His laptop was old, but it worked. He was cool with me borrowing the one he’d had since college.
So I used it like I would use my own. That was, until I looked everywhere for a picture of a cartoon cat that I’d just downloaded.
I clicked through the Explorer and came across his dissertation amid old college work folders. Maybe I should have known better than to think, “Awww, he’s a great writer—I bet his essay is glorious.” Click! Click! Ah, here we…oh, holy shit?
In a folder marked with her pet name followed by five kisses were 30 naked photos of my partner’s ex.
“They were last accessed 6 months ago,” the OS helpfully informed.
You can’t walk past a car crash without looking. Don’t come at me with a shallow morality of “Oh, you shouldn’t be snooping,” because I defy every part of your evolutionary helix to not look when you want to know the life your Other Half had before you.
Did he still love her? Does he still love her?
Of course I was surprised.
In every other context it would be funny—here were images of overflowing breasts, pink and hairless vulva; a writhing torso flanked by bathtubs, messy beds and silk. Emailed photos. Skype stills. Selfies that were taken before selfies were a #norm. I have these things, too, and can pose in these ways—I’ve done it for him—but I wasn’t in as good shape as her. Her hair was straight, her ass pert, and her nose was thinner and a whole lot more regal than my multiethnic squeeze-buttons of nostrils.
But worse were the scanned, insanely natural Polaroids with the two of them together, happy and in love.
Everything else just melted back into a mass of skin and genitalia, but the whole dripping mass of desire and passion that wasn’t ours ripped me apart. Drop the laptop and run?
Nah, I quickly figured that wouldn’t help. And everyone has a history! It’s normal! He just forgot.
Of course I was being nosy. Of course I got stung—of course? Here was the paragon boyfriend who, in every hypothetical discussion of physical and emotional cheating, said he was a One Card Only Wager who’d ditch at the first offense.
“It’s the only way,” he said. I ask him what, exactly, is the only way.
“End it.…If you go that far…if you cheat, you don’t love that person anymore.”
I think about him already having nuzzled my neck this afternoon as I cooked our dinner. I can’t stop seeing him nuzzling her neck in a faded photograph.
He’s had the photos on his computer for the whole of the five years we’ve been together, so maybe he’s never loved me at all.
Today I write this on his laptop, wondering what a sixth year would actually look like.