I was 19 when I met Susan, a lovely secretary that worked across the hall from me. She didn’t seem to notice that I was an intern, and had no definitive adult wardrobe. She didn’t notice the way I looked at her manager Adam; and she didn’t notice my anguish the first time she called him her ‘husband’.
I was 19 and 8 months when Adam first asked how my day was going. After numerous lunches with Susan and hanging out in their office across the hall I’d finally given up making any more eye contact with the 38 year old man for whom I yearned. But still, he asked me, and I stammered out “just fine” as my eyes immediately came to rest on the rug beneath us.
I was 20 the day we were alone together in the stairwell. I caught my breath and took each step as slowly as possible feeling his presence behind me. “Don’t worry, I’m not stalking you” he said from just above me, the echo of his voice ringing in my ears as I responded with equal measure “is it stalking if I enjoy it?” We finished our conversation in the parking lot, the sun receding behind the buildings as we discussed the trivial barrage of music and John Mayer’s newest album. That night I was giddy, retelling every menial detail to my best friend 800 miles away. We giggled as I regaled her with the coy way I had given him my number; and we glossed over the tawdry details of his wife and child.
I was 21 when I checked into a hotel room 30 miles away, pretending this was old hat as I blushed at the obvious nature of it all. I brought my laptop bag, to fool no one into thinking I might just be in this area for work in the afternoon. I remember afterwards staring at his well groomed chest as he took a call, discussed dinner plans and making it on time to a baseball game. Yes, he would bring the snacks, and yes he loved her too. The towel around his waist defined his torso, and the small scar from an appendectomy. I remember that. And this memory happened, again and again and again.
I broke it off in the fall, I was accepted to a college two hours away, and if he had no intention of leaving his wife then I had no intention of staying. I checked into the same hotel, with Adam, two weeks later.
I was 22 when Susan divorced Adam. He called me, and cried.
I was 22 and 6 months when Susan called me, and begged me to come talk Adam down from a drug-induced suicidal rage. The two hour drive was unnerving, this time instead of planning our trysts and drinking to stay brave I now wanted nothing more but to head to mom and dad’s house. I wanted my mom.
I was 23 when Adam got out of rehab for a cocaine and prescription pill addiction. He called me that day, so did Susan. He didn’t call their son. I went to visit the shell of the man I still loved. His new tattoo sat oddly against his once blank canvas, it was his son’s birth date engraved just above the date of his mother’s death. Susan asked me how he was, and thanked me for being there for him. After all this time she still maintained the visage of class — always class. She reminded me of my mother in those moments.
I was 24 when I walked in on my father having an affair with a woman I did not know. I ran out of the door, and stood looking at the sun setting behind the buildings in the distance. My best friend fed me cigarettes and planned my father’s execution while I sat on our front stoop. I called Adam; but his number had changed after we ended six months before.
I was 25 the day Adam called me, and told me he was getting engaged. He sent a picture of his fiancée and the ring shortly after I hung up.
I wished him well, and went to visit my mother in the hospital.