By Joshua Hampel
He dialed the number the minute he got into the car.
“Hello,” she said, and he started the engine with a sigh. “What now?”
“She bumped her head,” he said, backing out of the driveway. “And I guess I bought the wrong band-aids so now I have to go out and get another kind.”
“Oh.” They didn’t live together, or share any children, but she knew his daughter her need to put a band-aid on even the smallest bruise. The girl wasn’t happy until she had one on. “Was your wife sleeping?”
“Yeah,” she said, knowing his wife as well as she knew the girl. “She’s not any better?”
“I haven’t seen her at all today. Yesterday I saw her leaving the bathroom for the bedroom, and that’s it.”
“Have you tried talking to her again?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
“Well,” she said, “what did you want to talk about?”
“Are we still on for lunch tomorrow?” She was silent. At first he said nothing, waiting, but when the silence dragged on he said, hesitantly, “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been thinking,” she began, and instantly he regretted calling her.
“Babe,” he began, “really, I don’t…”
“I don’t like this sneaking around,” she said quickly.
“What sneaking around? My wife never leaves the bedroom! And we haven’t even done anything, have we? What’s the problem?”
“No, you’re right, we haven’t done anything, but, still, don’t you consider that cheating? I mean, you share everything about your life with me, you tell me that you want me but you can’t leave your wife because she’s sick. We hold hands, and once—once—I even got you to kiss me, but, damn it, I want more; and you’re fooling yourself if you think that’s not cheating.”
“That might be true, but if emotionally I’ve cheated on her, then emotionally she’s divorced me a dozen times. She’s pulled away, from our daughter too.” He took a breath. “Look, I’m just doing what I have to so that I don’t lose my mind.”
“Yeah, well, so am I,” she said.
“Wait, what does that mean?”
“I don’t want to be a temporary fix,” she said.
“No,” she said abruptly. “It’s over,” and she thought: If I do it quickly it won’t hurt. She hung up.
Joshua Hampel lives and works in Wichita, Kansas.
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