Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Tonight I asked my husband if he would ever have an affair with one of his graduate students. He told me NO, the answer I obviously sought. “No” would have been enough. “No” would have put “affair” in the same category as, say, his relation to khaki pants. No to khakis. No to ever having an affair. No story to be had here. No big deal. When rendered in a tone that is neither wary nor defensive, a simple “no” answer says, “I never think about this subject, mostly because it doesn’t interest me. It just isn’t my style and never will be.”

But Adam is professor of English. And, Strunk & White be damned, the one thing English teachers can’t abide is a pithy answer. Falling from their own lips, anyway.

He couldn’t stop at “no.” He had to offer a ponderous, 20-minute explanation as to WHY he would never stray. Granted, I tend to be a cynic, and so the assertions about being “totally fulfilled and happy” with his home life made less of a dent than did the reasoning that an “intellectual companion is not the same as a life companion.” (Hmmm?) He doesn’t mind that we argue, or that I come to him with “daily and mundane” things. After all, he said, having someone fawn over his ideas would be so very boring. And to take up with one's graduate student is such a cliché.

The cliché part is true. And here’s another: Sometimes I wonder if he isn’t so very “totally fulfilled and happy” with his home life because he has someone to orchestrate those “daily and mundane” aspects of life that never were his forte. Adam spent three hours this afternoon having coffee with a fellow prof and “intellectual companion” whom I’ll call Crystal (because that’s her name). I spent those same three hours grocery shopping and picking out table linens for next week’s Thanksgiving with my in-laws.

Adam’s too smart not to know when he needs to polish some apples. When the balance of the dish-washing, bill-paying, thankyou-note-writing, quotidian tasks of life gets too obviously lop-sided, he can be counted on for self-deprecating jokes and cajoling kisses.

I imagine us, forty, fifty Novembers hence. I see beloved brown eyes beneath altered hairline, in altered face. I feel us embracing, softer-bodied, slower and sadder of flesh. Melancholy joy. What is it that makes that future certain?

He’s no slacker, this guy; he’s just deeply in love with his writing and his books. And, I suppose, deeply in love with me.

Funny how a simple No could have made clearer the Yes.


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