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Besides, both carry strong values and infidelity is out of the question. Miguel’s elder daughter, now sixteen, comes to mind. Not just what she would think but how she would feel. Betrayed! He is so certain of this that it brings wrenching pain, leaving him certain he would never be unfaithful.
But he and his new–old love continue to meet, to talk, to spend as much time together as propriety allows. Their conversations are those of lovers, touching on many things, especially hopes and dreams — both still young enough to imagine futures. They reminisce about their youth. They talk of their lost faith and the hold it still has on them. They talk and laugh about how the meaning of life changed as they matured and experience shaped them.
And they talk like old friends, about their life since they last saw one another, about their children and, inevitably, about their unsatisfying marriages. Miguel feels included, not conspiratorial as he feared, sharing now a kind of intimacy unlike any experienced in his marriage.
His wife is a woman who also talked, liked to talk, but never seemed to say anything, Miguel often thought. He knew her outwardly — habits, body, opinions — but whatever was inside he never knew. She had many ways of saying she loved him, generous with her body, tending to him in so many domestic matters, caring for their children. At times they had their differences and she stood her ground. Once in a while they fought. But, loving or fighting, he never grew any closer, he somehow always felt on the outside, excluded. Who is she, he often wondered.
Now this, first love déjà vu. Not right, he’s tempted to say but won’t. Because it feels right, right to be here in this city, right to have contacted her, right to spend time with her and think about her, not only in his waking state but in his dreams as well. For once in his life something feels right.
I’m an ordinary man he often told himself, his career that of a draughtsman, something he did competently, but the work uninspiring. Technical drawings for warehouses and other industrial buildings, electrical, plumbing or heating diagrams he could do with his eyes closed. But he is conscientious and sometimes innovative, respected by his employers. He has accepted this as his duty, to support a family.
The deadline looms. Soon he must return to his life and to the wife he is certain he does not love. The question of staying married hovers before him now. He sees himself as a romantic, thus, marriage must include love. A simple equation: I don’t love her, I must divorce her. For a moment, having said this, his path becomes clear. I must tell them. I must tell them both.
As he thinks about seeing his new love and telling of his decision, a charge goes through his body, an intense, pleasurable vibration. He imagines being with her, watching her face. His feelings accelerate, he trembles, heart races, he breathes in short bursts, almost gasps, tears come into his eyes, he feels a pleasure so strong it creates a kind of pain. People have heart attacks from excitement. Should he be worried? No. He doesn’t want to lose these emotions, but he must rein them in. He hugs himself to moderate the vibrations, to regain some sense of control.
He tells her he will seek a divorce. But he does not tell her he is in love with her. She must know, how could she not? He must protect her and not make her feel responsible. This is his choice and, in a way, a choice made many years earlier, independent of her. He has tried to be an honourable man and the honourable position is to exert no pressure on her to leave a marriage she is unhappy in. She listens and nods, Miguel is certain she understands. He is excited and relieved to say out loud those words he never dared even to think.
Having said the words, another reality confronts him. His mind shifts to facing his wife and then to facing his children. Imagining their faces, their disbelief and then their pain, fills him with dread. How can he do this, destroy his children’s innocence, hurt his wife who, he believes, is a good person. How could he face their friends? And then the practical questions emerge. How would he live, see his children, support two households? How? How? Exhausted and dispirited, but not defeated, he must and will find a way.