Sometimes I still wish I could see him. Acting on that wish would be unconscionable, so I don’t think I’ll see him. No one ever runs into anyone else in this town. I don’t know why.

The thing about a married man – and this is when backs stiffen, lips press together, and the most stereotypical of judgmental looks are employed, because every decent American knows that you do not enter into anything with a married man. If it’s a friendship that got complicated, that slid from a very regular, happy place into a murky gray area where the intensity level was far too high – well, it won’t net you any sympathy. It’s a forgone conclusion that you – I – was a bad Lola.

But the thing about an unhappily married man, the thing you will not expect and most definitely have mixed feelings about, is the way in which he makes you the center of his universe. He is sad, after all, and he is just realizing that much of the little things he pinned his self-worth on are nothing more than mile markers, and will not comfort him when he is lost. And then you –

I should say I. Then I, without realizing it, became the thing that made him happy, the sole thing, and he gave me attention and moral support and we shared sandwiches. If there is anything which I can picture as the absolute of two happy people, it’s sharing sandwiches. When I understood what power I held in his life I shivered all over. I don’t like power, not even the word, and most certainly not the implications. I don’t like unhappiness either, and it’s a point of pride that I’ve always been the sort of person my friends know they can call in any sort of duress. By this time we spent so many of our daylight hours together – I was on a sabbatical from the preschool, pursuing another career entirely – that he’d become, in essence, my only friend.

I was halfway down the slope, and as yet had no idea.

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