The invisible affair

In the wee, wee hours of the morning…sing it, Frank. Whenever I’m up early, today at 5:00am, and no one else in the world seems to be awake, there’s a certain peace to that. And an opportunity to think, uninterrupted by anyone and anything. While sometimes I’ll put on YouTube and listen to morning Jazz while I read The New York Times, today I kept it quiet. Well, quiet except for that buzz in the air that can be heard when all else is unstirring. A buzz that’s a mixture of the music of the spheres and all of the electrical appliances in our lives. Well, that’s my guess.

Then I see two people on the beach and wonder what their lives are like. It’s too far away to actually see what they look like, whether they are old or young, how they are dressed, whether they look happy or neutral or sad; worried, at peace, or in love. But then I see that they reach for one another, that they are holding hands. So as a writer I make up a story about them.

One is married, one is not, Both are unhappy. They meet in the shadows of their lives so they can keep their secret of finding a sliver of romantic joy in one another. They hold hands, gently kiss, walk on the shore in the dusky light of the morning. Neither talk of their lives, kids, spouse or ex-spouse. One always brings the coffee from the only kiosk that opens at 5:00am; the other scones from the grocery store and kept in her trunk. The future is never discussed. When she says something about it, he says, “What if this was your last day and you spent it worrying about a future you’ll never have?”

That makes her quiet, then nostalgic for that future she’ll never have. But he wraps his hand around her waist and the warmth of it, the touch of his fingers against her skin brings her back to the present and she knows that he is right. This is all they have and will have and it has to be enough. Otherwise all will be ruined. Her children will turn against her, the home wrecker who they thought was just the Mom who drove them to soccer practice and ballet and swim meets and play dates and piano lessons. How dare a Mom like that do something like this. They don’t see that the world has taken her for granted, built a stone wall around her life that she can’t escape. It has defined a role for her that she thought she wanted, but now its monotony, lack of acknowledgement, invisibility, all led her to meet this man in the morning on the beach.

Recognition. That was what he gave her that no one else did. Her spouse who said he did not want a traditional wife when they married but then reveled in the traditional corral that they all worked together to build around her, the husband, the kids, the in-laws, the other moms and dads, the school, the sitcoms, herself.

But then she couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t tell anyone. Every day she wanted to scream. Her smiles were forced when they came at all. More and more she let the kids go off on their own, relished when the husband said he was going fishing or golfing or drinking beers with the guys. And no one noticed anything. She was that invisible to them all. Her feelings meaning nothing to them. She was mom. Mom like a frozen pizza that always sat in the same place in its spot next to the ice cream, there when you needed it, unchanging, reliable in how it tasted.

So to hell with all of them, she thought, when she met him on the beach in the morning and they had their special time. Let her be invisible to all of them because she was a whole person, a real person with emotions and dreams and choices, something they couldn’t see, or wouldn’t see, because it wasn’t convenient. Their world was comfortable. They just didn’t know, she guessed, that it had sucked the life out of hers.

The tide rolled up farther on the beach and they moved up so that their shoes wouldn’t get wet. A shell in the shape of a hat was left behind and she picked it up and brushed the sand off of it. It was pure white, alabaster. She slipped it into her pocket.

Later that day as the children’s voices could be heard from the family room, quarreling about the tv channel, and her husband pulled into the driveway, the garage door rattling the kitchen wall, she went to the coat rack and reached into her pocket. The hat shell felt real even though it was just a memory, just a marker of those morning hours.

She smiled. It was hers. Her time. A moment washed ashore. A wave that would never arrive again the same way.

From Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon Coast.

For more of Lady Proverbs, see

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