A few minutes later, one of my friends finally wrote, “I can totally see why it’s hot to be in your position.” And then, in all caps, “I WOULD NOT WANT TO BE THE WIFE THOUGH.” “If I were the wife,” another one wrote, “I’d rip his fucking balls off.” Months later, my friends would tell me that they were worried when I told them I was sleeping with a married man.
When it happened, though, it was hard for me to see anything in their texts other than the way the tone changed, the way the enthusiastic back and forth we had maintained for years had come to a standstill.
I too had wanted those things, and when I met a man in my late 20s who was quiet and kind, I figured I had finally found it.
I could picture the life I wanted so clearly: an old house on a dirt road, a kitchen table big enough for the kids to do their homework, a hammock in the shade, this kind and quiet man kissing my neck every morning before heading off to work.
I couldn’t comprehend how this was different from the things we had done before.
These were the friends that I had been single with, all of us tethered to one another for everything that we did: eating meals and drinking beers and dating men and running to the bar in the middle of those Vermont winters wearing nothing but torn jeans and tank tops.Back then, we didn’t care about the marital status of the men we slept with, because, back then, the only people we were loyal to were each other. We were writers, and we bonded in the way that people who have these things in common do.We created our own form of family, and we had clung tight to that for the past decade. I was really nervous to meet you.” Her honesty endeared me to her instantly. It reminded me of what a friend said when she was the first among us to have children.It felt bold, freeing, revolutionary even, deciding at that age that any man I met would be temporary, short-term, intended only as a pit stop along the way to my next adventure.At first my friends were on board, asking for constant updates. For the first few months, we all lived vicariously through each other’s adventures.But then, because these things sometimes happen — a short straw, a joker card pulled from the deck — I found out after five years that this kind and quiet man was not the kind of man I wanted to marry.He was the kind of man who kept secrets, the kind of man who had a hard time being honest, the kind of man who lied about the things he was doing when he wasn’t doing them with me.I became best friends with Jason’s brother, too, and — lest there be any doubt about my commitment to his family — when Jason started dating another girl instead of me, I started dating his brother instead of him.So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that, when I met Neil at a writing residency last fall, I didn’t fall in love with him, I fell in love with his wife.We had started in the same place — both meeting our boyfriends when we were 27 — so it didn’t seem fair that we ended up in such different places. What I wanted — I knew almost immediately — was to apply to writing residencies. I applied to nine and got into four, all of them lining up perfectly without overlap, like a sign.It was meant to be: I would put my things in storage and spend the next year on the road, writing and traveling and doing — for the first time in a long time — whatever I wanted to do.