The Beginning of the Affair

Anatomy of a secret relationship

I. Dream Girl
We decided—shyly, barely able to hold each other's eyes—to meet in a hotel, one of those mid-priced, anonymous OC business hotels where people who are having affairs must stick out like sore thumbs to the employees. We worked for the same big company, but on this weekday afternoon when we each carved out a half day off, we arrived separately—I got the room, sat down in the lobby facing the entrance, watched the desk clerk watch me, fidgeted, waited, waited. A few endless minutes later, I saw her come through the doors; I jumped to my feet, took a long slow breath to calm down. She was holding a cell phone to her ear, then quickly got off. "It was my mother," she told me as we hugged. "She could tell something is up with me."

"We don't have to do this," I said.

"I know we don't."

But we did—and not just "do this" (ride the elevator up to the room, take our clothes off and make love) but we had to do this. Both of us—responsible and caring people most of our lives—felt gripped by something way out of our control, and though minute to minute I felt like I was making decisions that were mine to make, that the door was open for me to walk away, or at least to say, "This is happening too fast, maybe we ought to slow down"—though it felt like I was "deciding" things, practically every choice I had made since I met her had been toward her, towards more Audrey, more hours stolen away from a "real" life that felt more unreal every day, more reckless passion with no other end than to get as close as I could to her, physically and in every other way; also plenty more confusion, pain, delirium. You tell yourself all sorts of things when you're heading up an elevator holding the hand of a beautiful woman who belongs to someone else, but one of the things you can't afford to tell yourself is that you can't help it, that the gods—of desire, delusion, love, madness, revenge, destruction, hope—are wrestling within you, and that the puny little self that's supposed to be monitoring and controlling things can only sit, stand by as the battle plays out, and then deal with the consequences.

Which consequences we're living with now every day.

In the room, we sat on the hard mattress, stared at our entwined hands, talked about her mom for a minute. Then the tide took over. She wanted to lie down with me but she was shy about taking her clothes off. "That's okay," I said, "we can keep them on." There's too much light in here, she said; can we draw the curtains? Sure, sure, I said. I was saying everything with total sincerity; it meant everything that she felt comfortable, that she didn't feel like she was doing something she didn't completely want to do—which was nonsense because both of us were absolutely ODing on ambivalence. But, god, the desire to strip her down, feast on the sight of her nakedness, to take that peerless body and make her mine. (Yes. I wanted to possess her. Make her feel like "I'm the only one," make her feel "there's never been nobody but you," that sex before me was one long, dry preparatory road leading to the glorious rainbow of me—which I knew even then were the dark egocentric illusions that lie at the heart of so many clichťd pop songs, and that have a long history of completely fucking people up. I knew that this is insane. She was living with a guy; I was living with a woman I'd been with for years. But I could not care.) In any case, Audrey seemed to be of similar mind. Within five minutes, I'd relieved her of her shirt and her slacks, her bra and panties, and we were in the fever dream—fucking.

Her face, beneath me, showed everything, in waves of her shimmering moods: large brown vulnerable eyes that said she would let me possess her if that's what I wanted; a flickering steely look—I could have been imagining it, or in looking back have slipped it into my memory of her—that asked if I had any idea what possessing her would come to mean; her fear of giving in, and the sweetness that gave in anyway; and then a frank (and to me frightening) cravenness: some dark desire to lose her mind in a long body-fuck, to come as hard and as long and as much as she can. Her moaning was almost as exciting as the sight of her nude body, which I caught only in chiaroscuro, in the powdery dusk of that drape-drawn hotel room, the curve of her breasts—round, very full, soft and firm at the same time—flashing as she hiked a sheet to her neck, or in the moment when I turned her over, the perfect small of her back sloping up into the smooth muscles of her back and plumping down into the wonderland of her ass.

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