I have experienced transcendental love in past lives. In this life I am still figuring it out.
If I can’t figure myself out, I certainly can’t expect someone else to. But this isn’t about that, per se. This is about monogamy. About what it means, about how it breathes in and out like a pink, wet lung, heavy and clean. I haven’t seen across the Atlantic yet. I haven’t dipped my toes in Balinese sand or let water from a spigot dribble down my chin in Bangladesh. What I got going for me is youthful curiosity – loads of it, which translates into varied experiences, unfortunate circumstances, broken hearts, and the associated psychological trauma associated with such heartbreaks and circumstances.
The other day I was at work, deep within the trenches of a conversation with my immediate supervisor. Her eyes lit up animatedly as her hands flailed around her face like a ceiling fan picking up wind, smattering it around the room to cool us off. Apparently, our mutual coworker’s boyfriend cheated on her three days before, the day after Valentine’s Day. How could he! She proclaimed, as I stood there, transfixed. “I said to her, no one will blame you if you decide to get back with him”, she told me.
The following day I saw her, eyes stung with red and back hunched from the weight of grief. It was in that moment that I drifted into a deep reverie. Why is it that this girl, this young woman, no older than I, was in such a state of disarray? Was it because her boyfriend had decided to stick his penis inside the walls of another woman? Was it because she felt blind to the activities of someone she thought she knew everything about? Was she mad at herself for even being in a monogamous relationship in the first place? What was it that jolted her so much that she could barely raise her voice up to more than a whisper?
My best friend has been going through things, too. Her boyfriend of four years recently cheated on her, digital-style, with Tinder swipes and text messages, dinner invitations and jousting back-and-forth between his boys on a GroupMe message: “Yo, she’s a dime… I don’t know why I waited so long to do this”, he said. At least that’s what she told me. She is the kind of woman you’d least like to see experience something like this (not as though some women, or men, for that matter, deserve these sorts of things. But in some people, their tenderness provides a hand that holds you even in their absence.) I told her I’ll be here, dutifully, wiping tears and pressing her cheek into mine to let her know that she can seep her sadness into me if she wants, just to make it hurt less. I’ll gladly take it for her.
There’s another one too, a second close confidant, same type of woman, whose beauty feels heavier because of how good she is on the inside. She was the winner of another woman’s loss with the patented bait and switch technique; having been the other woman for months, my friend finally secured her paramour. She played house with him, too. But then it ended, unceremoniously enough. I wonder if the thought of being the other woman still echoes in her head now that the battle dust clouds of breaking up have cleared.
I could go on and on with these stories. There are enough anecdotes about monogamy to fill up miles of space. They bring up my own shit, too. My own place. A place with which I am most familiar, having visited it several times. I am reminded, off-hand, of a place you know you have to go but you hate. Like Valley High School’s gravel track, where little kids played in the triple jump pits as sandboxes and your relay coach’s voice haunted you long after the cool-down drills.
I can make some painful admissions. I have been an active participant in infidelity. Another man’s woman. Or “friend”, as he so delicately put it. I have willingly engaged in sexual activity with him, knowing she exists somewhere out there. I don’t know her name or what she looks like but I know she exists. I have seen the ring on his hand. I have noticed it more acutely when his hands cup my tits, or cradle my face, or dart furiously across his phone’s keyboard while I lay perpendicular to his crotch on my brown leather couch. I have heard him backhandedly undermine her, only to pull me on top of him in ways my imagination has toyed with ever since.
I know I am morally wrong. I am not quite sure if he does himself, but that is another story for another day. Maybe it stings more because of the fates my friends have endured. Seeing and absorbing their pain helps from a karmic retribution standpoint, but my self-esteem still smarts every time I look at my brown leather couch and wonder about what his wife does when he’s with me.
I stopped because he left. But if he were here would I keep going? I don’t know. I am being honest because I am human. That is the only thing that feels right, after all.