Into The Wild Essay Belonging

Into The Wild Essay Belonging-64
I loved way she outlined the bubble letters on our art projects and cut pieces of construction paper into perfect circles.I loved how she was always there with her short hair, driving the purple minivan whose license plate I memorized.Our group texts were slaloms of blue bubbles that bounced happily between topics relevant to our respective lives: teething and sleep training, diaper rash and birth control that was safe to take while breastfeeding, being hungover, being unable to remember the name of the man I had slept with the night before. But when I told my friends I was sleeping with Neil, the husband of the woman whose essay we had discussed in detail, something changed.

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But then, because these things sometimes happen — a short straw, a joker card pulled from the deck — I found out after five years that this kind and quiet man was not the kind of man I wanted to marry.

He was the kind of man who kept secrets, the kind of man who had a hard time being honest, the kind of man who lied about the things he was doing when he wasn’t doing them with me.

I told them that he had offered me socks to keep my feet warm, that he had found and followed me on Twitter, and that he had started direct messaging me when we were hanging out with other people, sitting across the room from each other and secretly talking shit about everyone else. Of course there was no way for me to know for sure that Neil was telling the truth, short of calling his wife and asking her myself. That, when they’re out picking up groceries, they’re not calling a woman they slept with two weeks ago and deleting her phone number before they get home.

I even told them how, when he invited me to his writing studio for the first time, long before anything happened, he had told me his marriage to his wife was an open one, that she had a boyfriend of her own, and that he had already told her he had been flirting with me. But didn’t we all have to take our partner’s word to some degree? “I guess I don’t know for sure,” I wrote and waited for them to respond.

In the middle of our breakup, I played bridesmaid to my best friend.

Standing beside her as she said her vows, I felt like we were opposites. Standing in front of her wedding guests, I remember thinking for the first time, If being good was what got me here, then I may as well be whatever I want.A few minutes later, one of my friends finally wrote, “I can totally see why it’s hot to be in your position.” And then, in all caps, “I WOULD NOT WANT TO BE THE WIFE THOUGH.” “If I were the wife,” another one wrote, “I’d rip his fucking balls off.” Months later, my friends would tell me that they were worried when I told them I was sleeping with a married man.When it happened, though, it was hard for me to see anything in their texts other than the way the tone changed, the way the enthusiastic back and forth we had maintained for years had come to a standstill.Neil and I had decided to meet for a drink on my way through Madison, and I was only a few blocks from the bar where we had agreed to meet when he texted me, “Mind if my wife joins us? I had thought that so much of this trip would be terrifying, but none of it was. That night, the four of us didn’t talk for long, but we talked about a lot: writing residencies and freelance jobs, slush piles and waiting to hear back from editors, writing contests and how long it takes for a piece to be published. She was vulnerable and brilliant and quick-witted and kind, and I could see why Neil loved her.” During our time in residency, Neil had told me about what it was like to be in an open marriage, how many of the men his wife met on dating apps were more than happy to sleep with a married woman, while most of the women he talked to were too suspicious of his situation to ever meet. If anything, being on my own made me feel alive again — wild, even — and I was starting to realize how many of my life choices had been made for the wrong reasons. After only a few minutes of talking, she confessed to me that her day had been terrible.“Emily’s Heartbreak Tour of America,” my friends called it, and it kind of was.I was a 33-year-old woman, and after spending my entire adult life looking for a man to marry, I committed instead to a year of not trying to find one.When I was a teenager, I didn’t fall in love with boys — I fell in love with their families.In seventh grade, it was Sean’s mother, who came to our classroom every day to help the teacher with whatever needed helping.Back then, we didn’t care about the marital status of the men we slept with, because, back then, the only people we were loyal to were each other. We were writers, and we bonded in the way that people who have these things in common do.We created our own form of family, and we had clung tight to that for the past decade. I was really nervous to meet you.” Her honesty endeared me to her instantly. It reminded me of what a friend said when she was the first among us to have children.


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