Here Let Me Hold That For You

The Affair I Didn’t Almost Have

Sometime in that last year he stopped pretending.

Our intimate life had been a bug bear from the beginning – it was our couple fight. You know how every couple has one thing that they constantly fight about? This was how ours went:

If you aren’t getting it from me then it’s only a matter of time before you meet someone else.

It’s fine, I’m used to it.

No, that’s not the answer! We have to find a solution to this.

It is what it is. It’s always been this way.

But why? It’s not normal!

For the most part, neither of us really wanted to examine it too closely, or perhaps there were some years where we just didn’t have the energy to delve into the depths of our being – juggling babies and the demands of both our careers was exhausting enough!

It was an average Thursday and I was on maternity leave caring for our first child. As all stay at home mum cliches go, I flicked on the TV and there was Dr Phil. Of course. Someone pointing out your inadequacies from afar is exactly what a new mother craves. On this day he was discussing intimacy and he suggested that strained couples schedule time in their week for intimacy, like literally pencil it in the calendar. How sad, I thought, that something that should be visceral becomes another task in your week. He went on: start by sitting cross-legged facing one another and just stare into each other’s eyes. Do this for 20 minutes before touching one another. To be honest, that sounded horrifying. No way was I awkwardly staring into his eyes on Saturday the 20th at 9pm.

It could have been my fault. Between a traumatic teenage experience, multiple surgeries, and the exhaustion of babies, I wasn’t exactly begging for it on a daily basis. Add to that his frequent and lengthy travel for work, and like a flower trying to push its way up through concrete, intimacy was hard work for little gain.

We both knew the dangers of not bridging this gap but felt powerless to take any real action, and regularly verbalising the issue only made it harder to accept. The lack of passion wasn’t what we expected from our relationship, however it seemed pessimistic to dwell on this one issue when all of the other couple boxes had huge green ticks in them. Regardless, lurking beneath the frustration we both knew that emotional and physical intimacy was the biggest box of all – for if you don’t have that, then you are just a pair of best friends or a well-oiled partnership conquering life, and both are breeding grounds for festering disconnection. Take it from me, we conformed to those relationship dynamics and it wasn’t anywhere near enough. I can only assume that our relationship worked for as long as it did, in part because we were such great friends, but also because it was safe for both of us. Issues.com is where it was at. He wouldn’t push me because pretending to enjoy hetero sex wore thin over time, and I wouldn’t push him because I had a headache. Or something.

***

Not long after he moved out, a cup of tea with his mother turns sour. Let’s just say I got more than the iced vovos and warm hug I had gone for.

Dad and I have worried about the two of you for some time. You seem like ships passing in the night. When you walk past each other, neither of you reach out to graze your hand across the other’s back or give their bottom a little squeeze. Even after all these years, Dad and I still do that. It’s not surprising that someone else has piqued your interest, and Daniel has been a great support to you in this time.

I’m sorry, what? Daniel and I? There’s no Daniel and I. She has informed me of my adulterous ways in such an understanding manner that I don’t feel the immediate urge to defend my honour. All I can manage is, ‘That’s not what happened.’

I empty my tea in the sink. Pulling out of the driveway, I glance in the rear-view mirror to wave goodbye, the scarlet letter emblazoned across my white linen dress is reflected back at me.

The next day I am standing by our bed watching him pack the last few things when I ask, Why are you telling people that something happened between Daniel and I?

I know you didn’t sleep with him.

Why did you say it then? To more than one person. You said I cheated and that’s why you left.

It’s your fault, you exaggerated what happened between you.

I shuffle where I am standing. I did do that. It was an immature response to his rejection during one of our last fights – my teenage self’s way of saying ‘it doesn’t matter that you don’t want me because Billy wants to finger me behind the sports shed.’

***

It’s April the year before. The four of us, two couples, are dancing on a sticky floor in a dank, three-storey nightclub.

He leans in. You’re beautiful you know. Your eyes.

I scoff at him and avert those eyes.

Sorry, I shouldn’t say that.

No you shouldn’t.

A little while later, when my husband’s back is turned, I think he leans in to kiss me.

I turn my head.

He tells me he’s getting another drink and did I want one?

No thanks, I’ve had enough.

Oh God, did I want him to kiss me?

It’s now the early hours of the next morning and the sun is yet to peek above the horizon. The three of us – him, my husband, and I – flee from the blue taxi and reach the closed pool in various states of undress. The sandwich board sign is no match for this drunk trio.

In we dive. The water cool against our clammy skin, washing the sweat from our hairlines. Our boundaries are weakened by alcohol, adventure and the approaching dawn. The early hours of morning are like a truth serum.

The rippling water distorts the shape of our bodies under the surface. We cannot see each other clearly, there is just a sense of it.

My husband swims to the other side of the pool. Long freestyle strokes. He takes up residence on the stools of the empty pool bar, under the hut of thatch and wood. He wonders out aloud when it opens.

Out of earshot I ask, What did you mean earlier?

Nothing. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said it.

But you did.

Just forget about it.

Now there is an awareness of one another where there was once an ease. Somewhere along the line, before the dance floor compliment, our friendship has deepened. A mutual understanding develops. Our thoughts and feelings don’t need spelling out; he just gets me, and I him. The boundaries are blurry and I am reluctant to reinstate them, the connection is intoxicating. I need Daniel for so many reasons. It’s confusing to be in this situation, it’s not acceptable to need someone else’s husband in this way.

A friend once told me that girls and guys can’t be friends. At the time, I was personally affronted by this, Not everything is about sex you know. She laughed, Yes it is.

***

We are sitting in my car in the empty car park of the hockey fields. It’s a sweltering day outside. The air-con is blasting freezing cold air onto my hands. I remove them from the steering wheel and rub them together, blowing my warm breath on them.

Do you want to fuck me?

No! Absolutely not! I love my wife. I would never do that.

Oh thank God!

Do you want to fuck me?

Not at all! That would be weird.

We let the relief wash over us.

Sometime after that, we speak on the phone.

How did we get to the point where we had to have that conversation?

I dunno, I guess you were feeling unwanted. Plus you are attractive, you know you are.

My god, how desperate must I be?

You’re not desperate. Why don’t you try something new with him? Leave only your heels on.

I laugh. What is that?! A scene from some B grade porn? No, I’m pretty sure it’s a lost cause. I pause before saying, This conversation is dangerous.

I would like a different life sometimes. I wish it could be different for Michelle and I.

But you are the one who’s against change.

I know.

D’you know what scares me the most?

What?

I am a married woman with what I consider to be strong moral values and yet I seriously contemplated having an affair. Not with you. But if I found you more attractive and you were also not married (just a small problem I chortle), then maybe I would have done it. I look over to him with a creased brow. How does that even happen?

Oh, thanks a lot! He looks at me with a wry smile.We are firmly back in the friend zone.

Anytime you need a confidence boost just ring me, I jest.

Brooke, seriously, you guys need to work that shit out. Just talk about it with him.

Pot calling the kettle black.

He shrugs in a ‘what can you do’ kind of way. We pull out of the parking lot and head home to our respective loves.

***

Sexuality is like a wild brumby, you can reign it in but you can never truly control it. Stifling desire is fraught with danger: given the right conditions, the veil of morality is easily lifted and our most primal instincts take over. There are some who would vehemently deny that there are circumstances in which as affair is ok. They wouldn’t be wrong either.

I had starved myself of intimacy long before it was retracted by him. I yearned for touch of any kind, I wasn’t picky, I would even take the PG rated version.Yet I couldn’t bring myself to instigate any of it.

How do affairs happen? A burgeoning sense of virility. A dash of shaky self-worth. An emotionally and physically starved relationship. Add to the mix person B, who finds you cute and funny and whose eyes hold your gaze for just a second longer than expected. Person B doesn’t know about your propensity to criticise, your tendencies to be cool when overwhelmed, or your sexual awkwardness. They haven’t seen you bra-less in your stretched T-shirt that barely covers your granny undies. This person looks at you like you are the hottest woman alive. They hold your chin and tell you they can’t believe you can’t see what they see. This person makes you feel chosen; excited and excitable. You are the great unknown to them. You can be anyone you want to be, and most certainly not who you actually are.

Somewhere around my 30th birthday the above came to a head. Almost overnight, I transformed into She-ra, Princess of Power – bathed in light and all sparky. I emitted a different frequency, one that pricked the ears of a number of men, and I became keenly aware of how they looked at me. And the worst part was I liked it. Too much.

Suddenly I had 99 problems, and all of them were my marriage. I couldn’t fit back into the quiet discontentment, I couldn’t un-ignite myself, millions of insatiable nerve endings were tingling under the surface searching for touch. The longing was all-encompassing.

***

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this piece. You can follow me on Facebook @shedesires for more insights into love or read more articles here on the website.

Brooke MaggsComment