Is It An Affair If The Other Person Doesn't Find Out? (aka Calm Before The Divorce, Act II)

Ethan was crying, the lights were dim, the moon made wet shadows on the floor, and I’ve always hated his middle name. 


Kevin, like his father, who was still out at 3AM and as a result so was I. He’d called ahead, because Kevin was so kind of the kind of man that never liked to disappoint me. And I can’t explain why I was so angry, knowing where he was and when he’d be here, but I was angry- and at the time I didn’t think it required an explanation to him, or to myself. I couldn’t sleep, my brain kept conjuring scenarios of where he was and what he was doing. None of them were pleasant, because a bored mind has a habit of turning the knife against itself, so I was waiting for him to get home and draw some emotional blood and make us even. 


I know it’s wrong and selfish, but it’s also just who I am. Constantly being concerned with being a better person is cause enough to realize I don’t believe myself to be one. And I honestly try my best not to hurt someone else’s feelings while I pursue my own space and happiness. That’s the reasoning I use for when Kevin says he loves me, and I lie and say I love him too.


I did, I know I did, at some point, and I can’t deny those summers when I’d watch him working on his car from the rooftop of our house. He was tall, even when we were sophmores he was towering above most our teachers. With quiet, hazel eyes and a sweet but oafish face. We were neighbors, but only knew each other in passing, because in a small province like ours if you didn’t at least know of somebody it was obvious you were doing it on purpose. 


That hit right around the time I was dealing with the firs boy I was in love with. I realized I was pathetic for basically kissing the ground he walked on, and after the disaster of my Bitter-Sweet 16,  after all the dawns I spent crying in the back yard so my parents wouldn’t see, I told myself I wasn't going to be the weak person again. I promised that I'm not catering to anyone ever again, that I was enough for myself.


Kevin felt like much less of a challenge, feelings wise. I can’t calendar precisely when I decided that I wanted to seduce him. We were sixteen, at that age your hormones are so all over the place, it’s impossible to tell what’s real or what’s your body making wildly outrageous demands. But I do remember it was a slow and steady realization, like wandering deeper and deeper into a pool until the next step comes empty, and you know it’s time to float . There were Instances that made me stare, flush, or sink endlessly into the thought and sight of him. When he played lacrosse and his long, lanky body leapt and rushed across the field. After his parents bought him his far and he spent entire Sundays under the hood of that Subaru, his face and tank top tinged with a thin black layer of soot and perspiration. 


And especially as he stood bored outside of choir class, waiting for his girlfriend.


It was a blind and thoughtless resolution, six months shy of New Years. Honestly, I didn’t believe I would go through with it at first, although confidence wasn’t part of the issue. I was not self-conscious or arrogant enough to consider myself beautiful; I was aware my pointy chin and ears gave me a slightly elfish aspect. Vice President and founder of a little tasteless committee that will remain nameless. Two years of track had left me small- unlike the other girls I was nothing to turn heads or stop traffic. But I liked my frame and freckles, long before I’d learn about the importance of body positivity. It was fortunate that I’d decided I was enough for myself, and whether Kevin could reciprocate or not, I would like myself just the same.


Summer seized our town that July in blearing heat and optimism. My friends flew east or west to relatives and parties, others organized into wild packs of beach bumming teenagers, and I bided my time pretending to read on the roof and watching Kevin in his garage. 


My entire tactic consisted of nothing but a feint. It was Saturday and I left early for my usual morning jog. I love running; the freedom of it, the feeling of my feet thumping against the pavement and my heart thrusting against my rib cage. Reality seems to fade further and further you push yourself against the strain, of your lungs, yours muscles, your chest, until becomes obsolete and all you can see is the road ahead of you. And all you can feel, all you can care about, is the warm tingling feeling taking your breath and the blood pulsating in your veins. And when you stop the world comes crashing back in a winded rush as you struggle to catch your breath and personality.


I swung around the house, grabbed the pie mom had left on the kitchen counter, then made my way to Kevin’s garage. He was hunched over the hood like so many times before, his clueless ocean-blue gaze thoughtfully considering something. Lean and leaning beautifully over his little prize, not like Daedulus and his maze, but like Narcissus and his lake. I admired him for a moment, and seeing him lost in a depthless depth, cleared my throat to get his attention.


“Hey,” I said, still winded and my heart struggling against something more. He looked up with a calm surprise that grew as I approached him. “Mom asked me to drop this off,” I said, gently raising the pie.


“Oh, yea. Thanks,” He said, wiping his hands with a rag. To his credit, he maintained eye contact for much longer than I expected, except it was obvious his neck was locked in a brace to keep his gaze on mine. “Real hot one today, huh?”


My hair was in a ponytail and I could feel beads of sweat brimming down my temple, sides, stomach, and sports bra. I could feel my chest heaving against the stuffy summer air.


“Yeah,” I said. “Keeping cool in here?”


“Not like you,” he said. I laughed, or at least pretended to, and for a moment I saw his sharp blue eyes flick up, and then down, considering me.


And I knew. 


Ethan was crying, the lights were dim, the moon made wet shadows on the floor, and I’ve always hated his middle name. 

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