on the phone with Max

About 17 months ago…

I was struggling, and it was obvious to everyone. My family life was a lie; I had yet to ask my husband to move out. School would be starting soon and, with two children in the same school and on the same schedule, I had no more excuses.

Max and I exchanged a few texts and, evidently, he was concerned or touched enough to call on Sunday night while waiting for a flight. I grabbed my phone and headed out to the back yard, where I hoped no one inside the house would hear my part of the conversation.

It was a lovely chat between friends, with only a hint of flirtation and no romance whatever. Max asked me then if there was any way I could save my marriage.

“No,” I said, “Don’t you think I would if I could?! How much easier would it be to go back to someone who knows me, whose touch is familiar, with whom I share domestic habits?What will I have left? It’s the unknown, and that’s very frightening.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Max calmed me. “You’ve made the decision that you know is best for your family. And rather than seeing the failure, see all the progress you’ve made in the past decade:  you have a house, you have two beautiful children, you’ve come far in your career.”

I was grateful for the reminder to view my glass as more than half full, to have a clear view of my blessings.

Too soon, Max had to board his flight and hang up. I went to bed that night with a smile on my face and a knowing in my heart:  I had found a true friend and confidante.

the 20-year reunion

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?

flirting in 160 characters or less

About 17 months ago…

If you’ve been following and reading about my attraction to Max, you’ve read that we’ve shared some powerful words via text. And so began our flirtation, in 160 characters or less.

Who knew this genre could be so complicated? I soon learned to edit my thoughts into a single, 160-character message, as well as how many ways I could possibly communicate in this abbreviated form:

  • start an exchange,
  • keep the conversation going,
  • end a conversation,
  • have the last word (and realized this was not entirely desirable)
  • and more.

We texted almost daily. Nothing inappropriate, just flirtatious. It became such a lifeline for me that I began checking my phone in the middle of the night to see if Max had texted me. After all, we were in different time zones and he often texted after I had gone to sleep. It was nice to wake and get a sweet message like, “I have a hard time believing that the man in your home doesn’t appreciate you” or “How did it take this long for us to find each other?”

There was never a time when I took any of these things to mean more than the sweet thoughts that they were. A flirtation blossomed.

Were we crossing the lines of what was appropriate, given that Max was married? I suppose a few times we did. But one of us always brought the conversation back into the realm of what was safe and appropriate.

miss you already

About 17 months ago…

Two girlfriends and I were having a few cocktails after work, one of whom has been married for more than a decade — really married, and the other successful, single and not dating. In other words, I was clearly providing the conversation / drama / entertainment.

No one really ever wants to talk about divorce in public. The heartbreak, the pain — it’s all better swept under the rug lest the weepies rear their ugly heads. And so I told them about Max and what happened since I’d last seen him.

“You texted WHAT?,” Cynthia asked. “How could you?!”

“What?,” I asked innocently, “‘Miss you already’ is perfectly innocent. I would say the same thing to a girlfriend or a niece or my own children.”

“He’s not your girlfriend or niece,” Cynthia pressed. “It was suggestive. And he’s a married man!”

Seriously, it’s not as though I told him I wanted to get naked and rub my body up against him,” I argued.

Cynthia:  “No, that would have been being direct.”

Kristine, meanwhile, was doubled over with laughter and merely kept repeating, “Miss you already. Miss you already. That is priceless!”

They asked what happened next, they made me show them photos and then I told them about Max’s wife:

“You told her you had a crush on her husband?!,” they asked incredulously. I generally gravitate toward honesty. I may not always be appropriate or have the best boundaries, but I have my ethics.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “And she was cool, she was fun, and she was as inappropriate as any of us. And she would fit in perfectly sitting right here with us in this empty chair. We would have a grand time!”

Even as we put on our wraps, paid the tab and walked out of the bar, the girls were still laughing and giggling over what would become our inside joke:  “miss you already!”

how I became a text maniac

About 18 months ago…

As I boarded my flight home after my trip to Max’s region, I texted him a quick note: “Miss you already!”

I didn’t think much of the casual salutation — it was something I would have said to my children or a girlfriend — just a fun, breezy farewell. By the time I landed, there was a message on my data phone. It was from Max:

“You have no idea. We have a special relationship.”

Wha…? I reeled. Max had feelings for me. Here, in the palm of my hand, was actual confirmation that this gorgeous man reciprocated, in some form, the feelings I had for him. My heart was pounding; butterflies were fluttering in my stomach. I didn’t know what to think. I could barely resist the urge to board a flight back to Max. Of course in reality Max would be home with his wife and daughters…but he felt something for me!

There was so much I wanted to say. I tried to capture what I was feeling, and then edited and edited it down until it fit into the 160 characters of a single text message:

“I do have an idea…several, in fact. I will content myself with the quantum possibility that in some parallel universe we are free to explore them.”

Several hours later, Max texted back. “LOVE the way you put that. Talk soon.”