Within a month the two of you have adopted this evasion, one of many in the lingua franca of the long married. You even laugh over how lame it is, but it’s a useful bit of marital shorthand, mild enough to escape the children’s attention and easily used in public, should the need arise. The two of you know what lies behind it, intimately and exactly, and it can even do double duty depending on emphasis: The event denotes the afternoon you caught them in the bed you’d left just hours before, while the event signifies the whole sordid shebang of the thing, a year-long affair with a girl young enough to be his daughter.

Technically she is young enough to be your daughter, too, but you have insisted no one say that.

What the two of you do say comes tumbling out as if you are delivering lines. You think of the weeks just after the event as The Time of Clichés, when it seems both of you become bad TV versions of yourselves. How could you. How long. I can’t believe. Of all the people. I never thought. I never intended. It was just sex. It didn’t mean anything. People get through this. Plus there’s all the shouting you’d expect, and all the tears, and all the inquisitions and accusations and apologies, and the occasional throwing of small objects, and the sifting of online timelines and photos, and the desperate lunge into marital counseling, a classic case of too little, too late. All of that happens, as if dictated by a script, as if you are more spectator than participant.

He is the director of a large non-profit, an organization that feeds the hungry and houses refugees and teaches ESL, which means he is very busy doing good work and it would be selfish to complain about being very lonely and raising three children largely on your own.
He is also tall and fit, with kind, soulful eyes and perfect teeth and a fabulous head of tousled black curls. Certainly, women notice him. Certainly a certain twenty-year-old intern noticed him.

Not that there’s ever a good time for an event, but as far as you’re concerned this is the most terrible time of all. You’re thirty-nine with two barely-school-aged children and one nursing baby, a post-vasectomy baby who was the second-biggest surprise of your life. After maternity leave, you made the precarious leap into freelancing, which enables you to keep Day Job #1, mothering, because day care is fucking expensive. You’ve switched to a lighter hair color to better disguise the gray, and you’re tired all the time and everything is sagging. Not just your ass and your eyelids and your libido but the couch cushions, the porch steps, the Roth IRA. And along comes a pert twenty-year-old. A smitten kitten.

“She really and truly values my work,” he says, a mere forty-eight hours after the event, as if any reasonable person could accept such an explanation for such an event.

[Continued in Issue 123]