Sunday, May 12, 2013

No. 389 – The Sweetest Taboo

Performer: Sade
Songwriters: Sade Adu, Martin Ditcham
Original Release: single, Promise
Year: 1985
Definitive Version: None

I had been working at The Dispatch for about a year before Janice started to work there. Janice started in a position something like an editorial assistant in that she ran errands at the paper, even though she had been a reporter at a small-town Ohio newspaper before coming to Columbus. She had been hired to be a reporter and was just waiting for the next slot to open.

Anyway, Janice brought Saturday papers down to Business one morning, and that was the first time I saw her. I was instantly attracted to her: She had a great body, a pretty smile and brown hair that cascaded down in tight curls—right in my wheelhouse. Two problems: She was married, and I was with Debbie.

So nothing happened. In fact, we almost never talked. We were on different schedules as well as floors of the building, so I saw Janice rarely, if at all. I always enjoyed each time, however. I was never not attracted to her, even when she was pregnant, but it was unrequited.

After I announced I was leaving The Dispatch to write my book in February 2003, Janice came down to Business from the news room one evening to see Erika, our newest copy editor, and out of nowhere said she wanted to talk to me about my move.

Now keep in mind, we might have shared, I don’t know, 20 words over the years. Of course, I said, sure. So Janice showed up at one of my farewell outings at Plank’s (more on that place later). She was fascinated by the romanticism of just junking everything and writing a book.

From that, we began to keep contact—nothing regular, just an email here and there—but what was notable was that Janice took the initiative, asking how I was doing, how my progress was going, that sort of thing. As you can imagine, she had my attention. Yes, she might not have been as hot as she had been eight years before—three kids will do that to you, and Janice had long before cropped her hair for practicality’s sake—but I still was hot for her.

In late July, Janice sent out a group email to set up a painting party. She wanted to paint her living room and enticed the Thurman crew and a few others with pizza and beer as a lure. I quickly accepted, and in August, I drove down on a bright Saturday morning. I’d drive in, paint, eat and book. Being only two hours away, I could do a one-day jaunt easily.

It turned out I was the only one who showed up. What happened? Janice said others either cancelled ahead of time or just never responded. It would be just us.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing up to this point about Janice’s husband or kids. Janice’s husband had taken the kids to visit grandma in … Ashtabula, I think it was—wherever their families were. Janice in fact asked him to do this, so she could have the house clear to paint.

I knew this ahead of time, but now that it was just the two of us in the house—and that I had had a long crush on Janice—it felt a bit awkward. I put it out of my head, and we set about the task at hand. Janice picked out a dark raspberry color—this was a huge change to the room—because she wanted that color. Janice edged and then I applied the roller.

We talked a lot—about my book, about her career, about politics, about relationships, about everything. It became apparent that at least small strands of her marriage were starting to fray. We broke for pizza at dusk, and it still was early in the evening when we wrapped up. Janice wanted to apply a second coat, but she said she could do it the next day. I then left.

When I drove back, my head was buzzing, not from the beer but the sense that … well, not that an opportunity had been missed. Debbie, who knew about this painting trip, said she thought that Janice and I had an affair that day. We didn’t. We mostly kept out distance, and there was never THAT MOMENT when I thought I should just drop the brush and carry Janice upstairs to her room. In fact, I definitely got the sense that that would NOT have been welcome.

I never have been with a married woman, but I certainly would have that day had the opportunity presented itself. It didn’t, but there was no question that a door that always appeared to be closed was open just a crack.

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