r | sexual content

It's a nondescript little diner. Simple, plain, boring. Some people would call it pathetic. Hell, you'd call it pathetic. It's off the highway, in a tiny town, tucked away on a side street, home only to a few dozen regulars and the occasional lost traveler. That's why you chose it. The people here call you Helen, because that's the name you offered up when one of the waitresses finally asked. Your pseudonym was inspired by Helen of Troy, the woman whose face launched a thousand ships, the woman who was at the heart of the Trojan War.

(It wasn't even Helen's fault, really. Paris was chosen to judge a contest...oh, it's a long story.)

There's a woman behind you, an older woman, who's been prattling on so loudly that everyone in the restaurant can hear her. She's regaling her companions with a story of how a rude driver passed her on the highway. Later on, she claims, she saw the same driver pulled over on the side of the road, with a traffic cop writing him a ticket. She cackles triumphantly, as if she had a hand in the guy's downfall. It's a story you're heard a million times before, from a million different people. It's amazing, how many speeders happen to be caught in this manner. Makes you almost believe in karma. Either that, or all these people are full of shit.

(You'll go with 'Full of Shit' for $1000, Alex. Oh, wow. It's the Daily Double.)

You sit in the same booth every time, not because you're sentimental, but because it's in the very back corner, where the lighting is dim. Perhaps you should go to greater lengths to disguise your identity, but wigs are so annoying. There's duct tape covering a cut on the seat. Every time you come here, you like to make up with a story as to how the cut came to be there. Maybe it was just a waitress who slipped while carrying silverware. Maybe it was a spoiled child, tearing at the vinyl because his mother wouldn't let him have his way. Maybe it was some nervous woman, here to meet a blind date, anxiously scratching at it until it ripped. Maybe it was a jealous lover, lunging at his unfaithful wife, intending to destroy her, just as she had destroyed their marriage.

(Of course, then you start to get paranoid and you fidget with the cheap, paper placemat that is covered with phone numbers of local businesses that you'll never use.)

You don't tell bullshit tales about your adventures on the highway. You talk to the waitress only when it's required. You get there early, out of force of habit, even though it means you'll have to endure unnecessary interaction with the waitress. The staff knows by now that you want your tea with cream, that you like extra mayo on your BLT, that you won't eat the chips or the coleslaw, so it's best to just not put it on the plate. You bring a book, and as you're waiting, you bury your nose in it, hoping that people don't bother you.

(This week, it's a book on cryptography. It has a nifty passage on Mary, Queen of Scots.)

Now the woman's talking about her views on politics. The waitress who's taking her dessert order is agreeing wholeheartedly. When this woman leaves, another will take her place, and the waitress will change her official opinions to whatever the new patron's beliefs are. She's a single mother with two growing boys, so if Satan himself came in and advocated slaughtering everyone named Ernie, she'd nod her head and murmur agreement, all in the hope of a bigger tip. Everyone here is a liar. They're all so full of shit.

(Unlike you, the paragon of virtue. Or something.)

You lied to him this morning, with an ease that you suppose should scare you. He asked if you were okay, if things were okay between you. You didn't tell him that you've been faking your orgasms since November. You didn't tell him that you're bored with him, with your life, with your pathetic job, with the coffee you drink in the morning. You conveniently forgot to mention that your plans for the day involved driving out to a little town he'd never heard of, where you'll slip your ring into the smallest pocket in your purse and hope no one notices the conspicuous tan line. You have a cover story. You're a widow, a poor, impoverished widow, who had to pawn your ring for money to buy food. Cans of tuna fish, at the dollar store. To feed your cats.

(It's so ridiculous that you know no one will buy it. Maybe you want to be caught.)

You're jarred from your thoughts by a familiar hand on your back. He slides into the booth next to you, closing your book without even letting you mark your page. You tell him he's late. He replies with a kiss. The waitress smiles, because she doesn't know that he has a wife and you have a husband. Even if she did, she would still kiss your ass because her eldest son wants a computer for Christmas and you tip thirty-two percent. She calls him Troy, because you thought it'd be cute. Helen and Troy.

(He's not amused. Every time you call him that, he shoots you a dirty look.)

He runs his hand up your thigh, even though the waitress is standing right there. You're not wearing underwear because he doesn't like you wearing underwear, because it's one more piece of clothing that you have to account for when you leave the hotel room, because all your underwear is boring. Frilly, lacy, Victoria's Secret-esque panties make you itch. He's doing naughty things to you as he orders his sandwich.

(Maybe he wants to be caught, too.)

This time, it's the last time. Your marriage provides you with a position, with comfort, and with this particular affair, you've taken too many risks. One of these days, your husband will call your girlfriend and she'll forget that she's your alibi. One day, you'll get in a car accident and the hospital will tell him you were on a highway where you shouldn't have been. One of these days, your lover will leave evidence, scratches, or a hickey, and he'll discover it. One of these days, he'll find the birth control pills you have stashed in your dresser, under piles of boring, cotton underwear.

(He's had a vasectomy. No reason for you to be on the Pill.)

He kisses you as the waitress leaves, a soft, gentle kiss. You peer into his eyes, and you wonder if he knows you don't love him. If he hadn't accepted your advances, you would have hunted down someone else. The body in the bed with you in the hotel room is replaceable, interchangeable. The only thing you care about is the rush that comes from the power, the ability to take a man away from another woman. He stood up in some church somewhere and pledged to be with his wife until he died, but yet, he is here, with you. You've stolen him.

(Maybe that's why you seem to have an unconscious wish to be discovered. It's no fun having pulled off such an accomplishment if you cannot brag.)