Take a deep breath as you knock. Feel the coolness of the doorknob as you wait to turn it. Hear his voice calling from inside. Open the door quickly. When you see him, give him your sweetest smile and a “hello” or a “hi,” but do not be overly enthusiastic. Do not kiss him. Move past him into the room, commenting that what he’s wearing looks nice, though you’ve barely looked at him. He will thank you, not realizing that you’ve barely looked at him. Find somewhere near the door to set down your things, but make sure to keep them together, so you do not have to fumble with them later when you leave, because you will leave, because you always leave. Turn to face him. Let him kiss you. Let him sigh into you, and tell you he missed you. He might tell you he likes what you’re wearing. Smile knowingly and say, “I thought you would.”
Let him tell you about his day, his week, however long it’s been since this happened last. Do not push or pry or nag. That is not what you are for. When you’re together on the couch or the bed, position yourself so that he sees you only from your good side. Think about how this is metaphorical for your relationship.
Sit up while he is still reclining. If your hair is long enough, tousle it with your hands and let it settle down your back. If your hair is short, touch the nape of your neck. Look demurely over your shoulder at him. Watch his reaction. Part your lips, grin, and let him pull you into a kiss. Take satisfaction in your ability to make him do this.
When he compliments you, look him in the face and narrow your eyes, like you’re trying to determine if he’s lying. Know that he is not lying. Turn up the corners of your mouth, just a little, just for a few seconds, so he thinks you believe him. Respond to his too-tender statements with poised nonchalance, with one-word answers, like “OK,” or “alright.” Use “thank you” sparingly. Remember the compliments and think about them later.
Do not act surprised at his stories, at his admissions, at the times he bares his soul, even if what he says is truly shocking. Make him think you are as weary of the world as he is. Listen to him while blinking occasionally, giving him small smiles, and nodding when he makes a point. Do not share your own stories, even if they seem relevant. It is best if you remain mysterious even when he does not.
When he asks you a leading question, answer it as concisely as you can. Do not reveal too much of yourself. If it makes it easier, get a little bit of an attitude. He will like your sass. He might tell you that no one ever speaks to him that way. Look at him with one eyebrow raised and give a half-sweet, half-sarcastic apology. A “sorry” will suffice. He will know you’re not sorry, and you will know you’re not sorry, and he will like it, and you will know it.
Lean in to smell your perfume on his shirt. He will think you are leaning into him. Think of how, later tonight, he will pull the shirt to his face and hold it there, smelling it, drinking it in, because he misses you when you are gone. Try not to think about how you feel gone right now, even though his arm is around you. Silently congratulate yourself on how he will pine for you. Let him kiss you again.
When you move to leave, let him place his hand on the small of your back as you gather your things from near the door. Let him tell you that he will miss you, that he will call you from the office, from the hotel, from his cell phone, if he can. Look at him understandingly and tell him it’s OK if he can’t, because you want to believe it’s OK if he can’t. Tell yourself it’s alright to make him think you won’t miss him, because you want to believe you won’t miss him. Let him kiss your hand, your forehead, your shoulder, even though you think the gestures are too gentle for whatever the hell this is. Walk out the door and do not look back. Do not ever look back.
Walk quickly to your car. Do not think about him. Tell yourself that thinking is only for people who are emotionally invested, which you are not. Repeat to yourself: “You do not care. This means nothing.” You are the other woman by choice. Sit for several minutes staring at the steering wheel. Contemplate where and when in your life you learned to be this manipulative. Pull down the visor and look in the small mirror. If it is light out, put on your sunglasses, so you won’t have to look yourself in the eye. If it is dark out, use the night to hide. Reapply your lipstick. It will be smudged or gone entirely from letting him kiss you. Flip the visor up, push down on the pedal, and go home.
Photo by Bill Mill via Creative Commons