The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
Adultery for beginners
“Nice legs,” I thought. The young lady at the table across from us was wearing the shortest possible shorts. We were in a coffee shop. We, my wife Elly and myself, had gone to see our grandson’s Little League game at 11 AM and we’d stopped in there for lunch. Elly saw where I was looking and said, “Hmmm, I wonder if he’s her father.” The man with the girl in the shorts was old enough to be her father but he had his hand on her knee in a non-fatherly way.
“A clandestine meeting at Mel’s Diner?” I whispered.
The waitress appeared and took our order. We both had burgers and, the reason we’d stopped at Mel’s, milk shakes. We started to talk about the game and the two hits our grandson, age eight, had gotten. He’d also made a good catch in the outfield. Every now and then I’d glance over at that nice pair of young legs. The girl and the man old enough to be her father were talking intensely. Then she abruptly stood up and left. The man stayed there a few minutes and then he too left, holding the check. I noticed they hadn’t finished their meal. “What was that all about, I wonder?” said Ellie.
“He broke it off. He wasn’t going to leave his wife and children after all. She got mad at him.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t like her milk shake.”
I thought about this little scene later that day when I picked up the library book I’d been reading. It was about a man trying to win back his wife after having an affair. I was also reading a book on my iPad which had the same plot. By coincidence, the man in both books was English and the wife was French. This set me to thinking about adultery, which was probably the number one theme in novels, not to mention in movies and television shows. In most cases, the errant husband had been married a number of years, he and his wife had children, the bloom had gone off their romance (and sex life) and he was ripe for an extramarital affair. But he still loved his wife and of course his children. The wife learns of his affair and for the rest of the book, the movie or TV series the husband goes through various contortions to win her back. As it turned out, in one of the books I was reading the husband fails; in the other, he succeeds.
Adultery didn’t only occur in books, and in movies and on TV; it was common enough in real life. I’d read about surveys on what percentage of men were guilty of it. I’d forgotten what it was but was sure it was pretty high. I knew of at least three instances in our old neighborhood, before we’d moved to our retirement community, where three husbands, all friends of mine, had left their wives for younger women.
Shortly after this I had lunch with Abe Silverman. Abe was from New York, like myself, and had also grown up in the Bronx. I’d known him for over 15 years, since we’d moved into our Northern California retirement community, and he was probably my closest friend there. Besides having the same background, we were both writers of sorts. I wrote a column for our monthly senior papers and also published short stories in online magazines. Abe had written a musical play with a friend and they were trying to get it produced, with no success. Ellie and I had met regularly with Abe and his wife Sylvia. Now Sylvia had, as we said in our community, passed and I met Abe for lunch ever week or so for lunch in the restaurant, not bad one, on our premises. We usually discussed world affairs, Abe taking an increasingly dim view of our President as Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister became more hostile to each other.
Bernice, our veteran waitress came over and we chatted for a few minutes, then she took our orders, “the usual,” which mean the chicken Caesar salad for Abe and the house hamburger for me. After talking about the latest news, Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, which Abe compared to Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” I said, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“What is it?”
“Well, were you ever unfaithful to Sylvia?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Well, on TV and in the books I’ve been reading It seems that every husband commits adultery. I wonder if it’s universal.
Abe appeared to consider. “Well, since you ask, and Sylvia’s gone now, I suppose it won’t do anybody any harm. Yes, once.”
“How did it happen?”
Abe shrugged. “I’m not sure. We’d been married about ten years, had two kids. I went to this conference in San Francisco. There was this very attractive woman at the conference, staying in the same hotel. She was in our company’s San Diego office. We just seemed to hit it off. We had dinner and after she invited me to her room for a drink. One thing led to another, as they say, and, yeah, I guess I was unfaithful. It would had seemed stupid to turn down the opportunity. Of course, there was no question of it going any further. I’d never leave Sylvia and the kids. And there was no question of her leaving San Diego. She was divorced, by the way.”
“Did you ever see her again?”
“A few times, at other conferences.”
“No, just that one time. She’d re-married, to one of our company’s VPs She was very ambitious. Besides, I’d told Sylvia, never again.”
“So she found out?”
“She somehow knew something had happened in San Francisco, so, yeah, I told her. I guess I felt guilty.”
“Was she mad?”
“She sure was. It took a couple of months before things got back to normal.”
What about myself? My parents were married over 70 years. These included the World War II years when my father, a plumber, worked out of town, in defense jobs, as they were first called, and then in war plant jobs. People of their generation didn’t believe in divorce and, I don’t think, in having affairs. This and other values are what was instilled in me. But I reflected on Abe. He’d had pretty the same upbringing as I had. If sleeping with another woman didn’t qualify as having an affair, still he’d been unfaithful. Maybe it did happen to everyone, at least in our time of sexual permissiveness and diminished moral values. Again, what about myself? One of the values instilled in me was reticence. So I’ll just say this: I’ve never understood why husbands, in books, on TV and in real life, feel compelled to confess their indiscretions to their wives. Besides this, Elly is always on her iPad and if I decide to make a short story out of this, who knows, she might come across it. So I’ll leave it at that.
© Martin Green May 2015
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