Jaime’s friends and family had assured him she was a terrible person for what she had done, and he wanted her to feel like one. He wanted her to hurt from deep within as he had, wanted her to feel ashamed when she thought of him, when she thought of what she had done. He wanted her to pay for every bad feeling she had made him feel twice over, but he didn’t want to hate her. He couldn’t.
Does that make me a good person? He wondered. Certainly better than her.
He was sitting on the patio of Angelino’s with an immense mug of coffee. A refreshing mist peppered the surface of the liquid, making tiny little craters.
Jaime ran a hand through his hair, just wet enough to stand up straight. Now that he had hair again, he couldn’t keep his hands out of it. Maybe that’s why I take so many showers, he thought, consciously ignoring the fact that he had cried in nine of his last ten. I love the way conditioner feels.
Robin Cronin’s footsteps preceded him, his Italian leather shoes making a professional clunk with each step. The young lawyer approached with a gloved hand outstretched. Jaime’s heart fell. He had hoped he would be ugly, or at least uglier than him. Robin Cronin was painfully attractive.
“You must be Jaime.”
Jaime nodded from behind his mug. The coffee was still too hot to drink, but he pretended to take a large gulp, singeing his tongue in the process.
He bowed slightly. “That’s me. Shall we go inside? This rain isn’t going anywhere.”
They relocated to two overstuffed armchairs and Robin ordered a double-shot of espresso. A $40 painting of an obnoxiously happy cow peered down at them from the wall.
Robin took a deep breath. “Jaime, I want you to know that I am deeply, truly, sorry.”
Jaime screwed up his face and locked eyes with the cow, lost in hay-driven ecstasy. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Really. I didn’t know.” Robin finished his espresso. “I wouldn’t have if I knew.” He placed a hand on Jaime’s knee, causing an involuntary wince. He took his hand back.
“Robin, I appreciate that you’re trying to make amends. I really do. But you’re kind of missing the point.” Jaime crossed his arms. He could feel the cow grinning at him. “Why are you sorry?”
A group of college students was loudly discussing the difference between gluten-free and gluten-full cookies. Robin looked toward them longingly.
“I’m sorry because…” He rubbed his eyes. “What I did was wrong.”
This was a mistake. Jaime thought. I need a shower.
“Really? That’s what you got?” He could feel his voice starting to catch.
Robin looked at the ground. “I didn’t know you were… that you had… you know.”
“I see. So it wasn’t that you were sleeping with my wife, it’s that you were sleeping with my wife and I had cancer. That’s better. You’re a saint.” If I don’t leave soon, I will cry, and it will be pathetic.
“That’s not what I meant. You know that’s not what I meant.”
Jaime stood up to leave. “I know what you meant.”
He turned to go, but stopped short and turned back around. The cow on the wall was practically humming with delight. “Are you still sleeping with her?”
Robin looked up at Jaime, but Jaime’s gaze was transfixed on the cow.
“Yes.” Robin said.
Fuck you, you stupid fucking cow.
They had too many kettles. Both sets of parents had insisted on giving them one, they had received one through their wedding registry, and their apartment had come equipped with one, the only one they actually used; the kettle in which the water was boiling.
“We have too many kettles.” Jaime said.
Molly wrapped her arms around him and kissed the back of his neck. “Let’s go out tonight.”
Jaime dropped two teabags into two mugs. Chamomile for him, peppermint for her. “It’s supposed to be miserable tonight. The forecast calls for snow until tomorrow afternoon.”
“We don’t have to go outside, but please, let’s get out of the apartment. I’m going insane in here.” She slid her hands up his back and onto his shoulders. “Let’s get dinner in town.”
He spun slowly around and smiled at his wife. “Where’d you have in mind?” He grabbed her hips and pulled her close, pressing his forehead against hers.
“Maybe Salvaggio’s?” She tilted her chin upwards and kissed him. “We could get sandwiches and see a movie.”
“You wanna see a movie?”
Molly shrugged. “Why not? There’s nothing else to do.”
Jaime worked his hands under her sweater and started massaging her lower back with his thumbs. “If that’s what you want to do.”
“Do you want to?”
“Honey, I don’t care.”
Molly placed a hand on the back of her husband’s neck. “Be more unhelpful. I dare you.”
Jaime stuck out his tongue. Molly kissed it. We’re disgusting. Jaime smiled.
“I love you, Molly.”
It’s one thing to be told your wife is cheating on you, it’s a different thing to discover it. If your told, it’s much more simple, over and done with in as long as it takes to say “I’m seeing someone else.” Or “She’s having sex with her lawyer friend behind your back.” Or “I’ve been fucking your wife for the last year.” Much less messy. However, if you discover an affair you will be subjected to an ocean of details, each more disgusting and sadistic than the last.
Jaime walked around the middle school track during his lunch break, trying not to remember these details, and remembering them vividly in the process. Their moans, so much louder than when we had sex. The smell of their sweat, the perfume he bought for her, unfamiliar aftershave. Her toes, curling and uncurling. Her legs, swinging rhythmically in the air with each powerful thrust. So much more powerful than me. Trying to ignore the sculpted muscles on his wife’s lover’s back and failing. Failing, failing, failing. Her eyes rolling back in ecstasy. Ecstasy that I was supposed to give her. The sensation that all of their wedding guests and god were watching over his shoulder as his wife got fucked by a more attractive man.
Jaime shut his eyes and sat down by the hurdles. Everything’s okay. You’re going to be alright. You just need to give it time to heal. Ignore the bad thoughts. Your wife cheated on you because you couldn’t satisfy her. That’s not true, she was a bad person, this is her fault. This is your fault. Force them out. Clear your head. Everything’s okay. You’re a failure. You’re going to be alright. You’re a failure. Everything’s okay. You’re a failure.
The afterimage of a penis much larger than his flickered through his mind. Jaime slapped himself. Get up. Go inside. You are not a failure. And he did. But as the bell rang for fifth period, and as thirty sleepy preteens streamed in to feign learning about the solar system, the low whisper of the big penis bore into his brain to stay. You’re a failure.
Jaime booted up the projector. A low-res image of Pluto came up on the screen.
“Final day on the solar system y’all. The test will be next Thursday, and then we’ll watch a movie on Friday.”
A kid towards the back raised his hand. “What movie?”
Jaime shrugged. “Something space-y.”
The class giggled. Jaime didn’t really care what the class did, and they loved him for it.
“I’ll bring in some options on Friday and y’all can pick then. But today…” Jaime fished in his pocket for a laser pointer. “We’ll be talking about Pluto.”
Kids in the front pulled out their notebooks. Kids in the back propped their heads up on their hands to take a sneaky nap. Jaime drew a circle around Pluto with his laser and very briefly thought about Robin’s penis. Pull it together.
“Pluto was discovered in 1930 by an American astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh. Its diameter is 1,485 miles, about the same distance as here to Nebraska.” Birthplace of grade-a bitch Molly Valentine. “Its mass is almost one-five-hundredth of an Earth, and gravity is fifteen times weaker.” You’re weaker. “Any guesses as to how long a year is on Pluto?”
Bored silence. Jaime reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a bag of mixed candies.
“For a piece of candy, any guesses as to how long a year is on Pluto?” Jaime said smugly.
“No, wrong direction.”
“Correct! But no candy to the man with the phone, put it away Kyle, read the sign.” Jaime gestured to a crudely drawn phone with a line through it. The class tittered.
Jaime tossed a stack of papers onto the desk in the front left corner. “This is the study guide for Pluto. There’s a lot on it, but don’t worry, there’ll only be a couple questions about it on the test, and they won’t come from the study guide. This is really just for if you’re interested, so if you don’t want one, don’t take one.” The stack worked its way to the back with only three takers. Fair enough. Molly’s eyes rolled back in ecstasy. Jaime blinked hard.
“Now recently there’s been a bit of a debate over if Pluto should be considered a planet. Technically, it’s now classified as a dwarf-planet. I thought it might be fun if we had a debate of our own. Don’t worry about being scientific enough, but try to be logical in your arguments. Speak from your head not your heart.” That was a dumb thing to say. “Right side of the room, you’ll be defending Pluto as a planet. Left side, argue in favor of the change to dwarf planet.”
“Fine. Candy for valid arguments. Right side.”
A mousy girl towards the middle raised her hand. “Well, I mean, we can’t just go changing things like that. People already know Pluto as a planet, they’ll be confused.”
Jaime didn’t think that really counted as an argument, but the girl almost never talked, so he tossed a tootsie roll her way. A reward, but a shitty one.
“Pluto’s too weak! Its gravity isn’t strong enough!” You’re inadequate. Robin’s rippling muscles shot through Jaime’s head. He tossed a piece of taffy in the right general direction.
“Pluto’s plenty strong. Pluto has moons!” Two pieces of candy.
One of the sleepers in the back raised a hand. “Pluto orbits the Sun. That makes it a planet.”
Jaime cocked his head. “No, Dylan. You know that’s not true.” I hope.
Kyle raised his hand, but couldn’t wait to be called on. “Pluto is too small to clear its orbit of debris!”
“Kyle! I can see your phone!”
A good-looking girl in the front smiled at Jaime. “Pluto’s not big enough.”
Jaime’s testicles retreated into his stomach. “Uh. Yeah, sure.” He placed a Snickers on her desk. Robin smacked Molly’s ass. This is all her fault.
The two sides lobbed increasingly illogical arguments back and forth for a half hour. Before the bell rang, right as it was beginning to slip into name-calling, Jaime called for a vote.
“Now, based on the arguments you’ve heard, and your personal feelings, if you think Pluto deserves to be a planet, raise your hand.”
Almost everyone raised their hand. Huh.
“Why? There’s overwhelming evidence against it, as Kyle’s phone told us, it doesn’t meet any of the criteria set by the IAU. As your science teacher, I’m telling you it’s not a planet.” Jaime scanned the classroom. No one’s hand lowered.
“Pluto is too small, and its gravity is too weak. Why do you all disagree?”
Jaime’s students stared at him. Jaime raised the candy above his head.
“We like Pluto!” Kyle blurted out. “There’s no scientific reason, but we like it, so it should be a planet.” The class nodded in agreement. “Definitions are arbitrary, and maybe scientists won’t call it one, but I’m gonna.”
Jaime walked over to Kyle’s desk, and placed the bag of candy on his notebook to a chorus of small gasps.
“Good point.” Jaime intoned.