. the affair . excerpt
from with the force of an avalanche . a memoir-in-progress .
Tristan. Forlorn eyes. Sunken mouth.
It's like his sadness comes from a place deep within. A well. A place I can never touch, no matter how wonderful I was to him. His sadness comes from something beyond me, before me, something from time immemorial. As if he'd always been sad. As if he no longer sees me when he's sad. For him, I am the cause, for him, I no longer exist. The only way to stop is sadness is for him to have me completely. A total possession of me.
Tristan manipulated me with his sadness, with his puppy dog eyes. If I stood with Raphael, he was sad. If I stood apart, he was sad. If I spoke to another man, he was sad. If I felt distant because I felt guilty and immoral, he was sad.
I tell Tristan I can't see him anymore. He looks at me - tired eyes - eyes that are old and grey, too long seeing the world, too sad - they take in too much. He doesnŐt say anything. I blush. A burning embarrassment and a wane of sadness imprison me until I am going down. I put the sleeping bag over my head. Tears drip on my face.
Tristan pushes the blanket back, a window to his world. "Was machts du denn?", he asks in my mother's tongue. I am ashamed, a child, my mother has walked into the room, is speaking to me.
He cares more about me than the rejection he feels, I think at that moment.
Conan raps on the door and opens before we answer. "Raphael's left," he says, as his eye flickers back and forth, from me to Tristan. He is blushing, he is angry, and he closes the door with a thud. Conan told me his presence is there and he thinks I am wrong. He thinks I am evil. I am evil woman.
The first night, Tristan hugged me. He sat close on the couch while me and Jonathan and he watched a film about the vanishing Clayquot forests. He wore his arrest for the lumber protest like a badge. "Forty-five days in jail," he looked up at me, eager, like a puppy, but I could hardly hear him above the shouting, chattering crowd. I didnŐt know what Clayquot was - I thought he said "clay pot" and was perplexed by the absurdity.
He said later, he wasn't sure whether I liked him until I brought over the tin whistles for him, and the last of my childrenŐs books for his roommate, ValerieŐs kids.
The first time Tristan & I made love, we afterwards cuddled in each others' arms. The late afternoon sun slants through his one window. The room is colder, the door creaks and slams, creaks and slams, boots slapping across the wooden floorboards.
Tristan gets up, lights incense. "Are you hungry?" he asks.
We get dressed, what little we have to do. I pull my jeans up, straighten my shirt.
We leave the place. Jonathan is talking in the living room, excited about something, almost in a high-pitched whine, tinier murmur answers him as a dull thud and a graty-shaking, a log hitting the pile of logs in the fireplace, Jonathan poking the metal stick into its warming womb, blowing with the fan, rubbing his hands, spreading them before the birthing flames.
We walk down the shaky wooden porch steps, closing the creaking front door slowly, so that no one knows we had been there at all.
We walk along residential streets, all of them quiet. We go north, away from the downtown district, where Raphael is probably circulating.
We pass by community gardens. I become excited to know they exist, I hadn't seen any since Olympia.
"I didnŐt know whether you were going or not, how long you'd be here. I didn't want to get involved if you were only going to be here another week. But when you left me in the tin whistle, that's when I was sure about you - " He lit up his face, lit up the gloomy winter street.
He chattered, giddily, like young girls clamoring about their latest crush, about the restaurant, how much I'd like it.
I stopped, like a train halting, emergency brakes. "You don't have to take me to a restaurant." I felt so guilty. "I don't want you to spend your money."
But Tristan felt festive. A smile is contagious, but was only so on the surface. He refused to read my turmoil, the averted glances at my wristwatch.
Nestled among trees, a park, a quiet street, lay a quiet batch of boutiques, restaurant, a cobblestone square. The cobblestone buildings, shaped in Tudor A's , transported us to a time past, a country past. I hoped a man pushing a wheelbarrow filled with straw would shuttle by, his lantern swinging on his pole before him. Instead, a car rattled by, its one headlight knocked out, the other dim, glancing through the fog rolling in.
The restaurant was dark. A waitress lit a candle. An older blond woman, in her thirties, apron at her waist, was lighting candles on the tables, as our hostess glided us through its corridors. Perhaps she read our minds - she put us in a booth far away from the window, away from any prying eyes.
Tristan was free. I was caged.
Here I was, Tristan's secret concubine. Perhaps he thought he could win me from Raphael. That I wouldn't be with a man who couldn't feed me. He took pride in serving me a banquet. Or perhaps he was just a happy man, celebrating being with someone he felt deeply about.
The waitress stopped lighting the candles. We placed the cloth napkins on our laps.
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