THE AFFAIR

2. THE HUSBAND

April 1 1967
THE AFFAIR

2. THE HUSBAND

April 1 1967

2. THE HUSBAND

You CAN CALL IT chemistry, magic, whatever you like, I don't care. But it was there the very first time we met . . . Wham! I had just walked into another architect's office and there was this new secretary sitting there, waiting for her boss to get off the phone. He had his feet up and was looking out the window, so he didn't even see me come in. I can remember my stomach did a flip-flop while I just stared at this girl with all this white, white skin and black hair. The great part about it was that it was going two ways. She just stared right back at me. And we knew. We both knew that something was going to happen. 1 he funny thing is we didn’t even exchange a word and, after a couple of minutes of all this electricity going back and forth, 1 turned around and got out of there.

Nothing happened right away. Because, well . . . frankly I m not a lady's man. I'm not even very good at meeting them. The only woman I knew anything about was my wife. We met and married when I was still in my third year at university. I never regretted that. She was good for me. Everything I knew about sexuality and love was tied up with her and I didn't want anyone else. And since our marriage I had never been unfaithful. I loved her. I guess I still do.

Another reason why nothing happened immediately between this girl and me is because a couple of days before I had come back from Houston, and I was very depressed. I was the third project architect to be called in on that job and I inherited all the mistakes and compromises of the first two. Before I left, the vice-president of our firm had called me in and told me this was my first big break and to give it everything I had. Well, after 1 had been down there for a while I realized that, no matter what I did, I would come out of the job looking bad. And that’s the way it happened. When I got back I realized that I was going to have to work good and hard to re-establish myself in everyone's eyes.

About two weeks after my return we had this horrible evenine at our place. We had invited over four other couples; two of the men worked in the same firm as I did. I remember my wife was eoing on about how hard I must have worked in Houston because of all the weight I had lost. Houston was the last thing I wanted to talk about, especially in front of those guys from the office, so I cut her off fast. I guess I didn’t do it very gently because she looked hurt.

Then there were all these little secret glances going on between her and one of the other men. Once while I was talking to him, I suddenly realized he wasn’t even listening to me. I turned around to follow the direction of his eyes and I realized he was looking at my wife. I could hear her saying something about how she had missed me while 1 was away and that the only good thing about it was that she'd found it a lot easier to keep the place tidy and didn't have to go around picking up my dirty socks and shirts. Right away all the other wives chimed in with all their favorite little tricks for getting their husbands to pick up their own clothes. It really turned me off. You know, there I was sitting in a room with four other couples. All the men are making five-figure incomes. One of my best friends is trying to flirt with my wife. And all these women can talk about is how to get their husbands to pick up their underwear. I remember thinking to myself, After nine years, / continued on paye 56

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We went out for a drink. At her place. We forgot the drink

is this what married life is all about? I made some excuse about going downtown to get more ice.

I must have spent an hour walking around out there by myself in the dark, because when I got back, except for the flirt and his wife, everyone had left. The atmosphere was a little cold and the two women looked very uncomfortable. My friend didn’t seem to care, perhaps because he was high. I apologized for taking so much time to find the ice. That seemed to relieve the tension a bit, and after a while they left.

A couple of nights later I was working in the office. I thought I was alone but every once in a while I could hear the tap-tapping noise of a typewriter. I had spent the evening studying some drawings done by a kid who had just come to work for us. He really was a kid, too, still in his early 20s, but he had everything and the drawings showed it. Looking at them, I suddenly realized that, although J was 35 and had twice as much experience, I was never ever going to do anything this good. I understood then that I was always going to be able to do a solid, workmanlike job, but brilliance was not going to be a part of my life. That does something to a guy when he realizes that. I can’t exactly articulate what happens, but I think most men know what I mean, because few of us are really brilliant.

Anyway, I put my coat on and started home. On the way out I went to find out where the tap-tapping noise was coming from. Well . . . there she was. I just walked up to the desk and said, “Put your coat on. I'm

going to buy us two big drinks.’’ It came out sort of husky and jerky, because my chest had tightened up so much. She just looked at me for about a minute, “No." she said. “I'm going to buy you a drink.’’ We got into the

car and she told me where her place was.

We never did get that drink. I think about two minutes after we had closed the apartment door behind us we were undressing each other.

When I finally got out of the apartment, 1 was floating. I was a giant, 12 feet tall. Look. I want to tell you something. At 35, I suddenly discovered that 1 was not just a lover, but a great lover. I think the discovery overwhelmed us both that night. And you know, the funniest part about it all was when I got home my wife was half asleep. She woke up enough to ask me if I had remembered to pay the telephone bill. She got mad when I couldn't stop laughing.

So there it was. Overnight I had a mistress. But it was a lot more than that. From the beginning we told each other it was love. We both believed it, too. For six months 1 lived two separate lives. I had my wife, my children, and my home. Then I had my job and my mistress. I refused to let one interfere with the other. I would step out of one life, close a watertight mental and emotional door behind me, and step into the other. To tell the truth, I was happy. I never felt guilty—that was to come later, after my wife had found that letter. And that’s when the whole world turned sour.

The night that it all came out she told me the names of the men she said she had been involved with over the last few years. What a night! Accusations back and forth, tears, pleas for forgiveness, more confessions, more

THE AFFAIR (THE HUSBAND) commuai

It was like a honeymoon, this girl and I alone. It changed

accusations, more tears. Nobody has ever called me so many dirty names in all my life. 1 admit that 1 slapped her around a bit. Something I'm not very proud of. Finally we collapsed, exhausted, into bed. The next morning she told me the confessions she had made the night before hadn't been true and that she had just said those things to hurt me. 1 said. okay. I could understand that and to forget it. But 1 never really could. I mean, when that happens, you really don't know what to believe, do you? It's got you going both ways. 1 know I went and asked one of the guys, which made me feel pathetic and stupid. Of course, he denied it, but what else could he do?

The next day 1 left and moved into this girl's apartment. It lasted four weeks. The first two were like a honeymoon. 1 hen everything 1 had pushed out of my mind came crowd-

ing back in on me and I kept thinking about my children. We tried very hard to be happy together. I laughed a lot but it was a hollow-hearted gaiety. I would fall into silent moods that 1 couldn’t pull myself out of. Finally, she talked me into going back to my wife. But I just coukln t go back immediately. 1 went away for two weeks and stayed with my brother. He runs a trucking business up in the northern Ontario bush. 1 spent a few days walking around in the bush. Then he put me to work driving a gravel truck. It was the damnedest thing. I enjoyed every minute of it. I came back to my family thinking that I could take on the world again.

Her two words: “Get out”

My wife wasn't convinced. She asked me to sleep in the study. She asked me to take it easy and be patient. She also wanted me to go with her to a marriage counsellor. I said okay to everything. What else could I do? The sessions with the marriage counsellor were awful. She seemed to agree with everything my wife said, which was mainly what a louse 1 was. Well, I figured she had to get it all off her chest somehow. The counsellor would never look at me. She just kept her head down, scribbling it all down on a pad.

This went on for two and a half months. Then I remember one evening my wife was taking a bath and I walked in on her. She covered herself. That's right, she actually covered herself up with her arms. Then she asked me to leave the bathroom. I left all right. I got in my car and drove downtown to this gill’s apartment. That was a mistake. There was a young guy there. He had a beard. They weren’t doing anything, just sitting around having a drink and listening to records. He left after about five minutes. I was jealous, enraged. I know it was completely irrational but I started in on her and accused her of all kinds of things. She took it without saying a thing. When finally I had run out of breath, .¡he turned around and said two words: "Get out.” 1 went to bed that night in the study, thinking that if I had any

talent at all it was for self-alienation.

1 thought that t at was the end of it. So what? 1 thought. / can do without both of them. After work the next day she walked into my office and said. "Put your coat on. I'm going to buy you a drink. ' 1 didn't go home that night.

And that's the wav it went on. and

on and on. I'll admit that now I'm hopelessly confused. Men are supposed to be able to bury themselves in their work. I can t. 1 spend hours sitting in my office wondering what the hell I'm going to do. 1 know mv wife goes out with other men now. Other people took care of that. Some of them can hardly wait to tell you

where they saw her and with whom. We still make love once in a while. 1 try to tell myself the other guys don't matter, that whatever she has done with them has taken place somewhere out there, and that it doesn’t have anything to do with us. But I can't turn it off. And when I'm with her I'm thinking about those other guvs all the time. I’ve thought about divorce. but who can afford it? I'm thinking of taking analysis. Do you think that might help? ★