The hotel corridor smells musty, like that wet towel you just can’t get the mildewed smell out of, no matter how many times you throw it in the wash. The pictures on the wall, hung evenly at eye level with absolutely zero artistic distinctiveness, are banal and unoriginal. One of the overhead bulbs is flashing that classic garish yellow at irregular beats, almost matching the cadence of my rattled heart. I can hear the ice machine relentlessly whirring a few doors back.
How ironic that this simple, trite backdrop may ultimately be the stage where I define my own fateful resolution.
An ocean of choices.
Sure, that’s not a standard measurement, but you must understand.
I’ve been violently lurching back and forth on turbulent currents of uncertainty for months now. The indecision swimming through my veins, stinging my resolve like a thousand jellyfish.
I wonder often if my husband can see how unsteady I’ve become. Do my eyes show him a ceaseless stream of escalating discord? Can he read between the lines of my distance, of my dwindling desire for his touch?
We used to be so close, him and I. Our foundation built as sturdy as one of his architectural designs. The structural load of our relationship built from the ground up. A trust that formed a friendship that we constructed into a solid attachment.
But an aggregate of rocks is no place for true romance. Sure, it’s stable and the load of our marital duties is carried out evenly, with relative ease, but what if now I crave more? Am I to forever repress my ache for passion? This new, feverish desire to experience the sensation of profound and concentrated ardor? I want more than a flickering flame.
I want to burn.
So, I know how momentous this choice is. What it signifies.
Through one door, I go to my own, dingy hotel room. Alone. I strip down, take as hot a shower as my feeble water heater allows, check my emails one last time, and go to bed. I know I’ll dream of him. I do every night; a variation of fantasies that provide me a pitiful sense of what it would be like to be his.
Tonight though, at the end of the cocktail hour following our day-long conference, he did something unexpected and unreasonably tempting. We’ve been clumsily dancing around our mutual attraction, letting the chemistry of our awareness ebb and flow. Our relationship inching towards…something.
Proximity, the catalyst to our potential affair.
What started out as a professional working relationship formed and molded into an ambiguous shape, indefinable to what it once was.
I started working later, so did he. I couldn’t stand the thought of him going home to her. Granting her laughs and focused attention that could be mine.
Look at me.
He started bringing his lunch to my office to eat. I changed my entire routine to make sure I had food pre-prepared to spend a scant 30 minutes with him, unobstructed.
I started wearing a bolder lip to draw his eyes down to the smile I wore only for him now. Every time it grabbed his attention, as I knew it would, my stomach would clench with desire.
I bought a sultry perfume and left it in my office to put on at work. I noticed he only wore the aftershave I once complimented.
We exchanged messages constantly, in every form of communication allowed.
Talk to me.
But really, what is the shape of longing?
Is it dimensional? A tangible form that twists and reforms? Is it a vibrant, pulsing red or is it the gray of indifference?
Tonight, in this hallway, it feels like a winding pattern of eddies and swirls that circle around a hunger, consuming itself over and over as I continue to deny myself. There’s a sharpness to it that leans into pain.
For certainly, our infatuation has been running away with the both of us. Is it really wrong when you crave something this badly?
I stand here, flushed with uncertainty. The keycard he snuck into my hand slippery from the moisture of my sweating palm.
As I moved past him at the conclusion of the cocktail hour, his hand skimmed the exposed sliver of my naked back. I tried not to let the ripple of pleasure at this simple contact show on my face. I turned to him and he discreetly handed me his hotel keycard. We briefly made eye contact before he turned and walked towards the other exit.
So, I know he’s in there now. Waiting for me. I took a moment to go outside and press my cold hands on my overheated face. I took a moment to really think. There is no going back from this. For either of us.
An ocean of choices.
What happens if I choose him? What happens next? A life of secrecy and lies, hidden touches, stolen affections? Does our connection not deserve something more than sidelined consideration?
Or, what happens if I slip the card under his door and go back to mine? An implied declaration to keep things from passing the threshold of appropriate.
Do I then simply return to a semi-stable construction of a life? If I remove the opportunity of closeness, will this twisting shape release me from its vise?
I take several deep breaths. Really, it’s now or never.
Despite my nerves, I choose for myself.
A droplet of surety encouraging ripples outward.
I walk forward, keycard in hand. Before I can even act, he’s there. Door wide open, eyes probing mine, desperately searching my face to read my intentions.
“You came,” a breathless, relieved whisper.
I slip the keycard into my purse, no longer needing it.
I bite my lip as he openly stares at me. The unspoken agreement to ignore the building tsunami of affection breaking upon the shore, waves colliding and kissing at their crest. I choose this.
Our eyes finally meet. Any remaining water of our tidal wave igniting like compressed steam with the heat of our anticipation.
Our union, a conflagration. A true blaze ready to scorch through our carefully constructed lives.
But, like I said, I want to burn.
I inhale his aftershave and reach my hand out to tug his fingers into mine.
He moves with such speed that my back is against the closed door before I can even exhale…