“Do you think it's this intense because of the sneaking around?” she asked him.
“We're not sneaking around now are we?” he asked, caressing her cheek before leaning in for a kiss.
She still knew what marriage meant. She still believed in its value. She still wanted it for herself. But suddenly, none of that really made any difference.
Backtrack a couple of weeks. Claire, Bianca, Lisa and I were at the Writer's Bar, waiting for dinner at Jaan. Lisa was talking about this guy she'd been seeing on and off, Mr. Smith. Well, seeing isn't exactly the right term, seeing as he lives across the country.
“We do other things,” she said, arching her brow.
“Like what?” Bianca asked, sipping a preemptive glass of wine. “Phone sex?”
Lisa laughed, “you could call it that.”
She pulled out her phone and dialed some numbers before putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the small table.
“What are we doing now, Sarah?” a deep voice purred. “Tell Lisa what we're doing.”
“You're fucking me,” a female voice responded with a quiet moan.
“Louder, Sarah,. You want her to hear you, don't you?”
“You're fucking me!” Sarah screamed.
The Writer's Bar was empty, but that one got the bartender's attention.
“How am I fucking you?”
“Your big cock is deep in my as—”
“OK, enough!” said Claire hanging up on the call.
She looked at Lisa, wide-eyed, “that guy is over the edge. Do we know anything else about him yet?”
“Nope,” responded Lisa. “And we don't want to know.”
“I still think he's married,” Claire said, sipping her wine. “He's hiding a wife and three kids somewhere in Manhattan... or wherever he lives.”
“His wife would not do that,” Bianca said, pointing to the phone.
“It could be another woman,” Lisa said.
“Doesn't it bother you?” Claire asked. “I think it's disgusting.”
“It's complicated,” said Lisa.
“This is life, Lisa,” Claire said. “This isn't Facebook. What's so complicated? He could be married. You're getting in the way of that.”
“I am not getting in the way of anything!” Lisa said. “People love and people marry. But companionship and commitment are not sex. Sometimes you need a little sex. It doesn't have to change the way you function in your established relationship. You have a partner who loves you and gives you warmth and comforts you and you have one who rides you like you were born to be ridden. So what?”
“You know what the problem is?” I asked, suddenly. “People look for everything in one person. What if you can't have a best friend and a passionate love and a tyrant and a doting husband all in one?”
“Who wants a tyrant?” Claire asked.
Lisa and I raised our hands.
“It's complicated,” Lisa said again.
“Like on Facebook,” I added.
“So what then, it's fine to sleep with everyone else's husband's?” Claire asked. “That's bullshit.”
Claire looked at me, “Anaiis—that's bullshit. You're married. How would you really feel if you found your husband was having an affair?”
“Depends?” Claire asked. “Depends on what?”
“Depends on whether he wanted to leave or simply needed a... supplement. Depends on how I found out. Depends on who it was. Depends on the position of the planets at the time of disclosure and the number of retweets I've had that day.”
“No, seriously?” I asked. “I have told him he may find himself doing this one day. We're human. You can't account for everything. But there is one huge thing—besides the usual health precautions.”
“What's that—don't fall in love?” Lisa asked.
“No, you can't really help that,” I said. “When it happens, it happens. No, the one thing is to never, ever let me find out. Ever.”
“So you would rather not know,” Claire said. “Like somehow it doesn't change anything.”
“It doesn't have to,” I said. “If you manage your new relationship energy well, it shouldn't. I can't, but some people can. So why not? Why not get everything? Some people say it even helps.”
“We need more drinks.” Lisa said, turning toward the bar.
“I'm having an affair.” Bianca blurted out.
No one said anything. Lisa turned back slowly and looked at me for a split second before turning back to Bianca. I wondered for a moment if she felt a little awkward. Lisa was good friends with Claire and I, but she'd only just started getting to know Bianca. I ventured a look at Claire.
“What are we doing here?” Claire asked. She looked furious. “What is the point? We look for guys that we can connect with and be with—for what? Obviously none of it means anything if we're cheating on them and sleeping with people who have made an oath to be faithful. What the fuck's the point? What the hell are we doing?”
Bianca put her face in her hands.
“Bianca, I love you, you're one of my closest friends, but what the hell is wrong with you? Jeff is a wonderful husband, you two have everything, he treats you like a princess, he worships you.”
Bianca dropped her hands looked at her, “do not presume you know anything about the inner workings of a marriage, Claire. You don't.”
“Because I've never been married?” Claire spat back. “Just say it, Bianca. You don't think I know anything.”
“You don't,” Bianca opened her purse and threw two twenties on the table. “I've lost my appetite. Have a nice dinner.”
I watched her get up and make her way across the lobby of L'Ermitage.
“Bianca—” I called, rising and running after her.
“I think I need to be alone right now,” she said turning to face me.
“I think you are alone right now,” I said and I hugged her.
I don't think it's a marriage thing. You don't have to be married to feel this alone. As much as everything around us seems to point to a happiness we can find in one person, that one great eternal bond, the older I get, the harder it is to believe that this is the case. I've had many great loves in my life, many amazing, life-changing loves. These loves have been like the fires that spread in October when the Santa Anas overtake Southern California: powerful, all-consuming, awesome in their majesty.
But eventually, all fires go out.
That night, I went home to a dark, empty house. My husband came home late. We ate and he went straight to bed, after what had been, for him, an exhausting day at work.
As I sat on my computer, late into the night, I realized that even though he was only a room away, he and I were further apart than we'd ever been.
Fast forward. Imagine the brightness of the moonlight reflecting around the massive salt flats of Amboy, California, and a man and woman dancing over them.
“Do you think it's this intense because of the sneaking around?” she asks him.
“We're not sneaking around now are we?” he responds, caressing her cheek before leaning in for a kiss.
Claire had landed a small role in an independent film taking place in the Mojave. It was on the set that she'd met Simon, an Australian adventurist who was assisting the crew understand the terrain.
Claire sensed the connection between them from the first word they exchanged. When Simon told her that he was married after the first day of filming, her heart broke. Looking at the tears building in her eyes, Simon kissed her.
Claire didn't stop him.
And there they were, miles from the set in the middle of nowhere, alone. Simon took her in his arms and spun her around. Claire felt like she wasn't shooting a movie, like her life, had suddenly become one. Every time she looked into Simon's blue eyes, she wanted to cry.
Claire still knew what marriage meant. She still believed in its value. She still wanted it for herself. But suddenly, none of that really made any difference. When Simon lay her down on a blanket he'd stretched out on the flats, she kissed him like she owned him. Because she did—for that moment.
Afterward, she had a cigarette, shivering under another blanket as her sweat dried in the cool night. Simon pointed out different constellations in the sky, and she laughed because it was so cheesy and so wonderful at once.
“I've done something horrible,” Claire told Bianca as soon as she picked up. “I did something I said I would never do.”
If anyone else had said that, Bianca wouldn't have been able to guess. But this was Claire.
They met on the bench outside Peet's on South Beverly, and Claire told her everything.
Bianca let her cry. And when Claire was finished, Bianca pulled her up and gave her a hug.
There are some things in life that you have to live in order to fully understand. No matter how a relationship appears on the outside or how long-established your views are about some things, if you have not really lived these things, you don't really know.
And friends, you see, have the cycle of the moon, they walk beside us, then orbit far. Our paths cross and uncross naturally.
Lovers don't often have that privilege. To disconnect feels unnatural; it hurts, starves and destroys.
I'm at a dinner with my friends Edward and Mia when my phone rings. When the call comes again after a few minutes, I excuse myself and pick up.
“I don't think it's fair to be married and feel this lonely,” my husband says.
I look at my hand and see my engagement ring and wedding band glisten in the faint light.
“I need someone who I am going to share a life with. We don't share a life. I don't even know where you are right now.”
“I'm having dinner with Edward and Mia. I thought you were working.”
“Yes, I was working. I was working my ass off,” he said, then added, with condescension, “What are you doing?”
“I'm having dinner,” I responded coldly. I hate how much he makes me feel like writing is somehow an unworthy career choice.
“I need a companion. I need someone who wants to do things with me,” he said.
“What things? Watch a little television before going to sleep?”
“We don't even sleep together. You have a completely different schedule than I do. You don't care about making time to be with me when I'm available.”
“It's always on your terms. It's your schedule, your friends, your events. When have you made time for me?”
Even when he invited me to go to New Orleans, it wasn't because he wanted to take me there—it was because a client wanted to go there and was bringing his fiancée along. Wife as corporate accessory. And my plans? Forget my plans. What plans? I'm just a writer, I can go anywhere.
“I'm taking off my ring, Anastasia,” he said. “I'm going to start seeing other women.”
There are some things you just can't supplement. I look down at my hands as I write this and notice the pale skin on my hand where my ring used to be. If only a breakup really was as easy as removing a ring. If only that was all we missed, the familiar weight of something on our finger.
But if love is a great fire, you can't experience it without burning to the ground.
Glamour magazine's Lindsey Unterberger interviews seven women about their worst breakups in The Worst Way To Get Dumped.
Miz Helena gives tips and reviews Long Distance Relationship Secrets by Leon and Mari Louw, the ultimate test of space between couples at her blog Epifanatical.
Non Society's Meghan Asha has a great solution for those of us going through breakups right now: the Bad Decision Blocker!