It’s this past summer at a country club in New Jersey where the pool twinkles like 1985. I am reading aloud to a friend from a David Foster Wallace essay in which he talks about how a man who puts his hand at a woman’s abdomen while his mouth is between her legs is selfish. Because he wants to know if she comes. He’s in it for his ego. Then we talk about cheaters, because I’m telling my friend about a man who was great at that, while he was married. And we talk about the fact that I’ve been with married men, which I feel taught me to be careful not to get hurt, to know that one day it could happen to me. And she feels it is because I’m worried about losing people, like I lost my parents, so I don’t ever put myself in a position to lose. She says I’m just a catalyst for more loss.
We stare across the pool at the families. Dark-haired fathers and blond wives and rows of blond-fur children in Vilebrequin swimsuits.
You shouldn’t ever see him again, she says. You’re ruining your marriage karma. I say, I’m not sure I believe in it. It’s weird you’re this fucked-up about marriage, she says. You grew up in a perfect home.
I argue in the general but also in the specific. The fucking moment. The married guy I’m talking about put a cashmere jacket across my shoulders in a downtown bar when the door was open in early spring. I’m happily married, he said in conversation. He had an odd bit of an accent, salt-lick after it’s been run through by ten thousand yellow cabs.
Four days later I e-mailed and said I wanted to interview him for a story. I trembled and smiled as I sent it. Six days later we met in a bar far from where he worked and where I lived, but cool and appropriate, and I walked in thinking I was crazy for what I had been thinking, that he was just another married guy, just another finance guy, just another moment in time and scent in a room.
I saw him and I had three beers and I had to run into the bathroom and scream, shriek for fuck’s sake. I looked at my face in the mirror and I thought, I have never felt this before. I may never feel this again. Something chemical and explosive. I’ll never forget the smell of beer on my breath, that particular evening’s smell of beer.
Another bar a few hours later, beer into gin and tonics, side by side on stools, my thigh against his. He says if he weren’t married, this would be the best first date he had ever had. He is eight years older. He has a six-month-old baby.
I have to go, he says. I have to go.
He hails me a cab and opens the door for me and I am about to get in, about to be innocent only because he is leading the way, and he puts his hand on my shoulder.
May I kiss you on the mouth? He says it like an apology.
When we saw each other again, he said he didn’t want to walk away, that he knew he should but he couldn’t.
This time we were in the bar where we’d met, where he knew everyone and he likened me to a jar of cherries beside his glass of Scotch and he kissed me there at the bar and it was the kind that doesn’t stop until a full stop. We left together and outside in the street he lifted me into his arms with my legs around his waist and he threw me up against a brick wall. On the way to my apartment a taxi almost hit us and we laughed. He carried me inside and the bottles in my bar stand shook. He threw me on my bed and it was the ideal mix of laughing and panicked desire and he took half my clothes off and his phone rang. We were doing midnight things but across the rest of the city it was 8:00 P.M. and with one hand on my waist, he picked up the phone and said, Yeah honey, don’t worry, having a drink with Brian, I’ll bring home a pizza.
More than the illicitness of the sexuality, there’s a sexuality to the selfishness. To doing precisely what you want to do. Being crudely, smilingly, on the side of the winners. I’m arguing for Wild Moments, because you never know what your last one will be.”