Fresh Linens

The cheating she understood. Christian had never been a single-box-of-cereal man. She was not without blame. After five years of marriage, the prospect of getting dolled up for the same man was utterly without romance for her. She had little desire to sleep with Christian. Their sex was clinical. Her lack of enthusiasm was painfully obvious during their infrequent love making, though she loved falling asleep next to him. Often, she would acquiesce a sexual request simply because Christian spooned vigorously afterward.

Shannon's husband was dashing by all accounts. This fact intensified her guilt for not being sexually attracted to him. She loved him for his character. His body and strong face were of little concern to her. Though she could admit that in an objective sense he was handsome, his looks stirred nothing inside her. He was in immaculate shape for a thirty-five year old man. He ran five miles every morning. Waking up five minutes after 6:00 AM meant he'd already be gone. Half the day separated her from a warm embrace.  

In the nine years she'd spent with Christian she had never strayed. Not out of duty, obligation, or co-dependence, but out of love. She loved his ambitious nature, admired his business acumen, and found him to be an exceedingly kind man.

Precisely this kindness was absent lately and it devastated her.  She respected his needs. Cheating satisfied both his emotional and physical needs. Bedding other women validated his sense of virility and presence in the world. It reaffirmed his rank among males. Though she thought the rather primitive caveman behavior was silly, she accepted the man she married. Recently, he stopped making an effort to hide the indiscretions. His thoughtlessness was unbearable, not the infidelity.

Christian's philandering had begun with a sense of gravity. Carefully planning every move, he orchestrated elaborate schemes and convoluted, multi-layered lies to hide his shameful behavior. She had always known, the way a mother knows when her son is lying. All wives do. How could she stand by a man who respected her so little?

Katie, his secretary, along with everyone else in the building, had gone home. His cell phone went straight to voicemail. Christian was a busy man, but not this busy. His disappearances were abrupt and frequent. Even his alibis were hastily constructed and thoughtless. In the past she'd have known a woman was over because of the pair of wine glasses in the dishwasher or the way the pillows were arranged on the love seat. He never sat in the great room alone. But he was civil enough to scrub the whorish lipstick off their Waterford crystal and try to reconstruct the throw pillows. He never got them quite right.

Occasionally she would be greeted with fresh sheets in their bedroom. This always stirred her stomach with ambivalence. On one hand she adored the opening night of new linens. The fresh smell was intoxicating. Newly washed sheets have an inviting and seductive quality that she could never resist. It was her favorite part of doing laundry. Sheets were always the last load and were associated with rest and completion. When the last sheet was tucked, work was over. Now she could slide under as the top sheet clung to the sides of the bed creating a cocoon of warmth and safety. On the other she remembered why the sheets were cleaned and all comforting thoughts quickly evaporated. She preferred not to think of this as deception, rather as a gesture of good faith. Shannon believed that, in his heart, Christian still had affection for her. She held out hope that, at his core, there was still a deep, steadfast love reserved for only her. 

Two days ago she filed for divorce.     

Shannon bore more than her fair share. She looked the other way because it was the dignified thing to do. She could be with a man who brought other women into their bed, but she would not abide a man who no longer showed her the common courtesy of washing the sheets afterwards. We all have our limits. Christian had found hers.