Cheaters will always get caught
Posted On April 14, 2020
Once the wheels came off, in the end, they came off very fast. I was running on empty and caring very little about anything. The summer didn’t even look like summer.
Two weeks after X told me about his previous affair, it was my 37th birthday. I had planned, as I habitually did, a party at home in my garden, my favourite sort of party, a messy, disorganised affair with crisps and cheesy music and sweet cocktails.
X asked me straight away if he would be invited to the party. Well, no. What happened is that he told me that he was invited. “It’s your birthday,” he told me. “I love you. I should be there.”
I did not argue. I didn’t want to argue; I wanted him there, even though I could see it was a foolish move to have him anywhere near me in public. But people knew that we were friends, and I told myself it would be weirder, in fact, not to invite him.
He told me that we could be discreet, and that the next day, under cover of visiting another friend, we would have a night away together. That would be my birthday present. He’d already told the necessary lies to his wife and got everything ready.
X was late to the party and he did not bring his wife. By the time he arrived I was too drunk and overexcited, visibly far happier than I should have been to see him, neglectful of my other guests, even my favourite people, in favour of him, drinking too much and trying all the time not to catch my husband’s pleading, baffled, slowly understanding eye.
For the first time, that night, I could see myself as other people could see me. It was deeply unappealing and embarrassing but it was fine, as long as I kept drinking and the party went on. Which, of course, it did.
Other people, I told myself, were boring. They didn’t have full and interesting and dirty and exciting lives, like mine. They were suburban. They couldn’t possibly understand. Thank fuck, really, that X was on my side and could see real life with me. Thank fuck for him.
The night was late and loud and messy and when finally I got into my bed, close to dawn, my husband was in tears. (He is not a man who ever cries). “I don’t know what’s happening,” he told me. “You don’t want me any more. I know you don’t want me any more. You’re not my wife, not deep down. You’re not yourself and I can’t get through to you. Something’s wrong. I don’t know what it is, but something is wrong.”
I was surly and silent. I told him in a hissed monotone that he was ruining my birthday, that we couldn’t talk about this now, that he was being selfish and trapping me and that if anything was wrong, it was the way he tried constantly to clip my wings, to hover around me, to make me the kind of wife he knew I never wanted to be.
I wanted to live, I told him. I didn’t want to trudge into the future yoked uncomfortably to someone who needed to know my every move. I was horribly unfair to him and I knew it, even as I said the words. It was like I was speaking underwater but I am good with words, I can choose them well in an argument and I saw every. single. one hit its mark. I may as well have punched him.
I knew, even as I was saying it, that nothing I said was true or even made sense; but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was saying the words, and that with every word I spat at him, I was ripping a jagged, vicious hole in the beautiful shell we had built together around our love, our shared life, our family. I was destroying him and I was destroying us.
I could feel my husband retreat, relent, give up on me. We both slept, tearful and broken. In the morning, I got up late and said perfunctory goodbyes to my family, telling them perfunctory lies about where I was going. I could hardly be bothered to lie at all. I could hardly be bothered with anything.
And then I drove to meet X and we went to a hotel that we would never actually spend the night in, because before the sky even began to darken, very soon after we checked in, a receptionist knocked carefully on the door and told me, eyes aimed firmly at the floor, that my husband was on the phone. He would wait, she said, until I was ready to come to the phone.
He did not want to leave a message.