The feebleness of the ‘but’ died in his throat.
He had never met that person, just seen him accidently in passing during a late summer storm on some street. He hadn’t missed a beat when that happened. Just kept walking, having recognised the man, knowing that he himself was invisible to the face he recognised from her shared photos.
He tried to move the conversation on with a shrug. The best he could come up with was “So?”
“So, she’s married.”
He had let that go. Her affection to him was genuine. Her pain on parting affecting. It was a joint adventure, both complicit, both old enough to vote. He wasn’t going to be pinned for her infidelities. She would have to deal with that when she was ready.
Planes, trains and her family people carrier. Hotels, restaurants, swimming, hot spring baths, walks and talking. They travelled, slept and dreamt together. He was looking ahead, not at the present; avoiding the past.
Free of his obligations, he’d paid no serious regard for the juggling she did to make all this possible for them. It didn’t occur to him, not until she decided their affair was done, that she had been twisting herself silly to keep up appearances. Although he had begun to question whether her duplicity was particularly well disguised.
“You always knew I was married. What did you think would happen?”
She had said something about collateral damage being likely when she found the courage to admit she wasn’t playing the wife at home anymore, or indeed anywhere.
He’d always thought that collateral damage was a particularly callous term, but she seemed to like it. It was like when she started talking about Marie Kondo’ing her friendship groups, or even her close family. In retrospect it seemed strikingly obvious that she had ’empathy issues’ his mate observed.
He recalled she had been talking emphatically about people being either winners or losers in life the day they met in the café. He had found that a little distasteful then, but ignored it for various selfish reasons. He didn’t think of people like that, although sometimes he didn’t think of people at all; like her husband, for instance.