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I was 26 when it started. He worked in the office in which I was a secretary. I didn’t work directly for him, so it wasn’t technically that awful, clichéd “affair with the secretary” situation, but it was still an affair, nonetheless.
He was nearing 50. A good looking man with a strong jawbone and youthful spirit. He surfed. He liked quirky independent movies. He found the best hole-in-the-wall places to eat. He always paid cash. A fact which was somehow lost on me at the time.
I knew he was married, but I was unskilled in the world of deceit. I quickly became an inhabitant of this world amidst the shadows.
It started very casually at first. A lunch here. A drink with co-workers after a long day there. I always felt his gaze on me. Some would call it leering. I found it exciting. The here and there turned into every day. And with each day I sank more into love with a married man. With three children.
There were the notes, the poems, the gifts. I would covet something in the window as we walked by a shop and casually mention how much I liked it. The [bracelet/bag/sweater] would somehow always end up on me. Until he took it off of me.
The sex was amazing. Practically unparalleled to the very day I write this, many, many years later. Partly because it was freeing, body-issues-be-damned, hot, sweaty sex. But also, and you knew this was coming, because of the thrill of it all. We were always on the brink of getting caught (after hours in his office, on my desk, in his car in a random parking lot). We were pushing the envelope farther and farther. We both got caught up in the tawdriness of it. And in each other.
Until one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
It all started getting to me. I guess you could say I “woke up” and realized that I was exhausting all of this emotional energy over a married man. When I brought this up with him, he tried pulling me closer. I told him I no longer wanted to fuck in the car that took his kids to soccer practice. He looked at me like I stabbed him in the throat.
Somehow, his talk of divorce became more commonplace. But I never wanted that. And I knew if that did occur, eventually, he would resent me. And I him. So, what was I doing?
The withdrawal turned into arguments. The arguments turned into screaming matches. All of which ended in mind-blowing sex. It was awful. I couldn’t extricate myself of it. I was smack dab in the middle of a self-imposed emotional clusterfuck of epic proportions.
Then, it happened.
It was a Sunday. He wanted to come over. I was hanging out with my roommate and watching football. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea, but he came anyway. I was annoyed, but at the point where I felt like if we just did it, I could get him out of there by the start of the second quarter. It became obligatory sex.
We were in my room, my legs on his shoulders, when there was a knock on my door.
“She’s here” my roommate whispered in a panic through the door. We scrambled to get our clothes on.
It was then I heard the second worst thing in my entire life -– the sound of the ivy outside our apartment rustling as she made her way to the patio. She was about to hop the wall and enter through the patio door.
And then I heard the very worst thing ever I heard in my life: “Mommy, what are you doing?”
Yes. She'd brought their three girls with her. And they were pleading with her through their sobs to go home.
“Mommy, please, can’t we just go?” “Mommy, I’m scared!” “Mommy!!!” I almost threw up.
I was frozen. I couldn’t move. I was somehow hyperventilating and holding my breath simultaneously.
As I sat on the edge of my bed waiting for her, I heard it all through the ringing in my ears. I heard her climb the patio wall. I heard their brief conversation in which he half-heartedly tried to keep her from getting to my room. I heard her determined footsteps down the hallway to my room. I heard her trying to catch her breath as she darkened my doorway.
I looked directly at her. I saw the outline of her tiny frame, but my eyes could only focus on one thing: the red light emanating from the camcorder.
It would seem that my drunken voicemail message to him of a few weeks ago was intercepted by her (it was a benign message, but not without import) and his sloppy covering of his tracks that day (supposed to be at a friend’s house, she called, he wasn’t there) led her to my doorway.
Well, that and breaking and entering, but seeing as how her husband had entered me not five minutes prior, I let that part slide.
She unleashed on me. There were lots of “whore” comments and “sloppy seconds” to go around. I said nothing. I took my licks. No part of me wanted to fight this. I just wanted it to be over.
When she was done, she left. He went with her. I slowly crawled to the corner of my room and curled up into a motionless, numb, ball, devoid of anything other than regret and self-hatred.
How did I let this happen? I was smarter than this. I knew better.
I drank myself into oblivion.
I woke up the next morning and knew I had to go anywhere but there. Or to work. So I took off for a friend’s house. I got calls from co-workers with the play-by-play. Apparently she wanted more retribution, so she showed up at the office demanding that our co-workers listen to my drunken voicemail message and confirm that it was me.
He took her into his office. There was screaming. She flew out of the office down the hall and he chased after her. She took off her shoe and threw it at him.
My boss at the time called and told me I had to diffuse the situation. Here I was dealing with two people on the precipice of the half-century mark, and I was told I had to be the adult.
So, I called the office and asked to speak with her. She got on the phone and unleashed on me again. She told me she knew her husband would never fuck me because I had “fat ankles.” She informed me “I know he’d never fuck you. He told me he wouldn’t fuck you with my dick.” (I understood this to be an insult, but since she had no dick, it left me more confused than wounded.)
When she sounded like she was winding down, I asked her if she was finished. She said yes. I told her never to come near me or my apartment ever again. I went to work the next day and apologized individually to everyone there for my part in what was an insane day for them. I never heard from her again.
They remain married to this day.
I continued to work there, as did he, for many years. As the years went by, I saw new, young girls come and go. Girls that went to lunch with him a lot. Girls I heard giggling in his office with the door closed as I left work for the day.
I was one of those Girls once. I would never be one again.
The experience, as harrowing as it was, taught me so very many things about myself and my place in this world.
From that moment on, I was no longer a passive observer in my own life, but an active one. I made choices about my life, instead of allowing things to just happen. I took responsibility for the person that I was every day, and quit blaming shitty upbringing that made me so insecure and weak.
As much as it was a defining moment in my life, I think of it now almost fondly. As if it was just one of those things that lead me to who I am today.