Emily said she’d spent the night with a guy called Marty. I knew and despised Marty. He sold pills, and like a lot of doctors Emily liked her psychopharmaceuticals. She said she hadn’t set out to meet him, and they weren’t having an affair. Spending the night with him had been a wine-fucked mistake, she said, and she’d hated lying to me. I said, truthfully, that I believed her. Emily said she didn’t intend to let him anywhere near her again.
But afterwards she’d sat on his bed. I saw her, at this point in her story, patting the bed, smiling at him, with his come in her. That vision didn’t make me happy.
But Marty’s mood had turned suddenly and he didn’t join her. He’d paced the room and shouted, and at one point held his closed fist against her mouth. Then he’d pushed her, so she bounced off a bedside table on the way to the floor. He’d stalked off, muttering, and not come back. Emily, still too drunk to do anything effective, had crawled onto a mattress in another room, pulled clothes and eiderdowns and pillows on top of herself and slept. She got out as soon as she woke up. Someone had followed her car. That was why she’d looked so scared when she arrived.
There was something wrong with Marty. He sold middle-class drugs to doctors and lawyers, but he also sold drugs that cops took more seriously. He did it so openly that even I knew about it. He mixed with gangsters because he thought they were glamorous, but his indiscretion and violence were making him unpopular.
Because she’d parked her car outside his place, many people would have stored the licence number, her name and our address. I hoped it was only a cop who’d followed Emily home. At that time in Marty’s life, which ended a couple of years later, he was dangerous. He was also tall, good-looking in the style of the very young, skinny Clark Gable, and on a good day he could present his outlaw act as romantic.
So on top of the usual reasons for being annoyed when your lover fucks someone else, she’d chosen a stupid and slightly evil man, and she’d put herself in harm’s way. I was angry and I was scared.
I thought about punishing her. She’d asked me to cane her for smoking, when she was trying to give up cigarettes. So there had once been consent in principle. But she’d hurt me and I wanted to hurt her back, and I was suspicious of that desire. She might deserve punishment, but I didn’t trust my motives. Revenge seemed a bad one.
We talked. I said she’d scared me. She said she was ashamed of herself, and sorry. But when everything was said, nothing was resolved. Our talk went in a circle, over and over. I was hurt, and I’d been scared, and then I was angry; she said was sorry, and then sorry again.
Eventually, in the second hour I broke that circle, and most of my own rules along with it. Partly I was motivated by boredom: it must be time to say something new. “So. Emily. So what should I actually do? This is a bigger deal than you smoking a cigarette, wouldn’t you say?”