A voice from within told me to shut up, stop rambling, be quiet. But for every attention-deficit impulse I can get under control, there is another that overwhelms me.
by Jane D.
Somewhere between rushing to the Chef's home at 11 p.m., followed by a night of non-sleep (maybe it is the ADHD medication Adderall), the other woman surfaced. The chef and I chatted briefly and did nothing except turn our backs to each other and sleep. It was the right thing to do.
I was exhausted though and decided to refuel on a nap around 8:30 a.m. after he had left for work two hours earlier. He left me the freedom to explore the fridge, surf on the laptop, uncover the birds to give them sunlight and turn on the radio for them. There had never been evidence of another woman—no condoms, no undies, no photos, no love letters—until this morning.
The door lock jiggled, and I opened the door. She was Filipina but could pass for Spanish, petite with big, pretty eyes and a pretty face. She was in her late 30s or early 40s and, at first, I thought she was a maid coming to clean. The first question out of her was, "Are you his friend or girlfriend?" AKA who are you, what are you doing here? I wondered the same.
When in shock, I become oddly calm and clear-headed. I had been sitting on the sofa in my pink Victoria's Secret boy shorts, and a tank top. I was using his laptop so what else did this look like? "No," I said. "I'm a friend."
She said she was a friend, too, and they had been friends for a long time. She said that he'd never mentioned me. “Where did you meet?” she asked.
“At the swimming pool, a few blocks from here,” I started. “I teach there and, well, this morning I asked if I could use his place since well...um...I do not live in the city...I well...um...commuted from the ‘burbs...because you see, you know....” And then I repeated myself, "I'm not a girlfriend."
A voice from within told me to stop rambling, be quiet. So I slipped back into silence and smiled at her. She said she came to visit the two parakeets. I wished I were a bird and spared of what was happening here. Sometimes you spend time with a person, and you may never know who they are.
I could hear her talking with them, cooing at them as if they were babies, and then she returned. Each time I could see her about to leave, and then she'd turn to me to ask another question. I wanted to engage this stranger in conversation too. I wanted to ask, how did you meet him, how often do you see him, are you a former girlfriend? I learned that she was a part-time nanny and lived in another borough. I could not get the fact that she had his key out of my mind.
I looked at her closely and knew the answer. They had slept together and been intimate. She was very much his type: petite, pretty face and of a different ethnicity. She knew things about him that only a good friend would know.
Damn you, I thought. Damn the Chef, damn men, damn myself for wanting to believe that someone so charming could also be genuine. It is the hopeless ADHD romantic in me, the idealist. The reality is that the past several times, he did not invite me to dinner. Rather I simply came over at night. It seemed so covert and if one asked what benefits I received, I’d answer, Nothing. I got a challenge, some spice in my life, these were the men who I fell for and chased. Code red, alert, stop, the voice said.
After she left, I did something strange, I packed my belongings but left a jacket there, folded up. He texted at the end of work that day. "You left something here," he texted. "No, I did not," I texted back. And then I called and said, "Oh yes, I did. Well just leave it there and I'll swing by sometime..." What are you doing, Jane? I asked. Why do you even want to go back? Tell him to keep the jacket, and leave him alone.
"Did someone call you today?" I asked. No, he said. "Really?" I asked. I wasn't really angry, just genuinely curious. “Because someone came by today, they had your key, I might have surprised them..." I started. There was a silence.
"OK, never mind," I said, matter of fact. He did not seem to know or maybe he did. "Interesting..." he said, before we hung up. I'm playing with fire.
In the meantime there is a man—chubby, bespectacled, a bit nerdy, but much more attentive, who gave me the keys soon after meeting me. Why don't I simply focus on that one man who is available? I hate myself for not being able to do so, with ease and grace.
The father says it is human nature to want what we don't have, but how foolish is it to chase after what is not only unattainable, but also bad for us. I did not even get a dinner or movie for what is clearly a vortex that I am being sucked into.
In a strange way though I felt sorry for this woman, this stranger, who was not wearing a wedding ring and was clearly older than me. I was sorry for startling her and I hated myself for lying to her for him. Sometimes it is better not to be honest, but what was unsaid was already as clear as a flash at high noon. Isn't it obvious?