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Crushes on Strangers

The Married Man

The Married Man
Credit: Jerzy Kociatkiewicz

A friend of mine insists it’s healthy for married people to have crushes. She contends that crushes strengthen the bonds of matrimony; you can gather your ego-strokes in the world and return at night glowing, reconnected to the rich vein of your own desirability.

That is well and good, but my own suggestion is that you never get a crush on a married person. It’s trouble. Leave it alone. 

My married crush began in an email exchange, with a man I only kind of knew. These details sound mundane, but they're important—the remove of the technology allowed both of us to sink into an intimate exchange, free of the harsh fluorescents of real life. Because I didn't know his wife—or even his wife’s name—this allowed her to remain a hypothetical, a part of the picture that was easy to crop. Our emails were coy, but never explicit. More troubling was the way I felt myself leaning into the idea of him, craving those heroin hits of his name in my inbox.

“I think you like him because he’s unavailable,” one friend told me.

“Maybe you like him because he’s bad for you,” another suggested.

I suspected I liked him because he was amazing. And yet, I could not deny the first two. He was both of those—and I was on the hook.

We made plans to meet one Friday, and I pulled up stakes at the last minute, explaining in an email that this particular gamble did not seem in my favor. His response was sincere and understanding. I read it 10 times. He assured me that if I changed my mind, he would love to see me and he swore nothing physical would happen between us. But didn’t he understand? That was exactly what I feared most.

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TMN Contributing Writer Sarah Hepola is the Life editor at Salon. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Nerve, and on NPR. She lives in Texas with a sweet orange cat who is not fat, he’s just big-boned. If you just read her story about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, she’d like to point that it is fiction. More by Sarah Hepola

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