You only get so many years and then it's over. Even more important, you only get so many good years. I was beginning to worry that my good years were quickly running out. Don't misunderstand me; I didn't have a bad life, far from it. I had two children I adored, a husband I still loved and a gratifying career in which I was quite successful. But it paled in comparison to the exciting life I led just over twenty years earlier. Even after we married, we would have dinner out, go to clubs, dance all night on weekends and make love as long as we had the energy.
Now I barely remember what it was like to make love. My routine had become, well, routine. I worked all day and came home to make dinner for the family. Garrett would clean up while I did some small piece of housework so the rest of it would be more manageable on the weekend.
Success comes at a price and I often had to bring work home to be prepared to hit the ground running the next day. On weekends, I had to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, do laundry, wash the floors, iron and I'm getting too depressed recalling all these things to finish the list.
I tell you these things not to justify my behavior, but so you can understand the state of mind I was in. Did I really want to look back at seventy and say of my life that I had worked very hard and that my children and husband seemed pretty happy? What about me?
I knew I had a problem, but how to solve it? I could ease off at work to make more time for whatever else I wanted to do. But I was ambitious and couldn't accept stalling at this level. I couldn't cut back much more on the relationship with my husband or there wouldn't be any more to cut back on. I couldn't ignore the needs of the girls. In just a year Janet would be in college and Brianna would follow the next year. Somebody had to do the housework. Where was the time for me to come from?
Before you jump to the conclusion that Garrett is not pulling his weight, he plants the garden and cleans it up in the fall. He shovels the snow, mows the lawn and paints the house when it needs it. He repairs whatever needs repairing. He finished the basement by himself, no small feat for a professor of history with no previous construction experience. He can do whatever he sets his mind to.
We may not have the old excitement in the bedroom, but we have good times in almost every other room in the house. There is no one I would rather talk to about practically any topic from politics to the economy to morality to evolution. As much as I have come to know him, he still surprises me by being able to rethink his positions and come up with new solutions to difficult issues.
But life wasn't exciting. And so I dwelled on it, trying to figure out what it would take to put back the verve. I began to see an answer at an out-of-town Continuing Professional Accounting Education conference attended by half a dozen people at the management level in my firm.
For one thing, I didn't have to make dinner. I didn't have to shop for it and I didn't even have to pay for it. There was no housework to do. The hotel had staff to take care of that. There were nobody's needs to attend to after dinner. The only person I was responsible for was me.
The hotel had a lounge where I could have a few drinks or as many as I wanted, without worrying about who would be sober enough to drive me home. As long as I could stand, I could operate the elevator and handle the room key.
The facility was used for conferences so often that they had a band every night, so I could dance to my heart's content if I could find someone to dance with me. That would not be a problem. I've stayed in good shape, it's harder to advance if you let yourself go, and the empirical evidence showed that men still found me attractive.
I work for a progressive firm and I was the senior member of our retinue consisting of four women and two men. We had dinners together, though for the first night the ladies drank without the men, who chose to watch Monday Night Football.
Jack was married, Don was not. Don, at 26, was the youngest member of the team and the focus of much of the conversation of the other women. I had very little prior contact with him but they had. They called him Don Juan behind his back, although from the tenor of the conversation, he would have been proud to hear it, rather than embarrassed.
Don was around six feet tall and unnaturally good looking. He knew it and, according to them, was always trying to score with women who worked for the company. None of them could say whether he had succeeded. He was ingratiating and people seemed to naturally like him and to like to be with him. That was probably why he had risen so quickly, although I might have been selling him short just because of his good looks. I'd been told that clients really liked working with him.
We reached a point that first night where we had drunk too much. I know this because Patty took the conversation beyond where businesswomen should take it. "I hear he has a big dick." She giggled uncontrollably.
"That's what I heard, too," said Sharon.
Alice was having trouble adding her opinion due to the alcohol, but she managed. "He does. I danced with him and he pressed it against me."
"No way," laughed Sharon.
"Just how big was it?" asked Patty.
I'm sure that with two fewer drinks none of them would have found this so funny.
"You have to watch out for slow dances with him," said Alice. You would have thought from their reaction that she was the headlining comedienne.
"You have to admit that he is dreamy," said Patty.
"He is not unattractive," I said. Obviously I was a few drinks behind. That didn't stop them from thinking I was very funny. We began to realize we had consumed too much and our little party broke up soon after that, and we all returned to our rooms.
I didn't get to sleep right away. I thought about Don, his hard body and his boyish good looks. He was fifteen years my junior but that didn't stop me from thinking of him in a sexual way. All right, fantasizing. But that's no sin, is it?
Dinner the next night was different. I found myself trying to catch pieces of the conversation at the other end of the table. So were the other women. I hadn't noticed before how much attention they paid to Don.
It was difficult trying to maintain the conversation at my end of the table and listen to him. I may have misheard some of the things he said. " ... catch more flies with money than with vinegar," I heard him say. I almost laughed but it would have been completely inappropriate to the conversation I was having with Patty. This guy was really clever, switching honey to money because we're accountants.
"Like I always say, to thy own self be true, just like that Dickens guy said."
Wasn't it "thine" and wasn't it Polonius in Hamlet? I shook my head to get the cobwebs out. He was probably just putting them on, though they didn't seem to be laughing. Perhaps it was over their heads.
They started talking politics and it spread to the whole table. Alice admitted to voting for Bush.
Don disagreed with her politics. "I always vote Democratic. Like Rodney Dangerfield always said, I don't belong to any organized political party."
I waited. I waited. "I'm a Democrat," I said, way too loud! Wasn't it Will Rogers? I think I'd had too much to drink.
"Me too," said Don. "You know what they say, you vote Democrat when you're young and Republican when you're old."
I thought it was if you're not liberal when you're young you don't have a heart, but if you're not conservative when you're old you don't have a brain. I was clearly missing too much of the conversation to understand what was being said and I resolved not to drink with dinner tomorrow night. Don told Alice how impressed he was at how much thought she had put into her presidential selection, even if she had voted for the wrong guy. He said it with cheery good humor. He had a way about him. Alice beamed.
The band began to play and he whisked Alice away to dance. When they returned she was flushed. He came around the table and asked me to dance. I accepted.
"What a lucky guy your husband is to have such a beautiful, intelligent wife."
No, I'm not that... , of course he was right. I must be beautiful. He had told me and Don wouldn't flatter, would he?
"I love the way you move, Roberta. It's so sensual."
"I love the way you move, Bobbie."
Then a slow song came on and he got to love the way I moved slowly. I could feel it between us. They had been right. It was big. I think that's when I started to get an idea of what I could do to rescue my life from the doldrums. I could have an affair with Don Juan. I could have that excitement you only get at the beginning of a relationship, imagining the infinite possibilities of what was to come. I could also have the excitement of sneaking around, never knowing if I would get caught and destroy my marriage. I absolutely didn't want to destroy it; that thought was almost too horrible to bear. But the idea of the thrill of running that risk was exhilarating. After a couple more songs we returned to the table and he took Sharon out to dance.
.... There is more of this story ...