“Dangerous Liaison,” by Bill Freeland

Jan 20th, 2008 | By | Category: Prose

I’m beginning to have this uncomfortable feeling that I’ve been cheating on my wife.

It began a couple of months with a website offering information on “how to catch a cheating spouse.”   Harmless enough – until you read the warning signs:

1. Spouse has been hiding the cell phone or ducking into another room to take a call.

First, in my own defense, I’m not so sure that I haven’t actually been losing the damn thing rather than hiding it.   In any case, when I hear the ring, I’m sent racing to search under every cushion and in the back of every closet until it’s found.   But now I wonder: am I merely being careless or is there another reason the thing keeps turning up in out of the way locations?

2. Spouse smelling of another person’s perfume or cologne.

Heavens, if this is me, I’d be the last to know.   I have almost no sense of smell myself and thus it’s often left to my wife to remind me to change a smelly shirt or apply a breath freshener.   Or am I in denial?   It might be that I just refuse to acknowledge an odd aroma and I’ve made my wife an unconscious accomplice.   Maybe in her attempts to keep me fragrance-neutral, she’s unwittingly helping me to cover my tracks?

3. Spouse doing laundry at strange hours.

I admit I’ve had trouble sleeping.   And on certain occasions, rather than just counting sheep, I do some laundry.   This chore usually falls to my wife.   But lately I’ve begun to take a certain pleasure in examining each item as I drop it into the machine.   My therapist believes this is just a symbolic recounting of moments of childhood loss.   Yet, as I’m standing there in the dim light during the spin cycle, a question persists: is there some hidden part of myself that I’m really trying to cleanse?

4. Spouse spending long hours at work, often late into the night.

Well, things have been really crazy at work!   There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.   Sometimes my wife asks what’s been keeping me so busy.   Here’s the odd thing: often my mind goes blank!   This happens to us all, but lately I’ve begun to think  ­- am I just distracted or am I blocking something I can’t face?

5. Popping out at strange hours.

Frankly, sometimes I just have to get out.   So I find myself now taking these long walks at all hours.   Not all that strange, except sometimes I feel I’m actually on the way meet someone.   Weird.   Except, as far as I can tell, no one actually turns up.   I’m almost certain  ­-  but not completely because often I can’t quite remember where I’ve been.

So I’ve been kind of a wreck.   Could I so perfectly fit the profile of a cheat and not be one?   Of course, the matter would be settled if only I could learn who it is I’ve been carrying on with.   Yet, as I search the faces of colleagues at work – even our circle of friends – I find no hint of recognition.

Unless – of course! – she’s as deeply in denial as I!

It was about this time, acknowledging how little any of us knows of another, that I looked for insight on the Homeland Security website.   Surely there are clues to distinguish among the masked identities we encounter in daily life.

Well, apparently not.   According to the department, the number one thing to keep in mind when trying to identify, for example, a terrorist: they “usually live among us without appearing suspicious…. They may be your neighbor, student or friend.”   So, if spotting a terrorist is tough, imaging what it takes to uncover your girl friend.   Anyone, it turns out, can be anything!

Things really settled down after that.   Who cares where the phone is or who might be just around the corner.   These days I come straight home from work.   No more excused absences to take a long walk or an unexpected call.   My relationship with my wife has also improved.   If anything, I wish we had more time together.   The demands of her job have really increased.   She’s always on the phone, even in the bathroom.   Yet she won’t hear of me helping with the laundry.

I know what you’re thinking: a modern women who wants it all.   Exactly and I want to be supportive!   In fact, next weekend she off for another long business trip – so I’ll be covering the home front.   And thankfully now, cheating will be the last thing on my mind.


Bill says, “I’m a writer and graphic designer living in northern New Hampshire,” because that’s all we’ll LET him say.

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