I picked up the phone in the bedroom and was about to dial Diane's home number when I heard Kip on the line. And here is what Mr. Communicator was communicating about.
"I love you, too," he was saying, to someone other than me. "It was torture leaving you this afternoon. I can still taste you."
You know, at first I didn't quite get it, get what was going on. Not that instant. You don't if you're not expecting bad news of such magnitude. Instead of getting it, you stand there like a doofus and blink a few times and shake off what you think you heard and tell yourself the old there must be some mistake.
"I want to be with you soooo much, Kippy. My body's aching for you," said a female voice I couldn't hear clearly. It was muffled, as if the woman had a pillow over her mouth. Come to think of it, maybe she did. Why else would they call it pillow talk?
And that Kippy business. Yech. I mean, it's a cute name for a puppy dog, but please.
"Listen," said Kip excitedly. "I think she's going away next week, to some conference for linguists. We'll be able to spend whole nights together here at the house the way we did last time. She'll never find out."
Well, there wasn't any doubt who she was. I had to face the fact that it was I who'd been betrayed by the man I'd married.
Actually, I let my body face it first. My stomach lurched, my pulse raced, my cheeks burned with hurt and rage and huge, huge disappointment. I was hot, I was cold, I was nauseous. My husband, everybody's idea of a sensitive guy, had, apparently, been doing a very insensitive thing.
I let them talk, just let them go on and on about their throbbing genitalia. They were so caught up in their disgustingly overheated conversation that they must not have heard the "click" when I'd picked up the extension, must not have heard my labored breathing, must not have remembered that I existed, which made me feel even more ridiculous. Kip's little love affair had been taking place right under my nose -under my roof! -- and I hadn't even guessed. Ever since I was a kid, people have been telling me how smart I am, but the truth is, it doesn't matter how smart you are if even one person manages to prove how stupid you are.
They hung up eventually, as did I. Kip went back to doing the dishes, and I remained on the spot where I'd been standing. Numb. Naked. Entranced by the sound of the bathwater running, probably onto the floor by now. Paralyzed.
I honestly didn't know whether I should grab a robe, march out there, and confront the dirt bag, or hide in the bathroom, take a soak in the tub, and try to figure out what to make of this new development. What to do? What to do? I was still stunned. Still stinging. I was used to being in control, used to being in touch with my own power. And yet there I was, about as in touch with my own power as a slice of Swiss cheese.
What if Kip really is in love with this woman? I thought. What if he wants to marry her? What if I end up just like my divorced mother, whose circumstance I've been determined to avoid, which is precisely why I chose the compulsively verbal Kip as a husband instead of a grouchy grunter like my father?
And then another thought broke through. What if people find out that my marriage has turned out to be a sham? What if gossip about Kip's unseemly behavior leaks out? How much credibility will the Wyman Method have if communication expert Lynn Wyman can't get her own husband to communicate with her? How will I be able to earn a living once I go from authority figure to laughingstock?
I decided on the bath, not the confrontation. There was always the chance that I would drown in the tub and escape having to deal with any of it.
Copyright Jane Heller, 2001. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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