the affair

In fact if we are all being really honest about this let’s just admit that we all pretty much feel like our lovers will be attracted to someone else, it’s only a matter of time before you get the horns hung on you or get the rubber key….”


by brian doyle


Do I have to speak? In front of all these people? Okay. Is the microphone on? Okay?

My name is Victor. Last name not necessary. Let me start by saying I love my wife, okay? I really do. She is something else entirely and there’s never a dull moment.

Which is what led to the problem at hand, okay? Which is that she’s more than a little jealous. I mean, we’re all jealous in one degree or another, it’s a totally human thing. No one is so absolutely sure of themselves that they don’t secretly think that their lover could be and probably is attracted to someone else or several someone elses. In fact if we are all being really honest about this let’s just admit that we all pretty much feel like our lovers will be attracted to someone else, it’s only a matter of time before you get the horns hung on you or get the rubber key, okay? Which is why really jealous people are sort of always trying to control time and manipulate coincidence, you know?

Anyway this is just to say that I know where she is coming from, my wife, and in the normal course of things we just deal with it, you know? I even pretend to be a little more jealous than I am just to try to keep things even. I find that you have to work yourself up to it, you have to really focus and think of your wife not only splitting a bottle of wine with a guy but then, you know, looking at him waiting for him to kiss her, that sort of thing, but you have to be careful right about there or else you start getting wiggly, which is very stressful. I find that it takes a long time to come down from that level of wiggly. Generally I go work out to burn it off. So who knew jealousy is good for staying in shape? I should start a business there somehow, workout centers for the wiggly.

Anyway the thing I wanted to tell you was about this one night when my wife really got into it. It started small as it always does, about me having lunch with someone she didn’t know, and even though it was a total business thing and in fact I didn’t like the woman I had lunch with, and tried to bogue the lunch beforehand, pleading a sudden rash of meetings, and sighed with relief when it was over – she was really pushy and selling stuff that just wasn’t a good fit for the company – my wife had her teeth in it good that night and she gave it a good shaking and then it led to her remembering other stuff, like the time I didn’t call years ago because I was having dinner with a colleague and just genuinely forgot to call, and remembering that set her going at full speed, and once she’s running on those rpms there’s nothing doing but just go ahead and have a serious screaming fight which we did.

She was so angry, and screaming and all, and poking at me with her voice, you know how people do that, they just goad and goad and poke and poke until you feel like your head is going to explode, and you can’t really leave the room because the fight has to be finished, those are like the rules, and she kept yelling about me wanting to have an affair! and probably already having an affair! and stuff like that! and I tried my usual joke, which is to say that I don’t actually technically see how people do have affairs! I mean where do you find the time! let alone the money and the energy, you know? And they’re so cheesy, affairs, they’re like bad television movies, you know?

But she doesn’t think that’s funny anyway on a good day, and this wasn’t by any stretch a good day, and she kept poking and poking about how I probably was already having an affair! and didn’t even have the balls to tell her! and so finally God knows why I said Okay, you’re right! congratulations! you’re a genius! I am having an affair! so are you going to stop screaming now?

Well, this was just a bald lie, I am not having an affair, and I have never had one, and don’t want to have one, and I really think they’re cheesy, I mean if you are unhappy with your partner, then face up to it and deal with your partner, you know? But there I was, having admitted to an affair I was not having, which was pretty weird.

You can imagine the rest of that night, and the days and weeks after that, but the weirdest thing now, a month later, is that things are better than ever before between me and my wife. I don’t all the way understand it. Something about her being right about what was wrong made her happy, and she seems a lot more peaceful. Yes, she did a lot of screaming in the beginning, but then we went to a counselor and all and worked through our issues and I told her that I had cut off the affair, and she cried when I told her that, and she hugged me tightly, and I hugged her back, because I do actually love her like crazy, but it felt kind of weird to be appreciated for being honest about something I was being dishonest about, you know?

One of the weirdest things in that time was the counselor making me lay out all the details of the affair so my wife and I could get it all out in the open, so while I started out just airily making up details it got harder and harder and finally I had to keep a notebook about the affair I didn’t have, just to keep all the facts straight. Which is pretty weird. And the second problem of the moment is that tonight I can’t find the notebook, which I had stashed in a secret drawer in my workroom downstairs, behind the hammers and wrenches and pliers, but it isn’t there, and my wife’s not here either, and she was supposed to be home from work four hours ago, so I am starting to wonder if she found the notebook, and if it made her decide that it’s her turn to have an affair, you know, just to even things up? Which would be pretty weird, okay? Any questions?

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Three
June 2006


(illustration: kurt eisenlohr)

Brian Doyle is the author of six books, most recently The Grail, about a year in the life of a vineyard. Among his awards and such are (a) a woman married him, (b) the Coherent Mercy granted them three children, and (c) he was named to the 1983 all-star team in the Newton Massachusetts Men’s League, which was a really tough league, you drove to the hole in that league you lost fingers, one time a guy drove the lane and got hit so hard his arm came off, but he was lefty anyway and hit both free throws. Supposedly he then left his arm in a toll booth basket on the Mass Pike but that might be apocryphal. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke. (bio/2006)

Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall.  He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved.  Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017. 

More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.



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