A month, perhaps two months went by. I started asking to come back home. Paul's family wanted a divorce, the quicker the better. His therapist said that he deserved better.
"People have affairs, Paul. It doesn't mean the marriage ends. It means we have problems. I'm sorry. I did a horrible thing. But I love you. I love our sons. I want to come home."
"It's too much. I can't do it any more."
"The first time we are really on the rocks you just divorce me?"
"It's not the first time, Brett. I put up with your drinking for six years. You tried to kill yourself with my son five feet away from you." He had never called him, "my son." He made a point of saying, "our sons," and even, "your sons." The suicide attempt was from my novel.
It had happened, but not the way I told it in the book. He was quoting my own fiction back at me.
"You know as well as I do that suicide attempt was ridiculous. I was hanging myself with a sheet, Paul. Our son was asleep. I was trying to get your attention. I was trying to tell you that I'd been secret drinking for three years without having to face the consequences."
"That's my point. Three years of lying. Not to mention all the other lies. It's not worth it. I can never trust you again. You're a sociopath." When in years past friends of ours had joked with him about my lies and exaggerations, Paul had always said, "Brett is the most honest person I've ever met." He wasn't joking. He thought I didn't tell the fake social lies that everybody else did. He knew I never pretended to be some- one other than who I was. He also genuinely believed that he was the one person I would never lie to.
Paul and I met in a film class on Almodovar at the University of Texas at Austin shortly after I left my first husband. During seminar breaks I pretended to smoke so that there was a reason to hang out with him. After seminar one afternoon we went with a friend of his to have beers and play pool at The Showdown on Guadalupe. It's a bar that people who know Austin know about. He was skinny, his blonde hair brushed his shoulders then. He had small wrists and narrow shoulders, and I liked the way he dressed. He wore these worn out tweed coats—all wrong for the weather, but right on him, and he had a clumsy way of bending over the pool table that I liked. He liked to drink. Everyone who met him immediately told him, if the opportunity presented itself, that he had astonishing eyes. They are enormous, and a color of blue I have not seen anywhere else. Unlike most everyone's eyes, they are almost always the same color.
He was in the film studies grad student study lounge on the third floor of Ryan Hall in a collared windowpane shirt, green crewneck sweater and grey wool slacks. He sat on the sofa with his legs crossed, like a girl, I thought. Later he told me that actually it is a woman who should cross her legs at the ankle, and a man at the knee. He was talking to one of the famous visiting professors. I came into the office and sat down on the other side of the sofa.
"I'm hungry," I said. "Are you hungry? Do you want to get some lunch?"
We sat outside at The Shady Grove. We both had Bloody Marys. I think we had four each. I had a plate of vegetables with a smoked green chili sauce—I was a vegetarian at this time, and had dropped to one hundred and five pounds—and he had a fried chicken sandwich with gravy, which is the best thing there. I had to drive drunk to my seminar.
In the next few days I disentangled myself from relationships with three other men I was dating at this time. After one date with Paul I knew I didn't want to see other men. Then he asked me out.
When he picked me up for dinner I was in a short, green dress. I was wearing too much eye make-up. I noticed he had bought new pants and a new jacket for the date. He didn't know that was one of my favorite things about him—nothing he wore was new.
At the restaurant, walking in, I called him "Sam." Sam was a man I had been dating. Paul missed a step and then continued walking as though he hadn't noticed. Inside I apologized, and explained that I wasn't seeing Sam anymore.
After we opened our menus and he chose a bottle of wine I said, "Let's eat a lot of food."
For years afterward he repeated that remark back to me, as the first time he knew that he might fall in love with me.
After dinner, Paul came back to my apartment and we sat on the sofa together. It was an enormous sofa. It came with the apartment and looked like it had been made in the late seventies with burlap bags. I'd bought two blankets at Urban Outfitters to try to make it presentable but it didn't quite work.
I was apologizing for the sofa. I was apologizing for the whole apartment. "Would it be alright if kissed you?" he asked. We kissed on the sofa and he kissed like a hungry tiger might make out with you.
"Hey, slow down," I said after a minute. "There's no rush."
"Are you making fun of the way I kiss?"
"No. You're a great kisser. I just—there's no hurry. We can kiss all night."
He changed his kiss then and we kissed more gen- tly, calmly, and deeply. I was reassured because I saw we would be able to kiss together after all.
If you can't kiss each other, there's no point in continuing.
Eventually we moved to the bed, and he had my hand between my legs, and then his face between my legs, but I wouldn't let him take down my leggings. I was squirming.
"This is ridiculous," he said at last. "You're obviously as frustrated as I am. Let's have sex."
"No," I said, and pushed him away. "We can kiss if you want. But we're not having sex. I don't know you well enough yet."
"You know me. Don't lie. Look at me." He kissed me again, and we kept our eyes open. I squeezed his hips between my legs. "Tell me you don't want me to fuck you."
"No!" I said. I laughed and wriggled away. We wrestled.
"Okay, okay," he said. "Let's have a glass of wine."
Months later, Paul asked me, "Why didn't you sleep with me that night?"
Cheating on your husband is a lot like doing cocaine. It's rarely pleasurable, but try quitting.
Eduard left Lurisia and moved into a new place. At night in his condo we often sat on his balcony and listened to Bob Dylan and watched the people in the streets below. We'd take pillows from the bed, I'd be between his legs with his arms around me and I'd turn my head so that we could kiss.
"Next summer we'll get some of those misting things for out here," I said. "That way we can come out all summer long. We could sleep out here. With a big mosquito net."
"Good idea," he said, and the way he said it, like we would never make it to next summer, made us both quiet for a few minutes.
"Does Paul want you back?" he asked.
"That's the worst part," I lied. "He wants it so much. But I can't go back. I'm in love with you. A week would go by and I would be on a plane to you again."
That part was true.