I felt empty inside. I always felt empty inside after we had been together, but this time the emptiness pooled into my heart like a black cascade of smoke before he even left the bed. Maybe I didn't love myself as much as I thought I did. Maybe it was all just a front to hide the afraid, disturbed little person that really lived inside of me.
He once told me I was like his little piano; dark and brooding, overdosed with sad, elegant beauty that kept him lost in the melodies I so often performed for him. He said my low, sultry, daunting chords haunted him. I took it as a compliment.
I knew I didn't love him. I was curious about him. I never quite understood how or why he always managed to worm his way into my most intimate places, but I knew it wasn't out of love. I did care about him deeply. I wanted the best for him. I wanted to see him prosper, fulfill all of his wild and crazy dreams no matter how extreme or silly they seemed to be.
I wanted him to be happy, and although it cost me my own sanity, I knew that in some way I brought him happiness; because I too was just as wild and crazy as he and his dreams.
He needed our long nights lost in too many glasses of wine and pillow whispers that should never have been said. He craved my attention, my ideas. He was captivated by my imagination and the imagery I provided with every word I spoke. I could make him see beyond the veil with the things I would say, and, although he'd never admit it, it was me who sparked the fire fueling him forward.
He needed that. He needed what he wasn't getting, and I was always willing to give it to him.
I was not the woman that texted his phone every hour on the hour. I never made him dinner. I wasn't checking his whereabouts or planning date nights every Friday. I never complained when we went weeks on end without seeing one another let alone speaking. I didn't need to know his friends, even though I'm sure they all knew me. I didn't expect anything from him. I was not the woman to ever curse his name and call him an asshole because he kept me up at night wondering about his secrets.
We weren't skipping down Broadway holding hands in the sunlight. We didn't get all dolled up to go to fancy dinners with overpriced menus and sommelier service. We didn't dance until the sun came up at sweaty dancehall clubs. We weren't planning baecations or visiting relatives in distant states. There were no gift exchanges on holidays. I don't think we've ever even wished each other a Merry Christmas.
We didn't do any of that, because I wasn't the woman he was supposed to do that with. I was the other woman, and I knew my place, despite however it made me feel on the inside. I was fun and as carefree as a warm California breeze in the middle of December. That's why he always came back to me. He could be himself with me.
There were no standards. No questions. It was all be and let be with me, and he needed that.
He told me he loved me once. I didn't believe him though. No one ever really loved the second option, or else they would have picked it first.
But hearing him say it entranced the she-devil that resided deep within me. Being with him only highlighted the darkness that had suffocated my innocence so many years ago, and how could that ever be love? Torture would have been a more appropriate description of what we both felt for each other.
Pure, cold, bloody torture.
I didn't want him to leave her for me. We'd never work as a real couple, and I knew that. Canoodling between the sheets at godforsaken hours of the night, we did that well. Laughing, playing, behaving as reckless as we wanted to, we excelled. But dating, being together exclusively... Well that was nothing more than a funny thought to me.
Although it crushed my pride and left me feeling deserted in a wasteland of wretchedness at times, I knew he made the right choice when he chose her. She was a quaint, demure, sweet girl. Tame. That was the perfect type of girl for him to spend the end of his days with. We never talked about her, but if we ever did, I would tell him she'd make a darling bride. I could tell that she loved him, and she would stick by his side no matter what. She believed in him, probably more than I ever could. And even if she did ever know about me, she knew that he'd never actually let her go to keep me.
I couldn't be kept.
For nearly a year, I allowed him to use up my body as his own personal little toy. I enjoyed the release. He was a stellar lover, and there were times I would have been willing to quit my day job just to f-ck him from sunrise to sunset. Climbing on top of him, feeling myself slide down on his sturdy, thick shaft and slowly rocking back and forth until the both of us exploded made me feel like a conqueror. The way he would pant and groan and squint his eyes every time he pounded deep into my womanhood, with my legs, smooth as silk, wrapped tightly around his body, made me feel like the giver of the Earth.
And every time he came, with beads of sweat falling from his forehead hotly piercing my skin, letting out that long sigh of aching absolution, I felt like a breaker of chains, a ruler, a god.
But as I lay there next to him in my bed, sex heavy in the air and sheets moist with our fluids, the shallow, sullen, gloominess would always start to creep in. He would stay the night, cuddle me even. But even that couldn't combat the hollow abyss filling me up as he wrapped his arms around me. I always snuggled up closer, as if I could unzip his skin and climb into his body, but that wouldn't get me any warmer. It never did.
A rational person would probably wonder why I didn't just stop, end things for once and for all, go about my life, and find someone who would value and recognize my worth. But I've never been a rational person. And sadly, for a long time the emptiness he left me with every time we were together felt better than the nothingness I often felt when we were apart.
Eventually, I walked away from our secret love affair. Not just because I knew it was wrong playing in the shadows of another woman's happily ever after, but because I could no longer stomach the vacancies I created in my own heart simply by entertaining him.
Despite the glamour I find in keeping secrets, I finally recognized that it was never really him that caused the emptiness. It was me allowing myself to be his second option, because I was already treating myself like the second option.
That's the interesting thing you learn about yourself when you're playing the other woman. No matter how much fun you're having or how enjoyable the ease and simplicity of a no-strings-attached relationship can be, there always comes a point when a woman is forced to think about what makes a man choose her for seconds when he already belongs to someone else. It forces you to take an internal look at yourself and ask the question:
Why am I even okay with this?
Why don't I want more?
Do I even deserve more?
My answers to that question left me feeling a lot more unfulfilled and confused than being with him ever did, and I started to realize that our story was never about what he wasn't getting that I knew I could provide. It was about what I wasn't providing for myself. It was about me being cool with tossing my feelings and emotions in the backseat all in the name of a good time and mean-girl giggles with the homies. It was all about me not putting in the time to patch up the holes in my heart left from my own past.
It was about me foolishly thinking that if I filled them with someone void of the same morals and self-respect, I wouldn't feel as bad.
When I finally stopped avoiding the root of the issue -- my behavior powered by resentment, insecurity and fear -- and took the time to investigate myself, my thoughts and my feelings, that's when I was finally able to break free from the emptiness that made me feel okay with being the other woman.
And that's the day I stopped being her.
He played his role and I played mine. I can't say what, if any, lasting impression I've made on him. But I do know the clarity and growth our time together imparted on my spirit. And for that alone I am grateful.
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Featured image via Being Mary Jane/BET