Women of Portugal
Liliana Queiroz, Portugal
I don't care what you say, every relationship with a woman starts with physical intimacy. You can dress it up however you want, romance, friendship, you found your soul mate, but for most guys, you need a woman for one basic need.
Fast forward weeks, months, and years, the intimacy becomes less central, not because you want it to be like that, it's just that the everyday, problems, issues, fights and squabbles, plus living in each other's space all the time, then add kids, and the closeness goes out the window.
Desire is easy to build if you spend most of your days longing to be with your woman. But when you get to live with her day in, day out, see her bad habits, feel the lash of her tongue, get bored by her conversation or lack of conversation, then physical intimacy isn't so much fun anymore.
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Even if your old lady makes an effort, puts on some make up, puts on the stockings and heels, it's still your old lady, and you can't get the image of her wiping the toilet seat out of your head.
I'm not about to justify having an affair. I'm not going to say it's right. I'm explaining how it happens. You've got hell at home, and if it's not hell it's a nightmare or plain boring, then you meet a woman in the office or in a bar, you start flirting, and she looks great to you, she takes an interest, suddenly you're a really interesting guy -- and you start imagining that indeed, you are really interesting.
That's how I got into my first affair. I left the war zone of home behind and hooked up with a gorgeous 40-year-old woman who had just dumped her 65-year-old husband. They'd been married nine years and she just walked out on him.
She was tired of being ignored, tired of his conversation and the way he'd collapse on the sofa at 6 in the evening, fall asleep and not wake up until she was shaking him, telling him it was time for bed.
How we met
We met at a dance night in a small hotel. She was there with her husband, listening to the band, trying to do a spot of dancing. I was at the bar. I was an overnight guest at the hotel. I didn't want to dance, the band was bugging me.
But this beautiful dark-haired woman, Spanish or Italian looking, was at the bar ordering drinks, and she stood close to me, our shoulders touching. I moved away to give her room, and she smiled at me, said:
I'm the one pushing, you don't need to move.
There was something that was just right about us, a split second thing, a connection. It was like we were talking without talking.
I watched her the whole evening. She was sat with this older guy, her husband; they danced once or twice. He was tapping his feet to the music. The woman and I kept looking at each other the whole time. We'd look away from each other, then look back, smile. I knew something was happening between us.
The next time she came to the bar for drinks, she slipped me a piece of paper,
My phone number, she said.
Call me tomorrow.
I called her about 10 a.m. He name was Maria. She was born in Portugal but married an American to get a green card.
At 1 in the afternoon I was in her house on her couch and we were talking, opening our hearts, as though we had known each other forever.
I'm married, I told her.
So am I, she said.
Is that a problem?
Hell at home
It wasn't a problem for me. I wanted a break from my dead marriage. I might not have wanted to leave my wife, but I wanted a strong and close relationship with a women, and I wasn't getting that at home.
There were photos all over Maria's house of a rugged coastline, a white cottage in green hills, family shots with people whose hair was as thick and black as Maria's.
That's my family home in Silves, she said.
It's a small town in the Algarve, southern Portugal. It's beautiful, in the hills, not far from the sea, one of the prettiest places on earth. I miss it so much. Sometimes I think I am going crazy here in America.
She explained her husband worked away from home on a building project all week. He was only in the home at weekends, and not even every weekend.
I didn't marry to be this lonely, she said.
I made a big mistake. In Portugal, family is very important, time together is important. We don't live to work. My husband lives to make money.
Our first week together, I visited Maria's house everyday. I'd listen to her stories of growing up in the Algarve, the trips she'd make with her parents to the coast, to stretches of beach that were not yet overrun by drunken tourists from Britain and Germany.
She told me about the Algarve's history, the Moorish influence. She described in detail the towns of Portimao, Faro, the tourist town of Albuefeira, the ancient town of Tavira, pointed them out on a map to me, showed me photographs. She spoke with longing and nostalgia. She told me her husband had never shown the slightest interest in Portugal, had never visited the country.
Deeply in love
Pretty soon I was telling myself I was in love. I was taing huge risks with my wife, inventing crazy lies about why I wasn't home, why I needed to dash out at odd hours. I started taking more care of my appearance, the hair, the clothes, always carried a pack of gum to have fresh breath. It was obvious I was maing an effort for someone.
My horizons really opened up, and my lying reached new levels when Maria said she wanted to go to Portugal to see where her mother was born on the Algrave coast. Would I be interested in coming with her?
Map of Portugal
Portugal wasn't even on my map of things to do, places to go, but the thought of a week alone with Maria turned me so much I was ready to invent any amount of lies to cover my tracks.
I didn't even tell my wife I was going abroad. I told her I needed to go to Miami for a while, interview for a new job. I just gave her the information. She took no interest, didn't even ask a question about it.
By Edward Lundberg
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