Invitations to the Affair
Their spouses would be invited, of course. So would his two boys (one in college, the other a high-school sophomore) and her ten-year-old daughter.
His mother would be invited, although she probably wouldn’t come, as it might remind her of her husband, his father, who had had a trio of mistresses, one in each of the final three decades of his life. (He’d died, of a heart attack, in his last mistress’s bedroom as he buckled his belt and condemned a politician’s flight from decency.) She would invite both of her parents, who, she said, “will support me no matter what.”
Her grandmother was alive, but she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. “She wouldn’t understand,” she said. Her grandmother’s marriage had been monogamous but miserable, which made her a suspect defender of “’Til death do us part.”
Their best friends would of course be invited, although hers might decline. A year earlier, her husband had left her and their three children for his gay lover. His best friend, meanwhile, was married for a second time, and he and his wife were experimenting with an open marriage. In a recent phone conversation, he’d said, “It isn’t for me to judge what is good love and what is bad love, what is healthy love and what is sick love.”
Their colleagues would be invited. It would be awkward to leave them off the guest list, especially as there existed, as they’d recently discovered, an office pool about when the two of them would, in the words of their favorite administrative assistant, a frustrated poet, at last “retire their ferocious flirting and do the deed.” Doubtless some of their colleagues would attend only because of the open bar.
They would, reluctantly, invite their in-laws. Half a decade before, her brother-in-law had beaten up a man in a bowling alley. He’d received a suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service. She was worried he might defend his younger brother’s honor by throwing a punch. His in-laws weren’t capable of such violence, but, especially during holiday meals, could be cynical and subtly condemnatory. He worried the ceremony would be marred by persistent, sarcastic murmurs.
Ex-lovers were a touchy topic. Would their exes spend the entire ceremony wondering if they had been cheated on? Before evening’s end, would they, spurred by alcohol and uneasy recollections, demand to know? Or would they sidle up to the true cuckolds (or cuckolds-to-be) and advise, “Dump him the way I did” or “Believe me, there’s life after her, although maybe, like me, you won’t realize it for a year”?
They’d hired a caterer, who, for dessert, would serve, in a whimsical gesture, devil’s food cake.
As affair favors, they joked about giving away condoms, a nod to the birth control they would be using. Instead, they decided on boxes of chocolate-covered cherries and paperback copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
As a venue, they had chosen a room in an inexpensive hotel twenty miles south of town. For months, they had teased each other with allusions to the place. As the date approached, however, they were becoming increasingly uneasy about the possible gulf between their fantasy of the place and its reality. (What if the room reeked of cheap deodorizer? What if there were bedbugs?)
They again read over the guest list, added another pair of names (her high-school track coach, the neighbor who’d once shared with him a natural dandruff remedy).
The list was long. The room couldn’t hold everyone. But they would all be there, one way or another.