instinctual level, I knew he had crossed over to some other universe. The universe of Margaret.

Coming from a broken family, a divorced mother, always living on the brink of disaster, I had nothing on Margaret. It turned out one of the things I thought made us so in sync with each other -- our shared family disasters -- made me a mirror he didn't need.

He wanted Margaret and her stable parents and their upstate home replete with two Labrador retrievers and running brook. Margaret, who worked at Price Waterhouse Coopers and was ready to settle down. She would be the kind of wife who poured wine at dinner and polished the silver while watching Charlie Rose. She was everything I wasn’t.

Later XX swore to me that he had lost his mind. His marriage was founded on his bipolar breakdown. He couldn't get out. He felt responsible. She was pregnant. He needed me. He would "do right" by me.

He started therapy. Some many therapy sessions later, he started taking happy pills. Suddenly he did not recall the talk about being depressed or his marriage being a mistake. Or his feeling "dead inside."

If it weren't for the three file size boxes of emails, I might think I had imagined all the mea culpas and heartfelt confessions. I believed he understood how galling it was for me -- He, in fact, used the word “galling.” I wasn't crazy. Well, in the sense that I imagined these things, crazy.

Later, as he rose through the ranks and became a successful television writer, I would watch the Emmys in disbelief he thanked his loving wife, his family. If it weren't for them, he said, all glory to them, he said.

But still, he would keep emailing and asking how I was doing and worried when I was sick and offered to help me out when I lost a job and was short on rent. It kept on. He made me think he cared. Whatever else was wrong, I mattered to him.

We would have passionate I-still-miss-you-still-love you sex while his name scrolled across the tv screen and all I could think was, this isn't happening.

One time XXX swore he missed me so much that he would do anything. Anything but get divorced. So, I told him fine, no sex. Come over. No sex. And we sat together in my living room and he held my foot. The connection better than the collective sex I'd had with anyone but XXX. He just held my foot as we talked, and then he left. When people ask me why I kept seeing him, this is my answer: the way he held my foot.


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