Oh, Mistress Mine
Be forewarned, Gentle Reader – this one gets a little steamy. It goes metaphorically asunder, venturing into the more dark, confused, and sensual byways of human experience. So if you are prudish, and not predisposed to the fulfillment of desirous, animal lust as it can be expressed through the unbridled and purpled confessions contrived by wayward writers in the guilty dawn, then perhaps you should refrain from reading any further.
(But on the other hand, I might point out, no one is watching.)
I am but a man!
Sorry blokes throughout the ages – from Adam to Juan Valdez – have offered up this mortal plaint as reason for their failings. And while I admit this is no excuse for what I am about to divulge, I present it to you as my only alibi. For God made us one way, and then the devil warped that basic goodness, luring us by means of wanton, dark-eyed temptation into what we have so pitifully become.
As with so many affairs, it was my wife who ironically – oh, so unwittingly! – introduced me to my mistress. They had been friends since Kristin’s teenage girlhood, sharing an innocent bond of Saturday rendezvous in sidewalk cafes after shopping. Their friendship had deepened into my wife’s college years, becoming something more…more… Well, I don’t mean to say their connection was exactly amorous, but something nearly so. I could tell by the animated and flustered manner in which Kristin described her old chum that she was truly dear to her heart. And now, since Kristin and I had matrimonially joined our souls for all eternity, she was eager that I should meet her friend. I was indifferent, to say the least. What, I argued, did we need with some interloper shadowing our honeymoon-lit happiness? But my new bride was adamant, and so I acquiesced.
Kristin led me to a French café where she left me at a small table to wait rather awkwardly on an uncomfortable wire chair. She henceforth tripped away to order our drinks and, little did I realize, destabilize our marriage.
I gazed about, marveling at the people fondling their tiny cups of brown goo. Sipping. Licking their lips. And then letting their eyes flutter closed with what I would soon realize was utter ecstasy. I didn’t understand. I had been raised on brawny mugs of percolated motor oil in the self-restrained countryside. I was, I must admit, innocent of the more sophisticated pleasures of metropolitan society.
Kristin returned with one of the tiny cups in a saucer, placing it with a napkin before me. “Brian my love,” she said rather forebodingly, “this is espresso.”
I looked down into my dainty demitasse, and into what I would soon realize was to be my destiny, my downfall, my illicit and pulse quickening joy. The barista had made a heart shape in the foam atop my drink, and I had the odd sensation that I was peering into my own life’s pump. The moment was odd.
“Enchanté,” was all I could think to say.
And then, under the expectant, watchful eyes of my wife, I imbibed.
Until that fateful moment, I would have insisted that Kristin was all I cared for. I certainly had no eyes for other women; she was my everywoman, and my everything. There was no temptation great enough to derail the locomotive of my one-way Kristin-bound devotion. But with that first seemingly benign kiss, I knew in an instant that my fate was sealed.
“Oh!” I sighed. “Oh!”
Kristin was pleased that I seemed to like her friend. Of course, I skillfully played down my enthusiasm. I surprised myself at my talent for subterfuge, even feigning nonchalance when she suggested next day that we should all meet again.
“Sure,” I said, with a shrug. “If it would make you happy, my dear.”
But in truth, I would have dared anything for another encounter with Martine.
Yes, I secretly came to call her Martine. And you may well marvel at how a seemingly levelheaded man could so completely personify something like a cup-bound libation to a point where it becomes more humanoid and vivacious than a true flesh and blood being. But it has always been my writerly wont to grant personalities to the more quotidian entities of my life. (For example, I had always found willow trees to be Pentecostal preachers; I owned a pair of mittens named Arnold; the number 69 had always reminded me of conjoined vacuum cleaners.) And so now let me describe for you my Martine.
She was sultry. Dark. Coquettish in the extreme. I had always been a careful sort, but she stirred in me a latent impetuousness. Martine so often enticed me into embarrassing, premature excitement that many times I spilled, scalding my eager tongue and searing my impatient throat. But oh! That pain only made me want her more. That sensation! The ensuing rush of caffeine-laced dopamine! “More!” I moaned. For Again and More came to be the watchwords of our relationship. More! More! More!
Time passed. And whether it was by way of some feminine self-preserving instinct or not, Kristin eventually became suspicious and disillusioned with her old friend.
“She’s not fun anymore,” she told me, one rainy day when I suggested, rather casually, that we should step into a café and meet up for a sort of benign ménage à trois.
“Oh?” I said. “Really?”
“She gives me a headache and makes me nauseous.”
Well I knew what Kristin was saying. And yet it was that very migraine and queasiness that had become my great addiction. I craved it. But on that dreary day, we passed on by the café. I peered sidelong into the rain-streaked window, hoping, I suppose for some blurred glance of Martine. I was granted instead the smallest hint of her sensual aroma wafting from the café’s open door. My eyes teared up. I grew damp with a nervy sweat. I salivated with shameful longing.
In our early days together, I had always looked forward to going to sleep at night only so that I might wake in the comfortable paradise of my Kristin’s arms. But now I could not rise from out of our bed soon enough. I often left my wife in oblivious, gape-mouthed slumber, lost to her dreams while I, sneaking off to the café, so cunningly pursued my pre-dawn trysts. When once Kristin questioned me as to why we never anymore snuggled and lay in of a morn, I used writing as my excuse.
“Alas,” I explained with a forced and playful grin. “I must meet my craft’s demands.”
Kristin took this as justifiable, and so allowed me to continue my wanton habit. But although there was truth in what I said, it pained me much. I realized all too well – Martine had usurped Kristin as my muse.
It only got worse thereafter. The subterfuge. The averted glances. The blatant lies.
“I’m just off for a stroll around the block, my love,” I would sometimes call to Kristin as I left the house in the plain light of day. “I need to stretch my legs.”
“Shall I join you?”
“Gad No! Er… I mean, sorry, dear. I’m trying to work something out for an essay. I fear you would only distract me with your charm.”
I loathed what I had become. I mumbled bits of poems as I hurried to my Martine. I stuffed myself with mints and raw garlic in the same way some men take showers to hide their lover’s scent.
Kristin made a new friend – one Green Tea – and she offered that we should sit around our kitchen table with her and chat. But I found this one lacking. She was plain, even with the largest heapings of sugar and cream. She was incapable of soliciting my passion. Of course, I sat pleasantly with my wife and pretended to enjoy our time, but within the bowels of my soul, anguish stormed.
How well I understand that my secret meetings with Martine are numbered. I have read enough novels and viewed enough films to realize it is only a matter of time before we are discovered. An unexplainable stain on a shirtfront here, an overwhelming need to run to the water closet there. Such is the stuff of human folly. But with this impending revelation, I have come even more to cherish my sensual encounters with Martine. Even now, as I pen this confession, I hold her in my free hand, cradling her warmth, sipping at her teasingly, while my unwitting wife sleeps only a single rod away.
I whisper in the halo of my little lamp, “Oh, how I wish I could quit you, Martine.”
But of course that is a foolish, foolish thought.
For I am, most shamefully, but a man!