As you move on top of me, I realise the difference between a man existing in one world and a woman waiting in another. We think—we really do—that this act somehow brings us closer together, this repeated mistake. We can try to ignore it forever, but somewhere, somehow, it falls apart. And it's falling apart for me right now.
Come on, you say, heaving away like a factory part. My spine still roars up molten hot when the moment arrives, but that's the way I'm designed. I smooth your back with the palm of my hand and the skin rucks up like the edge of a rug. We're both not so young.
Later, when all I can see is your shoulder, I shrivel up inside. The familiar Friday crack in the ceiling. Dragon Street stretching far away out your window. Guilt and pleasure spilt down my inner thigh. One shower. Two. I leave at three kissing your forehead, tasting your swirled steely hair, whispering I love you—this assertion that means so many things. I leave silently now, spurred on by the sweet relief of another detoured farewell.
When I pull up in the driveway it's invariably the same: the tight grip of fear around my throat. I sit in the car, on on the porch steps, and wait for my inevitable fate. But every night I stay, and every morning I wake, unbearably undiscovered. But it's never this bad. The front door shudders across carpet as I open it, and the horrible feeling of an empty house fills my lungs like a thick shimmering gas. For the first time, I sense the trust that exists within these closed doors and dark spaces. A family's secret pact with the night-time clicks and creaks, the wilful denial of their vulnerable sleeping selves. As in death, I think, those asleep cheat time and space, leaving the worries to those still awake.
Helen doesn't hear my shuffling steps or my bathroom coughs; she doesn't move when I lie down beside her. I notice the way our bodies have moved apart over the years; as we've slept, time has shifted us away, like those plates under the earth, until we exist on different sides of the world.
Tonight I wish life was circular, so that as Helen and I drift apart, we might meet again. I suddenly want to wake her and say things like I loved you once and how did I let this happen. But I don't. And so we sleep the rest of the hours together, until the alarm goes off and Helen starts the stirrings of a morning household. I stir to the clink of plates being put away, a kettle boiling, the creak of a water pipe. Children's voices too. Little flashes of white-blond in blue jerseys. I wonder what they'd think of me if they knew? But then I realise—in one terrible thought—that my own children could not possibly comprehend what I was doing to them. I could be no traitor in their pure simple thoughts.
I close my eyes again and you're there, with your black dress hitched up to your thighs, feeling me fucking you, hard and fast and blurred. I can't even picture you face. I scrape myself out of bed and retch into the bathroom sink. My eyelids are broken blinds, sagging sadly. I hate the fact that no one knows what I do. Helen would have told the kids to keep quiet over breakfast. Daddy's sleeping, Daddy's been working very hard.
And it's always the same, when they come back from Saturday soccer with ice-cream faces and there's Helen, smiling like it's all okay, like it's the first time we've ever met. I ache to tell her. I ache for the pure pain of confession. But I don't deserve even that.