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Go Ahead and Have an Affair

Photograph by Twenty20

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 she isn't.

"I love skiing," you say, though you haven't been since high school.

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 next Tuesday."

"Yeah, maybe," you say.

You've forgotten what a first kiss tastes like, all that delicious newness with a completely different texture and movements.

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 great hands.

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 anything.

'No I didn't sleep with him!' you lie. You pack your bags and think about which hotel to go to.

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 sleep on the couch—for weeks to come.

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 your 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.

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