If you run into the wife of the man you had an affair with, what do you say to her?
Do you say:
a) I am sorry fucked your husband, that was a really dumb thing for me to do.
b) If it makes you feel better, it all came back around to me. Karma’s a bitch.
c) Don’t say anything. Walk in the opposite direction. Don’t look back.
* * *
I wake up sweaty and with a hangover. There is a coffee mug on my nightstand filled with lukewarm water. My phone buzzes. Allen wants to know if I want to get breakfast. He says:
i feel like garbage
It’s almost one in the afternoon. We stayed late drinking the rest of the opened bottles of wine from the By the Glass menu after we finished closing out all our tables. We will probably get in trouble for it later, but we don’t care. I text Allen back:
meet you in 30?
I’ve never cared about getting into trouble. I just deal with it. I walk to the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet, and take out the Advil bottle. It’s empty. My dad used to yell at me for always eating the last of the cereal and not throwing away the boxes. It’s a habit I still carry with me. I’m only driving myself crazy with it now. There is, however, the bottle of Norcos.
* * *
When I was nineteen I had an affair with a married man. He was older and tattooed and I pretended to never notice his wedding ring. I met him and his wife at the coffee shop I worked at. I made them cappuccinos every morning. I’d pour the milk in a way so that a perfect little white heart would form at the top of his cappuccino. For years afterwards, I blamed all my misfortune in love on that affair.
* * *
I look at the Norcos and consider them. They were prescribed to me last year after I had an abortion. I’ve never taken them. I was in love with a man who liked to cum inside me and not love me back. I said: I want the baby and he said: good luck being a single mom. If I had good luck I probably wouldn’t have ended up pregnant in the first place. As I laid on the table with my legs spread open watching a tube suck the life out me I thought about how ten years earlier, I was nineteen and having sex with a married man inside his Ford Taurus. I thought:
This is so funny. This must be the karma everyone is always talking about.
I’ve only slept with two men since the day I spent on that table squeezing a stranger’s hand while another stranger opened me up.
1. A sweet jazz musician who snored loudly, but held me close to his chest and ran his hands through my hair. I never saw him again.
2. The other guy I got so drunk with and kept forgetting how to pronounce his name. He kept correcting me:
It’s Jasper, like Yeah-Sper.
I never saw Yeah-Sper again either.
* * *
Last night, the married man Allen has been having a secret affair with came into the restaurant with his wife and the host sat them in his section. I offered to take them, but Allen insisted that it was fine. I stood at the server station and watched Allen approach the table grinning. The man’s face turned as red as the San Marzano tomato sauce we use on the Margherita pizzas. Allen said:
Hello and welcome. My name is Allen and I’ll be your server tonight. May I start you off with still or sparking water this evening?
I never tell my tables my name unless they ask. And if they ask I make them tell me their name first. They don’t like that, but I don’t like feeling like I need to tell people what my name is. Claudia, one of the other servers, said to me that I should really start being nicer to the guests. Allen was standing behind her rolling his eyes. I said:
I am nice to everyone, Claudia.
Claudia is a twenty-two year old know-it-all which makes it hard to not fuck with her. Allen likes to stack things really high on the shelves and watch her try and reach for them. Last night she knocked a whole stack of pizza boxes on herself as she was reaching for one to pack up a guests leftover Margherita. It was pretty funny, though she didn’t think so.
* * *
We kept the cereal boxes on the top of the refrigerator growing up. Sometimes I wouldn’t push them far back enough, so that when you opened the fridge door they would fall off and hit you in the face. Unfortunately, my dad almost always was the one to get hit in the face with the cereal boxes. It made my mom laugh, which further frustrated my dad and only made her laugh harder. He would say:
Goddammit, I’m gonna start setting booby trap’s for you guys one of these days!
* * *
Allen and I waited for Claudia to leave before we decided to drink all the unfinished wine. We sat on the curb outside the restaurant passing bottles back and forth until there was nothing left. I asked him if it was awkward to wait on his secret lover. He laughed and said:
For me it wasn’t awkward at all.
* * *
My affair did not last long, but long enough to ruin his marriage. I thought I loved him and then when he told me he was leaving his wife I wanted nothing to do with him. He was too old. I told him he should just have a baby with his wife and forget about me. He blamed me for ruining his marriage.
Years after it ended, I ran into his wife in the grocery store. I saw her before she noticed me. I had just found out I was pregnant and was in the throes of a relationship turning sour. I was still in my pajamas. I hadn’t eaten anything all day yet. I came for kosher dill pickles.
* * *
There was a time when the bottle of Norcos felt like having a loaded gun on hand, but not anymore and I’m not going to wake up and take hydrocodone because I am hungover. I am going to brush my teeth and hair. I am going to put on clean clothes and I am going to ride my bike to the French Quarter and get a bagel with Allen at the only good bodega on Decatur Street that also happens to sell tiny packets of Advil.
* * *
Watch the wife push her cart slowly down the canned goods aisle. Her heels click on linoleum as she moves towards you. She picks up a jar of kalamata olives. It’s doubtful she will recognize you, you have changed, you’ve grown up, but you feel frozen in your pajamas and dirty hair anyways. Don’t do anything. Don’t say anything. Turn and walk in the opposite direction towards the exit sign. Forget about your growling stomach, breakfast, and the pickles. Keep walking and don’t look back.
Mik Grantham is the founder and co-editor of Disorder Press which she runs with her brother. Her work has appeared in Hobart, The Nervous Breakdown, and Fanzine. Her poetry collection HARDCORE will be published by SF/LD Books in early 2021. She lives in New Orleans.