An Introduction: Part III

Now remember, my best friend had just died, and I hadn’t even thought about dating anyone since we’d broken up a year before, so this new relationship honestly started as a friendship…that’s just not where it ended up. It started out with lunches, just plain old lunches, with four or five other guys at work. One hour. Nothing special. Well, nothing much. There was the fact that we talked constantly, that I talked about him outside of work. To my friends. To my mom. But we never saw each other outside of work. He’d find reasons to hang out at my desk; I was the receptionist and he was in IT, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to find reasons for him to come over and hang out. After my manager was fired the next month and my work-life became a massive overload of insanity, he played a big part in helping me out and keeping me from a total nervous breakdown. He was smart as hell. He was witty and sarcastic. He made me laugh and finished both my sentences and my crossword puzzles. He was the first person I'd felt a real connection to since meeting my three best friends in junior high (one of whom is in college in Boston, one moved to Austin to escape this suburban boredom, and the other has, well, she’s a heroin addict and I haven’t spoken to her in years). He was everything I looked for in a friend, so when he bridged that work-to-social gap and invited me to a New Year’s Eve party that he and his wife were going to, I gladly accepted. I prettied myself up (it was a party after all), they picked me up, and we all went to the party together: him, his wife, their 10-month old baby, and me. It was not the “party” I had expected. Every party I’d been to in my life had revolved around a keg with a very large stereo blasting very loud music ‘til 4 or 5 am. This was very different. I was introduced to the other eight or ten people there; we sat around the dining room table playing board games. It was great. Actually Intellectual Conversation. Something I had been sorely missing. At some point, rather early in the evening, my new friend’s wife snuck upstairs to put the baby to bed, which apparently didn’t work, because she didn’t reappear until after 2 am. So I got to know his friends, the geeks that I should’ve been hanging out with in high school, but was too interested in drugs and in not appearing too smart, to hang out with. We literally played board games for like four hours and had a blast doing it. I learned ridiculously complex rules and got my first real introduction to people that really were just like me…five or six years older, but what does that matter? So when a few weeks later he invited me out to shoot some pool and have some dinner with him and another friend, I once again readily accepted. Only his friend called to cancel on dinner, not pool, just dinner, so we sat at the restaurant and talked like old friends for as long as we could justify holding the table on a Saturday night, and then went off to the pool hall. At which point we were informed that we were on his own, the friend had a girl over and wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. Did I mention I can’t really play pool? So he showed me how to take a shot; it wasn’t that I hadn’t done it before, just that I hadn’t in about ten years. I got better, even won a few games. We chatted away the whole time about…well…everything. When we left we made plans to get together the following weekend at his house for Scrabble; his wife’s family was going through a bit of a crisis and she and the baby had been spending their weekends with them.

I was telling myself one thing and behaving the complete opposite. I kept telling myself, my brother, my mom and dad, anyone who would listen that we were just good friends, that we found each other enjoyable, but that I would NEVER get involved with a married man. At the same time, I was waking up just a few minutes earlier every day, making sure my outfit was just right, makeup perfect, not a hair out of place…everything that you do when you want someone to notice you.

I was nervous as hell going over there that first night. After all, he was married! I had Morals! and Ethics! But firm in the adolescent belief that there was really nothing to worry about, that we were both “good” people; I took the drive to his house and had one of the greatest nights of my life. He had the Scrabble board already set up as I walked into their cute little cape cod. We played a game; he kicked my ass. We ordered food, ate, and instead of playing another game, we relocated to the couch. Sitting a safe distance apart for a single girl and a married man, we got started talking. About our families, our pasts, our taste in music, my illness. We talked about so much I couldn’t even try to recall everything. And then I looked up and it was six in the morning; the sun was starting to make the world outside glow with that blue-grey haze that signals the coming of a new day. We had spent the night together. Not having sex, but building something that was more deep and intimate than any of the sex I'd had in my life. As I walked back to my little sedan parked very obviously in their driveway, I was scared for the first time. Scared of the butterflies in my stomach. Scared of the gut feeling that said (slightly more loudly now) that I was treading on some seriously perilous ground. Scared of the potential that I saw in our relationship. Scared that maybe those morals and ethics didn’t deserve capital letters after all. It didn’t take long for our friendly banter in the office became much more blatant flirting. Well, as blatant as you can be in a small office when you’re trying really hard not to be obvious. We spent more and more time finding excuses to be where the other was. One unexpected evening, the rest of our co-workers headed down to the bar in the lobby. We were going to join them after finishing up some orders that had to ship that day. We finished the orders and quickly found that we were both much more interested in talking alone in the quiet office then going down to some smoky, loud bar. So there we sat…for hours. Suddenly it was almost nine and we were both starving. Obvious choice, little restaurant down the street. So we took up residence at a high-top table in the bar and ordered some food…and of course, there was much more talking. The conversation between us never seemed to flounder; silences were totally comfortable; it was amazing. And then he said the words that changed the rest of our lives…well his half anyway; that he was crazy about me and didn’t know what to do. We’d talked about his marriage numerous times; they gotten married too soon and too young; it was just the next step after dating for so long; neither really thought that there was more out there; neither was capable of real communication with the other, so she just went along with what he wanted; he didn’t feel challenged or excited; life had become baby-centered and unfulfilling. I really don’t think he expected my reply, because he looked like he was going to fall out of his chair. I said that I felt the same way (actually my pain in the ass inner brainchild came out and I used the word "reciprocate." Ugh.), but he was married and I wasn’t going to be that person, couldn’t be that person. We talked more and things started to get emotional with the “what do we do now?” and “we obviously can’t just be friends.” We both needed some air, so we stepped out into the brisk February chill and walked back to his car. We sat there for a minute in silence, neither of us knowing what to do or say next. He drove me back to the parking garage at work, where my car still was. Again we sat. And then we talked…in short spurts…me trying my hardest not to cry (and I didn’t). At some point I just told him to go home, it was either that or I was just going to have to kiss him right there, and I don't jump into things like that without a good deal of thought. I got out of his car, into my own, and broke down into great big sobs. After a serious cry, I drove the ten minutes it took to get home in silence, trying to think, but at the same time being completely unable to coherently put together a thought. It was nearly 1 am and no one was up as I crept into my house. I was online five minutes later; he signed on five minutes after that. We talked until the sun came up, again. Only this time we said everything that we’d been holding back. That feeling that I’d had for weeks just overwhelmed me. I loved him and that was it. We talked about the feeling. The crazy in love feeling that neither of our logical minds had allowed us to really believe in. Romance Novel Love. Free-falling. We made plans to see each other the following weekend; his wife would be gone with the baby for the weekend again and the house would be empty. The week seemed to stretch on for an endless amount of time and wouldn’t you know it, Friday it snowed. Massive amounts of snow. Stay in the house and watch TV snow; not a weekend to travel with a baby and she didn't. So we waited another week for the weekend that happened to be my 22nd birthday. Friday afternoon, as we walked to the parking garage together as we’d done for months, he kissed me. I asked “What took you so long?” We both smiled, went to our cars, and drove home eagerly anticipating the next night’s tryst.

There were no complications that weekend, at least not any that I knew about as I left my house with butterflies as big as 747s flying around my stomach. All dressed up, I had left the house telling my mom that some friends were taking me out on the town and I probably wouldn’t be home. That was the first real lie I had to tell anyone about what was officially an affair. When I pulled up to his house, parking down the street this time to keep from arousing the suspicions of any nosy neighbors, I was a ball of anxiety. I think I sat there for a good three or four minutes just staring, trying to figure out something, anything, that would make me feel like this was wrong and I needed to go home. I’d been thinking for two weeks by then, but nothing came, and nothing would come. This was right. This was the man that I was meant for. I don’t like words like fate and destiny, words that imply a lack of free will, but damn it if anything was ever predestined, this was it. These instant romance novel sparks that didn’t just go off when he touched me, it was just being in his presence, having a conversation. I’d never felt that before; I've felt it a million times since. Once again, I knocked on the door and was let in to their cute little cape cod. This time I sat right down on the couch. He did the same. We sat there, hand in hand, arm to arm, trying to breathe, trying to memorize the moment, totally overwhelmed. I don’t know how long we sat there in silence. I broke it at some point to ask what was for dinner; he said it was a surprise. Then we made love. It was that simple and that real and that excellent. I melted into a pool of mush and as we lay on his couch, dripping with sweat in post-coital bliss, he quietly told me “Don't freak out, but I told her.” I didn't freak out, but I didn’t know what to say so I stared at the ceiling and waited until something came, “And she still left you here alone?” he said yes, I said wow, he said he had to check on dinner and I grabbed a tee shirt as I pondered why on earth she would allow this to happen. He had told me weeks earlier that she had asked if she needed to be worried about me, that she had cheated early in their relationship, and that he almost felt like she wanted him to do it; a way to even the playing field, I guess. He made me salmon stuffed with crab for my birthday dinner. We ate half dressed and then spent the rest of the night in each other’s arms. This was not the time for talking… ...The next few months however, were full of talking, between him and his wife, between them and their marital counselor (who was a total waste of time and money, but helped both of them realize that they were actually unhappily married), between his wife and me, between me and the one friend I let in on my big giant secret. Lots of talking. Lots of sex during lunch breaks, because while we were having an affair that his wife was fully aware of, we did not flaunt it by seeing each other outside of business hours. We didn't go out to dinner together and then lie to her about where he'd been; we didn't sneak off to hotel rooms. We didn’t secretly call each other. It was probably the most open, honest, bizarre affair you could conceive of. She knew what was going on every step of the way, no lies, no bullshit. We did go out to dinner together a few weeks into our relationship; he asked her first, she grudgingly obliged. Even when she emailed me about the heartbreak I was causing her and how committed she still was to making things work, I was perfectly frank and as sympathetic as I could be, but I didn’t try to excuse what I was doing or promise to stop. I let her know how strongly I felt that this was it for me and she seemed to understand pretty clearly how strongly her husband felt. There was nothing that I could say to make things better. The only thing I could have done was to stop seeing him. And I felt then, just as I do now, that he’s was it for me, that he isn’t it for her, and never was, and that it would all be alright at some vague point in the future. The next four months were like living in limbo. I was going to school, working, and waiting. Waiting for her to start throwing things; waiting for her to decide she had enough; waiting for him to decide if he was willing to be a part time dad. Waiting. Then one day she decided that this waiting shit was for the birds. She told him it was her or me and he had a week to make a decision. I was scared shitless. I broke down and wrote him the most honest, pleading email I’ve ever written in my life; I’d never done anything like it before, never fought for anything because I’d never wanted anything this badly. I said exactly what I felt, exactly what I wanted; that he should leave her and we could be blissfully happy together.

Two weeks later he gave her his answer. Me.

To Be Continued...

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