About 17 months ago…
During the time that my textual flirtation with Max was going strong, I attended my 20th class reunion. By this time, I was open with others that my marriage was in trouble.
Some context: I had grown up in a classroom full of rowdies in a small town. In the class ahead of mine, it was very cool to be athletic and intelligent. In my class, it was cool to be an underachiever, rebel or class clown. Indeed, many of the guys in my class had become blue-collar workers, some with two-year or vocational degrees, and most had stayed close to home . . . and what a delight they all were! These trouble-makers had become kind, friendly, engaging, successful and responsible men. Most were married with children, committed husbands and fathers. They were generous both with drinks and laughter. It was an unexpected pleasure to see them all again, particularly in this light.
Many of the women from my class seemed content, too. Most had achieved a higher level of education than the guys. Most were happily married with children. And none of them seemed as stressed out as I was, in their personal lives nor in their professions.
Observing this made me wonder about the life I’d chosen — ambition, a private, liberal arts college, international travel, art museums and theatres, my urban lifestyle . . . I wouldn’t have been happy staying in my hometown, yet most of my classmates seemed to find more fulfillment in their more modest life choices than I was experiencing in mine.
In the midst of our mirthful reminiscing, my best friend from high school and I were sitting at the bar. I was filling her in on the events of my life, telling her about Max, the one thing besides my children that seemed to put a smile on my face. Another classmate had joined the conversation. After quietly listening for awhile, he said, “‘Work crush,’ is that what you call it these days? It used to be known as adultery!”
Wow. That seemed a bit harsh. It hit me like a slap in the face. And it gave me something more to think about: Was my emotional attachment to Max — or our attachment to each other — crossing an inappropriate boundary? It tried to be very cognizant of his marriage, but on some level, I maintained fantasies of our being together. Was the mere act of continuing correspondence with him morally reprehensible? Did trying to be a decent human mean I had to sever ties with Max completely, and now? And what if this doomed flirtation was the only thing I had going for me at the moment? Did it matter if this was my lifeline?