Another crazy turn in this story that has quickly taken on a life of its own in today’s installment.
Be forewarned though, your beloved author here is starting to feel awkward and uncomfortable. It feels like Chris’s psyche is filling my head. It’s time to take a break from writing for the rest of the day.
It was all too much. Never one for confrontation, I couldn’t devise a way of dealing with my wife’s infidelity or my best friend’s arrogantly creative story. At least none that didn’t include outright accusation or argument. I was exhausted. Still I stood at the foot of our bed watching her sleep. So serene. So peaceful. So soft and beautiful. What parts of me didn’t ache with exhaustion, ached to touch her. Oh how her dark hair barely covered her left cheek. She snored so tenderly. Truly a thing of beauty.
For a while, after crawling into bed, I considered spooning her. How I wanted to hold her tiny frame to me sore body. If she didn’t know I knew about her affair, she wouldn’t think twice about her husband being affectionate. She might even stir, reciprocate. Mad passionate sex could then ensue. Months passed since our last sexual encounter. Almost that long had passed since we last saw each other awake, discounting our near encounter in the coffee shop.
A stuttering voice inside held me back. Should she know I knew and I woke her, I’d have forced us into a midnight tussle I was too weak to engage in. Or worse, if she pulled away in disgust, depressive thoughts wouldn’t let me sleep at all. It was best to let her enjoy her peaceful slumber. My thoughts kept me up until later than I hoped, but at least I was only arguing with myself. I’m somehow easier to contend with than others.
Too exhausted to hear the alarm on my cell, the smoke alarm finally woke me from a near comatose state. The poorly working coffee pot had burned its own innards. No visible fire or damage beyond my morning coffee and irritating wake-up call. Damn technology. Can never rely on it when you really need to. It costs you a fortune in hopes of having the shelf life of a Twinkie and the convenience of sliced bread. What you get is something still costing a fortune but has the self life of sliced bread and the convenience of a Twinkie.
It took several minutes to find our home security app to turn off the smoke alarm. Punched in the code to keep First Responders from axing in my door, and stumbled around the condo, cell in hand. I had to reset all my home apps.
The shower app on my cell had to be reset in order to turn the damn thing back on. Coffee was out of the question. My sleep app warned me of insufficient sleep patterns. As if I had not already ascertained that very conclusion self-sufficiently. My tablet had already turned itself on and began connecting to the soon-to-start meeting.
Needless to say, I missed my wife before she left for work again. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or disappointed. Somehow, I’m certain I managed both. Checking the Map app for her location, it became clear she turned off her location syncing.
She knew I knew. Or my app is on the fritz. Or her’s is. These are common occurrences. If I attacked her every time my Map app claimed she was the next county over or far from anywhere she said she was going to be, we’d have divorced ages ago. Then again, coincidences are difficult to ignore.
No matter how long I let the shower water rain down on my face, I couldn’t wash away my exhaustion. The shower’s auto-shut off left me standing bare until the bathroom dehumidified leaving me cold enough to get out and dry. There was no time to shave, so I ran my hands through my hair a few times making me look like some 50’s greaser which was better than how I felt, threw on a polo shirt and a blazer, a pair of almost matching pants and caught introductions at the meeting’s start. I droned a monotone intro like everyone else. It wasn’t until Mark walked into view introducing himself that my heart stopped pumping.
When you’re overstretched, you forget important details until they slap your cheeks for recognition. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to break something. As he sat left of center on my screen, he looked into the webcam with a look I took to be fear.
That’s right, I thought. You should be scared. The things I ought to do to you because of what you’ve done to me and our friendship, to my wife for that matter. I’m quite sure Darryl or James spoke for some time, though all I could focus on was Mark. He pretended to take notes on his keyboard dock for his tablet. Occasionally he looked in my direction. Each time with the same fearful expression. Perhaps I didn’t have to confront Mark beyond our discussion yesterday. He appeared to be pleasantly tortured as it was now. It made sense to me at the time but I thought if I stared hard enough at him with enough vigor, he’d crack and end up where Kyle ended up. Would serve him well given he put Kyle there in the first place. My cell buzzing ripped my attention from glaring at Mark. It was a text. From my wife.
“Can we please meet at The Coffee Shop,” it read, “I really need to talk to you.”
My heart hid behind my back again. It was too early to discuss this mess. It’s bad enough I failed as a husband and that my best friend is picking up my slack. Why can’t this conversation be on my terms? A horrible a husband as I am, I was still not the one cheating. I was the cheated. At both ends of the spectrum, I was the only one losing. Didn’t I have a say in when we were going to talk about this mess? We should go at my pace, a pace I’m comfortable with, not her. She owed me that much at least.
I gave Mark a quick glance before typing some shortened version of all that back to my wife but no response was needed. The text asking to see me tonight had already disappeared.
“What the fu…”
“Is there something you’d like to add, Chris,” asked Jim Montoya, our executive director, who I managed to interrupt. He was an older man who hated interruptions. We all had to hide our texting or chance retribution. I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond if I could. Mark’s shaking head and genuine fear further locked any speech in my throat and clenched in my fists. Luckily for me at that moment, Jim liked to hear himself speak so wasted no time jumping back into his meaningless information.
I still couldn’t figure out how Mark was making my texts disappear but assumed it was a glitch in a simple forwarding technique. History presented numerous cases where elaborate plans were concocted to enable affairs to play out. I wondered if vampires were created by cheating spouses to explain the smell of sex and bite marks or scratch marks all over their well-loved bodies. But I was not going to fall victim to their scheme. If they were going to meet at The Coffee Shop this evening, I was going to be there. However, the last time I tried to catch my wife in the act, Mark pulled me aside, stopping me. This time I would follow Mark. That meant getting to work before he left this afternoon.
The meeting broke for lunch.
Mark perched himself close to the camera, “How are ya, Chris?” His question was not the typical “How goes?” but more one peppered with deep concern. Under normal circumstances, for instance, if I were dying of cancer and just returning from Chemo, I would be touched by his generous feelings. As it was, I couldn’t feel more disgust for him and his mocking attention. I slapped my tablet to hibernate so I didn’t have to look at him any longer.
As I changed into clothes that matched better, I thought.
Would things have been different if I paid more attention to my wife? Perhaps she never would have been driven to my best friend’s arms if I treated her like I treated her when we were dating for shortly after we married. I thought of her soft, dark hair in my face as we danced at our wedding. She always used a shampoo that smelled of tangerine and green tea. Hated that smell at first. I used to complain about it to her all the time. Now I wish I could smell that smell. On her of course. Then again, smelling it at all would suffice since she wanted nothing to do with me. What’s the secret to happy marriages? I can’t imagine all married couples keep the fire burning like newlyweds. If no marriages keep that spark, what keeps most people from seeking companionship elsewhere? Maybe the spark does stay. I just paid it no attention, so the spark puttered out like an unattended candle in the night. I should have been there for her. She never would have felt the need to meet Mark at The Coffee Shop if I had.
At The Coffee Shop. If Mark and I tussled in the parking lot and my wife never knew, who the hell was she laughing with at that table?