For months now, everything has just felt upside down. My head just keeps going around and around on a million things and nothing at the same time. I know it was wrong, and I don’t know why I did it. Why I do it. I hate to admit it even to myself, but it wasn’t the first time I cheated on Lou. I wasn’t trying to start an affair or anything like that. I wasn’t planning to leave him. It was more like I had a close friendship and bond, but wanted so much more, even though I was married. Allowing myself to fall in love and have a romantic relationship was out of the question because I could never actually leave my marriage. But a little sex between friends was like getting a taste of what it could have been. I built a bulkhead to keep myself from the danger of getting too close. Time and distance took care of the rest.
But this time, Alan decided it was wrong and we shouldn’t have the “benefits” part of our friendship anymore. I should have known what was coming when instead of sitting in our usual spot on the couch by the windows in the commuter lounge, he wanted to go to a table in the cafeteria to talk. He said Lou had passed him on the road, driving in the opposite direction; Alan couldn’t miss our distinctive powder blue VW with the hand-painted boat on the hood. Lou wore dark aviator sunglasses and drove with a stern intensity that I am quite familiar with. Alan said that one look at Lou made him realize that he wasn’t someone to piss off. He explained that he was feeling guilty about it all anyway, and seeing Lou just made the right decision clear. I said all the rational things out loud: that it was OK, that I understood, and that of course he was right. But inside, I was steaming: I was the one who had everything at risk, and yet he just decided that was that, game over, all there is to it, with no discussion. This was not a break up; we were just friends who sometimes got together for more… we were just cutting out the more. He was cutting out the more. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is a really, really big freaking deal, and I honestly don’t know why.
I tried to get together one last time, so we could have a nice ending to that part of our relationship. He said yes, but at the last minute called to cancel. I was furious, and since then, my emotions have been on a rollercoaster ride of delusional, irrational, depressed, confused, and angry thinking. Enough time has passed that I am calmer now; my creativity is up, and I’ve been venting by writing poems. And I’ve been passively aggressively throwing my pain in his face by submitting the poems to the school paper for publication. Maya Angelou, I am not, but I too, know why the caged bird sings.
As upset as I have been, I still care, and do what I can to show it. Alan loves music, so I got him a Sony Walkman for Christmas so he can listen anytime. When I gave it to him, he just added the bag to the big pile of gifts he had just received from parents of the kids that he cares for in the psychology department’s daycare center. I watched for quite a long time through the observation window while waiting for Alan to finish his shift. He was always smiling, upbeat, and playful; the kids absolutely love him.
He quit smoking; I said I quit as well, but I just don’t do it around him. I had a cigarette in my hand when he caught up with me to thank me for the Walkman, and I just let it drop to the floor, and casually stepped it out, using my father’s magical skills of misdirection. It wasn’t my first lie. He had once asked if I had cheated on Lou before. My non-answer reply was, “It’s not the kind of thing you can just go around doing.” The truth was not something I wanted to reveal, because surely if he knew, he would not have anything to do with me. Why would he? Why would anyone? Honesty, on topics such as that, is highly over-rated. I now usually hang with a different group of friends from the computer science program because I can’t manage to not say something weird, mean, or sarcastic to Alan whenever I see him. I don’t want to lose his friendship, so I just keep my distance because I am so afraid of ruining everything. It’s ironic that the first time we had sex was while Lou was out of town and we saw the movie Against All Odds at the theater by my apartment. The movie totally sucked, but the night was awesome, and the song has so much meaning to me now; when it plays on the radio, I don’t know whether to turn it up or turn it off. I still feel pretty much crazy most of the time, and have absolutely nobody to talk to about it, and just go through the motions of acting normal. Nothing is normal. Even the streetlights keep going out on me at night whenever I’m driving and thinking of him. Who in the world can I possibly tell about that? About anything? Nobody.
Ironically, if we had not reverted to a strictly platonic relationship, it would have been a lot easier to get together now. Lou got fed up with his job at Hazeltine, because there was a position that he really wanted but didn’t get, so he started looking around. I drove with him for an interview in Philadelphia to be a consultant at Price Waterhouse. The interview went well, and the manager wanted to meet me and take us out to dinner that night. We had to shop for appropriate fancy restaurant attire for me since I was just wearing jeans. After dinner, the VW stopped running before we got on the highway to head back home from Philadelphia. Turns out that the gas pedal was no longer attached to anything. I guess that is much better than the brake line failing, which you can find out the hard way. Lou took two coat hangers, hooked them together, and ran the makeshift line from the fuel line connection under the hood up and in through the driver’s side window. So we could operate the gas using the coat hanger by hand. That was a challenge coordinating the hand movement instead of the gas pedal with the clutch, but we did it. Anyway he got the new job, and moved most of our stuff to an apartment in Deptford, New Jersey. We fixed the gas line for me, and got another car for him– a huge Oldsmobile – so he can commute into Philadelphia and to client sites. I’m back to my 15” black and white TV and have been driving from Port Jefferson to South Jersey to visit every weekend for the last three months until this semester is over. I still have to take some more classes to complete my degree requirements, so I’ll have to pick up where I left off at Rutgers this summer. I would have rather been able to stay here, finish my classes this summer, and graduate at Stony Brook. Actually, I would rather have been able to stay on Long Island period. I had an on-campus interview with Intel Corporation that went very, very well, and I felt very confident they would hire me. But Price Waterhouse is a great opportunity for Lou, so we really didn’t give Intel a second thought. I imagine it will be easy for me to get a job in Philly as well. Assuming I can get my head back together.