The Professor's Wife
Disclaimer: This is NOT a true story... enjoy!
She had slept with her own professors when she was in college – three of them, actually – like a rite of passage. She understood the allure. But now she was married to one, she shuddered if she thought too long about it.
Of course, he was not really the type, never a wandering eye, never really even commented on other women. Did not watch porn - that she knew of anyway, there was always a chance that he had some secrets that she was not privy to. For God’s Sake, every time she took a shower for the past sixteen years he would say the same thing, with the same smile – Let me know if you need any help with that, to which she would reply, I’ll bet you say that to all the girls. And every time, he would laugh, a rich deep-throated thing that had its own life and could make her long for him. No, she really had nothing to worry about.
But the lines between her eyebrows were anything but relaxed when she watched her husband – the Professor – emerge from Simpson Hall. She was waiting for him in their new cherry red minivan – their four blooming sons had necessitated this purchase – because his car – a cracked, also red Honda – was at the mechanic. Again. She would often laugh ruefully and say “In my next life I’m marrying a handyman, not a smart one. And he would laugh along with her. There’s was a comfortable marriage, made uncomfortable only by perceived slights, by picking and poking, leaving behind small wounds that did not fester but never actually seemed to heal. It was the way of most marriages, even good ones. No matter whether she sometimes did not like her husband, she always loved him. If it was trite, it was also bone-deep, true.
As she sat waiting for him, her husband the Professor, he emerged from the shadows on the north side of the building. He was deeply engaged in a conversation with a particularly lovely young lady. She was too far away yet to even hear what they were discussing. Probably something from class. She hoped it was something left over from class. She hoped it was not personal. She knew that they could get personal at times – especially the girls – oversharing titillating details of their young and wild lives. She knew this as a given, like the blue sky. She even understood. She was young once too. Barely on the sunny side of forty, but still young. The lines on her face deepened
As the conversation continued the girl, growing more animated. reached out to touch her husband’s arm. He was wearing his bottle-green corduroy blazer - his PROFESSOR DISGUISE – he always said when he put it on, his hands on his hips like a superhero, his two older sons groaning and his two younger gazing with adoring eyes. He had had an early meeting that very morning and had wanted to look the part.
It was his sleeve, not his skin, that she touched, his sinewy and tanned forearm that was covered in a tangle of blond hair kept safe from her unnecessary advance by the layer of favric. Unnecessary, but unwanted? Her forehead lines deepened like fault lines ready to crack.
As they approached, her husband and his young student, she noticed that the girl was not even particularly attractive. Her eyes were too small and her nose was crooked, but not in an appealing way. Nor was she that young, although younger than her. But still…..The wife’s face slackened a little, imperceptibly.
Her husband’s student was carrying a dark red backpack - not cherry, like their new minivan, but deeper toned, almost rust. It was casually slung over one shoulder, loose, brazen almost in the way it bounced. The girl had to hitch it up every few steps. The professor’s wife recognized it as the very same one she had bought for their second-youngest son before the start of the current school year. Red was his favorite color. His was filled with the detritus of boyhood – wadded papers, discarded pencil stubs, a knobby stick he picked up off of the playground. The wife was sure the student carried something written by Nietzche or James Joyce in her backpack and read it openly in the student union, trying to impress others with her worldliness.
She could not help noticing that the student’s hair was thin (much thinner than hers) and the brittle blond color and the breeze did not help it any. Her own hair was thick and naturally wavy – quite beautiful really and her secret vanity – although she finally had to start keeping up the color with a little help from the drugstore. The student herself was thin, her body graceful and lithe as she walked beside her husband. The wife knew that those days were beyond her, in the near but still distant past, murky in the memories of a time before children. Her own body was a battleground that time was winning, advancing steadily with every year and although did not fully understand yet, she knew that she would be vanquished.
The professor and his student came to a full stop just ten feet away from the new van. Funny, the wife had not seen him glance in her direction. Like a homing beacon, maybe the red van drew him towards her. She heard the rumble of her husband’s low and pleasing voice and the much higher (almost nasally) pitch of his student’s as they finished up their conversation. The professor turned away then, directing a final statement over his shoulder as he moved toward her, his wife who waited patiently for him and away from the other woman, the girl, and her youth.
“Let me know if you need any help with that,” he said to his student, his hand held up in farewell. The student looked at his back for a few seconds - too long, his wife thought with a tight mouth - then the girl made eye contact with her through the windshield. She seemed startled. Had she not noticed her waiting there? Had her husband not mentioned that his wife was waiting for him? Her thoughts turned. Did he offer his help without asking or was it solicited? she wondered as he climbed in the passenger’s seat. He was an ordinary-looking man, made handsome by his rich blue eyes. And by his title, she thought, the lines on her forehead erupting again as he settled himself into place.
“Hey beautiful,” he said, smiling, twisting and extending his body across time and space in their new minivan to kiss her full stop on the mouth. She did not resist. There was nothing to worry about. She knew this like she knew that the sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning. Unless there is a nuclear war tonight, she thought absurdly.
“I’ll bet you say that to all the girls,” she replied out loud to him, smiling secretly as she backed, almost expertly, out of the tight parking space.