Confessions of the Other Woman

“John Paul is dead.”

The voice on the other end of the phone was John Paul’s wife telling me that her husband — my long-ago married “boyfriend” —had died. Of AIDS.

Samantha said she was calling all of John Paul’s “friends” to tell them to get tested. I was in shock, speechless.

Before I could say the only pathetic thing that came to my mind, “I am sorry,” Samantha had hung up. I was foolish to believe Samantha didn’t know I had slept with John Paul. By her tone I could tell she probably knew the day our affair had started and the day it ended.

I first saw John Paul at his business, a beauty salon. Samantha was my hairdresser. She constantly sang John Paul’s praises as she shampooed, blow dried, pressed and curled my hair. “He bought me a new car,” she would say one day or “He is so very good to my daughter,” she said with pride and love. Her litany of his good deeds made me envious.

Today, I tell women to be careful what you say about your man to another women. Sometimes a nod and a smile can hide a jealous heart.

I met John Paul one afternoon at a farmers’ market. Samantha wasn’t around. I was intrigued; I felt like I already knew him. We made love that very night. We did it standing up in the steamy laundry room in my apartment building. He was slow and steady, kissing me all over, whispering promises in the dark. I thought I was in heaven.

By the time Samantha told me of his death, I hadn’t been intimate with John Paul for years. Still, I arrived at the clinic at six am the next morning. Thank God I received a negative test result and was told to “come back in six months.”

Apparently John Paul had had lots of lovers. Had he been with both men and women? I cannot say for sure. He didn’t seem like the “down low” type. But then, I didn’t seem like the type of woman who would have sex with a married man either.

In matters of the heart, nothing is what it seems from the outside looking in. My family and friends see me as an independent single mom, a talented and ambitious writer, a trusted and loyal friend. I consider myself a spiritual rather than religious woman. “Live and let live” is my motto, my golden rule. I believe Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha were all prophets and some of what they all had to say makes sense to me.

However, when I started having sex with John Paul, all of my good intentions and ideals were replaced with lies and justifications. I remember scouring the Bible for some passage, some scripture, just a line or two that said adultery is only wrong for the married person, not the person he was cheating with. Of course, there was no such thing in the Bible, or anywhere else. Yet, somehow, I convinced myself it was okay.

I dared not tell anyone about my affair with John Paul. Keeping our secret made every encounter more meaningful and intense. And when he would turn his back to me after we made love, zip up his pants and head home to Samantha, I never let him see me cry. I ached for him and obsessed about the next time we would be together.

I lied to myself and said I was just having fun, that I was not really in love with John Paul. But the truth is, when Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day rolled around, I missed him terribly and imagined what it would be like to have him at my side, instead of where he was—at home with his wife and family.

One night I asked John Paul, “Do you love me?”

“I like you a lot,” he replied.

It was then I was able to break through the fog of denial that I had hidden in for the two years we had messed around. I finally realized I deserved better, much, much better than sneaking around with someone else’s husband. I told myself as long as I was involved with John Paul, I would never find a love of my own. I found the courage to end the affair. It was painful and I was often lonely, but slowly I regained my feelings of lovability.

The most important lesson I learned from my affair is that the worst and most damaging lies are the ones we tell ourselves. Snatching slices of ecstasy, without experiencing the everyday joys and disappointments of living with and loving another human being is why it’s called cheating. I was cheating myself out of a whole life relationship, one in which I could explore and express true love.

I contrast my affair with the relationship I am in now, and the difference is amazing. What I cherish most about Alvin is that he is my best friend. He stood by me through the lowest points of my life; the sudden death of my sister and my father’s passing. Alvin held me through my tears, made me laugh and helped me to stay strong.

I used to wait on pins and needles for a call or visit from my married lover. Today, I’m secure in knowing Alvin. We can love and make love without pretending to be who we are not. Through trust and optimism we have formed a mighty bond that I will never take for granted.

Moxie Rich is the pen name of an author and freelance journalist living in Los Angeles.