"Are you nervous?" I asked. The Philly summer air was thick with humidity. It made my chest feel tight as my back gathered sweat. Professor picked me up after class in his new sports car. When he had pulled into his driveway last week after his purchase, his neighbor made a joke that all he needed was a hot blonde now. The irony made him smile.
It had been a lot easier than I imagined to make moves on Professor, even as a shy introvert. A few times in class, I mentioned how I'm a writer. This was unusual at my school, in a room full of business majors. One day after class, we were in the elevator together. He said I should send him something — a chapter of my memoir. So I did.
At the time, I was crashing at my boyfriend Mark's place in the city, only about 10 blocks away from campus. Mark was spending a few weeks in Europe. His mother was sick. All I cared about was how I had a place to myself in the city for the first time in my life. I had to do something. I wanted to explore my freedom.
I know this makes me sound like a real asshole, but it's even worse: Professor was married.
Throughout the spring semester, we began emailing after he told me to send him some more writing. I started a new memoir, and although he was not a writing teacher, he was very interested in it. He said to keep sending chapters. I was inspired by the positive response; I had my first fan.
I would crawl up on the brown leather futon in the studio apartment after class and hold my breath as I waited for the university email to load. I still couldn't figure out how to sync the email on my iPhone 4. So I would open up a new tab, go to the school website, enter in my lengthy username and password, and pray for data to see if I had any new messages in my inbox.
When Professor would respond to one of my chapters, he told me what he liked and what he thought worked. I liked the most when he would relate my writing to himself. At one point, he told me about his weekend. My heart sank when he said he spent the day with his wife. Wife. Did he mean to tell me that? Am I imagining this entire connection?
I didn't reply to his email. I finished a bottle of wine and fell asleep devastated.
I woke up at midnight, surprised to see I got another email from him, asking how I felt that he knew all of this personal information about me. I was flustered. I felt like I told him too much in my memoir.
I asked if I was in trouble, or if I did something against university policy.
"No, of course not. I think it would be great if you learned a little more about me. I wanted to suggest lunch," he replied.
I was ecstatic.
We met the next day at Marathon, a lunch spot close to my apartment. I lightened my hair the night before. I wore red lipstick. I straightened my hair. I put on jeans and a tank top. I shaved everywhere. I cleaned the small studio. I walked over.
Professor biked and waited outside for me. We got a table. We sipped on wine. I picked at a salad. He mentioned his wife. I froze. I hoped he wouldn't be the kind of man who complained about his wife.
It was the opposite. He told me all about her. Her solo hikes and camping expeditions. She sounded like a total badass.
He also told me how they decided to open up their marriage 10 years ago. I didn't know much about polyamory, and I didn't care for the reasons. He said eventually it would be a good idea for Linda, his wife, to meet me, since she does have to approve of me for it to work. Professor approved of her past boyfriends, too — it's their system.
But for now, I had the OK to take him back to the studio apartment and seduce him. And I did.
Professor told me his creative expression was in wildlife photography. I wanted to try it, so said he suggested we could go after class. He picked me up a few blocks off campus.
I set the record for taking the most awkward pictures of wildlife. I remember just wanting to impress him, but I when I finally caught an animal in the lens, I was left staring at the digital screen of this painfully awkward shot of a deer creeping out of the woods. We both were laughing. The same deer looked like a cover photo in National Geographic on his camera.
We sat by a pond. I was determined to give it one more try when I spotted a turtle. He nodded and told me to go for it. I showed him the image gleefully and he told me that if I looked closer, I captured two turtles mating. I was appalled.
We laughed harder and set the cameras down on a bench. I gave up and gave in to him.
My bare legs were torn apart by mosquitoes. The itchy venom that pulsed through my legs that night wasn't the worst of it. I didn't mind the lumps appearing all over my body. I had a bigger problem.
I was in love with my polyamorous Professor and I was meeting his wife for dinner that night.
Professor tapped a car during his parallel-parking job by the restaurant. I was so nervous that I felt nothing. My only thought was what kind of table would fit us. What side would I sit on? Or would Professor and Linda sit next to each other and interrogate me? I wondered how many other 21-year-olds in the world had to worry about this.
I dreaded those months before the eventual approval process, although I knew it would happen one day. I felt like I was able to avoid it for so long. We were so sneaky to begin with. I would head to his office after class and quietly lock the door behind me.
Professor would bend me over and I would be delighted how I couldn't moan. I was delusional; in my mind, it was just me and him. We had something forbidden. I even broke up with my boyfriend, Mark. I didn't even ask Mark about his sick mother. I was cold-hearted but finally finding warmth.
Whenever Linda was away on a camping trip, Professor would take me on a real dinner date. We would have mind-blowing sex, and I would eat her Velveeta slices in the fridge after. I always wondered if she noticed the missing slices. Maybe that's what made her choose tonight to meet — enough was enough.
I stood at the doorway with Professor. Linda entered, I was relieved she was also sweaty from her bike ride over. She took off her helmet. We were seated at a triangular table.
When Professor went to use the bathroom, Linda turned to me and said, "Thank you." She added, "He's been smiling again."
I never had to meet with Linda after that, although I thought she was very pleasant. But I still couldn't shake off a thought whenever I made love to him in the guest room. I couldn't help but glance at the framed picture of Linda when she was my age. Young and fit, piercing blue eyes, long dark hair, staring deep into the camera, hanging right over the bed.
Although my relationship with Professor eventually ended, I couldn't help but appreciate him. I couldn't help but enjoy the honesty and openness of whatever it was we had shared before I graduated.