They had been waiting for this moment for weeks. They would have done it earlier if possible, but the timing was never right, as was so often the case in such matters. When the opportunity did finally present itself, they simply couldn’t pass it up.
Jimmy and Julia’s “Great Escape” began at 6:30 in the empty parking lot of a municipal park. He arrived promptly. She arrived fashionably ten minutes late. As she pulled into the parking spot to the left of his, they smiled at one another through the windows of their cars. Mixed in with their smile was a dual expression:
Are we really doing this?
Indeed, they were. And it was about damn time.
Jimmy got out of his car, looked around in a suspicious manner that occasions such as this warranted, then approached Julia’s driver side window. She rolled it down.
“Good evening, madam,” he said with a warm smile.
“Good evening, monsieur,” she replied back with a seductive one.
“Care to join me?” he offered, noticing that something about her looked different. Younger maybe? Her hair certainly looked more done up. She appeared to have more make-up on than usual. She was also wearing a skirt, which she knew he especially liked, which in turn made her actually feel attractive again.
“You don’t mind driving?” she asked. “Because I can drive.”
“I could drive. Unless, you’re opposed, of course …”
“Let me grab my things,” Julia said.
In “real” life, she always drove. She was eager to hand over the reins – for one night, at least.
She grabbed her purse, got out of her car, then removed her small duffle bag out of her trunk.
Jimmy took the bag from her and placed it into his trunk, before he opened the passenger side door.
“Thank you,” she said, while getting in, trying to recall the last time she was treated this way. She could certainly get used to this.
“Such a gentleman,” she said, hoping it didn’t come across as tongue-in-cheek . She sincerely meant it.
“Nothing to it,” Jimmy said with a smile, before he hopped into the car with a smooth grace she wasn’t accustomed to. At least, not in recent memory.
Jimmy, meanwhile, relished playing the gentleman role for once. Like slipping into old, comfortable clothing.
“So, where to?” he asked.
“I’m game for anything,” she replied.
“Well, anything involving food… for starters. For dessert, I can be open for anything,” she said with a sexy glint in her eye that overshadowed her customary coyness.
After mulling over options, they both settled on the comfort of an Applebee’s in a neighboring town. If this were going to become a regular occurrence, spending lavishly was simply not wise. Besides, neither denied that it their favorite restaurant and they were both comfortable enough with one another to avoid the sophisticated pretenses. It felt good to simply be themselves for once.
The fact that neither one of them had eaten at this specific location lent the evening at least some degree of spontaneity. In their “real” lives, commutes such as this would be ordinarily bathed in mutual, accepted silence. However, they were in such deep conversation with one another, they were actually surprised when they arrived at the both familiar and unfamiliar safe confines of Applebee’s.
Once parked, Jimmy opened both the car door and the restaurant door for Julia. The newness of it was both awkward and welcoming. They took a seat at the bar, leaving a comfortable space between them. Booths were for familiarity. Occasions such as this warranted a bar.
They quickly scanned the room for anyone who might recognize them. Getting spotted would have been detrimental to the whole experiment, shattering the requisite illusion of discretion. They couldn’t help but feel exposed, even though they rationally understood that to strangers, they looked no different than any other couple. Why would anyone have reason to think otherwise? Even their wedding bands were similar. Yet despite these calm assurance, the couldn’t help but reel that they were doing something wrong. It probably would have been much easier if they didn’t actually work together at the same school, should a mutual colleague discover them.
Once their first drink was halfway down, Jimmy and Julia settled in and surrendered to the night. On margarita quickly morphed into two margaritas, followed by a third for good measure and an added sot for good measure. Two appetizers were followed by two entrees.
As time wore on, the space between them closed and by the time they reached their second margarita, the gap had not only completely closed, but their legs were now fully intertwined. Flirtatious glances mad way to overt sexual innuendo as the rush of forgotten hormones coursed through their veins – something neither one of them could remember last feeling. In their “regular” life, they usually settled for the same going-through-the-motions sex married couples usually resign themselves to once the honeymoon period faded into the sunset. Several times a week became once a week, then once a month and then noting at all.
Around the middle of their third margarita, a mutual colleague split the gap between them. Too drunk to be shocked, they tried their best to act natural, although at this point, it was probably already too late.
“What are you two doing out here?!” the colleague asked. “I thought you guys lived in town?”
“We were out this way, “ Jimmy quickly offered, impressed as his quick and smooth response.
“And we were too hungry to wait until we got home,” Julia said for added emphasis.
“I know how that goes,” the colleague said. “Well, have fun you, two. The kids are waiting. See you Monday!”
“Have a good weekend!” Julia said. They both watched their colleague head back to his family.
“That is one guy who never seems unhappy,” said Jimmy.
“You thought that way about me, too, remember?” said Julia.
“Oh … yeah,” said Jimmy. “What about now?”
“What do you mean?” asked Julia.
“Are you happy now?”
“Getting there,” Julia said with a seductive grin, finishing off her margarita.
Meanwhile, as they watched their colleague leave with his family, they couldn’t help but feel a surge of jealousy replacing the rush of hormones they previously felt. On one hand, they both knew that it could be them if they wanted it enough. However, there were just so many obstacles facing them – so many difficult changes and decisions to be made. It was up to both of them to take their lives by the reigns and make it happen. On this night, it certainly seemed possible.
But what about tomorrow?
In the meantime, they both wished that they had been more careful in regards to being discovered. The happy buzz they were feeing lost its edge. And both had already reach their limit. Just as they suspected, getting spotted simply took the wind out of the sails. Like a popped balloon.
Their conversation suddenly shifted to married life, a sobering reminder of the reality this night was supposed to be a refuge from. Their safe haven island had grown closer to shore. Each vented about their spouse and it was as though they were talking about the same person: the neglect, the irritation, the indifference, the lack of intimacy on all levels, the lack of sexual chemistry – all reasons that justified (in their mind, at least) this night’s very existence. Even Jimmy’s therapist recommended this.
“Give it a shot,” his therapist suggested. “See where it leads. It might help make things more clear in your mind. You can decide where to go from there.”
He was reluctant at first, for an abundance of reasons, both major and minor. But mostly out of self-doubt. Julia felt the same way and then ultimately decided to take the plunge. Together.
Meanwhile, Jimmy and Julia continued to lament their “real” life and came to the mutual conclusion that they married good people, but maybe just not the right people. They both initially thought they loved their spouses too much to ever leave them, despite reaching what could only best be described as a “dead end.” The time had come to either turn around and get back on track … or to plow ahead, breaking down the barriers blocking their path with all their might.
As they continued lamenting their current reality and dreaming up a new one, Jimmy noticed the bartender roll his eyes. He had probably heard it all before – probably on a nightly basis. Jimmy felt a little embarrassed, but then again, it wasn’t the bartender’s business, even though they were making it his business by talking so candidly.
Realizing the conversation was taking too much of a somber tone for the purposes of this one night – their so-called “Great Escape”, Jimmy and Julia decided that their sobering conversation necessitated another round of drinks. Just like magic, they returned to their previous flirtatious state. They took comfort that for one night, nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. The night was theirs and only theirs.
When they finished eating, Jimmy picked up the tab – despite Julia’s insistence on splitting it. He initially put down his credit card, before wisely switching to cash.
“Next time,” Jimmy said with a sly grin.
“Then there better be a next time,” Julia said.
“That depends …,” Jimmy said.
“On everything.” Jimmy was smiling, but Julia knew exactly what was riding on that statement. They stared at one another, fully aware of all that they had to gain and all that they had to lose. Without communicating it to one another, both had already made up their minds that this night was a litmus test – the outcome of which would determine the direction they wanted their lives to go. It was time to make a decision, one way or another. Something had to give.
For better or for worse.
Fortunately, the night was still young. It was still their game to win. Or lose.
On the way out, Julia playfully held the door open for Jimmy, who returned the favor by opening the car door for her. They passionately kissed one another in the car, absorbing one another’s booze-soaked breath, which turned them on even more.
They then headed to a nearby Motel 6, making fun of themselves for the cheesiness and seediness of it all. The Applebee’s of motels. Again, no need for pretense. All they needed was a bed.
Julia waited in the car as Jimmy booked a room. Once inside, they proceeded to make the best love of their life, climaxing together in perfect harmony – not once … not twice … but three times – while simultaneously erasing any doubts about whether or not this was all worth it. They later followed up with two additional encore performances, amazed by how different it now felt. How different everything felt.
They wondered when they could have a night like this again. Soon, they hoped, but had their doubts. After all, it took months of disciplined maneuvering just to coordinate this one. Perhaps they would even take a full day off next time. They just had to summon up the courage.
As the night went on, it became crystal clear to both them that it was no longer a matter of if … but a matter of when. This was the life they wanted … together. But they didn’t want it confined to a Motel 6. They wanted every day to be the ultimate “Grand Escape,” they so desperately craved. They reminded themselves once again that it would not be easy. That it would be messy. And it would require drastic changes to everything they had gotten so used to. Even though everything they were used to had turned so toxic, there was still a purgatorial comfort zone they were desperately clinging onto.
Lying in bed, wrapped around one another’s warm bodies, hands clasped, they quietly stared at their matching, gold wedding bands, which they took to be a sign. Neither one of them had taken their rings off since they were placed on their fingers on their wedding day. They silently tried to imagine the rings no longer on their fingers, but it seemed like such a foreign concept beyond the realm of possibility. Their rings had become an extension of their own bodies. Removing would be akin to cutting off their actual fingers. Besides, Jimmy wasn’t even sure if his ring could come off if he tried. He wasn’t as thin as he used to be.
Maybe I should lose weight. For Julia’s sake, if not mine.
They dreamed of planning an even greater escape to an exotic location. At first, they put it in the category of impossible – especially as far as finances were concerned. Then, they realized that it was more feasible than they first thought: a teacher’s conference.
With the promise of future getaways dancing in their heads, they shifted into the spooning position and finally drifted off to sleep – a reminder of how good it felt to fall asleep in somebody’s arms so madly and deeply in love. Neither really slept well. There were too many thoughts buzzing through their boozed and love soaked minds to allow themselves to actually sleep. They knew they were going to pay for it the next day. But sometimes, love makes everything worth it – no matter the cost. No matter the risk.
Early the next morning, they made love one more time, before Jimmy drove Julia back to her car in the parking lot of the municipal park, stopping for coffee along the way. They kissed one another goodbye, and then suddenly, the possibility of doing this again in seemed such a remote possibility, no matter how much they planned and dreamed. Only time would tell.
Once inside their own cars, they waved goodbye to one another, before heading back to their ordinary lives, which felt even more mundane after their tryst with the extraordinary. Following their great escape, reality brutally captured them and was returning them to their rightful place: life.
Minutes later, Jimmy and Julia both pulled up into their driveway of the home they built together 10 years ago, gratefully reminded of why they married one another to begin with all those years ago. It was still the best decision they ever made, despite life’s determination to make one think otherwise.