“Please Say No” by Jimmy Eat World from Damage
Dana stood on the bottom step, looking upward, expectant, scared, excited…emotions cresting and crashing for mere seconds across her face. Angela could read them all. Every last one of them. And knew that Dana could see the same flickers and sparks dancing over her features as well.
They breathed out as one, heated breath curling the air around them in puffs of grey white smoke that hung in the air with stubborn resolve. Their hearts races and both trembled in complimentary rhythm with each other, adrenaline and cold combining to make it impossible to know who was the culprit.
Dana wondered if Claire would call tonight, after the conference before bed, or would just go to sleep. Claire used to call every night when she went on business trips. That felt very long ago.
Angela wondered if Dana still insisted on only wear that one brand of underwear. The one that clung to her…just so. She wondered and blushed and hated and loved the memory of it all at once.
“It’s cold,” Angela finally ventured.
Dana nodded, and shuffled one foot to the other, her coat separated from the wind taking advantage of that brief move. Angela caught a glimpse of the boots giving way to the fishnets leading to the skirt. She sighed. She had seen this one already and it always left her siding with her desires over her conscience.
“Did you need something?” Angela tried again.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Dana confessed.
Angela’s heart broke a little for her. “What do you want to do?” she quietly suggested.
“I want to come inside.”
Angela replied without hesitation, “Then you should.” There was no point in pretending she had any intention of listening to her conscience, nevermind acting as her ex’s too.
“Claire’s out of town,” Dana offered with a tone that suggested she was perhaps just observing the weather.
“Then you have even less of a reason to go home.”
“You know…you know what happens…”
“I do,” Angela smiles, sad and sweet, “I like what happens.”
“But it’s not real,” Dana protested.
“It is real. It’s temporary, but it’s real.”
“But isn’t…don’t you hate me for it?”
“I love you Dana. And if I have to settle for loving you once every three months, well, then that’s how I’ll love you.”
Angela cut her off, “Claire isn’t my problem. She’s your wife, not mine. I like when you come inside. It makes me happy. You make me happy. How it affects her? I can’t count how little I give a damn about that.”
“I should care though!” Dana shouted back, much louder than she should’ve. Than she meant to.
Angela nodded, looking down and away, “Yeah, you probably should. Maybe instead of demanding yourself to care more, you should ask yourself why you care so little. Or maybe you should just stop worrying about it. None of us get hurt inside. Not you, sure as hell not me, and not Claire.”
“If she found out though—”
“She hasn’t. She won’t. You aren’t the only one who doesn’t care enough about what she should.”
Dana slumped her shoulders at that, as if Angela’s words had the force of a baseball bat to the stomach. Angela felt a tinge of guilt but held her position. She didn’t mind being the other woman, the secret, the ex that never left—however you want to put it. She felt no guilt for her activities and saw no reason Dana should either. Sure, if it was her, she’d have chosen divorce before infidelity. But if it was her, well, who knows? She admitted to herself that no one expects to end up in a marriage like Dana’s.
No she wasn’t bothered by any of it except the delusion and rationalization. That was the killer, the need to take on the guilt as though it would absolve. If you’re gonna cheat, Angela wished she could tell her ex-ish, you should really have more fun doing it.
Dana finally spoke, “Please…please tell me I can’t come in. That I should go home.”
Angela shook her head, “But I don’t want you to go home.”
“And I don’t want to either. But I should. And I’m asking for your help. Please.”
“Dana, just come on and co—”
“This is so du—”
“It doesn’t have to be this frau—”
Angela bit her lip and slaps the bannister under her hand.
“This is worse,” she whispered tightly, “Don’t ever come back here and ask me to play your cricket. You want to be better, be better. Don’t make me make myself miserable so you can feel a little more morally clean.”
Dana choked a sob, “I’m sorry I just—”
“Go home Dana,” Angela replied, turning on her heels and ascending the rest of the stairs to the front of her brownstone, “Go home to your empty house, your cold bed, your pretty but bland place settings. Claire will be back before you know it and you go both go back to pretending like this is what you always dreamed love would be.”
She nearly slammed the door, but stopped herself at the last moment. Being the other woman meant, eventually, you wouldn’t be anymore. Either you’d be THE woman or you’d be the left behind. No sense in acting out about it.
Dana walked the 15 blocks home, too numb for the cold to bother her, too scrambled to remember which line on the subway made sense this time of night. It started to know. In 15 hours Claire would land. In about 16, she’d be unloading the Uber on the curb. Everything would be the same.