That was it. I was having an affair.

I was sunk. I was lost. I felt dizzy and suffused with a fizzing panic, all the time. It was sticky and dark but it was so compelling. I felt like I had clicked back into a mould I recognised, the old smug mould of fitting something extra into an already full life, but the thing I was fitting into my life this time was so truly wrong that I couldn’t quite comprehend myself and what I was doing.

I couldn’t sleep properly. I lost weight in a jagged burst, so that people commented on it. I snapped at my colleagues, my children. I was distracted and detached as a friend. I became a far worse version of me. But the excitement, and the fear of the emptiness I would create in my life if I took this new excitement away, it kept me there. Kept me texting and watching my phone and waiting and wondering.

X compared us to a pair of coins pushed into the slot at the side of one of those collection tubs in a supermarket foyer, the sort where those coins chase each other down a wide whirling vortex and tip into a funneled dark hole at the bottom. We were about to fall into the void, he told me, and once we were in that void our existing lives would never again be recognisable.

He told me that we should relish this part. That there was no going back once we tipped over the edge. I did not question how he already knew the choreography to this dance. I just thought that he was poetic and clever and wise. We had each been in our respective marriages for close to two decades and his marriage, he told me, was as solid and happy as mine seemed to be.

We loved our spouses, didn’t we? But we had found each other, that connection was there, and if we could have fun together, and if no one got hurt, then where really was the harm? I recoiled at his logic but I did not run away from it. I let it sit in my brain and sift down. It was an embarrassingly short time before it started to feel like a sensible way to think.

The first time we had sex I thought: that’s it, now. I have cheated. I have broken my vows. There is no going back. I’m sunk, undone, it’s over. I hated myself but at the same time, I loved it. I remained addicted, but it was a worse addiction, because it had the painful nub of vulnerability behind it.

I had thought I might try it once and then we would end our liaison and it would fade into history as an anecdote, but that is so far from what happened as to make me want to laugh at the absurdity of my own naive beliefs.

I gave myself up to it. Nothing changed in my outward life, so I sank into the wrongness of what I was doing, like sinking under the bubbles of a bath. I let the secret envelop me. I couldn’t tell where the lies ended and I began. I started to feel a vague and horrible pride in my ability to deceive everyone, an exhilaration with every sustained lie.

X told me that I was beautiful and special and unique and that he was falling in love and I thought: is that what this is? Is this treacly obsession what love feels like? Have I had it wrong, all these years? I had no bedrock any more.

I was unravelling.

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