By B.A. Sarvey
This was a club of which he did not want to be an initiate. ‘Really,’ he thought, ‘I have no business being here.’ But in reality, the onus was entirely his.
The officiant’s voice droned on, specifying whys and whereas’s, party-of-the-first-part, party-of-the-second-part, the privileges he would lose, those he would retain; Listening for signs of absolution, somewhere in the tangle of rules and regulations, his attention lapsed. The voice was lost in a mumbo-jumbo of rhetoric and ritual. The mouth kept moving—a mouth, he felt, more suited to radio than television, or in this case, public display—the lips too full, too fleshy, leaning to a ruddiness generally associated with too much drink or too much sun. A certain largesse of living. A cottony fleck of spittle, or toothpaste, collected at the left-hand corner. Gagging slightly, he quickly looked away.
The room was richly appointed, as one might expect of such an exclusive enclave. An abundance of leather, worn just enough to create a comfortable atmosphere, not so much that it became shabby; wainscoting, heavily framed—well-polished walnut, from the look of it, nearly the same hue as the club chairs and davenport. Sconce lights gleamed back from its surface. A trace of lemon oil hung in the air.
Lemon oil. Made him think of home. That he had been coerced in this matter irritated him, as he considered ‘home’ and his present situation, this rite of initiation into a select group of men he had no wish to fraternize with. Fraternize. Perhaps a poor choice of words, since fraternization was what, indeed, had set him up for membership. Even after all this, he maintained his dalliances were harmless. His wife didn’t see things the same way, however. She had no proof of anything, other than whispers; no proof of prior offences. But in her eyes, he was culpable, if only for the embarrassment and public humiliation. It had never, despite the titillating talk, (trumped up allegations,) amounted to sex.
Adultery was such an ugly word. So was entrapment. He couldn’t quibble over his intentions, though. Even if it hadn’t been a full-blown affair. How was he to know the woman was his wife’s hairdresser? The club where he initiated her acquaintance was another high-class, exclusive establishment. Certainly not the normal haunt for a hairdresser. He had never intended more than an occasional drink and flirtation, something to ease the chill of his tired marriage. For this, he blamed his wife. If she had upheld the ‘love, honor, cherish’ part of the contract, he wouldn’t be here now.
Refocusing on the fleshy lips, he said, “Fine. Let’s just get this over with so I can move on. Give her whatever she wants.” The lawyer slid the papers across his desk with the ease of one who has performed this ritual for countless supplicants. He signed on the dotted line, accepting the rules of initiation into the club, and the scarlet ‘A’ which was part of the trappings.