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Being the other woman

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away there lived a princess. The princess was very beautiful, and had many suitors.

Oh how I wish I could continue down that line of thought!

In fact, I am not a princess (although sometimes I refer to myself that way; oh wait, no that's 'queen'). And it wasn't so very long ago, and the land isn't that far away.

No, once upon a time I was involved with a married man. We had kind of a non-traditional affair -- if there is such a thing -- in that we were involved in every way except the one way you'd think we would have been involved. We made the conscious decision not to explore the physical side of our relationship. How we didn't, how we managed to control the powerfully intense chemistry between us, I'll never know. It just proves that human willpower can be a formidable force sometimes I guess. His commitment to his Christian faith overrode his attraction to me. He swore he would never cheat on his wife -- at least, not that way. He did not want to have to live with that reality, that he was a husband who cheated on his wife. Moreover, I felt just as strongly about not sleeping with a married man, although as much as I hate to admit it, I think if he would have been the type to convince me otherwise, I probably would have lowered that standard, because I was just that crazy about him, and my self-esteem was not as strong as I sometimes believed it to be. I was just 27 when we met. I was a month away from turning 31 when I told him I was done with him, since he was making no effort to leave his wife.

He and I never even so much as kissed. Our lips never touched. At least I can say that about my affair with that man.

The feelings I had for that man were the strongest I'd ever felt for any guy I'd ever had a romantic attraction to. I was in love with him. I daresay, I think he felt the same way about me. He would come over to my apartment when he got off work and most times, we'd just sit on my couch and talk. Sometimes we would hold each other. Sometimes I could feel his erection. We would torture ourselves and each other, bringing our faces so close we were breathing each other's breath, on the brink of kissing each other -- but never touching. Sometimes when he came over I'd have a meal cooked for him. He seemed to like my cooking. With him, I discovered what true intimacy is, and that's why it hurt so very, very much when I realized he was not going to leave his wife to be with me after all. When you acheive that mythical, elusive intimacy that great novels, epic poems, and Hollywood blockbuster movies are made out of, you don't ever want to let it go. The last thing you want to do is let go of that intimacy. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

I met him at work. Due to the fact that his wife never found out about him and I (as far as I know, although I have no reason to believe that she doesn't know, either), I'm not going to reveal too many details here. We don't work together now. I got another job and moved out of town, and we'll leave it at that.

But when we met, I wasn't initially attracted to him. For one thing, I saw the shiny, gold wedding band he wore and that settled that for me anyway. I don't generally pursue married men, although Lord knows I have found myself hotly attracted to a few. With Dan (not his real name, duh) though, my whole outlook changed forever. Not that I go after married men now, because I certainly don't. It's just that now I understand how affairs get started, whereas before Dan I did not.

Dan had only been married for about two months when we met for the first time. Like I said, he didn't make much of an impression on me, and I don't think I made much of an impression on him either. Once, his work caused me to go up to him and gush about what an inspiration he was to me -- and that was the truth -- and I think that's when I really began to take notice of him. I wasn't attracted to him -- not yet. But I definitely noticed him at that point, and if I wondered if he noticed me or not, I got my answer a couple of weeks later.

Eventually, it got to be that we were finding excuses to talk to each other more at work. One time, I boldly suggested we have dinner together. Ah, those were the days, when I still felt somewhat invincible! When I still got a thrill from making a daring, yet totally harmless advance toward a married man. What the hell? At that point, I could not possibly have known what was going through his mind, and I certainly wasn't 'serious' about him. I just got a thrill from being bold, from going where angels feared to tread, so to speak. I had no intention of doing anything other than have his company for dinner in a public place, and then have a cool story to tell my friends at the bar after I got off work.

After that, I think he began to trust me. He didn't start confiding in me right away. There was a show on TV that he used as a springboard for conversation with me about relationships. He had such a gentle, compassionate way about himself, and he had a way of making himself seem vulnerable. I'd never encountered anyone like him before; I'd never encountered a man who seemed so capable of such deep feelings as he seemed to be. And indeed he was; he was not trying to seduce me or manipulate me. As it turns out, he was going through a lot of troubles in his brand-new marriage, and it was tearing him up. I think he turned to me because I'm a good listener, and very non-judgmental. Also just the opposite of what he got at home, according to him. I really don't think he was attracted to me in the beginning, but as time went by and he confessed more and more details to me of his marriage breaking down, we just sort of got to know each other, and the more we got to know each other ... the more attracted we became.

And the more attracted we became, the more we began to find time to spend with each other outside of work.

At some point, as is usually the case with affairs such as these, no matter how torrid or lukewarm they are, things in his marriage improved and the time he was making for me began to wane. This was after about two or three months of getting to know each other. I was heartbroken; in fact, I was downright devastated, truth be known. I really believed his marriage was going to end. I was so naive!!! That was only the beginning of a cycle that lasted for over three years.

I basically became the reason he survived his first few years of marriage. Those are years I'm never getting back. Do I feel robbed? Well, sort of. Not really, because I think it was a 'first' of sorts for him too, being involved the way we were. He certainly isn't the type to cheat, and I think he, like me, just found himself in the middle of a situation before either of us truly realized what was going on. And after I told him I wanted nothing more to do with him, he pretty much left me alone. If he ever drove by my apartment, if he ever picked up the phone and started to dial my number, I'll never know. If he ever missed me so bad that he thought he'd die if he didn't see me, he never, ever, let me know that. Once I ended communication with him, that was that. And for that, I give him a lot of credit.

I also give myself a lot of credit for that, in case you were wondering.

Why am I disclosing this story like this? Why now? Well, I've been reading a book. A fairly new book, too. It's called, "Green River, Running Red" by Ann Rule. Ann Rule is a true-crime writer, and this book I'm reading is about the Green River Killer (which I wrote about in a previous entry, however briefly). Finding this book the way I did was quite a big deal for me, because I stumbled upon it as I pored through titles of some books in a cart labeled, "New returns". There were a hodgepodge of titles in there, from fiction to how-to books, and anyway, I wasn't looking for this particular book. I didn't even know it was out there. I'm not someone who reads true-crime anything! Until I picked up this book, that is.

I mean, I guess it all started when I got hooked on Law & Order, Special Victims Unit. Then I got hooked on Dateline. Now I'm reading books on true crime (not that Law & Order is "true" crime, although Lord knows they certainly do borrow from the headlines).

There is no connection between my story and Ann Rule's book about the Green River Killer. It's just that, after reading all the profiles of the women murdered by the Green River Killer, I was struck by the honesty of the accounts of their short lives. I'm not even halfway through the book, but I am more than halfway through the profiles of the 40-plus women the GRK murdered. Sometimes it's a little difficult to read, but for where I'm at in the book, the vast majority of the girls were simply missing and their bodies hadn't been found yet.

Unless you work in law enforcement I suppose, or a funeral home, you don't read or hear about back-to-back-to-back-to-back accounts of people and how they lived their lives before they died. Almost every single one of the girls who died back in '82 and '83 were prostitutes, and not all of them knew each other. But even though they shared their profession in common, often, those girls came from very different backgrounds.

I can't help reading about these young girls, what kind of homes they came from, how some of them fell from grace, others were abused and prostituting was a way of escaping the abuse they endured at home, and not think about my own fall from grace.

Or was it?

The more I read the more I see the vast majority of those girls weren't so different from me. Except I never prostituted! However, being involved with Dan polarized me from my family in a way, and almost completely polarized me from my friends, none of whom thought too much of Dan. I just couldn't figure it out -- I felt certain that the reason they had such low opinions of him was because they never got the chance to see how he and I were around each other. Mostly they only heard me worshipping the ground he walked on, or cursing his name and the day he was born. After a while, they didn't hear me worshipping him so much.

(I still don't think he's a terrible person. But I guess that's my little secret.)

Anyway, I guess after reading about so much raw honesty in so many people's lives, I am feeling the need to turn some of that honesty on myself. I am putting this here in the hopes that some woman, or women, will turn up this journal in a search, and either read this and see themselves in here, and find some solace that there's someone out there who knows how they feel, or that they'll read this and know why their husbands come home late from work so much. Because the fact is, any man coming home late from work on a regular basis who isn't a cop or a news reporter, is most likely cheating on his wife. And goodness knows, cops and news reporters aren't exactly exempt from making that mistake either.

It's not just my personal life. I am also trying to come to terms with my situation at work now. I just don't fit in. I never have, and I never will. I've stopped blaming people, because it's no one's fault; it just is. I took a chance and my luck didn't work out so great. I think nothing would make my boss happier than for me to announce that I've found another place to work. I think more people than just my boss would be happy to hear that news around here.

There's also another reason I'm feeling the need to be so brazenly honest about my life. I live alone, and have lived alone for a long time. I prefer it; I don't think it's healthy, but I do prefer it. I've gotten over feeling lonely, and now I look forward to going home to nobody but my two cats. Everything is always *exactly* where I left it, and I prize that more than anything. My upbringing, while not horrible, wasn't exactly remarkable either. But it taught me to treasure privacy, especially in the bathroom, and to treasure my things not being touched or moved.

However, reading this book is giving me a new perspective, and a new appreciation for having someone special in my life, someone who would miss me if I were gone. Except for the prostituting part, my life now isn't very different from the girls of the SeaTac Strip in Seattle and the Camp in Portland in the early 80's (something I wasn't expecting to find out by reading this book). I'm stubbornly independent, and somewhat estranged from my family. And if, God forbid, I met some terrible fate, I think it's realistic to assume that I wouldn't be missed for a very long time. It's not that I hang out with drug addicts and criminals and "low-lifes" -- it's just that I have very few close associations with people. And it's got to change. Life is so precarious, you just never know. I mean, I'm not going to make a drastic change to how I live my life. I think I'm just getting a better appreciation of how the way I live my life affects other people, especially the people around me.

On the other hand, I also don't see myself as being 'special', either. In fact, more and more, the older I get, the more I appreciate being well, unremarkable, and kind of plain and ordinary. I'm glad I don't stick out; I'm glad I'm not an Olympic athlete, or a prodigy musician, or an exceptionally talented chef, or stunningly beautful. I'm growing more and more content that I'm well, just average. It's not that I aspire to be average; it's just that I'm acquiring the maturity that brings acceptance with it. I see the value now in being "settled down". Don't get me wrong, I will always treasure my independence, and I will always have a bit of the rebel streak in me. That voice that raises up and shouts within me whenever I experience social injustice, mine or others. It's just that now I'm appreciating finding more responsible ways of expressing that voice.

And that's my story.

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