The last couple weeks, members of the faithful FCN few have been clamoring to hear the epilogue to my brief encounter. If my reference to classic British film was too tangential, let me briefly recap what happened on my first few Ashley Madison-esque dates with Claudia:
I got her number and asked her out. That part was epic. Then I found out she's married. That revelation took the shine off the “epic” and made it more “weird, scary and unfortunate,” at least that's how Bill described it. Bill, my workout buddy, was instrumental in my securing a first date with Claudia, so I'm blaming the debacle on him, at least until he is spotting me at the bench press and is responsible for the well-being of my trachea. Then I might cut him some slack.
While the comments on the Claudia post had given me wide latitude in my options, their general theme advised moving on. But I didn't want to rush into terminating things. I had to know if she was telling the whole truth about Marco. How separated were Claudia and Marco? Was he a dangerous person – a man prone to fits of violent passion against perceived competitors for his wife's affection -- or a calm, affectionate soul? I'd never met Marco and therefore couldn't be sure he even existed. Was he a myth invented by Claudia to test my interest? To test my integrity? His name – the first part of a common kid's pool game – was suspicious enough. Who names their children Marco? Mongolians? Kublai Khan's descendants?
We met for lunch at a mid-sized restaurant near downtown. I knew the owners and liked the food. If things hit the fan with Claudia, at least I would be left eating in a good establishment. As the mid-week traffic filled the restaurant to about half capacity, we took out seats. We didn't say a word to each other until the waiter, a man who's thin frame could hold precious little muscle even if it wanted to, left with our drink orders.
C: So...the French dip here is fantastic.
Claudia: Haha. [Nervous pause]. I dropped a bomb on our last date. You were weird afterward – understandably weird. What are you going to do?
The words of such distinguished commenters as DTH Rocket, Jonathan and Anonymous (1) echoed in my head. DTH's reference about the necessity of a certificate of divorce was especially puissant. I decided to explore it a little.
C: Look, you're married to the guy. Marriage is a sacred institution. It's a commitment of monogamy, fidelity and trust. A dissolved marriage is sad – a tragedy really.
C: Let me finish.
I didn't know what to say next, so I paused. An interminably earnest expression covered Claudia's attractive features. Cute lips that were so often smiling were now pursed in an expression of concern. I charged on.
C: I don't care about your past. People change; our stories change. There is nothing you could have revealed on our first date that would have kept me from asking you out again. Part of that is due the fact that you're super hot and that I have terrible luck in the dating world, but another part is that you are a really interesting person and we have chemistry. I can't ignore our chemistry.
Claudia: Aw, you're sweet. But you're right, C, don't ignore our chemistry.
I'd thrown my bone to Anonymous (2) and (3). Now it was time to say something determinative.
C: I think we need to put those feelings aside. Let's put ourselves in Marco's shoes for a minute. He's out there somewhere – probably at the batting cages, gun range or lifting weights – thinking about the ten he let get away and how he can reconcile after his mistake. The fact that there's no progress on your divorce after a year tells me something. Claudia, there's a man there who messed up royally but still loves you and wants you back. I will not be the fool that stands between a man and his beautiful wife.
Claudia: But Marco cheated...
C: I know, Claudia. And that sucks. You have to make a decision whether you are going to reconcile with Marco or divorce him. But until that decision is made, we can't date. And you shouldn't date.
Claudia: I'm sorry you feel that way, but I understand.
C: Hey, for what it's worth, if I were married to a woman and she were out gallivanting with a guy as hot as me, I would be upset.
I had done my job. I had cut things off in the most respectable and decent way possible. The ball was in her court.
My self-satisfied reverie was interrupted by a commotion near the door. The thin-framed waiter was trying to hold back a large muscle-bound man in his early twenties. Trying and failing. I'm not sure how tall the intruder was, but I estimate over 6'4”. He barged past the server and stormed toward where Claudia and I were seated.
“Marco,” Claudia whispered.
Remembering Papa G's advice, I sprung into action. I hopped up out of my seat, flipping it over into the aisle to block Marco's path, and fled. I knew there was a service entrance behind the kitchen, so I booked toward the restrooms and through a swinging door labeled “Associates Only.” Marco never saw where I went. I was safe.
I spotted the owner sitting at a desk doing paperwork. I paid him for our meal plus a generous tip, hoping it make amends for the commotion Marco had caused. When I explained the situation, he smiled a broad, comforting grin.
“Did you learn anything?”
I chuckled and smiled. I haven't heard from Claudia since that afternoon and it's just as well. I wish her and her man the best.