From “On the Way to Other Country”
Our relationship — well, why not finally just be forthright about it? In a word, our relationship is clandestine.
To friends and others who may be shocked or saddened by this revelation I can only say that I am sorry and ask their understanding. I did not mean for things between us to turn out this way. But it has gone too far and I am in too deeply now. I would not turn back, even if I could.
Sometime it is she who telephones, and sometimes I. (Who takes the initiative is not important. In an affair such as ours, where moments together must be stolen as they can, there is no time for little protocols.) Mostly we meet for lunch. We prefer some quiet place with cloth napkins where wine is served and where, at an out of the way table or in a corner booth, their is less chance of being seen by anyone we know.
There, in what privacy is available to us, we open to one another our feeling and our most secret thoughts. For that hour or two we shut out the world.
Somehow I exist between these meetings, but it is painful. And then, when we do contrive to be together, the time goes past with such cruel speed that, afterward, I am left always with a rueful aftertaste of emptiness, almost resentment. I look around us at the other people, other men and women, so at ease, taking companionship so much for granted. And I am filled with envy for what I imagine their lives to be.
This is no way for anyone to have to live, we sometimes tell ourselves. Can it be that these furtive hours are all we’ll ever share together? But even as we ask, we know the answer. We are not children, after all. That is the nature of an affair, and we should have known it from the start.
I have considered taking an apartment — some modest little midtown place where we could be alone together for longer than a meal. It would not need to be elaborate, so long as it was not actually depressing. Some simple furnishings. No telephone. A view, if possible. I’ve thought of it, but have hesitated to make the proposal. Because she is, in spite of any conclusions you have drawn, a proper sort of girl. The suggestion might even offend her.
So there you have it, and I hope you will excuse my burdening you with so personal a matter. There is nothing more to tell. We are trapped, both of us, and as far as I can see there is no help for it.
We both have our responsibilities.
And sometimes in the course of one of our trysts, the recollection of those responsibilities will intrude. “Good heavens,” she will cry out. “I almost forgot it’s my afternoon for the car pool. And there’s a Brownie meeting after that. Then there’s a man coming to fix the basement drain.”
And I will remember that the dry cleaning is ready and the bank is overdrawn, that the dog needs vaccination and the neighborhood association has been writing nasty letters about my refusal to rake my leaves.
So we will leap up, then, the wine undrunk in our glasses, and flee out of there still crying out to one another our grim itineraries. Our meetings are wonderful and tender. But our partings, as you can see, are not the stuff of literature.
The house she goes home to and the one I go home to — where sometimes we pass briefly and almost wordlessly between errands — is the same house. In case I neglected to mention it, we are married, that girl and I. But home, as Robert Frost said, is only the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in. And marriage is a logistical exercise, like getting the troops ashore in Normandy or the coals to Newcastle.
Romance is different. Romance is something you look for over lunch.