Todd was in the shower with Mary when he heard the engine speeding across the desert in Botswana toward the farmhouse where they were spending the weekend.
The night before, she started crying when she received a fax from her mate, Shawny. Todd hadn't known she had a steady lover. The note read: "I'm devastated. I feel like you're going around behind my back with this stupid American. I'm coming to kill you and your stupid American friend."
Todd and Mary never thought that Shawny would actually drive all night with a loaded crossbow in his back seat. But he did. And there he was, outside, with a weapon in hand.
"I put my towel on and got out. She stayed in. Shawny pulled up, got out, and said, 'Where's Mary?'
"I said, 'In the shower. '
"He went into the shower. Came out. And they were engaged. Full-on rock on her finger."
Screwing around with anyone in a relationship that even approximates the seriousness of marriage can, it seems, be hazardous to your health. Or your sanity. Or you could get an arrow through the head.
With this in mind, I headed out a couple of Saturdays ago to the outside bar at O'Hara's Jazz Café in Hollywood. There, I met Fred, a clean-shaven, agreeable-looking black man in dress pants and a sweater vest who introduced himself as "a 41-year-old guy who can't get laid." His problem became apparent when I asked him about extramarital affairs.
"I met a lady at work; we had a couple of martinis and ended up having sex. Co-workers are easy."
"Did you know she was with someone else?" I asked.
"I knew she was married. She hadn't had sex in a long time, though. She was a newlywed and had married an older guy. She never complained about problems with her marriage except that her love life sucked."
So, how did the liaison go down?
"She told her husband she was working double shifts. Then she'd meet me at my place and we'd go to Hooters or Friday's for a couple of drinks and then back to my place. I threw my thing pretty fast, and she just went to sleep."
How often did you guys have sex?
"Three times," Fred replied.
Did you feel bad about it?
"The first time, no. The second time, no. The third time, yeah. But there's a lot of married women here tonight who want to have sex. When I was on my way across the street, a man came up to me and told me that his wife likes to have sex with black guys and he likes to watch."
Were you into that?
"No, that's too weird."
So, Fred, how would you feel if you were married and your wife cheated on you?
Fred said this, he really did: "I would want her to be committed to me but not me to her. Men, we bust a nut. We get off. So what? Let me get back to my lover. With a woman, sex is love. Love is sex. 'He's my Prince Charming.' But it's physical for a man.
"If my girlfriend cheated on me, I'd dump her ass. A man can cheat. For a woman, it's a sin. And it really hurts when a woman cheats. A man does what his options allow him."
Then the man who "threw his thing pretty fast" and to whom men are barbarians and women are nuns had the plums to ask me for my phone number.
Kudos to Fred for offering the least tempting come-on in the history of Night Court.
Then there was the short and muscular 27-year-old Nivio. He was seated at an outdoor table at O'Hara's with friends, who were eager to hear his tales of extramarital conquest. But first, he tackled Fred's misogynistic take on fidelity. "In the generation we're living in, it's so open," he said. "For a woman to have an affair with a man, it's normal. If you ain't getting the job done, she'll find someone to get it done. Women want comfort the same as men do. If the marriage goes south, someone's doing something wrong."
Nivio said he has a taste for older women. He imparted the following philosophy as explanation: "People like to eat well. Filet mignon and shit. Once a woman hits 30, she's in her prime. You don't have to hand her a manual. Man, they'll kill you. I love older women."
The young man said he has had several affairs with married women. He described one of them, a liaison with Barb, a 42-year-old woman who was friends with his mother.
"She had known me since I was 12 or 13. She once hooked me up with her stepdaughter and later told me that she was checking me out the whole night. So I ran into her at Gatsby's in Kendall. She came up to me, and she didn't recognize me. I gave her my name, and she turned white like a ghost. She freaked out and almost dropped her phone. I'm like, 'What? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose?'"
"'Is your mom's name this and your dad's name that?' she asked me."
"Yeah," I said. "She was a MILF, a mother I'd love to fuck. She had silicone double Ds, and we exchanged numbers. I said, 'I'll call you tomorrow.'
"So I left Gatsby's to go find my car, and I got a phone call from her. She said, 'I need you to come pick me up.'
"She got in the car, and she was like, 'I haven't gotten laid in eight months.' She was going through a divorce or whatever. So we got back to her house and did the shimmy-shimmy dance. It was hours and hours of platonic sex. Her husband could've stopped by at anytime.
"Afterwards, I said to my mom, 'You know Barbara, right?'
"She waited a second and said, 'No, you didn't.'
"I said, 'Yes, I did.'
"She said, 'It's gonna be awkward.'
"We did our thing for, like, six or seven months. [Barb] got crazy and wanted to have a kid. She said she would pay for everything. I was like, 'Whoa, when I'm ready. Put the brakes on that.' Me and her ended up staying friends, though."
In his own words, the product of Nivio's affair: "Crazy shit. Crazy shit."
Thirty-four-year-old Jackie, a pretty woman with big boobs and dark brown hair pull back into a tight ponytail, sat at the same table.
When asked about having an affair with a married person, she replied, "I've had a couple, but the one that I'll tell you about is an experience that lasted 12 years."
Nivio, who was all ears -- and perhaps eyes -- for Jackie commented, "Damn."
"We met in a bar in Clifton, New Jersey, 14 years ago. I was 18 years old, and I looked at it as something that was going to be fun. He told me he was married and had a daughter. It was two days after Thanksgiving, November 28, 1990," she recalled in astounding detail.
"We approached each other tipsy. We went outside and kissed good night, and I gave him my phone number. He called me two weeks later, and we went out on December 9. On our first date, we ended up having sex, and then we kept seeing each other. In February, I found out I was two months' pregnant, so it maybe was from the first night we had sex.
"I told him, 'I don't believe in abortion. If you love me, stay. If not, c'est la vie.'
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"So in January, he told me that he was in love with me and that he and his wife had ended it. We stayed together. At Easter, he took me to meet his daughter and surprised me with his son, who was four months old. The best part was that the boy was born on December 9. He had called me back the first time [on the same day] his wife gave birth.
"My son was born in October, and we were together until 2002, when he met someone else and cheated on me."
The lesson Jackie learned: "Once a cheater, always a cheater."
Her analysis, "A cheater is always on tippy toes, lying and wondering if you're going to get caught. Sometimes, I think that turns people on."