I got home from New York and my two girls Lulu and Giselle were in the family room. Lulu had her tall dollhouse out. She was on her knees involved in some conversation with her dinosaurs and her female doll, which I presumed was her doppelganger in doll world. Giselle sat in the breakfast-nook table. She worked on her Mac laptop. She had her headphones on and was doing something that looked like it wasn’t homework but some online game. When I walked in the kitchen, they both looked up and came running. When I hugged Giselle, the oldest who was almost 13, I noticed she was almost as tall as me. I smiled and kissed her cheek and then Lulu’s.
“You got something for us, Mama?” asked Lulu with her bright enthusiasm that was always so contagious.
“Yeah,” echoed Giselle.
I smiled and reached into my bag and pulled out two crowns with sparkling pink jewels and bright fuchsia feathers.
Lulu grabbed the crown and crowed, “Cool!”
She placed it squarely on her light-colored ash-blonde hair and raced back to her dollhouse.
Giselle was nonplussed and rolled her eyes. “Aren’t I a little old?”
I cupped her by her cheeks and pushed them together so her lips puckered, and I kissed them. Then I grinned and said, “You’re never too old to be a princess.”
Giselle rolled her eyes again and shuffled back to the computer with the crown at her side and not on her head. I stood in the kitchen and thought about what I would make for dinner. I started thinking about the last time Paul said anything nice about my cooking. He didn’t like what I cooked. One time I made a lovely dinner of lemon chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli, and he sneered at the plate, went straight to the kitchen, and started cutting up vegetables for stir-fry. So much for pride in what I cooked or enjoyment for that matter.
Abuse, criticism and put-downs defined my life. My parents were very critical to the point of mean-spiritedness, and my father was cold and unemotional. He protected dogs and puppies more than he cared about me. I had grown up only to marry and repeat the pattern with my husband who was cold, insensitive, critical, self-absorbed and inattentive to my needs. We did what he wanted to do, and if he didn’t want to do it and I still wanted to do it, I did it alone. Many vacations were taken solo or with my kids and girlfriends. Now when he put me down I had grown numb and indifferent to it. My solo vacations became escapes from the mind-numbing relationship. A part of me would drift away and turn off when the litany of criticism infused our conversations. I didn’t initially realize that my escapes to weekend trips to the beach or Tahoe were really about true “escapes,” but recently something had woken up in me. Something that felt withered, dead and dried up now seemed to turn green, watered and stand tall. I had lost touch with my sexuality and need to even be kissed and held with tenderness. I had forgotten that I had any value or self-worth. I seemed so worthless to my family and husband – just something to evaluate and find the negative marks in the box that stood in front of the phrase “not good enough”.
Just as the answer to the why I felt different came to my head, I heard it in the word “Evan” as the song of it whispered through the air. I looked around, and down toward my purse where the mobile rang. I pulled the iPhone from my purse and it read “Evan Garner” on the screen. My heart jumped, and I found my hand shaking. I walked off toward the den that was off to the side of the family room to speak to him in private.
“Hi,” I said quietly.
“Well hello there,” he said cheerfully. “How are you?”
“I just heard your name …”
“Never mind,” I said and felt stupid for admitting such a thing.
“I can’t stop thinking about you.”
I was taken aback and replied, “What do you mean?”
“When are you coming to New York? My partners want to meet you?”
“I just got home.”
“Well you text me a good time. They have put together a sweet deal. Plus, I want to see you again.”
“You’re confusing, really, you heard me. I want to see you … beautiful.”
“I’m married,” I blurted.
“Yes, you are.”
“I’ve never cheated with anyone in my life.”
“Yes, so you text me some dates. But don’t keep me waiting.”
“Bye,” I said and felt a weight of guilt come over me.
I walked out toward the patio, opened the slider, and sat down on the chaise lounge. The chilly wind blew cool air and kicked up the fall leaves into a swirl. I couldn’t stop thinking about Evan. My mind was consumed with thoughts of what it would be like to kiss his full lips, to feel his tongue softly lick my own; to reach out and caress his freshly shaven cheeks. These thoughts overtook my reason, and I was caught in a fantasy of lust and desire just to kiss him. A passion that had gone into a coma had awakened inside of me with a full rush of heat. Just as I closed my eyes to think about his face, I heard the slider open and close. I turned to look – it was Paul.
He stared at me quizzically. “I was thinking maybe we can go to dinner on Friday,” he said quietly. “Anywhere you want to go.”
I turned and looked at him, “Anywhere?”
“Yes, honey anywhere.”
I nodded in surprise, and he reached to touch my shoulder but I recoiled, which was an unfamiliar reaction.
Paul frowned and asked, “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I replied, but his touch made me shudder.
I no longer wanted him. I couldn’t even see myself kissing him anymore. What was wrong with me? He was my husband, and I couldn’t stop thinking about another man. Evan had resuscitated something dead and buried. It was so much deeper than attraction. I had been attracted to different men over the years. Evan touched something primal inside of me – a pure rush of lust and forbidden desire.
What was wrong with me? What kind of wife … no, what kind of person cheats on her spouse? Was I really this flawed? Had all the deprivation made me lose my values and sense of right and wrong? My longing was so deep and so uncontrollable, I felt total frustration. It created this inner battle: good vs. evil and wrong vs. right. Yet at the same time, something broke open wide in me. It was like thunder struck a granite rock, cracked it down the middle, and split it into two pieces. Singed earth was left between. My identity now fractured with dark, smoking ash. My sense of direction suddenly lost. My moral compass twirling like the Earth’s magnetism gone out of control. I was a puppy chasing an unattainable tail. I had this urge to just dump my entire life and run. Forget I had responsibilities. I wanted for once … just once to have something all my own. Feel real love just for me. To let the man who called me beautiful savor me like an exquisite meal; to lick my frosting completely off my cake and taste all of the richness of the real me.
And that’s when I let it go. I kept revisiting a fantasy of kissing those supple lips. I didn’t even know what his lips felt like. Then I heard that voice again. It whispered, “It’s going to be good.” I looked around, thinking Paul had said it, but he was already gone. I hadn’t even heard him leave me there.
“It’s going to be good,” the same familiar voice reiterated in a whisper that seemed to blow away like wind.