Sitting around amid paraphernalia of a marriage she finds a wedding photograph. Only ten years ago, they looked so young. Beth’s brown hair blown dry to satin. Thin arms, a light satin gown, spaghetti straps, and a heart shaped pennant mid neck. Feelings of floating, harmlessly, chatting to wedding guests. Curt would be the one. How did things went so wrong. They bore wide grins, other guests smiled, filled photographs which captured a perfect world, right down to matching clothes and shoes.
‘So, you thought it possible to cheat because at some level you don’t think you deserve happiness?’
‘Now you are going to suggest taking a lover, or consuming too much alcohol is Self-Sabotage Disorder,’ Seddon said, ‘That’s absurd’
‘So why do people do it?’
‘It’s a mistake. People make mistakes. People do stupid things.’
Beth wasn't sure what happened, all she could think of was things weren't so bad with Curt, was she trapped in a sabotage disorder, or did she suffer from insecurity.
Looking into those green eyes, she knew why, because curiosity fuelled impulses. She didn’t tell Seddon this because it sounded flippant. He would not understand. He often spoke with sweeping generalisations, countered her arguments with precise statements. Preference went a more complex reason such as self-sabotage. Borrowing from notions of sleeping with fame, did she really want to get into his charisma, charm, textured clothing, and drop of a hat emergence from secret hiding places? The way he dressed in executive suits. Superficial at best, bowing to how others might wish him to look. Yet she’d been curious, knew what she got into, way back when. Sex was good from the beginning, gliding and moaning grabbing at his skinny ribs, feeling faintly and glamorously theatrical. But the second time at the house, during the Mexican food fiasco, heavy breathing as she picked up belongings to go. Extracting from demanding embraces. Overcome with a frightening sense of being little else than a commodity. Wondering what she signed up for.
Neighbours looking on and asking, ‘who was that?’
‘Should I apologise, tell you this meant nothing?’
‘Stop playing,’ Curt said.
But she knew from deepening colour in his eyes, playing was far from truth. Who can take away what happened. Things were just bad, she needed to keep her affair secret, but failed in that task too.
It took hours, side stepping each other, drinking tea and putting on music. Before Curt said, ‘Who is he?’
She wondered why a name might make any difference, did it matter if she’d fucked, any Tom, Dick or Harry.
Surprised and worried about this admission, still unsure if Curt would have any inkling of who Seddon was. If Curt saw this skinny hipped man, wearing novel clothing, metro-man cosmetics, and said, “why not take my wife to bed.”
‘Who the fuck is he?’
He lived in a half-renovated cottage up in the hills, met at one of Jill’s parties. No idea how she might know him. Later saw him on a flight. Said hello, and nothing else until going out to the film. Not long after came a trip back to his place for an etching viewing, she conceded now her actions were a stupid, impulsive thing? Slightly afterwards, Covid hit. Flights and employment dried up. But Seddon kept in touch. They met randomly and fucked. The pandemic added to elements of intrigue. Was that the reason?
‘So, you gave him what he wanted?’ Planes on Curt’s face hardening in a hard, odd way. As if sex was something a woman gave at the loss of part of herself.
In a sudden giddy fit of recklessness Beth corrected the man she’d laid next to for more than a decade. ‘I took what I wanted. If I gave him anything, it was incidental.’
‘Listen to yourself, just fucking listen to yourself!’ His voice hoarse, ‘you could do this to me? I was good to you.’
He already looked at their relationship through the lens of past tense. Puzzled her, the ability of romantic love to mutate. How quickly a loved one became a stranger? Where did love go? Perhaps love was familial, somehow linked to blood since love for children did not die as romantic love did. Was what she felt for Seddon a type of love, or merely lust.
‘You won’t forgive me?’
He wielded the word like a knife, came out of his mouth sharp with loathing, so cold it felt surreal.
Tears gathered in her eyes, knowing that she had turned him into a man who could say “bitch” so coldly, and wishing he was a man who would not have said, “bitch” no matter what.
Alone in the flat she cried crumpled on living room rug, used so rarely it still smelled of the store. Sure, her relationship was over. Beth tried to crested a wave, and yet take an axe and hacked at it. Sabotaged her chances for a 'till death do us part, life story. Why had she set out to destroy something, others considered precious?
An old comedy track blamed the devil, he pushed you in there, invaded you mind, fuelled evil curiosity, eventually destroyed what you cared for.
Beth spent weeks calling my Curt, waiting in front of the building where he now live saying how sorry she was over and over. How she’d work things through. On the day she woke up and finally accepted he wasn’t going to return her calls, nor open the door, no matter how hard she knocked. Couldn’t even cry on her married lover’s shoulder.
Time to head to a bar. The bartender gave her a gentle and understanding smile. Ordered another Mojito, thinking here was more understanding than given by a husband. What might she do if Seddon wandered in? Yet knowing full well, chances of him frequenting a bar, spending an evening with joys of Mojitos, about a transcontinental flight from Seddon being home, working on his renovation, or taking his wife down the coast for a short holiday, due to the impact of said house maintenance.
Was there something wrong with her? A hunger, a restlessness. Incomplete knowledge of herself. Sensations of something further away, beyond reach. She got up and left a big tip on the counter.
For a long time afterwards, her memory of an ending with Curt went like this. A little drunk, speeding down Charles Street in a taxi, a little lonely, with a Punjabi driver telling me his children were doing better in school here.