I was a serial cheater. I lied to and betrayed those loved and myself. Looking back, my life of adultery, makes no sense. It wasn’t wantonness that possessed me. It was the need to dispel fear of inferiority and sate assumed superiority, a sin of pride.
Once, I thought I loved two men and hated one. In old age, I realize I hate no one and there’s only one man I love and only one man who loves me, my husband. Edward never loved me. I was his Asian fetish doll, replaced by another. He never said he loved me. Why did I think he did? Because I loved being his Asian doll to slake my pride.
With the putty of my family background, low self-esteem, and naivety, he re-constructed me into his fantasy while I wallowed in pride. The clothes, jewelry, makeup, Porsche, trips to San Francisco; his Stanford internship, knowledge of anatomy, sex games, charm, intelligence, attention, swayed me because I wanted to be the fantasy he created. I became addicted to his transformation and repeatedly sought the initial attention rush of crossing his threshold. Each subsequent affair changed me, some a little, others a lot but all were attempts to clamber back on the pedestal he’d created.
I haven’t forgiven Paul or myself. I accept it was me who initially flirted. I didn’t have to grovel to his commands. Like the ping pong paddled software executive, it was something in me which sought debasement, a penance for my pride’s wanton self-love.
Despite his transformation, I remain a poor, Catholic, Asian girl born in a rural orchard and raised in an East San Jose dysfunctional family, a girl who wanted to be a nun, took soapy showers, feared hell then became an adulterous wife who feared exposure. Now, fear fades. I don’t believe in hell and exposure risk of my adulterous life is being concealed by time’s fog. I console myself my wantonness hurt none loved because none loved knew.
Do I have regrets? Of course, many. Those who say they don’t lack honest hindsight. My biggest is for my husband. I regret the energy and time spent for others meant less for him. There were times he suspected my other life despite my spy’s cover. His unconfirmed suspicions bedevil him, an unmentioned divide between us in old age, the topic never raised but always there. I did hurt him. Worse, he’s never known me, the whole me, my wayward puppet shadow, the hidden me, the spy lying next to him in bed.
With my wanton puppet shadow stashed in the memory trunk, I devote myself him and family, those betrayed so long. Hubby is my Camelot’s king. When he stopped me on a sidewalk, while I held my Pee Che folder in defense, it was the most wonderful life event that happened to me.
Another life transition has occurred. I’m a great-grandmother, an unmistakable signpost of old womanhood. My tears at the birth were joyous acceptance of my new title. Children, grandchildren, now a new wave, great-grandchildren. With luck, I may peek at another wave in twenty years. Together we have a happy little kingdom. I humbly pray and light candles in church, a faithful wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, happy with my little tribe.
Yet, all is not well in our Camelot. Like Guinevere, I complicated the happily ever after-ing. I can never confess to hubby and destroy his deceived reality happiness. Why be Mordred and replace a myth with a harsher truth like my mother did to me? I don’t want him to lose his old age’s bliss with a truth that cripples and destroys. Yet he doesn’t and can never know me, the whole me. This I regret most.
I don’t know if he had a secret puppet shadow, a hidden life unknown to me. My affairs may have blinded me to his. He left on business trips, went to other worlds alone. If he had a secret puppet shadow, or worse, loved another, I don’t want to know a reality which destroys my old age’s bliss. Why throw out a fictitious happiness for a harsh truth which can’t be redacted once learned?
We never know ourselves completely, let alone another. My secret puppet shadow was selfish, but I’ve loved unselfishly too. What’s the ultimate act of love? Surrendering one’s life to save another’s. I’d freely given my life to save my children and, yes, my husband. I’d have followed hubby, for better or worse, back to Tropicana Village’s poverty if that’s where the path of life with him led. I would never abandon him even though I betrayed him.
Would he die for me? I think so but as the Vietnamese woman once said.
“The worse in war is finding out what you will do to survive.”
I don’t need to test him and do know he loved and loves me in the reality I know. I know, I loved and love him in his reality known. We gave each other wonderful lives even if our lives are different than truly known. With my secret and perhaps his, we are apart but together, happily ever after-ing in our ersatz Camelot. So, we sleep, toss and turn, in our bed of marriage omission lies.
The secrets of my mother-in-law’s love child abortion, hubby's unknown biological father, my elder brother's illegitimacy, Mom's brothel imprisonment, her forced abortion, Dad’s unknown prior family, and my secret puppet shadow are specter ghosts who haunt my happy kingdom’s perimeter. I stand guard against them, a burden I carry alone.
I went to Maui on a pilgrim’s search for Mom’s pineapple plantation. It’s gone, remembered locally like the orchards of Silicon Valley but gone. Now it’s a subdivision of homes and other lives. Like Dad's Alviso, time and events broke with its past. I couldn't even find my grandparents graves and accepted I'd never have grandparents, something missed.
The cousins tracked down provided no common recollections, never heard of an auntie who sailed away, and we didn’t even look alike. It was as if going to Georgia seeking Tara after reading Gone With The Wind, it’s gone. Hopefully, a DNA sample someday connects me to villages in Luzon the Philippines and Shandong, China.
Some will say I’m not just old. They’ll say I’m, old and tainted, a used woman, an untouchable, contaminated because of many men. Promiscuousness is a female stigma but a male bravado. It’s true, there were many men. Has the unused, untouched, pure virgin, aged better once the old maid? Her wrinkles come, her breath sours, her joints creak, she eventually stoops too.
God takes us back, used or not, but always takes us. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, there’s no escape, that’s our fate. It wasn’t Cobra who ran amuck. I make no apology for her misadventures. She pleased me, gave birth twice and withered no worse than if a virgin. It’s better to be used and enjoyed than spoil on the shelf unopened is my reply.
It’s pride that’s tainted me.
Author Notes: Wife finally realizes the only man who ever loved her was her husband and he is the only man she ever loved despite a marriage of pride.