Odd Man -
A Short Story -
Author’s note: This isn’t an indictment on open or poly relationships, simply a story meant to tell one couple’s experience, which—like with monogamous, monogomish, or really any other relationship configuration you can form—comes with its own unique set of challenges and triumphs. As always, I hope you enjoy.
There are things in life that you will never plan, but still have to live with anyway. You’ll think, as you drive the familiar road as if by rote, that this is just another one of those things that must be muddled through, one step at a time. You’ll be so sure that—once you’re in the middle of it—it won’t be so hard.
You will, of course, be wrong.
The car’s silence will irk you—you need noise at the best of times, if just to drown out the nagging reservations you’ll have left unspoken.
Because you love her.
You’ll flip on the radio with more impatience than required. You won’t know quite why. And because Fate hates you, an inappropriate story will be on. The one about the preacher or the politician’s aide doing something they weren’t supposed to. Involved in things they would’ve been better off not touching.
Never compare your life with theirs. It will just depress you.
Turn the station to music, something classical or jazzy—something without words or codes from Destiny.
She’ll sigh or tap her fingers impatiently—she needs her noise too—and make you look at her. She’ll look wrong in your car; an anachronistic legend—like Andromeda or Athena—crouched uncomfortable in your cramped Corolla. You’ll wonder—not for the first time—what the hell she’s doing here? With you?
And then it’ll hit you.
She’s not with you.
Sitting in your car, next to you, she won’t be with you. Not really. You won’t be her husband. She won’t be your wife. You’ll be her driver. Her ride. Just a fellow passenger along the way.
You’ll ride in silence in the car—your music and her tapping filling the car like a conversation you’ve never really had but almost had a thousand times over. You’ve not talked about it to death.
As you arrive at Donovan’s—a place you’d always thought of as your place, a place where the two of you could always come together—you’ll walk in at least three steps behind her, feeling for the first time since you stepped foot in the club—for the first time since you’ve known her—reluctant.
“You’ll like him,” she’ll tell you as she slows her steps. “He’s a great guy.”
Don’t say anything. Don’t even make a sound. Really, there isn’t a good response to this.
“Be nice,” she’ll admonish in that tone that makes you feel five. “Really,” she’ll insist, a slightly disgruntled sulk morphing her mythically beautiful face, “he is. You’ll see.” She’ll pause as she tries to reach for your hand, her quick, perky smile seeming plastered and full of plastic hope. “But I love you.”
You’ll spend far too long wondering what she means by that. Trying to solve the word problem seemingly Scrabbled in that phrase. You’ll waste hours—days—entire lifetimes—wondering if a three-letter word negates a four-letter one.
Your hand will slip like sand through her grip as you both push through the heavy, happy-hour crowd, leaving her holding nothing. Her frown—pretty, pouty lips—will kill you. It will also change nothing.
You’ll know the second she sees him, her eyes—sweet and soulful, a brown as rich and deep as the earth—will light up like they used to for you. She’ll make a sound—somewhere between a squeal and a laugh—as she rushes through the crowd toward him, leaving you to be swallowed up by the throng.
But she loves you.
You’ll think about leaving. About slinking through the crowd. You have the keys. You drove the car. You’ll imagine what it would be like to just walk away.
But you won’t.
You’ll stand there—dumbstruck—as they make their way back to you, her hand in his. Your teeth will grind, a rough screech in your head. Your nails will dig small crescent-shaped resentments into your palm like Braille as your fists form.
You’ll want to hit him. Kill him. End him.
Shake his hand instead as she makes introductions.
He’ll have a stupid name, something fake-sounding that couldn’t possibly be real. Or maybe a bastardization of a given name. Like Deek or Fin or Wen. Or Rand.
He’ll be bigger than you. Of course.
Comfort yourself in the fact that, at least, you’re better looking.
You’ll shrewdly study him, from the top of his shaved head—maybe smirking at the hint of a receding hairline—to his broad shoulders and barrel chest. You’ll take in the athletic breadth of his torso and toned length the of his legs.
He looks…expensive, you’ll think as you take in the muscled wall of black silk and leather. Tall. Dark. Tailored. Manicured. Like a man in a costume from a movie a decade old. A really good costume, but still.
He’ll look like an honest-to-God, spitting-image, leather-bound Dom.
You’ll look like a CPA.
You’ll turn to her—your wife of five years—and wonder if this—this testosterone-laden, brick shithouse of a giant dressed in the Hollywood guise of a messiah—is what she likes.
They’ll talk, trade compliments and jokes you neither understand nor care to. You’ll tune it out as you signal a waitress, something pretty and young. You’ll smile and lean in as she takes your order—a rail drink; whatever’s her recommendation. It’ll make you feel better.
Until you notice that your wife and Rand have left.
Again, the nagging need to leave will hit you. She’s got Rand; you’ll think, I’m unnecessary at this point. Superfluous. Spare. One man too many. You’ll think of your bed—the bed you’ve shared with her for six years—and long to huddle warm under its covers.
But you know you’ll head to the dungeon.
Because you love her.
And she loves you.
Besides, if you leave, you’ll leave her with Rand. You’ll imagine her, upon seeing you’ve left, leaving with him. Going to his home. Going to his bed. You’ll picture her writhing around with him in tailored, manicured, perfect sheets, not stained by midnight snacks or pre-washed pets. You’ll imagine him taking an interminable time with your wife, not rushed after late nights at the office or sluggish before early morning runs.
Stop this immediately.
Instead, flag down your waitress and take your drink, even though intoxication of any kind is discouraged in the dungeon. If you’re going to do this, you’ll damn well need a drink.
Feeling ten kinds of a fool, you’ll head through the crowd and into the private hallways that lead to the dungeon further back...
Read Part Two Here