Our philosophy back then was that monogamy is sort of the coward’s way out, if you are spiritual and adventurous and on a generally higher plane than the rest of society that sort of petty bourgeois thinking is nonsense and counter-revolutionary. Some groups despise monogamy so much that they won’t let you sleep with the same person two days in a row. And after all, we have just come away from a situation where I am living with my husband, my ex-boyfriend and my current boyfriend, and Karl has an ex-girlfriend who is sleeping with my husband. So the idea that someday the four of us might engage in sex is not a completely alien notion, and even has sort of mildly exciting expectancy attached to it. Unfortunately I am not at all attracted to Rick but more unfortunately, at least in my opinion, is that it is the opposite when it comes to Karl and Nora. They have an unspoken tension between them, maybe there is a hasty kiss behind the bushes, maybe a touch, nothing more so far but I can see it out of the corner of my eye, coming.
Being liberated and evolved, Karl and I discuss the possibility of him having sex with Nora. I am entirely supportive, we sit in our plastic hogan with moonlight filtering through, and he asks me, are you sure you will be okay with this? And I repeat, as I’ve assured him yesterday and the day before when this subject came up, of course I am fine with it, and he looks at me quizzically, and maybe a little skeptically, but his loins are on fire for her, I know that. He wants to believe me, I can see that he wants to very much. And then I stretch out on our mattress and sleeping bag, my arm around him, not clutching, oh no, merely nestled against his back for warmth, for love.
The next day is Saturday and sunny, and we are surrounded by the forest and ferns and green things thickly grown, the delicious scent of lilac and pickerel weed, and I walk a ways on an old logging trail to where we are going to build our permanent house, and I dig out stones and toss them into the underbrush while Caitlin sits by the little stream nearby and builds a dam. I have no idea where Nora and Karl have gotten to. Rick and his boy are down by the huts cooking, but I concentrate on the stones and making the clearing larger, and help Caitlin find some better twigs to set across the trickle.
When the two of them finally make their appearance down at the campsite I know from the self-conscious fat pleasure on their faces that they have fucked indeed, fucked in spite of me, because of me, had sexual congress on a warm slab of granite in the sun in this wooded paradise, fucked all their pent up passion out and honestly, I can’t blame Nora a bit because if I was married to Rick I’d want to sleep with Karl every day, not just today. Karl, Karl I can blame.
But first I scream.
I’m not a screamer naturally, in fact this is the only time in my life I scream, I might articulate very loud when I have a baby but this is a true high pitched resonant scream like a banshee, pain made audible and echoing in the forest, silencing the birds, the squirrels frozen with acorns midway to their mouths, the crickets poised with antennae twitching, listening.
That’s all, then I look at Karl and he is bewildered and he says, but you told me to, you said it was fine with you, and not unexpectedly he wants an answer. So I say, I told you to because if you didn’t fuck her just because I said not to, it wouldn’t prove anything. If I tell you its okay and you still don’t fuck her, then I know that you love me. I reflect, but the logic of this position seems impeccable to me. I have examined it upside, downside and sideways, especially sideways.
So, after all that we build our house way up the hill and Rick and Nora think about moving to Oregon, and the four of us never really find that old camaraderie again, even though Karl, now a little wiser having listened to that scream, seems cured of his hankering for Nora. I am ready to acknowledge that my spiritual development has not risen to the desired level, but, I say to Karl, perhaps with additional meditation I will be better able to deal with, and I hold my breath and change the word “infidelity” to “non-monogamy”. And I smile, knowing that this particular game will be played again some time.
When they make a movie about this event, the marquee will read “Husband Involved in Sex Scandal With Wife’s Best Friend”, but the subtitle, my private heading, will say “Husband Fails Love Test Yet Again, Vows to Do Better Next Time”.