From Day 1—Maybe
Monday, December 3
LAST WEEK: Words are dangerous—From hopeful to hard in three adjectives (N-entirely-SFW). This week: get to know Jane’s best friend Marie… and why she keeps on drifting from one not-quite affair to another. I think you can totally read this at work, and not just in a bathroom stall. But there’s grown up language. I don’t do euphemism.
“Are you sure this is ok?” she asks, for the umpteenth time, as she follows her kids into the house.
“Jeezus, woman, if it wasn’t, I’d have said so when you asked me,” I chastise. “Besides, four kids, six kids, not much difference. How much louder or messier can they be? I’m going to run them up the hill, get them to sled, and if I decide I want to kill them, I’ll make them watch Minecraft videos on Youtube. It’s all good. Go.”
“Let me just get their lunch things into the kitchen,” she says. She follows me into the kitchen, puts down the bag on the table.
Marie is my first, and sometimes I think only, adult female friend. Those other women—the ones from the school, the neighbourhood, the ones from Alex’s work—I socialize with. Sometimes just endure. Alex says I don’t like women very much, and perhaps he’s right. Still. Motherhood has thrust me fully into a community of women. Playgroups, playdates, playschools. Mom’s nights out. Gymnastics classes, book clubs. Goddamned pioneer Christmas field trips.
They would all be, I think, barely tolerable without Marie. And I have come to love Marie in all her facets, even her most feminine ones. One of these feminine facets, and one that I don’t enjoy, is that she confides in me. Constantly. She tells me of the rough patches in her marriage, the on-again-off-again online flirtation with her old flames, her secret hope/fear that one day that flirtation—or another—might become something else, something bigger, her immense guilt over those feelings when her marriage survives its rough patches and moves into harmony.
Because she confides—constantly, constantly, constantly—I know more about the intimacies of her marriage than I really want to. I know that when JP “wants to get laid” (that’s how Marie always puts it), he turns on the charm and has even been known to unload the dishwasher. I know that, in contrast to his rather unpleasant living room demeanour, in the bedroom he is a considerate and gentle lover—”the king of foreplay.” I know that he prefers to be on top—or sideways—and thinks doggie-style’s undignified. I know he gets a great deal of satisfaction from taking Marie from orgasm to orgasm. I know he doesn’t really like to give oral, his overall love of foreplay notwithstanding. In fact, he fakes it— “with wet fingers and slurping noises,” Marie reports. How he thinks any woman can’t tell the difference between a finger and a tongue, I don’t know. Marie, apparently, has never called him on it. He spends a great deal of time on her boobs, and wanted her to get a boob-tightening job after she weaned their youngest to “get them back the way they’re supposed to be.”
I also know he prefers straight missionary vaginal sex to the best blow job, and long stretches of abstinence followed by mara-fuck-athons to seize-the-moment quickies.
I also know, although Marie’s never put it like this, that the major problem with JP and Marie’s marriage is that JP is a wanker and treats her like shit on a daily basis.
And, I also know that Marie thinks they don’t fuck enough. Whether JP’s satisfied with the situation as it is, I don’t know—I go out of my way to not talk to him, or, indeed, to be in the same physical space with him. But Marie… oh, Marie wants to fuck more.
She tells me this all the time.
I suppose that’s the other reason—surely, the first must be that JP is a wanker and treats her like shit—behind her obsession with and pursuit of faux affairs.
About which she tells me all as well.
I accept Marie’s confidences as a sign of our friendship; sometimes, I even enjoy them because she tells a good story. She does not look to me for advice or any kind of commentary. She just wants someone to listen to her.
I can do that.
And I can tell, right now, that she needs to tell me something.
“Tell me,” I say. “What is it?”
“I’m not going Christmas shopping,” she says, after casting her eyes right and left to make sure the children are out of ear shot. “I’m going for lunch, and I don’t know, maybe more, with, you know. Zoltan.”
Zoltan. Probably not his real name, but who’s being particular. Marie’s latest attempt at an affair. This one’s a stranger, someone she met online for the explicit purpose of having a hook up. These days, I think of each of her flirtations as her latest attempt to sabotage the marriage she wants to end. But maybe not. Next week, maybe staying married, whatever the cost, may be the most important thing.
I arrange my face to look—supportive. I listen as Marie lambasts JP. Segues into lambasting the self-righteousness of “those women”—Nicola, Colleen, the Greek chorus. “Do they not have feelings? Hormones? Desires? Are they all in denial? They’re all our age! Where the fuck are their hormones?”
She looks at me expectantly. Expecting what? Acquiescence, confirmation, confession?
—Some things never change.
Like your effect on me. //
I could. I could tell her. But I am a bad friend. I do not betray her confidences, never. But I never reciprocate either.
It’s not a conscious choice, exactly. It’s just… not me. I don’t tell. Plus, what do I have to reciprocate with? Sure, Alex annoys me from time to time. He has no sense of time, and will text me at 8:15 to tell me he should be home before 7. His relationship with his mother is co-dependent, and his relationship with his father and stepmothers is fucked up. I’ve given up trying to get him to put his shoes on the boot mat, and his idea of helping clean the house is to suggest the cleaners come in more often. But. He’s a great dad. And he’s been known to load the dishwasher. Well, supervise the kids as they load the dishwasher. More importantly: he gets hard the second he sees me naked. Now. And always. When I had a belly swollen with six-months worth of baby in it. When it was flabby and stretchy six-months post-fourth-baby. Yeah, he gets cranky. Annoying. Distant.
So do I.
But at our worst, I do not wish to leave our marriage—nor do I secretly hope, as Marie sometimes does, that he leaves, so that I would be… What? Free but blameless. I’m… what am I? Perhaps less deluded? Alex and I, we are what we are, and it’s usually good, and it has downs, but it’s all about the long-play. It’s about forever: not fairy tale forever. Just… nuclear family forever.
A child of parents who will celebrate their forty-third wedding anniversary next year, I buy into that.
Marie calls us a fairy tale marriage every once in a while, and pauses, and waits for me to say something. And I shrug. Five pregnancies, fourth births. Eleven, almost twelve years of solid monogamy. Of days too full of children and quotidian obligations to have much space for even audacious thought crime, much less real crime.
This thought intrudes: the last time I saw Matt, I had just found out I was pregnant with Cassandra.
And I did what I had to do, what had to be done.
This thought comes, too: a little more time and space for thought crime these days. My work ensures I get taken out to lunch and dinner by powerful and occasionally attractive men. Occasionally, after, I commit thought crime with them while fucking Alex.
Why would I tell Marie that? To what end?
And—my fingers find the phone in my purse—she does not know anything about this part of me. This past part of me.
// —See you… on the 14th.
I very much look forward to it. //
“What if he thinks I’m a skank?” Marie asks me. “He knows I’m married. With children. And there I am… Do you think I’m a skank?” she turns to me suddenly, sharply. I take a step back, creating space between us again.
“Jesus, Marie, what do you think I am?” I ask. “Your friend. Who’s looking after your kids so you can do whatever you need to do this afternoon. You don’t need to justify anything to me.”
“I’d just feel better if you and Alex didn’t have this fairy tale marriage,” Marie says. There she goes again. “The prince and the princess. And I know JP’s more than ten years older than Alex. But Alex still looks so good, and young, and in shape—and the two of you together. You’re so… perfect.”
I love her and I do not want her to feel judged.
I could tell her.
“I don’t want you to judge me,” Marie says. “And I know you never say anything. But how can you not judge me when you’re so fucking happily married and faithful and…”
I could do this. I could. I could open the Facebook app on my phone, and go into messages. Hand the phone to Marie.
She would read. She would say, “Oh my God,” and I would I hear a thunk—me, falling off the pedestal.
“Never think I’m judging you,” I would say as she read.
“Who is this?” she would ask.
And this is where it ends. Where I know I won’t tell. I can’t tell. Because… because I don’t. Mine. Only mine to know and bear and carry.
So. I don’t show, I don’t share. Instead:
“I never judge you,” I say. “He won’t think you’re a skank. OK, well, he might. But he wants you to be a skank. Right? That’s what this whole thing is about.”
It’s almost the right thing to say. Marie smiles.
“K,” she says. “K. It will be OK. I’ll be fine. I look good, right?” I nod. “See you in three or so hours.”
“Be safe,” I send her on her way. To her lunch. Or a parking lot fuck.
I hope she’s packed a condom.
NEXT WEEK: The day ends. Totally NSFW Tumble: “You won’t be on your feet for long.”
TOMORROW: Confession 6: Six days crafting a five sentence bio
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“Soon, soon! Coming from Mischief, the erotica imprint of Harper Collins UK, in March 2015. In the meantime, sign up to follow this blog? Teasers (taste Tell Me) coming every Tuesday. And… a deeper taste, here.”