first published May 31, 2014
Abe (I think this was his name)
I was always a sexual person. I lost my virginity when I was 13 to an older girl who lived on my street. From that point on, I never stopped trying to get more. I certainly played the field, even after I married. My wife looked the other way. She understood that sex was sex, and love was love. And I did love her, she knew that. So she let me have my fun. She knew it made me feel confident, young, virile and that’s how she wanted me. She wasn’t jealous. She understood that to fill this particular need, quantity trumped quality.
Years after the fact, I learned that many of her friends had informed her of my affairs. They were shocked and offended by my behavior. A philandering man in their camp was too much of a threat to their own marriages. If an upstanding family man and loving husband such as myself could cheat, how could they possibly trust their own husbands? They reassured themselves that they would never be as naive as she was. They would raise a fuss! She should raise a fuss, they insisted (just to teach their husbands a lesson!)
She brushed off every accusation until finally, when they got no rise of indignation out of her, they stopped telling her. They just pitied her behind her back. She never confronted me about any of my affairs, despite some of her friends’ insistence, because that would have forced us to discuss things neither of wanted to discuss. So, she looked the other way. Again and again and again.
Make no mistake – she did that out of the deepest love for me; and I knew it. She understood what I got from my dalliances. I suspected she was envious of them because I’m sure she would have liked some of that feeling for herself once in a while.
Each new affair filled me with passion and lust and the sense of being a virile young man again. But eventually – in a few months or perhaps as long as a year – they would burn themselves out. These women entered into relationships with me because they all assumed they could lure me away from my wife. The affairs inevitably ended when it became apparent to them that this was never going to happen. (I never lied to any of them, but I admit to letting them believe whatever they wanted. Their fantasies of our future were useful to me.)
There was inevitably a lot of drama, which was stressful, and which I just wanted to leave behind as quickly as possible. This was not always possible as some of these women did not want to let go without a fight. It was sometimes a challenge to keep this drama from spilling into my home.
These were the times I devoted myself to being the best husband I could possibly be. And when we reconnected during these periods, we felt each other as if we were new. You might say we rediscovered each other and fell in love again. And in this way, she did have some of what I was getting out there.
We both understood that this embrace-and-release was our special rhythm. We had grown comfortable in it.
She always could sense where I was in my cycles: New suit, new haircut, watching my weight. This was the courting stage. When I developed a glow; when I reached for her at night, when I started to exercise – this indicated the affair had begun. The excuses for disappearing for hours in the evenings? That was when the feelings were in full blossom (and when I ignored her most). When I inevitably figured out a way to take a weekend with my new paramour, oh, that meant the girl was getting serious and I was allowing myself to be carried along in her fantasy. From this point, it wouldn’t be long before the ultimatums started. She would then realize the truth and it would be over. A lot of whispered phone calls and guilty, sleepless nights: this was the end. I would be both relieved and disappointed, even though I always knew, going in, that it would eventually come to this.
When each one ended, she was especially kind to me. She held me and petted me and told me I was still her handsome boy. She knew, but she never said a word. She just stepped in to fill the void as best she could.
I knew that she knew and she knew that I knew but neither wanted to know. Neither of us expressed our needs to each other, either because we didn’t have the words or because we were afraid, I really couldn’t say. Maybe love is just paying close enough attention to someone so that you understand them without words, and give them what they need without them having to ask.
Eventually, even though I chased the ladies like an old dog, I was too old to catch anything. During these years, she was most loving and supportive of all, and I came to realize how lucky I’d been. When she became sick, I told her all these things — what I’d learned about me, about her, about us. I told her how much I appreciated her, even though I didn’t always show it. I was happy that I finally had the chance to express my love to her. I wanted to be sure she knew there was nobody else who ever came close to her.
When she died, I lost interest in women altogether. No amount of quantity could ever make up for such a loss in quality.