By Anne Ryan
I saw the wedding ring on her finger and heard talk that she had a husband, but my first words to her were still, “Girl! That’s a lesbian haircut.” A year later I was convinced she was my soulmate. A year after that, I’d convince myself of anything just so it meant I wouldn’t love her anymore. She had spent 14 years married to a man convincing herself and the world that the suburbs, two dogs, a pool, timeshares and Sunday dinners equated to subliminal happiness. It only took one summer of falling in love with another woman to know that she never really felt happiness before. She never really felt herself at all.
I lived 200 miles away, was ten years younger and five years gayer than my suburban housewife. Suburban what? Yes, housewife. I was the “other woman,” a role I swore I’d never play. My parents had been married for more than 40 years and still loved each other even when they couldn’t stand one another. They were my example of a life well-lived. And here I was, wreaking havoc on a guy’s world, stealing his masculinity every time my lips touched his wife’s neck, hand, cheek and tears.
I’m not really sure how we went from talking about lesbian haircuts to five-hour phone conversations every single night. I’m also not really sure what happened to my principles when I thought it would be OK to visit her, sleeping in the guest room while they shared the bed they’d been sleeping in for 14 years. I was sure her husband saw us holding hands, holding each other’s gaze a little too long, or stealing kisses around the corner. But, I justified it with the knowledge she’d lost her husband’s attention long before she captured mine.
Me and the married woman. Friends. Soulmates. And now strangers. “I opened Pandora’s box and found the love of my life,” she used to tell me. I believed her because I, a smartass 20-something city dweller who had no patience for love, stood calmly and watched her kiss her husband goodnight and tolerated that she introduced me as her “friend.” I lay awake at night imagining her husband seeking sex from her and consoled myself envisioning the day I would be the one to kiss her goodnight and wake her up with my terrible singing and excitement over sunny days. We already had our kids’ names picked out. We were having a girl, “Flora,” named after her mother and my grandmother, a coincidence we believed to be fate. We had a life together, from arguing over what part of the city to buy our first house to making bets on who would end up in the nursing home first.
I believed she would leave him, how could she not? Two dogs. A pool. Sunday dinners. Time shares. The court of public opinion. She never left and lost it all.