6. like an egg cracked atop a skull

I think of you bringing her back to the restaurant she’d met her lover in so many times, searching her face for a telltale twitch, watching it take in the familiar surroundings of her rendezvous, feign pleasant interest. I see you take note of each detail, think of the chilly sting to the spine, the pinprick of pain concealed in your composed features. We are too civilized to kill, it seems, but there are times a glass shattering against a wall is a soothing sound.

How to explain that the betrayal is of another kind altogether? I know the tidal pull of the blood; that a mere glance can send plumes of fire curling through the nerves. After J. arrived: the sudden, mind-controlling molecular saturation of pheromones in the air, a maddening inability to concentrate, to think of anything at all. Intoxication, situational insanity, delusion. An attraction so fierce it made me angry; the almost violent force required to resist it. Focus on what you don’t like—it’s all there, right in the very first moment. Just take a look back and you can see it clear as day: the sober assessment, the critical points like elephants weighing down the wrong side of the scale, and then the sticky-sweet goo of self-deception oozing all over it like an egg cracked atop a skull, the giddy, hypnotic, honeyed brilliance of it—ah, love! How blind does it have to be to erase that immediate recognition of disaster? Men have their siren song to lead them astray, but what about us?

But the betrayal isn’t about that, it’s about the cowardice of pretense, the sideways-glancing mediocrity of the lie. It’s about what you thought your life was, where you were in a given year, a given summer, never suspecting that her momentary absences were furtive opportunities for making phone calls, arranging trysts. Is that the part that aroused her the most? Innocuous code words in her appointment calendar, alibis so close to actual circumstances that the crucial deviance was rendered invisible—it was an art form for all you know, the essential element she needed to survive. But how many knew, and how many situations did she allow you to blunder through unknowingly? That is the deception: subsequent years spent sifting through the evidence, holding each imperfect memory up to a magnifying glass to search for the shadow in the mirror, the shoe poking out from beneath the bed.

 

(Mother-from-across-the-living-room: “What is it?  Why are you laughing?  Why are you laughing??  I want to know!”)

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