For three years, I’ve been in love with a married man. And with that love come all the deepest shames and desires that are almost entirely connected. With it even comes an unexpected joy as with any love, and that joy, even in the midst of my agonizing pleas to God to remove me from the horror of my own heart and mind, is what keeps me grounded.
Whether he knows my feelings or not is questionable. While I’d prefer to believe I’ve been totally discreet, a part of me figures he knows or suspects, and we just continue on as though he doesn’t know because it’s a lot easier that way. The nature of our relationship, or at least what it was for the first two years, demanded professionalism, and under that professionalism, we found security. Even now we stumble along with it, however clumsily.
No, I wouldn’t have an affair with him. In fact, when my feelings first developed, I knew there was an underlying condition that he had to be faithful to his wife, otherwise he wouldn’t have been the man I’d fallen for. If he had shown an inkling of interest, I’d’ve immediately been turned off. Three years later, my feelings are deeper than that and more unconditional, so the desire for his faithfulness is now for their sakes and not mine.
I won’t lie. I think about the possibility of a life with him. I never cared to be domestic, but now I cook meals for people who aren’t him and buy housewares for a home he will never live in, all the while fantasizing. Some days, I get bogged down in terrible What Ifs, and I’m often convinced I’ll wait 60+ years for just an hour to be loved by him. My daydreams are tempered by my dull and dim reality. And when my daydreams aren’t scary they are guilty.
Loving him requires so much love for her, too, and she fills almost as many of my thoughts. She’s delightful, friendly, warm, and charming. Of course he loves her. My heart breaks at the memory of his admission, “She was out of my league. I knew the only reason she noticed me was because two of my friends weren’t there.” I love the man, but she loved the boy, and I can’t ignore how much of him is that love.
My mind is rarely my own anymore, as I wonder the most personal aspects of their lives. I do think about their sex life but much more about their daily life — wonder about the things they do for each other, begrudgingly and lovingly. What makes them laugh together? What do they bicker about and how — is one more easily reconcilable than the other; who needs time to steam before making amends? What are the little things they find endearing and the other things annoying? How do they spend a Tuesday night versus a Friday night? What’s their morning routine?
And as I ponder or picture each of these, I feel the distance between him and me, so I redirect my musings. I recall his kind eyes and amused smile. I relive our moments of celebration, and also the moments of pain because they are perhaps more binding. I compile a list of questions that I will never ask about theology and God and gender relations and what he meant when he said… I recite his written words as if they were poetry.
Beautiful songs weren’t written for me but for them. When Lana del Ray croons, “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” she is not crooning for me but for them. Joyful and hopeful favorites now manifest so much sorrow, like Brandon Heath’s “Let’s Make it Last.” That is the song of a marriage, of a life together. I hide from the radio because it’s plagued with songs just like these, from Pink and Nate Ruess’s duet, “Just Give Me a Reason,” to “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic. Instead, I soak up Mumford & Sons in my car for their intellectualism and Adele or the likes for their emotions.
I don’t envy women who live as mistresses to their loves, but I shamefully envy their pain as their fantasies collapse. I envy them the certainty of their loss. I’ve not really lost anything; there’s nothing to mourn. My tears often feel unjustified, my love invalidated. It’s just another unrequited love story.
What I can mourn, the thing we did lose, however, is our friendship. Part of that is due to not being in each other’s regular lives anymore, and part of it is due to a series of sad miscommunications and misunderstandings and constant explications. That we frequently misread each other has become the joke. It’s a tone thing, borne, at least on my end, from timidity and carefulness. Either he has the same intention or follows my lead.
The irony, if it is such, is that we are both literary-minded. We should be better at reading and writing each other, but instead we prick ourselves with each others’ words. Maybe sometimes we prick each other intentionally, but we assure each other of pure intentions, so we live in a world constructed of words and interpretations. But we are not Abelard and Heloise. Our non-love letters will never be published as a testament of the human heart. We are not even destined to the controversial tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
There is a mound of awkward in our past, and there is just as much gentleness and forgiveness. No relationship I’ve ever had has been as full and rich as ours. Nobody has ever made me feel as safe as he has. When I confessed that he had become my best friend and that that scared me, he was welcoming and assuring. In the dim lighting of a stormy window and flickering florescence, we sat in quietude and took in the magnitude of the shift. His eyes lingered while mine darted around uncertainly, but he said softly, “You are a very good friend,” drawing my glance back to him as I scoffed, sure that he was only trying to make me feel better. But he said it again, and then he wrote it later. And even as we struggle to find a resting spot in our hypersensitive readings of each other, I cling to the fact that, even if we are no longer, we were at one time friends.
I haven’t seen him in nearly a year, and the last time I saw him I couldn’t say goodbye. I got out of that car into the rain and into my car, and I watched him drive away. I said goodbye to the other passenger, addressed him by name: not as a slight to my love — I was already out of the car by then, so he may not have even heard me — but because I simply could not bear to close that life as surely as the door in my hand. In an email a few days later, he too refused to say goodbye and said only, “Fare well.”