I’ll turn forty in a few months. I’m not old, I know, but I’m stagnant. My wife and I have been together for a while, but our marriage is more of a habit than a romance, at this point. Oh, it’s not all bad. Cindy’s a good woman. We have a comfortable life, the careers we always wanted, and enough vacation time and disposable income to allow for some travel, something we both enjoy.
Cindy and I love our house, our lifestyle, our common interests, just about everything about our life together. We just don’t love each other. The only way we seem to be completely happy is if we’re sharing another woman. Cindy insists she’s bi, not gay, but she only seems to glow if we have a woman in our lives. Not just in bed, either. She develops a real closeness with these women, almost seems to fall in love with them. But then she loses interest. After twelve years of marriage, I believe that Cindy just can’t sustain lasting relationships. She’d probably discard me, too, but our arrangement works too well for her to give it up.
Me? Sometimes I question my capacity to love. I grew up as the only child of a pair of rather cold, guarded parents. I felt respect, pride, and concern for my well-being from them, but nothing that could ever really be called affection.
I did well in school, went in the service, survived, went to college, and eventually became a university professor. I met Cindy in grad school. We clicked. Even though we were in different majors, we shared a lot of interests academically. She wanted to be a biology professor, and I was studying archeology. When we both got job offers from the same school, we decided to get a house together. The sex was good, so we convinced ourselves we were in love and got married. We’re both fond of each other, and my life would be very different without her, but I don’t think either of us feels the intense love some couples do. Oh well.
* * * * * * * * * *
Liz was a junior archeology major. We were on a Native American dig in Arizona five summers ago. I hadn’t meant for anything to happen. Sure, I liked her. She was an excellent student, a hard worker, and, I couldn’t help but notice, hot as hell.
I think I passed the point of no return in my thoughts about her the day we all got a little overheated. I knew when I woke up just before dawn that it would be literally hot as hell that day. At breakfast, I suggested to the kids that we take the day off because of the heat, but they all said they wanted to work (probably afraid of losing brownie-points), so off we went. I had reminded everyone to pack a lot of water, and insisted on a ten-minute break every hour in the shade of a rock outcropping along the nearby creek.
Liz was dressed in the usual loose khaki shirt and slacks everyone wore on these things. Several times over the past few days, I thought I got a brief flash of nipple when her shirt gapped. I was pretty certain she didn’t wear a bra. She didn’t really need one, not because her breasts were too small, but because she was so fit. At night in the camp, she always changed into little cut-off jean shorts and a t-shirt, and when the night air got chilly, it became obvious that her chest was cold.
Despite my warning, Liz went to work with her usual enthusiasm, pushing heavy wheelbarrow loads of dirt to the sifter, combing for artifacts, and removing the waste soil at her usual rapid pace. It was on our third break of the morning, about eleven o’clock, when I asked all the kids how much longer we should work. Normally, we took our lunch break around one in the afternoon, and stayed in the shade until three, writing up notes and making plans for the rest of the day. I was miserable, and some of the kids were looking pretty drained, so I suggested we quit for the day.
No one wanted to be the first to agree, so I decided to take a vote. We went around the group, and ended with Liz. She looked at me and said, “Doc, I’m guess I’m the tie-breaker. Normally, I would say we should stop wasting time and get back to work, but it’s just too damn hot. So, I vote we go swimming.”