Saturday, March 1, 2014

Contemplation of Adultery - #ShortStorySunday

                    BY R0Y L. PICKERING JR.

     I am a happily married man.

     Oh sure, it's tempting.  I can't sit here and honestly say that if the situation were to arise, I wouldn't even consider it.  Take now for instance.  The woman seated across the bar from me is flat out gorgeous.  It's hard not to notice a thing like that.  And she's been checking me out.  It's hard not to notice a thing like that either.  Every twenty seconds or so she glances my way.  I could have this woman, I know I could.  I can feel it with every fiber of my being.  But like I said ...

     Where the hell is James?  He was supposed to meet me here at seven, and it's already a quarter after.  Big shocker.  In the eight years James and I have been best friends, not once has he been on time.  I usually show up about fifteen minutes early for appointments, even when they’re with James.  You'd think in eight years I would have learned my lesson, but I arrived here at exactly 6:45.  So now there is nothing for me to do but wait.

     Not that I've particularly minded today.  The bartender here makes a great margarita, the jukebox is the best in the city, and perhaps the most beautiful woman I have ever seen is shamelessly flirting with me.  A night with her would be incredible to say the least.

     But I have a devoted wife at home who I promised in church before several dozen friends and relatives to love, honor, and not screw around on.  Plus, we have a kid.  He'll be three years old in a couple of months.  It won't be too long before I can get Barry Jr. into little league.

     My life is what you would call comfortable.  Comfortable and normal.  Conventional, that's the word I'm looking for.  I have a nine to five white collar job which I hate, but it's too late to get out, so I'll just have to move up.  I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood in a pleasant looking little house, paying an astronomical mortgage for the privilege.  Unless I'm drafted by an NBA team in desperate need of a five foot nine point guard who can't dribble, or else I happen to pick the right six numbers on a lottery ticket, I'll be paying it off until I'm too old to chew my food.  Sharon and I haven't made definite plans for more children, but before her clock stops ticking we'll probably have 1.8 more.  We do after all have the proverbial Jones family to keep up with.

     My hair continues to be gray-less, ever so slightly receded, but bald patches have yet to appear.  No stationwagon or mini-van inhabits my garage, not that the vehicle I drive would ever be mistaken for a Ferrari.  I’m still most comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt, just like when I was a teenager.  I continue to play pick up basketball games in the park when time allows, no matter that these days I'm almost always the slowest player on the court.  Thanks to those games I'm relatively up to date in the slang terminology of the day, a source of pointless pride.  In short, I'm not a kid anymore, but nor have I quite turned into my parents.

     If only there was some way I could think of to quell this steadily increasing restlessness.  Maybe everybody my age feels like this.  No, James doesn't.  Maybe everyone my age with a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a mind numbing job.  That must be it.  I'm carrying around all this adult baggage, but I don't' remember wanting, or planning, or asking to become a grown-up.  It seems like only months ago when I would have been proofed to get into this place.  But it was years ago.  My God, it was a decade ago.

     One thing I do know for certain is this. All the adventure can not already be gone from life. Maybe I'm a little too old for fraternity parties and spring break.  I could live without praying to the porcelain god every Friday night after chugging one too many plastic cups of beer.  I’ve been around the block enough times to recognize with minimal angst that my favorite dreams will not be coming to fruition.  I'm never going to win a Cy Young award, save the word in an action movie, or perform in front of my adoring fans at Madison Square Garden.  And I'm okay with that.  Still, there has to be more in my future than a few promotions, a few kids, retirement, grandkids, and death.  There just has to be.

     I should have been with more women.  Perhaps that's what it comes down to.  Too many wild oats burning a hole in my shorts because I didn't sow them when I had the chance.  I'm not a bad looking guy.  I had a few casual flings back in my college days.  But no more than can be counted on two hands with a few fingers left over.  If I had only been more aggressive, more confident, I'm sure I could have at least doubled the number.  But I wasn't, so I didn't, and that's that.  I met Sharon a couple years after graduation.  We immediately committed to a monogamous relationship, and within two years we were exchanging a matching set of "I do's". I don't remember the name of the last woman I was with pre-Sharon. I vaguely recall what she looked like, the fact that she was drunk as was I, and that a good time was had by all in the extra large closet sized space I called my bachelor pad.  The last fling I had, that I'll ever have. I was just shy of 25 years old.

     Maybe I'll flash a smile at this woman across the bar from me. I have been told that it's my best feature.  If she doesn't smile back, I won't give the matter another thought. There's no commandment against smiling.  A little flirting never harmed anyone.  Married or not, it's good to know that at least a few members of the opposite sex, spouse not included, find you attractive.  Mankind needs to feel validated every now and then.  Vanity is what separates us from the beasts.  Vanity and credit cards.

     Yep, I was right.  She's definitely into to me.  She returned my serve of a coy grin with a hard volley of pearly whites.  I'm at a precipice.  I can do nothing but sip my drink, shoot the breeze for a couple of hours once James shows up, and then go home to my wife and child.  Or I can take a step forward, a step towards this woman, knowing that once I do, there's no turning back.

     My body is serving as a battleground for the war being fought between my hormones and Catholic guilt.  This woman is devastating, and growing more so with every sip I take.  Her form fitting dress is accentuating in remarkable detail every curve God blessed her with.  She doesn't have an ounce of fat on her.  I could have almost said that about Sharon at one time, but her body never did bounce fully back after having Derrick.  Not that she's overweight or out of shape.  She just doesn't look quite like this Barbie proportioned she-devil.

     I love Sharon dearly.  That love has taken sides with the guilt complex.  The last thing I want to do is betray her trust.  I couldn't bear knowing how hurt she would be if I were to have an affair.  She would be destroyed, and she would never forgive me, and the comfort, and warmth, and safety of my present existence would be annihilated.

     Nevertheless, I find myself feeling sometimes that when I committed myself to Sharon, I gave up other things that life may have been planning to offer.  And I wonder if those things would have turned out to be better than what I settled for.

     No, that's the wrong choice of word.  Sharon is a wonderful woman.  I consider myself lucky, blessed to have a woman like her by my side.  A woman who swept an insecure young man off his feet and subsequently produced a son I adore.  I certainly did not settle.  But still, I can't help wondering, and longing.  I know they say the grass is always greener.  James for example, with his various girlfriends and casual liaisons, still envies me, or claims to anyway.  All in all I have a damn good life, one which it would be very foolish of me to jeopardize.  At this moment though, these potent facts are being overwhelmed by a single primeval urge.  I want to climb that mythical fence and mow that sumptuous grass.

     My mind is made up.  I'm going to talk to her.  My ability to speak comfortably to attractive women has improved vastly from my stumbling, bumbling college days. But I've had woefully few opportunities to display this hard earned talent, and only in practice drills, no real emergencies.  When I'm done with the smooth talk we'll go to her place, or any place with a mattress, and proceed to turn a fantasy into reality.  I will live one last adventure, make the final addition to my erotic memoir.  It will be just this one time, but oh what a time it shall be.

     As for Sharon, I'll have to rely on the old adage.  What she doesn't know can't and won't hurt her.  If the woman before me were any less than an absolute goddess, I would certainly refrain.  But her exquisite perfection has flipped the switch on my self-control.  I have become a temporary slave to my desire.  Starting from tomorrow I will be the model husband for the rest of my days.  As for tonight ...

     Man, I really thought I was bluffing myself.  As much as I had worked myself up, I was in fact convinced that this woman would become nothing more than who I visualize when I make love to my wife on the nights we manage to put aside for extracurricular activity. But I am off the barstool and on my feet.  I am walking towards her. I am taking action, commanding my destiny, seizing the day, and all that other good stuff.  Hey!  Some guy has cut in front of me.  He has gone right up to my woman as if I don’t even exist.

     "Hey, stranger," he says.

     "Hi, lover," she responds.  I shake my head to unscramble the words I’m hearing so they might make sense.

     "Sorry it took me so long," the man says smugly.  When your girlfriend looks like his does, everything out of your mouth is smug.

     "Better late than never."

     "You ready to go?" he asks.  Despite the completeness of my heterosexual nature, I cannot help but notice how annoyingly handsome the guy is.  I truly hate him.

     "Almost.  Just let me finish my drink."

     "I will if you give me some sugar first."

     I can't believe my eyes.  After all this mental masturbation, I find myself standing idly by as some GQ cover photo come to life rams his tongue down my dream girl's throat.  Ain't life something?

     "Hey Barry, what's up?  Sorry I'm late."

     "Like hell you are, James."  I return to my seat and down my drink in one swig.  "This round is on you.  I'll have a margarita with a shot of tequila on the side.  Make that two shots."

     "Sounds like you've had a rough day."

     "The roughest."

     In the end I'm sure I would have walked right past her, gone to the bathroom or thrown some money into the jukebox.  It's nice to daydream from time to time, but priority number one is the reality of my life, not saloon inspired wet dreams.  A beautiful wife, a great kid, a job with some potential if I work my ass off, which I'll have to if I intend to ever pay off my mortgage.  What I have is the envy of many.  Don't I know it.

     Had things worked out the way I was fantasizing, it would have been the biggest mistake I ever made.  All that guilt consuming me. I never would have been able to hide it from Sharon.  I don't have the constitution to keep so big a secret from showing in my eyes.  That's why I'm positive I would have just walked on by.  Well maybe not 100% positive, but pretty sure.

     After all, I am a happily married man. 

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