Guest Post – by Anonymous

Minor Treachery

When I was twenty-two, I fell in love with a man who had a girlfriend. We went out for drinks and I didn’t let my hand brush his over the table. I snuck off to see him at the coffee shop where he worked. His black hair was tied back and as I stood there, waiting for him to finish making a cappuccino, I wanted nothing more than to feel his mouth on me, his hair splashing across my skin. But when he turned, I smiled lightly and joked, took my small cup of coffee and walked out alone. I tried to play it cool. I was not the kind of person who broke up relationships.

I moved away and he married his girlfriend, as I knew he would. Although I was invited to the wedding, I did not make the trip. A few years later, they came up to visit me on their way somewhere else. We took the subway together after lunch. His wife found a seat in the busy car and he and I stood in the aisle near her, holding onto the overhead bar. I looked up. His face was inches from mine, as it is when you stand with someone on the subway, as if you were going to kiss. I looked down quickly. I did not measure the space between our bodies, I did not need to; I could feel the heat coming from his skin. When I looked up again, he had moved halfway down the car.

I met a man whom I loved. We got married. I was not worried about being faithful. It was hard enough for me to get laid when I was single, I didn’t imagine it would be a problem now. And then facebook came along. I friended the man who I used to know after years of being out of touch. Just his name on the screen brought it all back, the sting of lust, the time in my life when I equated desire with wistfulness, a thing that would never be satisfied.

I still love him. It is a small, warm love, like the love I have for my friends, except that it is laced with desire. I see pictures of his wife and I’m jolted by the thought that she gets to have sex with him and I never will.

The love for my husband is different. It’s the way he talks, it’s the way he makes me laugh without even trying, and the way I curl my fingers into the flesh of his arms. Every day we wind our lives ever more tightly together, not to become one person, we are too ornery for that, but we’re learning to make our choices, in part, for each other.

That sounds so unromantic. Our love is compromise. But how else does one accomplish the complicated, difficult task of living with another human being? We no longer have sex four times in an afternoon, quietly each time so my roommates didn’t hear, my shoulder, my mouth muffling his cries. But every time his hand meets my skin, some part of me remembers that afternoon, the way my face was sensitive the rest of the day, as if I had a fever, the way I felt the warm length of his body against my back and wanted never to leave my bed again.

And so what do I do with my minor treachery? For years I felt guilty that I was in love with a married man. Now I feel guilty that I love him still. But I try to keep the love in perspective, to keep it small. To not imagine things that are unrealistic. To use the desire for one to proposition the other. Not once have I watched my husband come in my arms, his face smooth and open, and wished he were anyone else.

Tell me about a quiet love, a small love that lives behind the bigger one.

30 responses

  1. I was obsessed by a man I met once, on a date. I think, honestly, he was obsessed by me, too, yet I never saw him again. Later, I noted that he’d been married and divorced very quickly and I conjecture that he was on the cusp of getting married when I met him. I still totally crave him, although I KNOW there’s something difficult/evil/crazy about him. I’m so convinced of his utter attractiveness that I feel sure that given half a chance, you’d want him, too.

    Plus, well, I absolutely can guarantee we’d have been amazing in bed. He knows it. Yes, right this second, he’s thinking of me.

    • Hmm, I do remember some previous lovers, but none of them made much of an impression. I met Drew and they all turned into some version of ‘the one who kissed like a snake/came in three strokes/refused to come at all in case I would entrap him’.

  2. Sorry. “Quiet love”? “Small love”? We don’t have those in stock. Never carried them. Try the place down the street. You can tell them I sent you.

  3. last week, during a walk with my neighbor, after a spat with my husband, i was exasperated and claimed, “what is marriage anyway but one fucking compromise after another?!”

    i like the language here. and i think it’s okay to hold onto desires outside of our marriage that help us define who we are…so as long as those desires do not manifest into actions that hurt ourselves or others. (besides, adulterous desire rarely tastes as good as we think it’s going to taste. something about unrequitted-ness makes it more mouth watering.)

    • Yes indeed. I’m fiercely monogamous, but goddamn do I lust after August. He’s done all sorts of nasty things in my imagination, things no ordinary man could do, and the fact that I’ll never meet him only adds to his charm. I think of it as adult infatuation, joyfully unrequited; if you choose the right object, you can make him the sole representative of the unobtainable male, and funnel all your leftover teenage desires directly onto him.

      Works for me, anyway.

  4. Of course I can’t tell you because my name is attached to my face. About a year ago, I started another blog, this one anonymous, so that I could post my secrets without risk. Sometimes it just feels really, really good to get it off your chest. Writing my secrets also sort of defuses them a bit, puts them into perspective. This was a very juicy story, very well-told. I especially love the deeper realizations at the end.

  5. I have no secret loves. A gent broke my heart and my affection morphed to wild dislike. It could’ve been love, but I haven’t encountered that yet.

  6. I’ve never had that smaller love behind the bigger one (just crushes mostly on “stars”) and smaller regrets.

    Jim, at the Apple Genius Bar on Michigan Avenue (I don’t even remember what was wrong with my computer), had to have been in his very early twenties, and he was much too good looking to be staring at (me?) and lingering over the counter with me the way he was. I was engaged at the time, but it suddenly crossed my mind to encourage Jim and see what would happen. I decided I wasn’t that woman, and avoided him on purpose even after he left a delicious rambling message on my answering machine to let me know my computer was fixed.

    The marriage was such a train wreck level disaster, that I still wonder if Jim’s unlikely interest was “God” sending me a helicopter — a rescue — and like an idiot, I refused to take it.

    • Oh man. Well, you and I could spend hours dissecting the signs unseen, trying to figure out why we didn’t see the lifelines coming down. My ex had a serious case of cold feet before the wedding, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I’d let him go right then. My solace comes from knowing that I have two lovely kids to show for my time with ol’ what’s-his-name, and who knows what other lunatic I might have married in his place.

      Come to think of it, your Jim could be a serial killer, and that warm smile could have been him deliberating on your untimely demise. You just never know, Sparks.

    • It was a message. That’s okay. You learned something, right?

      I love messages — hear that, my guides and angels? I DEMAND MESSAGES.

  7. Stunning writing here and oh so poignant.

    It’s a tough call, unrequited desire, unmet love, love that lingers on unexpressed for a lifetime.

    I suspect we all harbour some secret longings and what we do with them is the issue, not the fact itself, like your anonymous writer here, who seems to manage it all well, better than me, I’d say.

  8. You should count your lucky stars that your “quiet, small love” for this other man that lives behind the “bigger one” for your husband isn’t the other way around. If, in fact, it isn’t. I’m not entirely convinced.

    • I should point out that the little conversation-starter at the end is my doing, because that’s how the piece felt to me. Maybe I’m wrong about that.

  9. The longer I’m married to my husband, the more I see that I never really loved anybody until him, except for the first man I ever slept with. It only took about twelve years to start getting it. How can we know that we love somebody until we’re willing to let go of all our expectations of what we’re going to get from a relationship, and realize it’s about giving?

    “It is necessary to fall in love—the better to provide an alibi for all the despair we are going to feel anyway.” —Albert Camus

    • “How can we know that we love somebody until we’re willing to let go of all our expectations of what we’re going to get from a relationship, and realize it’s about giving?”

      Beautifully said as always, T.

  10. Beautiful, honest writing.

    I have one. His name is in lights and every time I read about him a tinge of heartbreak explodes within me. I have looked at his family pictures on the computer, like you, and felt that semblance of jealousy. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks about me. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to see him again.

    • Oh lord, an old flame with his name in lights? No chance of forgetting, then, of letting him slip into the fog.

      I’ll bet he thinks about you.


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