I wake up quickly, but I’m not sure why. I look around the room, wondering what could have caused my heart to race so much that it woke me up. The hair on my arms is sticking up, and I have that weird feeling you get in your stomach when something’s up.
And then I hear it, and I realize why I’m so freaked out—it’s the sound of the key in the door. I see that Jessica is still nestled in my arm, and I try to shake her awake. Too drunk. I slide my arm out from under her and stand up. I’m not real sure what I should do next. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a scenario like this, but it’s the first time I’ve been innocent.
The door opens a bit, catches on the security chain, and I hear the housecleaning lady say something in Spanish. A male voice answers her, also in Spanish, but not as a native speaker. I don’t know enough of the language to know what they’re talking about, but I know what they’re talking about anyway. She’s asking if he only forgot his key in the room, why is the security chain on there. He’s answering something like his wife must be in the shower.
He reaches his fingers into the room, trying to unlock the chain, and I think about slamming the door on him, breaking his shit off. But that wouldn’t improve the situation. What’s needed right now is diplomacy. He starts yelling for Jessica. The housecleaner is talking about something, probably telling him that she’s going to have to go get the manager or something, I don’t know.
“Jess? Jessie! Open the door, sweetie! It’s me—Harold! Jess!”
“Harold?” She’s awake, rubbing her eyes, entirely too drunk to be dealing with this situation. Me too, babe, me too.
“Yeah! Yeah, it’s me.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you! I missed you. Let me in! The maid thinks I’m not supposed to be here.”
“You’re not supposed to be here, Harold. What are you doing here?’
“I’m standing in the damn hallway getting strange looks from the maid, trying to get my wife to let me in! Can you open the damn door?”
Guy uses the word “damn” too much—probably tough talk for him. I go to the bathroom, fill up a plastic cup full of water, drink it, and do it again. The odd conversation between the married couple continues behind me. I don’t think Jessica even realizes that I’m here. I don’t think she realizes Harold is here, either. I really doubt she even realizes where here is.
I fill the cup with water and take it out to her. She’s still hollering conversation back and forth with Harold, still the same shit about how he wants to be let in and she can’t understand what he’s even doing here.
“Drink this, Jessica.”
“Hey! Hey, who was that?”
“Don’t worry, Harold, it’s just me, Chris.”
“Chris? You bastard! I knew it!”
“You know jack shit, man. Just calm down, okay? I’ll be there in a second to let you in—Jessica’s sick.” Well, maybe not yet, but she will be. Besides, I would rather have him concerned about her health than have him concerned about what I’m doing in her room after she spent the previous night getting shitfaced drunk.
“She doesn’t sound sick—she sounds drunk.”
Jessica finishes off the water, gives me a thumbs-up, and goes back to sleep.
Against my better judgment, I go open the door for him. The first thing he does is throw a punch. Too many video games, not enough football games. I knock his punch away and move to the side to allow him access to the room.
He wants to fight, though, and he throws another punch. I’m not Superman or anything, but I’ve taken some fight classes, I’ve done a bit of training, and I’ve seen my share of action movies. Even hung over as hell and bleary-eyed, I’m in better shape than Harold is. I catch his fist and twist his arm around behind his back. His jacket is made out of that satin material that Little League coaches always wear, and it’s bright blue. This man is practically begging his wife to have an affair. I mean, he might as well print up cards that read, “Please sleep with my wife,” staple them to dollar bills, and give them out to passing strangers. I don’t know how he got lucky enough to catch her, but it’s an outrage that he’s allowed to keep her.
He kind of stumbles to his knees, and I see that the housekeeper is still standing out in the hall, looking all surprised. She’s really pretty hot.
I tell her it’s nothing—one of the few phrases I know in Spanish—and wink at her. I shrug towards the bed, roll my eyes, and smile. After a second, she grins back—people love to believe in beautiful people. I tell her I’m a little busy at the moment, but would love it if I could maybe talk to her some time. I know enough Spanish to serve my needs, for the most part.
She shakes her head, still smiling. “Okay?” she asks, pointing at Harold.
I nod my head, smile again, and she leaves.
“Are you calm?” I ask Harold.
“Harold, this is not what you think. Jessica and I are just friends, that’s all we ever have been, okay? She’s very hung-over right now—I just stayed in here to make sure she was okay through the night, okay? Can you be calm about this?”
He struggles for a few seconds more, but then gives up. “Yeah.”
“Good.” I release him. “See? We’re both dressed, she’s sick as a dog, nothing hap-” And that’s where I stop, because this lunatic has pulled a sawed-off shotgun out from under his goofy little cheerleading jacket.
“I hired a P.I., did you know that, smart guy?”
“So cool, so good-looking, so smart and funny. She talks about you all the time, did you know that? Did you?”
“Nope. And you know why I didn’t know that, Harold? Because she was at home talking about it. At home, with you.”
“I hired a P.I., she’s been watching the two of you together.”
“You hired a private investigator? A chick private investigator?”
“She’s good at following women—knows how they think.”
“Ah.” I hate to admit it, but this isn’t the first time I’ve had a husband pointing a gun at me. And let me tell you something: when a gun nut is pointing a gun at you, it isn’t fun. But it isn’t nearly as frightening as having a loser like Harold doing it. Because at least a gun nut knows his weapon. Sure, he might shoot you in the balls if you aren’t smooth enough to talk him out of it, but at least he means to shoot you in the balls. A guy like Harold, he might blow your head off on accident. He’s seen gunplay in movies, he’s played his idiot-ass video games, and shit like that. But he doesn’t know about hair triggers, or pounds of pressure, or how the shot from a sawed-off at this range will blow the shit out of pretty much everyone in the room. I’m pretty sure that he would like to kill me, but I think even in the heat of passion, a loser like Harold must realize that he will never, ever, ever do better than Jessica. My first instinct is to get closer to her, but then I realize what an asshole thing to do that is, and I step closer to the bathroom door. Harold doesn't even notice.
“She says you’re having an affair.”
“You need to get your money back, then, chief, because that’s false information.”
“Of course you’re going to say that—I’m standing here with a gun.”
“I let you in, dumbass…before I even knew you had a gun.”
“You thought you could take me then.”
“I think I could take you now.”
“Try it, tough guy.”
“Says the man who has to have a gun.”
“I’ll kill you.” And he’s serious. Sometimes you just joke around until they realize that they’re contemplating killing another human being. Sometimes you let them rant and rave, and then you tell them that it isn’t worth it. Generally, though, you tell them the truth. One of the biggest reasons that infidelity hurts so much is because it hurts your pride—you feel like a fool, like an asshole, like you were tricked. Sure, there are other things, but that’s the one that can push a guy right over the top. You tell him his wife is screwing around on him, ninety percent of the time, a guy’s first thought is going to be something along the lines of “I feel so stupid.”
That’s what gets you killed when you’re at the wrong end of the sawed-off, and that’s what I wanted Harold to avoid thinking about.
“The two of you made a fool of me,” he says.
My plan isn’t going too well. Because I usually tell the truth: yeah, she cheated on you, the life you two share is lacking, whatever. You have to be smoother than that, of course, but that’s the general acknowledgement. You had no way of knowing.
But I didn’t have sex with Jessica. Wherein lies the problem. They all want you to lie, because that means they caught you trying to make a fool of them. If you admit it, it isn’t the same. But if you lie, if they’re smart enough to catch you lying, when they’re standing right there, that’s when they feel justified in anything.
But I didn’t have sex with Jessica. The truth isn’t going to save me this time, because he’ll never believe it.
“She thought you were cheating on her, Harold.”
“She thought you were having an affair, and she wanted to go home and catch you. Instead, we came here to do our job, but it was bothering her so much that she got totally wasted, and I stayed in here to make sure she was okay.” That last part’s not exactly the truth, but it’s close enough that I’ll be able to believe it in a few hours.
“That’s not true.”
“It’s true, Harold. And it’s all I got, so if you need to shoot me because you have no faith in your marriage, just save us all some time and do it.”
“How could she possibly think I was having an affair?”
“That’s a damn good question. Something about how you stay in there with you computer all the time, som-”
“I’m on the twenty-third level of Battle Furies! What am I supposed to do, just stop playing?”
“That’s between you and her, man—I’m just telling you. Something about how she went in to give you food and saw some chick you were talking to online about a dirty little secret? That was the other thing.”
“That was the P.I.! The one that caught you two having an affair!”
“Harold, there is no affair, man! Look—she’s in her sweats! Do you think that’s what women wear to have affairs in? Because it’s not, I don’t mind tellin’ ya.”
“The detective said it was an emotional affair.”
“Are you fucking serious?” It’s bad policy to yell at a guy who’s pointing a gun at you, especially if he’s inexperienced, but I just can’t help myself. Oprah, you bitch, when will you let me live my life? “Do you even know what that means?”
He looks confused for a second, and then the lightbulb goes on, like he suddenly remembered what someone had quoted at him. “It’s when one person in the relationship goes outside of the relationship to fulfill needs that…wait…it’s when she gets something from you that makes her closer to you than me.”
“It’s bullshit, man. Emotional affair? It’s called friendship, motherfucker! Jessica and I are friends. Trust me, bro’—I have enough hot women that I can afford to stay out of the sack with my best friend, okay?”
“Harold?” It’s Jessica. Apparently all my screaming woke her up. “What are you doing here? Is that a gun?”
“The chick he was talking to online was a detective, detecting the shit out of us. She said we’re having an emotional affair, and now Harold says he’s gong to kill me for it.”
She laughs so hard that she nearly throws up in the bed. When she finally gets herself under control, she holds out her arms to Harold. “Come’ere sweetheart.”
Harold doesn’t move.
“Sweetie, the last thing in the world Chris wants from a woman is emotion, and if a woman wanted it from him, she’d be sadly disappointed. We’re just friends and coworkers. We bitch to each other. And I’ve been bitching a lot about you—I thought you were cheating on me.”
A grin spreads across Harold’s face, and it’s easy to see that he knows what everyone else does—that he will never do as good as Jessica again. The fact that she thought he could be cheating, that basically just flatters him.
He starts to go to her, then realizes that he still has a gun in his hands. He smiles a sheepish smile at me. “Sorry, man—it’s just…”
“Yeah, bro’, I know. If I had a girl like Jessica, I would probably be in a constant frenzy of jealousy.” Not true, but we’re working on calming the waters, you know? He’s un-cocking the gun, letting the hammers down, and that’s what counts. That, and the fact that I still have time to get to know the housecleaner. “No harm, no fo-”
That’s when his thumb slips, and he unloads both barrels on me. I hear them scream in sync, and I have time to think about how silly married people are, and how I always knew love would be the death of me.
Jessica jumps out of bed, all traces of drunkenness gone, and I see that her shirt has ridden up. So glad I got to see those tits before I died.
And then I do.