I Understand

…I’ve been downhearted baby — ever since the day we met…

The song played on and on in the background while he droned away at his job. He looked out the window, now and then, the window he had been so pleased to call his, when he got the office, but now spent no time looking out, in case it should occur to him just how high the office is, from the street, and just how easy the window is, to open. He read articles and surveys, studies and reports, and he typed up recommendations, aching as he remembered the taste of her on the back of his tongue, and the way he gave up everything for her.

“We can’t do this anymore,” he had said, because she wouldn’t. She didn’t even have the decency to cry in front of him, even when he felt his own tears stinging. “Do you understand?” he pushed.

“I understand,” she answered, but her hands undid his buttons, and her mouth found his skin, and he was harder than he’d ever been, when he took her, and he called her name when he spent himself inside her. She woke in him something he couldn’t name, something he tried so hard to put to the sword, but every time she spoke, he was caught.

“We can’t do this anymore,” he said, every time he walked into the apartment, the hotel room, her bedroom, his own bedroom, for god’s sake, where he had made love to his wife, made their three children, where he loved someone who wasn’t her, but where he could not help himself as he sank into her, trembling. “Do you understand?”

And every time she opened the door for him, her blue eyes shone, and she nodded gravely, saying, “I understand,” even as she pulled him down and spread for him, taking his hand and putting it between her legs. And every time, he fought it in his head on the drive there, but he still drove there. And every time, he fought it in his heart as he walked to the door, but he still put his hand on the latch. And every time, he gave in the moment she was near, because her blue eyes were fire, and her red lips were heaven, and he wanted her, that was it, above all else, he wanted her, and even though he said he couldn’t do it anymore, he was the one who didn’t understand.

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