I am not a stupid man. No doubt many of you will disagree when you understand the situation in which I found myself. I had the hubris to believe that I was perceptive and insightful. Had this been true, things would have happened very differently.
From the first I knew that Carol was willful. When she wanted something, there were few things she would not do to get it. She played it down while we were dating. She almost made it seem admirable, this single-mindedness in pursuit of a goal. I guess when she decided she wanted me, she pursued me with the same zeal. It was certainly flattering to be pursued, but there was much more to it than that. She was very attractive, intelligent and had a wide range of interests, which made her fun to be with. Truth be told, she had a very nice body although that would have gotten her no more than a first look had she not possessed the rest of the package.
She loved to show off the physical package. She bought her clothes according to the SLoT principle, short, low cut and tight. An important part of the experience of going out for Carol was that she be noticed and admired by other men. I think she got an even bigger charge when she got envious looks from other women. She watched her diet and worked out assiduously to make sure that she would remain an object of interest. No amount of reassurance from me would suffice to convince her she was still hot. She required outside validation.
The early years of our marriage were filled with fun. Carol loved to travel and I had no serious objection, so we did. She would do the research and make the plans. It was actually nice for someone else to have to be in charge sometimes. She would also plan, and insist on, the theater. But what guy wouldn't gladly go along with a woman who would not only watch any sport I chose, but could discuss it knowledgeably?
We still had a good marriage, but our blissful, all right happy, married existence was disrupted when I took a job with a computer consulting firm which started sending me out of town frequently. There was nothing we could do about it. Jobs were scarce, let alone good jobs, and we couldn't pay the bills on Carol's income alone. Although we had no children, it had been in our plans. But we agreed that it would be unfair to place most of the burden on Carol while I had to spend so much time away and postponed the thought of any additions to our family.
I can't say that I remember many of the nights on the road with any particularity. They run together. The memory of a single night might really just be pieces of many nights jumbled together, like the night I saw those two gorgeous young blondes showing themselves off at a Red Lobster. Nobody has to go to the bathroom that many times during one meal. They walked slowly. They wiggled.
I had time to take it all in. I had arrived before them. After ordering, I got to sit at my table and await my meal. I was at the table alone. I had no book to read. I had no dinner partner with whom to share conversation. I was alone with my thoughts. I speculated as to how many people were looking at me and wondering if this was the loser's big night out. No one else ate alone. They all got to share conversation. People would laugh, point at each other; perhaps one would touch another as they spoke. Sometimes I would see someone looking at me. Were they judging? Did it matter? I knew I wasn't a loser but I felt desperately alone, isolated. As they passed, the blondes would cast a sidelong glance, as if making eye contact would make some of whatever caused me to be alone rub off on them.
After dinner I went to a minor league baseball game. I love to watch baseball. Thousands of little details make up each game. I sat there among the couples, groups and families. Whatever interest they might have had in the game, they shared their experience. They could have been sharing it somewhere else. It didn't matter. Sharing the experience let them know they were not alone, that they had each other to rely on, to care for. That was not my experience. I had myself and the baseball.
I'm not really sure I saw that game the same night I saw the two girls. I'm not even sure what city they called home. Time on the road was mostly a black and white collage of meaningless moments.
When you are happily married and on the road, the emptiness of the experience is easy to recognize. You can call your wife every night. What can you say about your day? "I had lunch alone and got back to work and figured out that much of the sales information can be shared with the marketing department." You can tell her you had dinner in the restaurant last night and went back to your room to watch TV. You ask how her day was without you. This scintillating exchange is not the stuff that binds relationships. At best it keeps them on life support. At least she has her friends at home. You are alone.
You are likely to meet some attractive and engaging young women during the course of your work. You can't date them. Even if they were willing to save you from the overbearing solitude, it wouldn't be fair to them - the relationship can go nowhere, and it wouldn't be fair to your wife. Such is the carefree existence of a road warrior. Sometimes you will go to the hotel bar for a drink. It's not that you want to drink. But being there among other living, breathing, talking, laughing people is a better reminder that there is life out there in which you might someday participate than just locking yourself away in your cell. Occasionally you will have the opportunity to dance with someone. What a refreshing change it is to be able to share some conversation. It needn't lead anywhere. It won't lead anywhere. But it is human contact.
Perhaps I slightly overstate the case. I remember three evenings to distinguish them with sufficient clarity from all the other amorphous nights.
Carol had noticed the effects that being away had on me. Occasionally she would sneak something into my suitcase to cheer me up, sometimes a candy bar, sometimes a note to remind me that she missed me as well. On one trip she included a note that promised me a surprise. It was my third week in Chicago and I was having dinner in the hotel restaurant.
As I was waiting for my onion soup, looking at the other patrons and wondering what they were thinking about the lonely guy, I heard a woman's voice to my left.
"Simon, Simon Newsome."
I turned and saw an attractive 5'4' brunette, early 30's, about ten pounds north of perfect. Engagement and wedding ring on the fourth finger of her left hand. Stupid, isn't it? I'm not in any way available, but that glance to check is almost involuntary.
"I'm sorry I can't place the face. Do I know you? "
"No, you don't. My name's Annie Carson. My old friend Carol Newsome asked me to have dinner with you tonight. That wasn't her name when we were friends in college, but I hear she's gotten married to a good-looking guy since then. Do you mind if I join you?"
"Of course not." I was stunned.
"Carol said you eat by yourself a lot and she wanted you to have company for once."
"Wow. She is something special."
"Yes, she is. You're a lucky guy."
"Amazing. I think this is the most incredible gift I've ever gotten."
"You don't know the half of it. She harassed me until I rearranged my whole schedule so I could meet you here."
"Carol doesn't know how to take no for an answer."
"No, she doesn't. It took her five phone calls to make this happen."
"It's good to know how important it is to her to take care of me."
"It is. You know, you have a nice smile Simon. Remember to tell that to Carol. She gave you that smile. You sure didn't have one when I came in."
"I'm going to have to thank her properly when I get home."
"She mentioned that. She said she'll be waiting in her little black nightie for you to thank her when you get home."
An attractive man came up to our table. I have no interest in men, but I can distinguish attractive from ordinary.
"Simon, this is my husband Richard."
I rose and we shook hands.
"You seem surprised, Simon," she said. "Did you think your wife was going to set you up with a beautiful temptress while you're lonely and far away from home?" She giggled. "Richard is here as our chaperone. You didn't have any improper thoughts, did you?"
"Of course not. That never crossed my mind." I stammered.
"You fluster so easily. Carol was right."
I had one of my best nights on the road just having dinner with Annie and Richard. It wasn't just that I got to have dinner with enjoyable company, Carol had been thoughtful enough to set it up. I thanked her copiously when I got home.
On another trip a memorable incident occurred.
I had just finished a swing dance with a fortyish woman whose husband was more interested in drinking than dancing. They were both grateful that I had danced with her although for entirely different reasons.
"It's so nice to dance with an attractive young man," she told me.
"I'm not that young and you're not that old."
"You look like you're barely out of college."
"That statement suggests to me that you may have had too much to drink." She laughed. It was an attractive laugh. "I'm 35. College was quite some time ago."
She glanced back at her dormant husband. "If I were a few years younger and I didn't have Fred here along, I'd show you a memorable night."
"I'm married. And it has already been memorable."
She emitted an elongated, satisfied sigh. "Your wife is a lucky woman. With talk like that you could get laid any time you want."
.... There is more of this story ...