Fiction by Marcia Aldrich
You have to be willing to delete. You can’t be a hoarder, keeping every text message he sends, every letter, every napkin from every restaurant where you’ve met. Delete emails, text messages, phone calls, traces of any kind. There can be no evidence a relationship between you existed. Finally you have to be willing to delete yourself. You have to go into your heart and brain and whatever other place in your body you store him and carve out the memories.
You have to know your place and keep to it. Your place is not in the marital bed or the passenger seat of the family car. Your place is outside the family domain. You will not sit in her chair.
You have to know your purpose. You are something extra, supplementary, on the side. You are not supposed to throw the marriage into question or make demands he will not want to meet. Don’t ask him to do more than he’s willing and don’t ask him to delve into the wherefores of why he’s with you and not her. You will never replace her, the mother of their child. And the moment he thinks you might jeopardize what he has, he will cut you out.
Remember to never fall into routine or become predictable. Routine, predictability, monotony—that’s what you aren’t—that’s what marriage is. Dinner at 6; bed at 11. You have to keep him off-balance, on edge. Remember the long married are like old socks—worn in, comfortable, but thin. They no longer keep him warm at night. You exist to turn up his thermostat. But be careful to not overheat him. For all he may complain about the predictability of his marriage, the thinness of its routines, he’ll choose that in a heartbeat over you.
Never talk about your troubles. That’s what wives do. They talk about the awfulness of their day, the petty irritations at work, who cut in front of them in traffic. Your life is trouble-free. No money worries unhinge you, no black mold lurks in your crawl spaces, you haven’t even had a cold in years. And if your life isn’t trouble-free, be sure to present yourself as capable of handling anything life throws at you. You are resilient, independent, tough, and most importantly uncomplaining—you do not need his assistance. You don’t even need him to listen to you. That’s your appeal. Never speak of headaches, your weight, unhappiness with your hair, or a decrease in libidinal drive—that’s what wives complain about. Keep your petty cares to yourself—you know, the rude pharmacist, the erratic copier, the holes in the window screens. Affairs are about grand passion, not the minutia of an ordinary life.
It’s best not to know too much about him—don’t ask him where he gets his hair cut and how often or what he eats for lunch. He’ll tell you more than you care to know and suddenly you’ll be burdened by knowing things like he uses light mayonnaise because he watches his calories and he has his eyebrows tweezed. Keep reading . . .