Forbidden desire - lust or love?
|Addicted to love.
Standing in the room with him, I glance back over my shoulder. I know he is watching and our eyes meet. I can’t help the smile and I see his in return. It is not quite surreptitious – we are in a group that thinks we know each other’s secrets, but this particular one has not been discovered yet. Just another juicy tidbit to be mulled over and dissected and recycled to fuel the interest of a small group in a small town. It’s only an affair of the mind, anyway. He knows I am attracted; he is attracted to the attraction. He is off limits – we are both in relationships that seem to be going nowhere but our lives are wrapped up in the history we have made within them. We both have many years in recovery. The thought of jeopardizing everything is a necessary but fleeting internal argument. We are both divorced; he is remarried, and I am involved again with yet another man that breaks up the monotony of my life but doesn’t seem to fulfill my fantasies – or are they expectations?
He breaks out of one group and moves in my direction. I do the same. We meet in the middle and our courtesy hug lingers just a moment longer than it should; our hellos seem to hold just a bit more meaning. It’s ridiculous, but I imagine his hand brushes mine intentionally as we each move on to another group. It’s a recovery function; the only reason I am here is because I know he is, and my romantic mind suspects it is the same for him.
I make sure I leave when he does. I am hoping for just one more moment to stand near him in the parking lot with unnecessary goodbyes and another possibility to just touch him again. It’s a cool night, but I feel the waves of heat emanating from my body that must be engulfing him. I can’t help it, I stand as close as I dare. He doesn’t move back; we revert to the age old dance of uncertain adolescent sexuality as we stand in the parking lot together, not quite touching. We are talking without talking; a conversation ripe with unspoken desires, witty repartee and sexual innuendos. Both of us with smiling eyes wondering which one will break the spell, or even acknowledge it. Finally, a goodbye that cannot be delayed any longer. Our hands meet and I can feel the imprint of his palm and the touch traveling up my arm. My breath catches, and I turn to leave, this visceral foreplay turning over and over again in my mind as I make my way home. The night is no longer cool, the air feels hot and heavy and I breathe deep.
I know I will dream of him again. I crave it already.
We are in related careers, not peers, but close enough so that he can call me with an imaginary request the next morning. Not important enough, but all that it takes. He comes to my home in the quiet calm of the mid-morning. Ironically he was a previous owner, and he makes a great pretense of seeing the house. I follow him as he moves down hallways and looks into corners. Again, I am as close as I dare, and I lean back against the door jam as he turns and then, finally, the pretense is gone, the waiting is over. He moves in, leans forward, his hands on each side, his face close, kissing deep, as he presses his body against mine. For short, sweet moments of clarity I know him deep in my body and I know what is meant when two become one. It has to stop; it does. We don’t speak of it. It’s not regret; it’s an unspoken promise of lust and forbidden desire. We know of divorce, we know of scandal, we know that privacy and fantasies have no place in this town. He leaves, I linger at the door. I can taste him now, and it has sharpened the sword of desire that slices through my belly. I wonder at his restraint. How can he walk away from this?
It’s not hours later that the gossip has begun. ‘Electric looks’ they said. ‘You could feel it’ they said. ‘Disaster waiting to happen’. He calls me to tell me he has heard it too. Someone in the recovery group, looking to start something. They know nothing, they know everything. No one told us that desire was such a tangible thing. We laugh it off. We are relieved that nothing really happened. It was just a kiss, we say. We try to dismiss it, and I wonder if he is reliving it even now, as I am.
The months pass and we steer away from each other in public. We greet, thinking it would be odd not to, then wonder if we should. We can’t stop looking, then we make sure we do. Won’t they talk if they suspect something? Won’t they talk if they don’t? The gossip has run its course. It came to his wife; she knows me. He addresses it head on – says he heard it too. We make sure we call her together once at a function. A spurious attempt at honesty when nothing rings true. I don’t know if she buys it; their marriage has it’s particular baggage and my own relationship is dying a slow death. By the end of summer we have heard of the gossip no more, and a sudden tragedy changes the focus of everyone we know.
I am weeding in my flowerbed when he pulls up. I am surprised – I have been avoiding him for weeks. I am reluctant to feed the gossip mill. I have been missing him in a thousand ways. I am not surprised at my elation at seeing him walk through the gate. But things are not right, and my elation dulls to confusion. He looks somber – he takes my hands as he tells me some friends of ours have died. A father and his daughter, tragically, horribly, suddenly, in a motorcycle accident that morning. I think of the girl that was just there with my own children, laughing with them in the night, riding bicycles, attending a friend’s wedding with flowers in her hair. Her father’s jokes as we vacationed together one beach weekend, his wild stories on the deck during the fireworks earlier that month, and then her mother’s despair reaching me from across the miles. He leaves me soon so we can each deal with the grisly news, the pain, the sorrow, and going to the mother bereft of her family. It is long past the funeral and all the dark days and nights before I think again of his visit. I was glad the news came to me by way of a friend – in person – I think he must be very brave.
My career takes a turn and suddenly our companies are working together occasionally. We talk on the phone frequently, and our conversations extend each time to personal updates, platonic talk that circles the underlying issue. My hands shake as I hang up the phone; I dream still at night of having him near me. I am a big girl; I know that I am creating a fantasy in my head that no man could live up to, yet I relive every touch, every conversation, every second of our kiss while we talk about the details of our day. We share news, good and bad; we think of reasons to call; our merging careers make it easier and easier to call without any hesitation, until we no longer mention work. My relationship is long gone when he starts telling me of his own marriage coming to a head. They are trying counseling. I support him outwardly. He dances around the issue, and I know we both are wondering not what could happen, but when it will.
I am very careful in public. I don’t want to make his marital issues worse by more gossip. He told me once that my name came up at counseling. ‘Deny everything’ I joke, and we chuckle, since we know this unspoken thing between us has a life of its own that will not be denied.
Finally a day comes when he is standing in my doorway. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have to. I am scared as he moves across the room and I put my hand up. "I don’t want to be the reason your marriage fails," I say. I don’t know where this starts and stops. Nothing has happened, and yet everything has happened. My body is aching with desire and I can’t imagine anything feeling worse than this moment, but I can’t move away. What to do, he asks. I tell him I have been getting a conscience. That perhaps he is giving me the best part of his marriage. That our daily calls and our updates should be going to his wife – that perhaps our personal conversations dilute the opportunities he has to be intimate with his wife. He nods. There is some truth to this, but I hate the reality. He doesn’t move forward, but I can feel him next to me. He leaves, turning through the doorway that was never closed. I am bereft. I spend the rest of the day feeling hollow and miserable. He doesn’t call, and neither do I, and the weeks pass as Christmas snow turns to the gray mush of the new year.
His marriage survives through the spring; she’s on medication, they are still in therapy. I know this through our group, thriving like piranhas on bad news, unaware of the turmoil inside me as I ache to hear it all and turn away to seem uninterested. I want him to be happy; I want the best for him. I want him to have everything he dreams of. If he loves her, she must be great – he would not be with someone who is not exceptional. I am strangled by emotions and I no longer seek out opportunities to hear of him. I avoid any functions; I use his assistant to convey work material. It’s nearly summer before I see him in person again.
And when I do, the desire slams into me without mercy. I don’t speak – he sees me across the room and we have come full circle. My heart actually hurts. My stomach is slammed up against my backbone and I can only think that to survive I must leave this room. The tears are in the back of my eyes and my throat is tight. My reactions are ridiculous, I think. I have created this relationship that has no truth. I am putting importance on something that has no reality. I stumble out of the building and make my way to my home. It’s my haven. No one will see me crumble here. I am almost in the door when I see him pull in behind me. I go in and he is there, coming through the door. I can’t breathe before he is finally there, taking me in his arms and kissing me, his arms around me, his hands, his body against mine. I climax without sound; it’s too much. I think he does the same but I can’t speak of it. We stand for long minutes, fully dressed, foreheads together. The door is still open; his car is still running. My keys are on the floor next to my purse and I feel ravished, yet I know I still don’t have him completely.
The conversation is muted now, unimportant. We acknowledge the disease. He calls it an addiction and we laugh, sated now, and embarrassed. We say it won’t happen again. We say it can’t. A parasitical relationship with two lonely people feeding off each other, we agree. We know it’s just a matter of time.