The Other Woman

Before her, my husband and I met on a rudimentary dating website, out-clevering each other by email until constant wittiness became so exhausting that we decided to meet in person.  I melted over his Canadian-South African accent and the words he said in it.  We were two space cadets in love.

We lost the key to our mailbox immediately after sending out wedding invitations. We forgot to renew our passports and had to cancel a trip to Panama en route to the airport.  We created a budget specifically for lost items.  Our ineptitude in life skills was dwarfed by the magnanimous joy of being around each other.

And then it wasn’t.

I was at brunch with friends when they met.  I sometimes imagine myself there, shoveling deep fried French toast in my mouth as he sat at home on our long navy couch, looking at her photo on the computer.  

I found her in our bedroom a few days later, sitting next to him as he slept.  She was straight-backed with round curves that shamed my forever-prepubescent figure.  Even as the hardwood floor creaked under my feet in the doorway, she stayed silently still, planted in our most intimate space.

And then I surprised myself.  I lifted off my scrub top and untied my pants.  I crawled onto my side of the bed and scooted backwards until my bent knees fit into his like a missing piece.

And then we were three.  

Her voice was measured and calm when she spoke later that morning.  “It’s seventy degrees out,” she said, reminding me that the sun was oblivious to my relationship catastrophe.  So my husband and I slipped into sandals and left.  

“I like her,” he said as we turned a corner.

“I don’t,” I said.  “I like you.  That’s why I married you.”

“I think we need her,” he said.

“We need someone to scrub the grout in the shower,” I protested.  “We need someone to do the dishes when we’re too tired and walk the dog when it’s cold.”

“Why don’t you at least try to engage with her?” he said.

So she stayed, and so did I.  

I see what he sees in her.  He only remembers to take out the trash half the time, yet she reminds him each week as if the memory of last week’s shortcoming is completely erased.  He asked her to buy ketchup once, and she surprised him with six miniature bottles of Heinz that make our house feel like a romantic small-town diner.  

I sometimes look at her when romance settles in the air.  She stares back, unmoving, with the same stick-straight posture I saw when I first walked into our bedroom and found her sitting next to him.  She is ruthlessly timeless.

I hate the way he says “Why don’t you ask her” when I ask him “Do I need an umbrella?” or “What’s the name of that Canadian band where the lead singer just got diagnosed with brain cancer?”  Forever off in space, we had survived our first four years together on the small nothings that we could answer for each other, and now those were gone.

I loathe that she’s the first one he talks to every morning.  He won’t even turn on the lights without asking her.  “Wouldn’t it be great,” I snark, “if there was a switch I could flick that would turn on the lights, without having to say a word?”  

Sometimes I get so mad that I want to throw all 1.7 pounds of her onto our hardwood floor and stomp until I can hear her parts crunch under my neon pink and yellow sneakers.  I want to see her light up for a final time in fear of the real woman of the house.  “I am Sara, warrior princess!” I holler.

The comforter falls to the floor upstairs.  “Alexa, what time is it?” he asks sweetly.

“I’ve killed her,” I grunt, “and it’s 8:47 AM.”

Sara Manning Peskin is a neurology resident at The University of Pennsylvania and a blogger at Borderwise.  

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