And then I realized that, sometimes, being naive about the nature of illicit affairs leads to nothing but trouble.
Caring too much about what may happen in the future usually stammers action in the present, emotional reasoning nothing more than an excuse to find guilt where none exists. A romantic trust, when there's lust involved, is nothing more than an opiate manufactured by the editors of women's fashion rags and dime-store romance novels and soap operas.
Trust, for men as for women, is earned. And while discretion should be executed with a surgeon's precision, trust exists beyond the scope of a simple tryst.
And when, say, a man spends the night with a woman who uses words like relationship and marriage and engagement as a means to make a quick exit, as a way to imply my friends read you and nobody saw us, so let's not hurt my husband-to-be to someone they'd bedded almost solely based on his ability to write, it usually takes a good bitch slap to the face to remind me that there's a reason I no longer play along with the deceptions of others.
I know I shouldn't have lied to you, she said as she dressed Sunday morning, but nobody saw us and I love him.
I love him. It's a lovely sentiment. Completely meaningless when prefaced by but nobody saw us.
* * * *
Love. When I'm in love, lust ceases to matter. I guess I'm just a bit old-fashioned, in that sense. The world becomes perfect, moments destroy the concepts of time and space.
But for others, nobody saw us is just another way of defining love within a set of boundaries so transparent they disappear the moment lust springs from the earth like blades of grass.
I guess there's a reason I haven't fallen in love in a while. Lust is an easier thing to master, as lust is merely a sin. Sin, in the Judeo-Christian sense, takes almost no effort. Love requires a world where keeping secrets becomes irrelevant.
One day, I'd probably fall in love again. But, well, only after I'm certain the boundaries are as easy to tear down as a fence made of paper. I've been the Other Man way too many times to be one of those dumb and blind bastards who believes in that love conquers all horseshit.
Call me a cynic.
* * * *
A writer and reader join in the darkness, and no one notices, physical intimacy preserved without a written record of a tryst, as if cheating on a fiancé disappears without witnesses.
But who can be that blind when two people start a fling with a romp behind an art center, in the bush, in plain view of any passerby and clothed only in the modesty of darkness? Or believe humanity so deaf? That a woman's voice loudly whispering Gonna come, gonna come, FUCK! from behind shadows would escape squinting, curious groups of drunken undergrads or alumni?
She joked about the flower garden, called it our Secret Garden, as she leaned back against me in that darkness. I watched the silhouette of her back melt into the shadows of my chest. She'd wanted to be on top, thought I really gave a damn about staring at her skirt-covered ass as she ground her hips into mine, as she stared out towards High Street.
I should've known when she couldn't look me in the eye, should've learned by now that a woman who talks a good game, who flatters too much and flirts too much, who compares me to a dead French writer, usually plans on nobody seeing anything except for the goosebumps on her fair shoulders.
But several people saw us, out there, in our Secret Garden. Every garden has serpents bearing the fruit of knowledge, you see, and nights in college towns are always filled with squinting eyes in the darkness, tongues that flicker in the breeze for the taste of gossip.
* * * *
The first indication I had came Sunday, when a chef here in Oxford made a comment about my previous night - he may not have seen anything, but it's always a bad omen to have a friend assume that you'd had a fling so soon afterwards. Men, somehow, can smell sex on another man better than most women.
The venom spread quickly, the illusion of secretive Eden revealed through the spread of snake-bitten information.
I started hearing from other female readers who'd heard or seen things, who thought they'd seen me walking the streets with a strange woman, a woman who seemed to be a little too comfortable with a writer. Women, somehow, can smell lust on another woman better than most men, even in this great Information Age of mobile devices and digital realities.
My mystery lover was even mistaken for a woman I only know through the marvels of modern technology, a fellow writer from the other side of the world, a woman who I probably wouldn't have to sneak behind bushes and art centers to lust after like a madman.
If she'd been in Ohio, had circumnavigated the globe for a tryst... there'd at least be good wine and seduction involved, and, yes, we'd probably both write about it. Maybe even videotape it, sell it, and live off the royalties.
When I emailed her about the rumors of Ohio, she responded with a hello, gorgeous!, asked when she was to receive her engagement ring, and demanded a big arse SUV and a white house on a hill.
Writers. Pfft. Sure beats reading, sometimes.
* * * *
The venom finally killed its victim, the ghost of secrecy, when several coworkers and readers began asking about my engagement the previous weekend, to an alumna of the good ol' Local U. And one of the engaged woman's friends, who'd apparently seen us together, even asked me, from across Cyberspace, if I'd run into ______ while out and about, if my fiancée had met ______'s fiancé when we'd gotten together for drinks.
Apparently, we were supposed to be discussing writing and reading and literature and librarianship. We did discuss writing and reading, literature and libraries, but probably not in the way her friends think.
As we made it back to my apartment and hit my living room floor, as clothes came off and the tryst continued, she proclaimed that she couldn't help herself, that she'd lost control and just wanted to fuck me until I broke. I'm a writer, an artist - I've painted abstract paintings with women's breasts, live like an intellectual and like discussing strange things with bartenders and strangers. And I'd seduced her with my passion.
The whole tryst began, too, because she asked if any reader had ever told me that they've masturbated reading my work, looking at a digital photograph of my face, if I'd ever had cybersex with distant readers, if I'd ever fucked anyone in my own library, in between the stacks of books. When I told her no, her whole person changed, the aura of reader transformed into lover.
Eve began touching Adam, leaning into him, her eyes filled with the quest for a different sort of forbidden knowledge, as they moved from bar to bar, from campus to city streets, the lustful march towards the Tree of Life.
* * * *
As the sun came up Sunday, I had my laptop open wide, the screen's glow turning my white legs almost scallop-translucent. The sounds of The Vandals, the legendary punk band, poured through earbuds as a naked woman curled up next to me, with her hands and chin tucked into my shoulder.
A nice moment, I remember thinking, as I checked my email. Too bad even the very real present always seems to give way, eventually, to the surrounding universe.
No covers. Body heat kept the open window's chill at bay. I looked at the reader's body, memorized essential details of physical form. She was not a natural blonde, the stubble in between her legs telling a tale in a way her mouth probably couldn't.
Her mouth hadn't spoken many truths in the few hours we'd been together, now that I think about it...
The guy she lived with wasn't really her roommate. That much I'd figured out on my own. She wasn't just sort of seeing somebody, either - a woman casually dating doesn't turn off a cellphone and hide it so discreetly in her purse.
The hands. Her hands betrayed her.
There was something odd, something she probably didn't think would let a writer figure out that the reader wasn't exactly a master of deception. Writers tend to be very observant, librarians well-read. And a naked reader, no matter how well she hides her eyes, can speak volumes with just her fingers.
A simple, nondescript ring, decorated in crosses. Not an engagement ring, or a wedding band, either. Those are objects most women remember to take off before they conveniently decide to lose control, when they're planning on asking writers questions about cybersex and masturbation and sex in libraries.
A purity ring.
She'd been trying to convince somebody that she was abstinent. I gingerly lifted up her hand to examine the strange symbol of White American Protestant chastity. The irony, to a writer, made for too tempting of a future plot twist - I knew, eventually, I'd have to write about it.
A name and the phrase Until Marriage stamped into platinum. I'd spent the night with a woman who was planning on marrying some man who has no clue she's not really a virgin, a man who probably suspects nothing. I realized, instantly, that I probably wasn't the first blogger, writer, artist, or academic she'd gone fruit-picking with in the orchards of Eden.
She awoke just as I let her hand drop. I hastily folded up the laptop, sat it off the bed as she sat up and rubbed her eyes. She crawled on top of me as I settled back against the pillow, kissed me, and asked what I'd been doing online. The paranoia, clearly, had already set in, the fear of discovery heavier than any guilt she may have felt.
I told her I was writing about our meeting. Terror filled her face. She mentioned that she didn't think she was worthy, that it was important, that anyone really wanted to know-
I told her I was writing about Jean Follain, the dead French writer - an obscure favorite writer for an American woman who went to college in such a small college town.
Not quite a lie, as you, dear reader, are reading now.
Satisfied, she kissed me again, slid her hips down onto mine, and turned herself around once more, avoiding eye contact again, and the tryst continued as if nobody saw us the night before, as if nobody knew.
For fifteen whole minutes, I thought about Jean Follain, thought about the Book of Genesis, and watched as another man's future wife bounced on my lap, brown stubble tickling my groin.
She told me that she'd never had a guy last that long. She just kept coming, her purity ring's metal against my chest for balance.
And I just kept thinking about how to write about how my snake ended up in Adam's promised apple of an ass.
I told her at the sixteenth minute that I just wasn't in the mood anymore, that maybe we should talk...
Sometimes, the fruit just doesn't taste right.
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