Jessica was practicing the art of patience.
Centered, present, breathing slowly, she pulled into the drive way and sat in the car. She found herself doing this more and more and the other day she realized what was causing this pause, causing this moment of consideration before entering the house.
Sitting outside John's home, allowing one song to end, another to begin, she realized she was considering, carefully, what she wanted to find when she went in side.
Years earlier she had learned that most anxiety could be controlled with a certain amount of controlled visualization: picturing the road she would drive down, what she would wear, how well an event would go.
But somewhere along the way she had begun to sink into a kind of trance when her nerves were high, inadvertently shifting between possible scenarious, envisioning these options involuntarily, like flipping through a catalogue, one scheme after another until the right one fit.
When she realized what she as doing it struck her was how ludicrous it was. This was her boyfriends house, this was a place of comfort and joy, of spontaneity and fulfiment. Why was she preparing herself so intently for every interaction.
And when she realized the answer to that question she was even more taken aback: she was preparing herself to find John: sad. She was preparing herself to find John forlorn, or annoyed at her presence. She was preparing herself to find him, taken off guard, and unhappy to see her.
After months of dating she had still never walked in the house and had him be anything other than welcoming, loving, voracious and involved. And this made her suspicious.
Because she knew, somewhere, inside, that John was sad. Not just sad, but heart broken. She knew there was a distant part of him living elsewhere, and the fact that this was so removed, so very privately guarded, frankly, gave her the willies. It was creepy and offputting, in the most private of moments.
But not as creepy as sneaking around the house, which she found herself doing the other day, peering in windows, hoping to see...what? John in tears. John looking at old pictures? John masturbating to pictures of his ex wife?
She had no idea what she hoped to find but by the time she got truly close enough to a window to really peer in she'd realized what she was doing, backed out, and come to the front door.
And now, although she resisted the idea, she knew she was about to do that again, and no amount of meditation, no amount of reconfiguring her reality would stop her.
So quietly she crept around the house, peering in one window after another, until a voice startled her:
If this is some sort of sex game I'll leave, but otherwise you better tell me what you are doing.
Max was smiling but you could tell he wasn't entirely convinced that she was up to harmless fun.
Umm, I am locked out. locked out. Just looking for an open window.
Damnit, she wised she were smarter. She probably could have just winked at him and alluded to something dirty but instead she sounded guilty as hell.
And to make things weirder, Max had a key. And John was late.
So, sitting in the living room, fetching Max a drink, they set about the slow awkward process of pretending each of them wasn't avoiding a conversation.
The question he was avoiding was clear. The subject on her mind, outside her confusing behavior, however, was even more pressing and more uncomfortable.
Because, see, she knew Max was having an affair with Helena. She hadn't been looking for that information, but yesterday, driving by their bar, she had looked up to find him leaving the apartment upstairs, saying goodbye in an unmistakable manner.
And the fact that John had not told her about this, for some reason, really bothered her.
But sitting here, looking at him, making small talk she was suddenly very aware why John had not told her: Because John, very clearly, had no idea. And she did. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.