You meet him on the playground. He's got reddish-brown beard
and a lanky build. His son and your boys seem to be hitting it off over there by
the slide, so you two start chatting, the way parents do. His name is Paul.
They're new to the neighborhood. It's his birthday next week. He's going skiing
in Colorado with the guys. His wife isn't into skiing. He wishes she were, but
"I love skiing," you say, though you haven't been since high
His hazel eyes light up. "Right? Skiing is awesome."
"Who doesn't love skiing?" you say. And suddenly you see yourself
swooshing down the slopes with Paul. You don't usually like beards, but his is nice.
When one of your boys starts screaming, you rush over, all attentive
and sweet. You haven't been very attentive, or sweet, to anyone lately. In fact
your husband mentioned that after your last argument. That would be this
morning. Not that he's been Mr. Charming
either. Not to mention that he's gained a few pounds and doesn't seem to care. You
haven't had sex in two months, although you haven't really wanted it. Until
now, as you think about an après-ski hot tub. Are they as fun as they look on "The
Bachelor" you wonder? Paul has great eyes. Maybe you should lose a few pounds.
Usually you can't wait to leave the playground, but not
today. Today you want to stay, and keep talking. But then Paul gets a text and
starts to pack up. "Looks like it's dinner time," he says, "Maybe I'll see you
"Yeah, maybe," you say.
There's nothing maybe about it. You will both be there
next Tuesday, even though its drizzling out. And the following Tuesday. Then
again on Saturday. And the more time you spend together, the more you have to
talk about. It's not that way with your husband. In fact, after one decade of marriage, you seem to have run out of things to say, except when it comes to
yelling at him to buy real food and finally learn how to cook it.
This goes on for months with Paul. You look for each other at the playground. You adore
his kid. His wife seems kind of cold, though. He says she's stressed because of work. He mentions one day that you have
When you invite him over for coffee that Saturday, he doesn't
even hesitate. "How about it," he says. Then he and his son walk with you
down the street. Anyone would think you're a happy little family, and for those
few moments you pretend you are.
Your husband is away on business, you tell him rather
casually as you unlock the door. His wife is at a yoga retreat all day he says.
You put on a movie for the boys in the basement room and come upstairs to make
the coffee. He asks if it's too early to
have a beer instead.
"Of course not," you say.
When he finishes his, he puts down the bottle and leans across the couch.
You've forgotten what a first
kiss tastes like, all that delicious newness with a completely different texture and movements. His arms are sinewy and pull you in close. Except for the guilt
part, it feels so good. You check on
the boys to make sure they're settled. Then you and Paul go into the office and
shut the door.
It's a one-time thing, and it's not like your husband will
ever find out. You're kind of happily married or at least doing better than a
lot of your friends. You have two young kids. You're still going to dance
together at your 25th anniversary. Of course, now that you've broken
your vows, that feels less romantic. Still, it doesn't mean
He's all you think about. At work. At night. You start
sleeping with your husband again, but it's not really him that you're with. You
live for Paul's Snapchats, his coy texts. He calls you by your high school
nickname that you happened to mention one day as a joke. You smile when you
look at your phone.
You husband just
wanted to know what you were laughing about. That's why he checked your phone. You're
screaming at each other. The boys are crying.
"No I didn't sleep with him!" you lie. You pack your bags
and think about which hotel to go to.
"And who's going to take the kids to preschool in the morning?" your
husband asks. "I've got an early meeting."
You don't have the money for two rents. The marriage
counselor is useless, and expensive. Your husband doesn't trust you anymore. Your youngest is
acting out in school. Paul is terrified that his wife will find out.
This wasn't supposed to happen. It was just a little flirting and some kissing.
And now you're life is unrecognizable. The sex wasn't even life-changing, just
different. But it's gone now, and so is your family. You don't really
like skiing all that much. You miss what you had. But you can't get it back.
You won't ever get it back.