I am your husband’s mid-life crisis.
I start as the ghost of a whisper, nothing but a far-fetched fantasy he allows himself in those quiet moments of solitude where he finds his daily respite. He sits, relegated to the basement he calls his, his company the empty bag of popcorn he’s allowed himself to devour, frustrated with his day, beaten by his week, defeated by his life. Your life. I start as nothing but an ephemeral thought, the warm breath of a secret dream. I don’t have a name or a face or an existence, but the idea of me takes shape slowly, spreading like fog, surreptitiously and quietly invading all clarity. I don’t mean anything to him, really. I exist in the depth of his subconscious, and he only allows me to come alive when he is alone. But slowly, as your foundation erodes from the bitter realities of daily life, his self-absorbed desire will grow like weed, an obsession, a sickness, taking hold and rooting itself in the very fabric of your relationship.
Then he will meet me. I am, of course, the opposite of everything you are. I am young, free, beautiful, selfish, melancholy. I smile derisively on command; I am reckless with my emotions and his. I walk tall and never look back. I am not saddled with children or a meaningless job; I do not look in the mirror with a panicked fear that the person staring back is someone else. I am apathetic to your plight because it is not mine and I know it. I believe this because I am too young to care and too old to pretend that I don’t know what I’m doing. When your husband meets me, the fog will become a hard wall. I will fill a void neither one of you can reach across.
Your husband, he is a good man, he has noble intentions. He wants to be the image of the best parts of himself, but somehow he has ceased to exist as a whole, barely more than a shell of expectations. He will not seek me out at first, and nor will I. We will circle around each other with pointless words, weeks and weeks will go by as I go home to my life, and he goes home to you with nothing more than a hint of what is about to come. But inevitably something will break, somewhere. We will never stop to wonder whose fault it was until you start asking him why.
Your husband will take foolish risks guided by the thrill to feel like he is alive. He will be amazed to discover a hunger he believed the passing of decades had irrevocably tamed. He will devour my mind, my body, everything I allow him to have. As the survival of both his worlds become more entangled, difficult to manage, impossible to reconcile or compute, your husband will lay undue blame on you. You will notice these subtle changes in his behavior, his physical appearance, and you will feel like the child who didn’t get the invitation to the party. As he becomes more engaged and interested in his own life, he will become less so in anything pertaining to you. I will momentarily exist as the entirety of his universe, and I will passively accept this because I don’t care very much about him or myself, and I have never loved him. For me, he is a fleeting passion, something to distract myself from the knowledge that the love you have shared is something I have never experienced.
More time will pass. He will pretend to leave you for me, and I will in turn pretend I want him to. We will dance like this for some time, and we may even allow each other to believe it. But inevitably the weight of reality will press on us; I will come to terms, however remotely, with the notion that the stakes are greater than us. He will be forced to acknowledge that our worlds were exciting only because they briefly collided. Your husband’s search was one of meaning, mine was one of intensity, and ultimately we will find neither in each other. He will cleanse himself of this crisis, this mid-life insecurity which crippled him with the fear of being inconsequential. And I will have served my purpose; I availed him of this gift, the sense that he was needed, even though I did not need him and he was always a man of substance to begin with.
Whether or not you find out about me is a product of whether you are as skilled and dedicated as we are to hide behind false pretense, to immerse yourself in fantasies and self-delusion. Perhaps he will confess to assuage his constant feeling of guilt, the culmination of an affair consumed and digested. Perhaps you will demand to know everything, or demand to know nothing at all, or leave, or stay. But in the end, this is nothing but a detail. The course of your life will not be changed by his admission of guilt, because I am faceless and I don’t have a name and I could have been anyone who was not you.