Dolores’s shoulder rubs always relaxed me. I would breathe in the sweet, musty scent of her bedroom like it was fresh air, and gaze with dreary eyes at the ray of light between the piss-colored curtains of her dusty window. It was a warm Tuesday afternoon, even though her thermostat was turned low enough to require a sweater while in her house. But I loved Dolores’s sweaters. Her drawers overflowed with sweaters of every color of the rainbow. On rare occasions she would wear her orange sweater, which revs my engine without fail. For such occasions she would have the gold-framed photo of her five grandchildren turned away from the bed, facing a single rose in a clear, thin vase which sat with it on top her nightstand. I always needed a sleight of hand to turn the photo back. Those kids looked adorable.
I left her an hour earlier than normal one afternoon. It was 3pm, yet “Starry Eyed” by Ellie Goulding blasted through my Honda sedan as I entered my suburban neighborhood. I chewed cinnamon-flavored gum loudly, as I do every drive home so my wife doesn’t smell raw liver on my breath. I waltzed through the front door; Dolores’s blossomed rose held between my fingertips. I was prepared to meet my wife, Macie, deeper into the house and present her with the rose and a kiss, yet this time she stood a few feet from the front door before my even entering. Oh, Macie. The PB to my J, the ying to my yang, the Carlton Banks to my Will Smith. I could always count on her loving smile to warm me even in the coldest of nights.
“I’ve been having an affair,” she said. I heard the melancholy in her voice, saw the regret in her eyes.
“You slut!” I cried. “I knew it was only a matter of time, you…you hussie. I bet it’s that Josh guy, who works at the grocery. I’ve seen the way he looks at you every time we shop there.”
“No, it’s not him. It’s Zachary, from three houses down.”
I paused for a moment to remember who Zachary was before yelling at her again. Macie did her best to explain how I did nothing to drive her away and how a moment of weakness with this neighbor of ours grew out of control. But the only thing that grew out of control at this point was my anger, as I continued to insult and shame her. All the years we’ve spent together had been unceremoniously trashed thanks to some meaningless fling.
My rage began to boil over. I stormed outside and marched three houses down to where Zachary lived. Macie pleaded for me to stop along the way, but I swore to my mother long ago to never take orders from a thot.
“Open the door, Zachary,” I shouted, pounding on his door loud enough to alert the rest of the neighborhood. No answer. After a few minutes I demanded to be let into his home again, this time double fisting his door to the point where I thought I was about to break through it.
“I hear ya, I hear ya,” said a voice from within the house. About three more minutes passed. I thought my head was going to explode from the rage this man was causing me. Finally I heard a clicking sound, slow and deliberate, yet inching closer to the door. My arms were folded and my foot tapping enthusiastically as he fiddled with the lock. I was positive he did this on purpose to further my agitation.
The door drew open. The great Zachary who thinks he can satisfy my wife better than I can did not look at all impressive. He posture was so poor I could’ve sworn I noticed a hump—too many hours sitting with a gaming controller in his hands, no doubt. His combover was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. He barely had enough white hairs to cover his polka dotted bald spot. His limbs wabbled as he balanced himself with a quad cane. Under normal circumstances in would’ve laughed at his laziness for not standing on his own two feet like a man. I stared at his bifocals with malice popping from my pupils, and I could tell from the mix of surprise and terror in his expression that he was not ready to catch these hands.
But before I could give this homewrecker a good thrashing, Macie stepped in between us. From there a shouting match ensued between her and me as I tried to force my way pass her. She wanted no violence on her behalf, yet I could tell that she would not hesitate to take a punch for this dirtbag if necessary.
She pleaded for us to go back home to talk it over. I asked her why she cheated. She proceeded to give me a half-thought out explanation about liking older men, but I couldn’t stomach hearing her try to justify ruining our marriage. I noticed a few neighbors staring out of their windows at the scene as I stormed from Zachary’s house and into my car to drive.
I drove aimlessly for 45 minutes, marinating in the juices of my despair. “Hate Me” by Ellie Goulding and Juice WRLD played on repeat. My phone rang and dinged constantly, but I ignored it, and instead focused on syncing my sobbing to the music. I eventually made my way to Dolores. There were four people—two big people and two little people—conversing with her from outside her door. I shoved them out of the way, knowing for sure that they were a part of some scam, or selling cookies one could more conveniently buy online.
“I need to talk to you,” I said in a cracked voice, taking Dolores by the hand and shutting the door behind us.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she cried. I proceeded to tell her what happened since we last spoke, how my wife’s confession shattered my world, how I was struggling to pick up the pieces.
“Big whoop,” said Dolores. “You’ve been cheating on her with me for the past four months.”
“But it’s not the same. She’s messing around in some childish fling. But you and I have something special. When you and I are together, there’s magic. There are explosions. We fit together like the pieces of one of your 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I don’t care about any of that. I’m just trying to get as much bumping and grinding as I can before my second hip replacement. Now, please, leave us alone and come back later.”
Before I could utter another thought, something solid rocked me on the side of my face. I crashed to the floor and looked up to the sight of one of the big scammers from outside kneeling over me.
“You’ve been fucking my mom?!” he yelled as he whaled on me for a few minutes before dragging me to Dolores’s front lawn. The scammer swiftly kicked me in the kidney before he and his associates entered Dolores’s house and slammed the door behind them.
I was more distraught than ever. I struggled to grasp how little Dolores thought of me, how she didn’t lift a finger while I was getting thrashed in her living room. “Explosions” by Ellie Goulding accompanied me as I drove to the community park. The sky darkened, thus surrounding lamp posts luminated the area. I was the only one there, taking a seat on a bench that faced a playground littered with autumn leaves. The bench was quite uncomfortable to lie on, yet I managed as I curled into a ball and stared at the big slide and the monkey bars and the swings. Macie and I walked through this park several times, holding hands. We talked about bringing our future child here. We’d watch it play with the other kids until we had to leave earlier because the other parents would become too chatty. Or we’d thwart the advances of a pedophile who realizes that our child is the cutest of them all. Tears rolled down one side of my face as I lied there, dozing off.
My thoughts lingered on Macie, and our marriage. What went wrong? We were so good together, so happy. Was Dolores to blame? But it felt so good, her wrinkly skin pressed against me like a Polaris leather jacket, skiing down the slopes of her snow-white hair. Yet as I shredded it up with my long snowboard, my summer phlox withered away in the cold. Perhaps I grew too distant, and she knew it, and it drove her away without either one of us realizing it.
The morning sun beamed over my eyes. I sat up on the bench I foolishly spent the night on, trying to stretch out the discomfort in my neck and back. Dry snot stuck to the side of my face. I was wondering what good excuse I can tell my boss for why I was late for work that morning, when I noticed a shadow along the grass approaching me.
“Mind if I pop a squat next to you, sonny?” said a familiar voice. I looked up, and there he was. Zachary. The homewrecker. I thought about beating him within an inch of his life then and there, but there were joggers and power walkers roaming around the park this early. Too many witnesses. I scooted over. Zachary’s frail legs wobbled uncontrollably as he squatted next to me on the bench. We sat silently for a moment.
“You look like you had a rough night last nice,” said Zachary, referring to the bruising about my face from the evening before. “I’m sorry if I’m indirectly at fault for it.”
“Well, it is your fault,” I said bitterly. “You ruined everything. I hope you can live with yourself with that on your conscience.”
“You know,” he began, his voice tiring as he went on, “while I was tapping your wife’s sweet ass a couple of nights ago, I noticed the wedding ring on her finger for the first time. Of course, I was more concerned with pumping her full of dust than anything else at that moment. But after all that, I got to thinking: do I really want to play a part in tearing apart two young soulmates? 40 years ago, I wouldn’t have cared. But maybe I’ve grown soft in my old age. So, I think,” he sighed, “I’ll lay off the funny business. For the sake of love.”
“Thank you,” I said, after reflecting on his words for a moment. It took a lot of guts to address admit his role in this scandal. In fact, it took even more courage for Macie to bring it up in the first place. I checked my texts. Macie left several of them yesterday, explain how her infidelity lasted for over four months, how she’s always had a thing for older men but never knew how to admit it, how this hidden desire is what caused her to buy me suspenders and cheap cologne last Christmas, why the candy bowl was always filled with hard candy and lickerish, and so on.
I did not want us to end. I knew what I had to do. So, I left Zachary on the bench and rushed to my car.
“If you two ever get a divorce,” cried Zachary as I left, “I’ll show her what the Dust Bowl was really like.”
“The Writer” by Ellie Goulding blared through my car speakers as I sped home. I ran into the house and halfway up the stairs, expecting her to be in the bedroom blogging as usual. But I caught her in the corner of my eye slouching on the living room couch, still wearing the clothes she wore the previous day. An episode of Friends from her DVD set was playing on the living room TV. She’s usually laughing obnoxiously at every single joke from that show, but this time she stared at it like a zombie. Her face suggested that she was crying all throughout the night; the used tissues scattered about the couch supported that theory. She turned her head to see me, then she lowered her gaze in a shameful manner. She was going to speak, but I interrupted her.
“I’m sorry,” I cried. “I have an old-people fetish, too. I’ve been cheating on you with an old lady a few blocks away for the past four-and-a-half months.” Her face lit up.
“Really?” she asked.
“Yes. That’s why I’m always buying you orange turtleneck sweaters and asking you to wear your glasses and cut your hair shorter. I want you to look like a busty older woman.”
“This whole time I thought you had a thing for Velma from Scooby Doo.”
“My fictional crush is Genkai from Yu Yu Hakusho!” In an instant she leaped from the couch and embraced me tighter than ever before.
When I came home from work we talked for hours, learning more about each other in one evening than in nearly a decade of knowing each other. We knew our relationship needed a lot more work, and I was surely in the doghouse for my outburst the previous day. But we also knew, for the first time in a long time, we were where we needed to be.