An affair. Yea. What would that have been like? Paul guessed it would have depended on what kind of affair. Which really meant what kind of woman. A single woman who thought she could steal him from his family? A married woman who viewed him as the dessert her husband and children didn’t give her? A woman who wanted someone who wasn’t available, a man that would have limited ability to demand things of her? People used each other. Paul knew that. It was just how they used each other. And over time that changed. The affair could start with only a demand for sex. Unbridled, uninhibited, experimental, only pleasure seeking and pleasure giving. It would not stay that way. Nothing stays the same. But that wouldn’t happen now. It couldn’t be an affair unless his wife was everything she could be. And according to the doctors within a year she would be gone. And he would not be married. Can a widower cheat? The guilt might soak him but that would be shame without fear.

“Paul.” She was awake.

“Right here.” He clasped her hand with both of his.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Something? Sure.”

“Did you ever have an affair?”

“That’s a question out of left field.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“No.”

“Were you ever tempted?”

“To have an affair?”

“Yes.”

“When I was twelve there was this girl across the street.”

“Don’t joke.”

“Why is this suddenly of importance?”

“Haven’t you ever wondered if I would do such a thing?”

“Would do is different from did do.”

“Is it?”

“Well, sure. Fantasizing stays in your head and your genitals in your pants.”

“Some fantasies come true.”

“Can we change subjects?”

“Why does this bother you? Did you lie about having an affair?”

“No.”

“I used to picture other men having me. Actually, me having them.”

“An interesting distinction.”

“Now I feel that was a betrayal.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“How could I have ever wanted another man?”

“It’s normal. We’re sexual beings.”

“So you fantasized about other women?”

“Sure.”

“Why are we never satisfied with what we have?”

“I am.”

“You’ll find another woman when I’m gone.”

“I haven’t thought about it.”

“It’s natural.”

“I don’t do what comes naturally.”

“You never learned how to tell a lie.”

“Ok. Have it your way. But I’m not going to settle for one woman. I’m going to line them up and mow them down.”

“No you won’t. You’ll struggle with it. Find it hard to do.”

“You know me better than I know me.”

“You have my permission.”

“Permission for what?”

“Permission to not be alone.”

“Thanks. But no thanks.”

“You should find another woman.”

“What?”

“No one should go through life without a partner.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ll be gone. I don’t want you to be alone.”

“We’re not going to have this conversation.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t”

“You can’t have another woman? That’s ridiculous.”

“Well of course I can do that.”

“Then you should. People need each other.”

“That’s a generalization.”

“But it’s true.”

“True when we were younger.”

“No. It’s still true. That’s one thing that doesn’t change.”

“Some people change. Things do change.”

“But not a person’s need to touch another person.”

“Fine. I’ll find women to bed.”

“Just not that. The daily routine. Someone to talk to at dinner, someone to kiss good-bye in the morning, someone to take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“And be miserable. I don’t want you to be miserable.”

“Some other woman might cause misery.”

“Only if you let her.”

“I don’t want to play the lottery of women.”

“There’s someone out there that could make you happy. That you would make happy.”
“Happy happy happy.”

“Don’t mock me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Promise me.”

“Promise what?”

“That your life won’t end. That you’ll let someone else in.”

“So I should just forget you?”

“No. You won’t forget. But you will move on.”

“You’re not a car.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not trading you in for a new model.”

“Why not.”

“Because it won’t be new. It will be used. At this age everyone has dents and dings if not a missing bumper.”

“We’re not cars.”

“No. We’re worse. All the crashes don’t show. Life’s wounds get hidden under the surface.”

“Share the wounds. That’s how we heal.”

“Have I ever won an argument with you?”

“Don’t ever feel guilty. I want you to smile when you think of me.”

“I’ll find ways to be happy.”

“Make me happy now. Promise me your life will not end.”

“I promise to not drown in self-pity.”

“Smile for me.”

Paul smiles. She smiles. He clumsily hugs her, ardent as a drop water unable to let go.

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