Because on a clear, sunny April morning, I watched him—blue-eyed, tousle-haired, and red-cheeked—take a video call while I reapplied my lipstick. Because endless pandemic boredom had left me listless, apathetic, and numb. Because what else would I do with $70? Because St. John’s Wort—on its own—wasn’t cutting through the low-grade depression and generalized anxiety I felt from being house-bound for so long. Because my very-Zen partner seemed as content as ever. Because, the product of divorce, shouldn’t I do better than my parents did? Because evidently not. Because my old friend, Self-Sabotage, brought me more comfort than a warm bath. Because although it cost as much, my first tattoo—a two-inch rose on my right forearm—was no stand-in for mental health services. Because it had been 377 days since my husband and I had made love of any kind. Because we weren’t making war either. Because for me, 600-square feet and one bathroom, when combined with quarantine and his colitis, was a gunshot to the loins. Because for him—colon inflammation notwithstanding—it was game on!
Because eventually, he took his even-tempered, undersexed self back to work, while I stayed home alone with just Self-Sabotage—that wicked trickster—for company. Because I only desire what’s risky and new. Because a seven-year-long romance is neither. Because my pink ink, while still shiny, didn’t qualify as dangerous, unless you consider Hep C, which spreads faster in jails, where sterile needles (like my longing) are in short supply. Because I wasn’t in prison, except for the one of my own making. Because sometimes, a one-bedroom apartment feels like a cell, and sometimes a marriage does too. Because I said my anxiety was generalized, but I lied; it’s highly specific.
Because I was bored of the mundane, monotonous, monogamous Groundhog Day loop I was living. Because there was no gunshot—the wound was self-inflicted. Because I still love my husband. Because he still loves me. Because I was and am conflicted. Because beauty abounds, even in complicated, flawed relationships. Because how is it that I can simultaneously crave control and lack it? Because bad behavior breeds more bad behavior. Because the seven-year itch + 377 sexless days = a word problem that likely involves a train crash. Because wouldn’t it be exciting to watch it all burn? Because what he doesn’t know can’t kill him. Because cheating is taxing, and taxes are for cheating, at least during a pandemic when the government doles out free money.
Because if money is free, shouldn’t I be freer? Because yes, I should be, so I set my tongue free on Asher while he sat on my hand-me-down, puke-green loveseat with his pants bunched around his ankles. Because yes, I should be, so two days after our wedding anniversary and right below an open window obscured only by palm trees, I straddled Joshua and rode him just before he took that video call, flushed. Because it happened on the very chair from which I’d later seek therapy—the rickety kitchen one on which I sit typing this. Because names matter—the mauve lipstick was called Honesty and the spouse I lied to: Ethan.
Because this heavy secret was a weighted blanket on my sagging shoulders. Because both men were fitness clients of mine who paid me for a different kind of service, which I also rendered. Because it’s a lot to process and even more to carry. Because now I’m paying too.
Miri Gould has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing and has been published in Brevity, The Los Angeles Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Manifest-Station, the Jewish Literary Journal, Longridge Review, and elsewhere. Kelp Journal, where her work also appears, nominated Gould for a Best of the Net.