“Well, Rachel sometimes . . .” I don’t even finish the sentence. “Fine, I’m single,” I say. “What is the point?”
“Get out of the house! Go get drunk and screw someone you don’t know.”
“Oh, my God!” I don’t know why I find it so shocking. I guess it’s that she’s talking about me. Me! I mean, I know that is what people do. They go out to bars, and they meet strangers, and they have casual sex with them after a few dates or no dates or however many dates they feel they need to justify what they want to do. I get that. But I have never done that. I never really had the opportunity. And now, I guess, I do have the opportunity, but it feels as if I’ve missed the starting line for that sort of thing; that race took off without me. I gather myself and look at Mila, but her face doesn’t change.
“I’m serious,” she says. “You need to get out there. You need a love affair or something. You need to get laid. By someone who isn’t Ryan. You need to see what it’s like with someone else. Have you even ever slept with someone besides Ryan?”
“Yeah,” I say, somewhat defensively. “I had a boyfriend in high school.”
“Yes!” I say, now definitely defensive. “What is the big deal?”
“It just isn’t enough people.”
“It is!” I say.
Mila shakes her head and puts down her fork. She tries another approach. “Do you remember what it was like the first time you kissed Ryan?”
“Yeah,” I say, and within a second, I feel as if I’m back there. I’m leaning across the table, over my burger and fries. I’m kissing him. And then I remember how it felt when he kissed me back. When he kissed me on the way home. When he kissed me good-bye. Even after kissing became a thing we did like breathing, without thinking, without care, I held on to those first kisses. I relished the way my heart stopped for a second whenever our lips met.
“Remember how good it felt to be kissed for the first time? How it felt electric? Like you could power a whole house off your fingertips?”
“You’ve really thought about this.”
“I just love the beginnings of relationships,” Mila says wistfully. “The first time Christina kissed me . . . nothing compares to that. Now I kiss her, and it’s like, ‘Hey, how are you? What smells? Is it the trash?’”
We both start laughing.
“Anyway, I can’t help but be excited for you, knowing that you have the chance to have that feeling again. You can meet someone and feel those butterflies again, if you want to.”
“No, I can’t,” I say. “I have a husband to go back to.”
“Yeah, in ten and a half months. Some marriages don’t even last ten and a half months. You can have a love affair, Lauren. One that makes you feel like you did when you were nineteen. If it were me, that’s what I would be doing.”
I let this settle for a minute as I think about it. It does sound nice, in a lot of ways, and it also sounds terrifying and messy. How can I have a love affair when I’m married? How can I juggle those two huge relationships? An active romance and an inactive marriage?
“Do you think Ryan is having a love affair?” I ask Mila.
Mila loses her patience. “That’s what you’re taking from this?”
“No,” I say. “I get your point. I do. I’m just . . . if he was . . . what would that mean?”
“It would mean absolutely nothing.”
“Nothing. Did you love your high school boyfriend?”
I shrug. “Yeah, I did.”
“Do you give a shit about him now?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head.
“Well, that’s a love affair for you.”
• • •
Despite Mila’s advice, I continue to obsess. I think about it on the drive home. I think about it as I’m feeding Thumper. I think about it while I’m watching TV, while I’m reading a book, while I’m brushing my teeth. It drives me mad. My brain replays the same imagined images over and over. It falls down a rabbit hole of what ifs. I just want to know what is going on in his life. I just want to hear his voice. I just want to know that he’s OK and he’s still mine. I can’t have lost him yet. He can’t be someone else’s yet. I can’t do this. I can’t live like this. I can’t live without him. I can’t. I have to know what he’s thinking. I have to know how he is.
I want to call him. I have to call him. I have to. I pick up the phone. I push the icon next to his name, and then I immediately hang up. It didn’t even get a chance to ring. I can’t call him. He doesn’t want me to call him. He said not to call him. I can’t call him.
My laptop is right in front of me. It’s easy to grab. When I open it up, I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I’m not sure what I’m doing. And then, opening the browser, I know exactly what I’m doing. I know exactly what I’m looking for. I don’t bother trying to hide it from myself. I have gone into the deep end. I have lost control.
I sign into Ryan’s e-mail.
His in-box loads, and it’s empty. I stop myself. This is wrong. It’s incredibly, very, super, really, totally, completely, and absolutely wrong. I move my cursor to the menu, and I hover over where it says “Sign out.” This is where I should click. This is what I should do. I can turn around. I can pretend I never did this. I don’t have to be this person. For a second, it feels so easy. It seems so clear. Just log out, Lauren. Just log out.
But before I click it occurs to me that he never changed his password. He could have, right? It would make sense if he had. But he hasn’t. Does that mean something?
I notice the number seven by his drafts folder. He has seven unsent e-mails. I don’t even think, really, it’s just an impulse. I drag the cursor down and click the folder open. There I see seven e-mail drafts, all addressed to me. All with the subject “Dear Lauren.”
They are addressed to me. They are for me. I can click on these. Right?
• • •
Leaving the house today sucked. I don’t know why we did this. When I wrote you that letter, it took everything I had not to rip it up and sit down and just stay there until you came home and we could sort this all out.
But then I thought about the last time you were happy to see me when I got home, and I couldn’t remember when that was. And thinking about that made me so mad that I picked up the last of my things and I walked out the door.
I didn’t say good-bye to Thumper. I couldn’t do it. It makes me sick to think about sleeping in this stupid apartment tonight. I don’t have a bed yet. I don’t have much of anything yet except our TV. My friends have helped me put everything where it sort of belongs, and they left about an hour ago.
I’m miserable. I’m f**king miserable about this. I was glad when my friends left, because I didn’t have it in me to pretend to be OK anymore. I’m not OK. I feel sick. I’ve lost my wife and my dog. I’ve lost my home.
I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t even know if I’m going to send it. Part of me thinks that you and I have been so dishonest with each other lately that a little honesty, a little discourse, might improve things. I have spent so long saying, “Sure, I’ll go to the mall with you to pick out new lipstick,” when I didn’t want to. Saying, “Yeah, Greek food sounds great,” when it doesn’t, that I hate you for it now. I hate Greek food, OK? I hate it. I hate how we can never just get a hamburger anymore. Why does every dinner have to be a tour of the world? And if so, why can’t we just stick with normal shit like Italian and Chinese? Why Persian food? Why Ethiopian food? I hate it. And I hate that you love it. It’s so pretentious, Lauren. Just eat normal food.
Ah. See? This is why I know that it’s good that I left. I hate you for liking falafel. I don’t think that’s healthy.
But also, I don’t know that it’s so unhealthy that it means I have to sleep alone tonight on this shitty carpet.