Margie's retelling was stilted, lifeless. As if she were checking each insurrection of her husband's behavior off a list, not wanting the emotion, the pain, or the shame to interrupt her concentration. When she opened her eyes and looked out to the Regents, she suddenly wished she'd negotiated harder for that chair. She continued, relenting to her emotions a bit -
"Compromising one's self isn't very difficult."
The Regent's remained silent as she continued.
You tell yourself that the roof over your head, the flowing of cash, the regular sex, and having your family all together in one house….
Margie's voice trailed off, reminescing.
"You tell yourself that it's worth it. Being with someone that doesn't love you. And, if it would have ended there, maybe I'd still be with him. But there were so many other things, both insignificant and important, and downright disturbing, that would get in the way of my self delusion.
Like watching the fleeting smile on his face as a van drove by our house, blasting "20th Century Boy."
Or singing "Baby's on Fire" to me during Karaoke, and watching my reaction. As clueless as I was, he received none, as I waited to get back home until I could check the lyrics on the internet, shame bubbling to the surface, releasing itself - in the form of anxiety. A full-fledged attack would not be not far into the future.
One night, he insisted we watch one of his favorite films: "The Rapture." A dark and foreboding tale of female wonton sexuality, your basic "you will burn in hell for your sins" genre of entertainment fare. We watched and I made fun of the effects
My obsession with "knowing" him took me into the darkest of places, yet some were sensual and sexy - like taking him to a gay bar to see his reaction to male attention - or to see his reaction to my female attention.
We went dancing to one such gay bar, and I made him a bet that I could pick up a girl anytime I wanted - and then what would we do about it? He took the bet, thinking I didn't have the guts.
I noticed a very cute girl sitting by herself at the bar, and bought her a drink before walking up to her.
"Hi, I'm Margie," I introduced myself, "I noticed you're by yourself. Would you like to come join us for some conversation?"
She was a little hesitant, so I assured her we were innocent enough. Explaining that I was bi-sexual, and Pete was my straight-but-ambiguous-looking boyfriend.
She smiled, and commented how much she admired his level of trust. I smirked.
We all chatted at our table, and learned that she was in Rabbi school - and I thought of how progressive we were, sitting in a gay bar chatting with a Lesbian Rabbi.
I asked her if she wanted to dance, and we made it out onto the dance floor - swaying to a very sultry blues number. I was taller than she was, which I liked. As we danced, I could see Pete edging closer and closer to the dance floor. While we danced, I reached up to move a curl that had fallen into her eyes. She must've taken it as a sign, because she leaned in to kiss me. It was very sensual, very erotic. Her lips tasted sweet, and she smelled of lilacs.
A rather rough tap on my shoulder interrupted our kiss. Pete did not look happy.
I apologized to the girl, and left the bar with Pete, arguing loudly as we walked to our car.
After that, it seemed Pete changed. He no longer sported the oh-so-ambiguous sex god persona, but chose to begin dropping seeds of a different color.
One day I came home to his biker jacket hanging up in the hallway. He'd said he was cleaning out closet space, because I'd asked for more room. (Later I would find out he'd told everyone I made him throw away all of his rock concert t-shirts.) As I examined the jacket, I told him I liked it, and asked if he would keep it, maybe wear it out one night. I noticed a rather large silver ring, hanging from one of the snap downs and asked him about it.
"It' s a cock-ring," he explained.
Intrigued, but not wanting to seem ignorant, I nodded and later searched the Internet.
There was a lot of that.
I'd remembered that he'd called one of his closest friends, "kind of like a mentor," he explained. At one point, we'd all went out to eat with his "mentor" and his friends from the Saturday mangroup. I noticed Pete's behavior shift immediately, as he sat next to his mentor, Clyde. A transplant from New York who was a genius mortgage broker. The evening, was lively, and fun, I was happy that I was finally meeting his friends and their wives, and Pete seemed really happy that I was engaged in our life together.
But that didn't stop my investigation.
At one point, I'd even enlisted the help of a former boyfriend, Rob. A wealthy man-child who would travel around the world with no particular sense of purpose, waiting for his next Trust check. He'd recently started dating my sister, Georgie. Imagine the holiday gathering - Rob, Pete, and then my daughter's father, Ben -hanging out to chat with everyone as he dropped her off for a visit. My sisters were only too delighted to make everyone aware that I had, at some point, fucked every non-relative male currently in the house.
I told him about my conversations with Pete, about BDSM, and the leather community, and of course, he was willing to go to a meeting with me, just to check it out, see what we would see. We ended up in some dive bar in a seedy part of town, completely bored of the folks all dressed up in their goth gear. There was absolutely no kinky sex to be found at that place.
Disappointing at best.
I held my tongue about some very specific conversations that Pete and I had. For example, at one point during a session of pillow talk, he asked me if I was a chaser.
"A chaser? What is that?"
"Nevermind," he said.
I searched online the next day, and was stunned to find out that there are some folks that go out of their way to have sex with people that have contracted the HIV virus.
I was spooked enough to get an anonymous HIV test, which was negative, again, and schedule an appointment for a surgeon, because I would be truly damned if I "accidently" got pregnant again, and ended up financially dependent on this guy, and also, my longtime friend, lover, companion, Tom's betrayal was still fresh in my gut.
The surgeon, incidentally, tried to talk me out of the tubal ligation. "You are so young still, what if you get married again?" But I insisted. And at 35, I was no longer able to get pregnant.
When you're compromising yourself, you become addicted to the distractions.
Our sex was hot. Peeling off our clothes while we walked into the house after a night of dinner and dancing. It was a dream. It was like the movies - I totally bought into the illusion… but something, or someone, wouldn't let me stay there. It was like this kernel of doubt sat in the base of my skull, growing at an exponential rate, until I was hungry for more distractions, more love, more …. Food.
Indeed, I had gained almost 50 pounds in the space of a couple years, and even more after we were married. My anxiety was always high, and my blood pressure and my cholesteral levels were higher. I was on three kinds of medications to control everything, and had regular headaches - the remedy for which would knock me out so completely, that rising in the morning could be equated to sliding the coffin lid aside, and crawling out of a six-foot slumber chamber.
We took several vacations, especially to LaJolla and San Diego, to visit my son there. On one such occasion, we were milling about the San Diego Zoo, when I spotted a homeless chap asking for money.
It was Steven.
Another anxiety attack looming, I turned my back to him and slipped past the crowd in the gift shop before turning to spy on him.
Just then, Pete walked up behind me, making me jump - the hairs on my forearms standing on end.
"Are you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost."