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Let Us Be Standby Lovers!


Mario V. Farina

Copyright 2018 Mario V. Farina

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Mario V. Farina


"Te amo, Julia!" I said.

I didn't know how she would respond, so I waited patiently, my gaze riveted to her lips.

After a time that seemed forever, she said. barely above a whisper, " TambiƩn, te amo, querida!"

At the time, both she and I were married to others. I loved my wife and had come to understand that Julia deeply loved her husband. But, I had fallen, also, in love with her! I had suspected she might be returning my love. Now, I knew for sure this was true!

We were sitting in the Sun Room of my house in Wilmont. With the knowledge of our spouses, Julia Webster and I had been meeting like this one day a week for two months. This was to be our last visit. Julia was a Spanish tutor. My job at Transworld Products required that I learn to speak colloquial Spanish. I had taken a regular college course in formal Spanish, but now needed to master the conversational form. Julia had been recommended to me by a coworker. She had studied philosophy at Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City and tutored Spanish as a sideline while she sought a satisfactory position in her specialty.

She lived a few blocks from where I did. She and I would meet on Tuesdays for an hour at my home. I'd give her a check at the beginning of each hour-long session ending at four. My wife, Mildred, worked as an instructor at Wilmont High. She would normally come home around five. She had no inkling that my relation with Julia had blossomed from tutor/student status to a love affair.

After we had declared our love for each other, Julia and I could have continued conversing in Spanish, however I wanted my next words to be completely clear to both of us. Though Julia spoke Spanish fluently, she had been born in Boston, and English was her best language, as it was with me.

"Julia," I said, "what you have just said, makes me very happy, but it is a bittersweet happiness. Though we had not planned it, we have fallen in love with each other, and we should not have. It was wrong! Both of us are blissfully married. Unless we deal with our love prudently, it can cause us only misery instead of happiness."

"That is why I hesitated in responding to you, my dear, Tim" she responded. "You have just said what was in my mind. Is it possible for you and I to love each other, while, at the same time, being happily married to our spouses? I have always believed that it is possible," she continued. "However, society understands that this is not a good idea for most people. It can disrupt happy marriages, and cause misery. That is why I have wanted to talk to you about something that has been in my mind for several days. I knew you were going to express your love for me. I would urge that, though we continue to love each other, we not let it encroach into our personal lives!"

"I don't see how it can't help but encroach into our lives," I said. "Surely, you don't mean that we try to undo our love in the same easy way that a word processor allows us to undo something we've written!"

"You're right, my love," she said. "I agree, our love is not merely infatuation; it is as solid as the love we have for the wonderful people we are married to. I would like to make a suggestion that you might agree with. The love we have for each other has an ingredient that is not present in our current marriages. The marriages we enjoy have matured to the point where they have become routine. It's the newness of our romance that makes a difference for you and me. The beginning of a relationship is the exciting part. This is the part that makes the world seem bright; that allows us to see shooting stars in the sky whenever we meet, that indicates nothing else is as important as our relationship! A budding romance is exciting because it has the essence of exploration, getting to know one another, expressing our love for each other. There are many other aspects I could mention!"

"I know what you're saying," I said. "But it's normal for a marriage to take place soon after all those exciting adventures have been experienced. Yes, people in a new love feel that the exciting romantic phase will last forever. I know this permanent stage does not take place most of the time. As love matures, it gets stronger, but the excitement fades. It becomes routine after a while. Are you saying that, even though we resolve not to let this happen to us, it surely will? You used the word, routine, yourself!"

"Yes I did say so, darling," she said. "However, I truly believe that like fine wine, a good marriage, despite its routineness, improves with age! A new relationship, while immensely exciting, cannot measure up!"

"But, dear one," I said, "what should we do now? Our love is too strong merely to allow it to sit idle! A long-term marriage that has improved with age, cannot exist at the beginning of a love affair!"

"Wiser words were never spoken," she declared. "But I have a suggestion: Let us be standby lovers!"

I don't shock easily, but her unexpected remark suddenly made it possible! I was more than shocked; I was horrified. "Julia, I have no idea what you mean by that," I responded with an edge in my voice. I found myself astonished that this was the first time I had ever been angered by what my love had ever said or done.

"Don't be angry," she said. "I knew this would startle you. I didn't intend to imply that what I'm saying has a lurid meaning. I would like to suggest that when we part today, we continue to live our lives as normal. We will continue to be lovers, but not take our love to a further stage than what it is now. In the future, when either of us needs a little refreshment to the way we currently feel, we can contact each other and chat for a while, tell how much we love the other, how wonderful he or she is, how much we miss the other, then hang up the phone. In this way, we will keep the freshness of our love alive, the excitement of it, the romance of it. Also, we can preserve our feelings for each other as exciting and thrilling as they are at this very moment!"

My ire had dissipated. "Will this be enough?" I objected. "Won't one of us be unhappy with status quo, and insist on taking our love to the next level?"

"I don't think so," she responded. "If we are both convinced that attempting to carry it further will have the effect of making us less happy than we are now, that we will be disrupting too many fine aspects of our own lives, that we love our spouses too much to permit our delivering unhappiness to them who don't deserve it. We will realize that our love must be on the basis that I have referred to; as being a standby love affair."

"How long on standby?" I dared ask.

"As long as it takes! Forever, if need be!"

I was silent for a long time. My thoughts were tearing me apart. My eyes had begun tearing. This was a first for me! "I know you're right I finally said."

"Don't be sad," she said. "We are about to undertake a wonderful experiment. First, and most important, we will be testing whether it is possible for one person to love two others with equal love and loyalty. I love you, but I love my husband also. You love your wife and me. Can we live our lives by adding honor to them instead of sadness? I believe we can."

"It will be hard for me," I muttered softly.

"I know! However, we will be able to talk from time to time, either in person or on the phone. We'll use private emails for written communications. At times, we may even meet! Throughout, we will not lose the romantic feelings we have for each other. Though we'll get older, the eyes of our minds will never age with us."

"What about our spouses?"

"Our lives with them will not change. Our standby status will require that it never interfere with personal activities in either our own lives or that of our spouses!"

"Our desire for each other will be strong!"

"Except for brief hugs and kisses on the cheeks, we must never even touch at those rare times when we meet! We cannot dishonor our spouses! Otherwise, both of us will lose respect for ourselves and for each other!" she said.

There was the sound of a car in the driveway.

"That's Millie coming home from work," I said.

"Will she be upset that I'm still here? she asked"

"No! She trusts me implicitly. Everything will be fine."

Mildred entered the room. Seeing Julia sitting with me at the picture window, she smiled, and said, "Hello, Julia. I see you two just couldn't break away at the usual time with your last session!"

Julia's face colored a little, as she responded, "Yes, Mrs. Conway, you might say ours was a long way to express our final goodbyes."

"Sometimes, it is difficult," Millie agreed.

"Parting is so often such sweet sorrow," suggested Julia. "Those words by Shakespeare were never so true as they are now, Mrs. Conway. Your husband has been a wonderful student, and has learned a lot about the Spanish language from me. And, I think I learned a lot from him too."

Julie and I rose from our seats, hugged briefly, then she left. I turned and smiled at Millie, but my heart was sobbing inside.

The weeks passed. Julie and I would sometimes exchange messages with our emails. We would end them with, love, thinking of you, as ever, and similar innocuous closings. As the months and years flowed into the past, we continued to exchange messages, but it never became necessary for us to meet in person. I never lost my love for her. I believe she continued to love me during all of that time in the same way she had when we parted.

In our messages, we would tell each other about our jobs, our good times and bad, how the children were doing, but never spoke of love. I think we both understood that if one of us broke the compact we had made, the strength of our fortifications to resist would collapse and several lives would be ruined. We never took the chance of that happening.

One day I woke up and discovered I was 81. I received an email from Julie telling me that her husband had died two months before. She said she had not told me earlier because she was having trouble coping with his death, but that she was gradually feeling better. I sent condolences. I thought we might make arrangements to meet, but thought better of it.

Two years later, Millie suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Up until then, I had never truly known what grief was. Now, I knew, and wasn't sure I could handle it. Somehow, I did. Several weeks after the funeral, I sent an email to Julie telling her what had happened. As I had done at the death of her husband, she sent me condolences. She said nothing about a meeting. I understood.

It was difficult living alone. There was more to surviving as a single man than just eating out. I found a diner on Crane Street in Wilmont that I liked and had dinner there every evening. My other meals were-catch-as-catch-can. One day, there was a woman standing at the door of the restaurant. I was about to brush my way by, when she said, "Hello Tim!" I stopped and looked at her. It took a few moments for me to realize I knew her. It was Julie!

"Julie," I said, "It's you!"

"Yes, of course, Tim," she responded. "I recognized you; I'm peeved you didn't know me!"

"I'm sorry, Julie," I responded. "Women haven't interested me a great deal over the last several years. Here, let me look at you!"

She smiled at me as I stared into her face. She had gotten old, as I was sure I had. There were wrinkles on her forehead and cheeks. Her hair was white. But as I gazed at her facial condition, a remarkable occurrence began to take place. The wrinkles and other blemishes on her face began to fade and dissolve. It was if her countenance had suddenly been transferred to wax and all lines and furrows were filling in with youthful flesh.

In addition, her body, which had appeared stooped and frail regained an earlier form and strength. Her arms became firm, the blond color returned to her hair, she had resumed the look she had had when tutoring me in Spanish.

"Julie," I gasped, "you look as young as you did when I last saw you. Just a moment ago, you had the appearance of a much older woman. How did you change so suddenly?"

"I didn't change, my dear, it's your eyes and heart that did. You see me as your love displays what you see. It's the same with me. In my eyes and heart, I see you as you were on that very same day!"

"Much has happened to us over the years, Julie dear," I said.

"Yes," she said. "We have so much to tell each other, it would take years to do so."

"I'm 85," I said. "How much time do we have left?"

"If you'll let me," she responded, "I'll keep you alive till you're 100!"

"I couldn't ask for more," I said. "I think our standby status has ended. Are you hungry? Remember that fine wine we were talking about when we last met? Let's go in and chat about this while we dine!"

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