A few nights ago while I slept beside my partner, I almost went to bed with a woman who was not my partner. I don’t know who she was; she was no one. Too young for me, milk skin, long dark hair, wearing a short black dress. I had conjured her.
We sat at a two-top, this woman and I, in a fancy cocktail lounge — the sort of place I generally don’t go in real life, even when I can afford it. I had the vague sense that I was not in the city where I live and was traveling for some reason, maybe a conference. As in: I was relatively anonymous and free to misbehave.
The woman seemed to know this, too. As I looked at her pretty face, she asked me questions. I said things about myself in what I assume was incomprehensible dreamspeak and she was clearly impressed by all of it. She smiled a lot.
As I looked at her pretty face, she asked me questions.
Even as we talked, I knew our conversation could lead to sex, was in fact designed to lead to sex. I didn’t allow it to lead to sex. I thought of Maggie and decided no. Part of me wanted to, of course, but another more convincing part of me didn’t want to — or didn’t want to deal with the consequences. You know you’re very boring, or committed, or both, when you can’t even cheat on your partner in your dreams.
Maggie spends most days asking people not to touch irreplaceable art; oils in skin can degrade paint and even stone. Once a woman kissed a Rembrandt. I teach and write and often feel I’m failing on both counts. Between us we have two master’s degrees in the arts, a car (leased), semi-affordable rent, a roommate, no pets. Our lives are stable, in a month-to-month, lower-middle-class way. We’re a white, straight couple in a liberal city. There’s only so much that can go wrong.
Back when I worked at a bakery, one of my very young coworkers — she was eighteen, doing a gap year before college — said she’d heard that when you turn thirty, your body stops regenerating and starts to decompose. By then I was already thirty, and she knew this, so I’m not sure how I was expected to respond.
I laughed. I said, “That makes sense.” We were rolling cold pucks of pie dough…