I don’t know if you still visit here. There are times I hope that you do, because of the extraordinary phone call we had the day you rang me in such fury and distress about your husband’s affair with me and its aftermath. When we stopped shouting we talked about so many intimate things and I find it remarkable, given our circumstances, that we found any trust at all in one another.
That trust fluctuates on my part. I don’t know you. I know you are protecting your husband from my fury and I don’t like that. He should deal with the mess. That’s what I told my husband. Deal with the mess you’ve made, I’m not saving you from its consequences. If she wants to scream at you it’s the least you can let her do, I told him. If I was her I’d poke your fucking eyes out, I said. Maybe I will anyway, I said.
I’ve no time for men who hide behind women like little kids clinging to their mother’s skirts. Raising boys can do that to a woman. When you’ve got them to adulthood you really don’t want to be taking on another man-child.
I think about you every day, and wonder how you are, and if you have anyone you talk to about these events. I wonder if you want us to talk again, and if that would help us or not. You sound brave. You sound strong. I imagine you always putting up a good front. I imagine how shocked and hurt you must be about what he and I have done to all our lives. I still can’t grasp how he has caused so much devastation to two women who love him, and whom he says he loves. It makes me wonder just what he thinks love means. Not that I’d know, love’s manifestations are apparently infinite, and who hasn’t been beguiled by them at one time or another.
There are times I hope you aren’t visiting here. What you’d read could only make you feel worse. Perhaps you think I shouldn’t write about these things, but I’m a writer and writers are cannibals, we devour our own kind, digest them, and expel them out on the page.
I’ve kept back details that might give clues to his identity, which means there’s much I haven’t written about the genesis of the affair. It hasn’t done me any good to be reticent about this, and I’ve only done it for you. I don’t actually care if the entire world finds out who he is and the shitty things he’s done to both of us, but you don’t deserve that much exposure.
I only ever dreamt about him once or twice, but I dreamt about you a lot, or the woman my unconscious imagined you to be. I’d be at your house and we’d be talking, and walking round the garden. He’d be a shadowy presence in the background, sometimes asleep, a figure I’d see as I walked past his bedroom door, huddled under his blankets, nothing of him visible, a shape in a bed. All the energy was between you and me, and it was amicable and warm. I’d wake up thinking, what is this about, it’s bloody unnerving to be dreaming like this about my lover’s wife, there’s something going wrong with my head. Then after we talked I thought, she sounds exactly like I dreamed her.
He once asked me if I dreamed about him and I said not much, but I dream about your wife a lot.
I don’t know what he made of that.
He felt guilty all the time, he said. Guilty about me, guilty about you, guilty about the family he was putting at risk. Guilt is such a useless emotion, I told him. It rarely stops people doing what they want to do. It doesn’t do anything to help the people they hurt. It just exists inside the guilty party’s head and they think it means that deep down they’re good, just because they feel guilty.
Guilt didn’t stop him telling me to “remember my hips between your thighs” while you sat in another room crying because he was talking to me on the phone and you knew he was.
I was a complete failure at being a mistress. The demeaning limitations of that role almost destroyed me. I can’t imagine anyone who could be worse at it than me. I would say to myself, I love him, I can do this, and cripple my nature for another day. His need of me overwhelmed me. I learned very early in life to respond to the needs of men before my own. You don’t have any choice in the matter when you’re a child and then the pattern is set, you don’t even recognise it and when you do, breaking out of it is the work of a lifetime. If there’s anything good for me in this sorry situation, it’s that I’m coming to understand how what I think of as love is distorted by the obligations imposed on me as a child. I thought I had all this sorted. Obviously I didn’t. Because honestly, no matter how attracted I’d been to him, I’d have done nothing if he hadn’t been in a state of desperate need, and begged me for me.
I’m not a feminist who believes in a sisterhood because we all have vaginas. I am a feminist who can see the politics of the miserable configuration in which we find ourselves.
If it’s any consolation to you, I am still a fucking mess and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. At the same time, I realise that your pain must be excruciating, and what’s more, you have to see him every day and find some way of living with him. He said to me after you’d found out, You are crying on the phone, my wife is crying in the next room, this is impossible. Did you think we’d fucking get over it in five minutes, I shouted. Don’t you realise the impact of this on us?
I don’t think he had a clue, really.
I am here if you want. I understand if you don’t. I won’t stop thinking about you and wondering how you are. I never imagined I would be part of bringing so much hurt into another woman’s life.
Oh, I found my music. It is yellowed, and there are silverfish. I think it is too late for me to think of a piano. But I often imagine you playing yours.