Lying next to one another on the bed, at last, I made a confession, a taut, music box, spring open confession. Wound to the tension’s end, my sins popped out. On the bed, staring at the ceiling, my mind cranked the handle. My suppressed puppet shadow leaped up and out.
“Gabriel, I've told no one what you told me. I have something to say. Like me, you can tell no one. Listen, as I tell you why I am not admirable."
How to start? Will he talk?
"Did you ever think about becoming a priest, to be Father Gabriel?"
"No, like you I experienced a soapy shower transformation."
"Pretend you’re a priest, hear my confession. I will do the penance. Do you know the confessions inviolable seal of confidentially, a most sacred vow?"
"Something’s troubling you. Like me, you’re carrying too much inside. I know the priest’s confidentiality vow and will honor it. You can confide in me."
With his promise, I did what I promised never to do. My sins, not the venial but mortal, sprang open and sputtered out, released at last. After years of suppression, they bubbled forth in a low disconnected monotone, as if the sins of another. I confessed to myself, of course, he the sounding board to echo my words but it was the first time I heard them.
I started with my revealing I’d accepted marriage for security instead of love, skipped to Gary when the thrill of beauty and a simple kiss as a train passed, caused me to waver.
Then, I went deep mortal, not in erotic detail as related here but by the deeds and numbers, without excuses. I told of crossing Edward's threshold, my transformation into the fantasy of being his Asian doll, the clothes, jewelry, Porsche, upscale restaurants and social status he provided which I confused for love.
I admitted my conflicts with Enrico as manipulations of an Alpha male, not for sex but to belittle and bully him, for my ego satisfaction.
I told him when I relocated to the Pacific Northwest, I tried to reform but related how I failed in a one-night stand then libidinously seduced Daryl for excitement and affair club membership.
I droned on how, for flattery, I let Elliot pursue me as his trophy and instead how he became my trophy, to be tossed aside. I explained facing middle age, I retrofitted and used William as an ego sop and sex toy and being caught in the act and hit with a shoe. I ended with Paul, my debasement and God's punishment for wantonness.
Like a good priest, he didn't interrupt. After Paul, I whispered.
"That's it, father. I'm not admirable. I'm tainted."
Silent, awaiting judgment, a feeling of relief swept me, the long-suppressed hidden burden carried inside eased, the secret puppet finally exposed to another. After his long, silent, digestion, he replied.
"Once I'd have thrown stones, perhaps the first. I feel so sorry for your husband. You're a Mary Magdalene, a sinner. Still, you help people, the good Samaritan, you’re trying to save me. Your sins, while terrible and many, are not lust. Something else troubles you. In adultery, you search for something missing. It’s not for me to speculate or judge. Forgiveness comes from within and from the one offended, your husband. It will take time for you to heal but you must and only you can do it. That’s all I can say.
The rosary, three times, before Mary Magdalen."
"Thank you, Father."
The penance, meant as a levity response to my heavy sigh, caused no smile. Too lenient for my infractions, I added renewed Mass attendance with the three rosaries to sanctify each attendance.
Back at the bank parking lot, I told him not to hide the motel credit charge, to let his wife notice by leaving the receipt out and if she mentioned it, to say he needed time to think about himself.
She didn’t notice it. That night, after she left to meet her lover, he moved her belongings to the other bedroom and took possession of the master bedroom. He was no longer Mr. B & B. He was evolving into Mr. A & A, Alpha Awesome. The next day, when she did mention the motel receipt, he stared at her, made no reply and left for work.
We became lovers of a sort. Although there was sex it was dispassionate, his sexual tension release to rebuild him, my adultery, an act of charity. I did my penance but confessed no more. My helping him was sufficient for my self-esteem rebuilding. It was always at the same motel. We split payments. I paid cash and he used his credit card. We met only during lunchtimes and less than once a week.
It was strange to be in bed with someone my height. I didn’t care about an orgasm. I was restoring a fractured male ego. My satisfaction was emotional for helping him. He tried to ensure my satisfaction but he was not "my type". I was there for a spiritual need, not sex.
When atop, I imagined being young again at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, riding the Merry Go Round to the relaxed gait of the wooden horse’s up and down gallop and the organ’s melody. As I rode, I remembered reaching for the brass ring, catching it and tossing it at the clown's mouth on the canvas wall. If I climaxed it was the buzzer of a successful ring toss but like when young, it didn't matter if the buzzer rang or not.
When he was ready, we rolled over and he finished, my pleasure only helping him regain self-esteem, which regained mine.
He was trying to save his marriage. I told him he had to be ready to lose it to save it. Under my direction, he had an attorney draw up divorce papers that were served to her at her work. Getting her served at work, announced publicly it was she who was getting divorced, nipping any covering lies she might attempt. It put him in the decision position. He could move forward or cancel divorce proceedings based on her actions. She needed to understand, he was no longer Mr. B & B, her back up footstool. My instructions were to act as if the marriage was over, except for paperwork.
As expected, she panicked. Her haven was not so safe. In irony, she accused him of cheating, true, in a manner. She stopped belittling him, dropped her lover and started pursuing him which she assumed would make him grovel back to her.
With me as backup, he remained aloof, forced her to reconcile on his terms. When asked what he wanted, he told her she destroyed their marriage and now she had to rebuild it by sending a no-contact letter, answer all his questions, write down a timeline of everything, tell the daughters and undergo an STD test. She balked and attempted hysterical bonding but he stuck to Alpha mode. After a few tantrums, the progression march of divorce proceedings, she caved.
Full disclosure hurt him. Her affair was the third and the first was with a family friend, a double betrayal. Things that he could not make sense of during the last ten years at last added up. In the end, however, after twenty-five years together, reconciliation made the most sense, financially and for the family. They began a new marriage, the old one gone, he a man, she a woman, partners. We stopped visiting the motel when she moved back to the master bedroom.
We both were whole. I confessed, was forgiven and returned to being a chaste wife, my secret puppet shadow locked in storage, mentally trussed in silver chains. Whole again, cleansed of Paul, at age 45, I started the rest of my life, each day the first.
He had a wife who admired him, a new marriage based on his forgiveness and her appreciation for it. The bank noticed his change and he got a raise. I changed our company's bank, knowing it's best to leave what ends well, alone.
As she renewed her marriage I did too and re-devoted myself to hubby. I still shopped for sex but for hubby’s pleasure. We traveled together on business; toured the world on vacation, saw the postcard landmarks, ate at famous restaurants, stayed in classic hotels, the sophisticated couple doing "tourist" passport life stamp requirements while holding hands.
As we evolved into our new marriage, I discovered things about myself. Sitting in a French chalet, sipping late morning tea as hubby snarfed down buttered pastry with his black coffee, before our next postcard check-off, pangs of memory guilt swept me.
The business allowed us to ensure good educations for the kids, to enjoy fine things. It allowed us to be sophisticated. I was naïve about Edward’s sophistication. It was simply his money. I was a simple girl, blinded by what wealth allows, a fool. I wanted things too much. Jealous for a bicycle, a Porsche, bedroom set, on and on, then got them, whatever things I wanted.
Things, their discarded trail are my life’s summary. Desired, acquired, used, discarded, that’s who we are. Our trail of junk ends at who we were. Where’s the bike I finally got, the 57 Chevy of my first kiss, Edward Porsche which zoomed to San Francisco, the station wagon with the kids in the back? Oh God, clothes, sought, bought, worn and discarded, still good but not, because fashion’s change!
Our lives, a trail of things, discovered, yearned, acquired, used, sometimes not, stored or discarded. Our life’s record, it’s a trail of things, not the photos saved, it’s the trail of our acquisitions which become junk that mark life’s journey.
At home, with my “sophisticated” recognition of life “things”, I swept closets and the garage for erasures. The subsequent trips to the Salvation Army included a silken mini dress and a pair of shoes which crossed a forbidden threshold long ago.
Cleansed, I recommitted, as if just out of an honest confession. I was on the right side of God.
I never suspected future adulteries would outnumber past ones.
Author Notes: After confessing and helping another the wife re-commits to her husband and enjoys life with him.