The Another

    ‘I took to infidelity, as others take to religion’



    The first day

    I led a very settled life and lived with my first girlfriend and high-school sweetheart for 20 years. We lived together, and then we became parents. We looked like the perfect couple, the ideal family. Everything was going well until I changed jobs to become a school principal and discovered the erotic side of power. Until then, my sex life had been fairly limited, but I was happy with it. It was a bit like Plato’s cave analogy: until you see for yourself, you don’t realize what exists outside.

    All of a sudden, with my new position, I felt that women were starting to look at me. Had they not looked at me before, or was it I who hadn’t seen it? I became aware of my sex appeal, and it boosted my libido. Awkwardly, I broached the subject with my wife, who was not receptive, and told me if I wasn’t happy to deal with it and to look elsewhere. And so, I took to infidelity, as others take to religion. I say that because I was taking a step backward, and I discovered a gift for lying that I didn’t know I had.

    In just a few months I acquired my first lover, then a second, and then a third – until I attended a school committee meeting held at another school. It was June, and extremely hot in the classroom-come-meeting room. There were about ten of us spending the day with our noses stuck in files. Julie was sitting next to me. She was much younger than me, and certainly too beautiful for me. But she laughed at my jokes, and I started to think why not? Maybe she could fancy me.

    ‘Normally, men never leave; they keep their wives and their mistresses. I am the one who left.’

    When the meeting ended, we exchanged e-mails; professional at first, but with ulterior motives – there will always be people to do silly things. We made a date to have lunch at a sushi restaurant. This must have been the meal where I had eaten the least of my life: it is difficult to eat with chopsticks when your hands are trembling. It looked like a love-at-first-sight movie scene. On the way out, we kissed.

    And we kissed another time, on the Seine’s quay, below Notre-Dame. That’s where our story really began when I jumped on my scooter to join her the second I learned where she was. It was summer, and we spent a few days together. Then I had to join my wife and kids for the vacation, which I spent staying connected to Julie with non-stop messages. My wife left to go hiking alone. I left my children at my brother’s and bred to join Julie.

    And as I left, I decided to leave the mother of my two boys for Julie. I sent my wife a text message to tell her that we needed to talk. She came home, and I told her that I had been cheating on her for six months and that I no longer wanted to spend my life with her. I caught myself uttering that awful HR phrase, “I want to end our twenty-year partnership.” At the time, she was happy for me. Then she went through all the phases of grievance, anger and depression: Normally, men never leave; they keep their wives and their mistresses. I am the one who left. Julie had struck the match in an explosive story. She was the catalyst I had been waiting for.

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