Double Dilemma

Yuan Changming

© Copyright 2023 by Yuan Changming


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
 To confess or not to confess, thatís the question haunting me every day in last two years. Indeed, ever since I regained my first love lost nearly half a century ago, Iíve been hesitating if I ought to reveal my clandestine relationship to my wife, but up until now Iím still struggling between the pros and cons of the affair.

One thing Iím absolutely sure about is that I could have the heavy burden removed once and forever from my sagging conscience if I were to confess to my wife. Then, I wouldnít have to use all kinds of infidelity-hiding strategies or resort to Machiavellian manipulation. Tired of telling lies one after another, deleting digital evidence each time in haste and trying to maintain normality in my attitude and behavior, I long for a complete emancipation, able to take a good nap during the day, and dream peaceful dreams at night. Yes, if my wife chose to forgive me or take the whole matter in reasonably good faith, I could talk about my romantic experience, as Iíve habitually shared every secret with her thus far. Sometimes, I strongly wish that my wife allow Hua to live together with us once Huaís husband dies. All in our mid-sixties now, weíre all physically a bit too old for sex, and with that most fundamental element missing in a romantic relationship, why should my wife, or anybody else, really care about what we might do together? Since thereíre little sex and little money involved, what role does sexual morality or marriage as an institution play in such a tri-relationship? Why should we have to conform with conventions in the first place? Since this relationship would have no impact on our adult children, relatives or any other people out there in society, why cannot we live under the same roof? More important, if we could spend our last years together in harmony, each of us would enjoy a better health as a necessary result. At our age, isnít health our first and foremost concern? I believe that our mutual affection would enable both me and Hua to live longer and more healthily, and the only problem is my wifeís attitude. How would she take the matter?

Of course, Iím keenly aware that my wife could be deeply hurt if I told her how Iíve been cheating on her in our emotional life. Three worst possibilities stand out. For one thing, my wife might come up with a counter-confession. Theoretically, she might also have had an affair with, say, one of her admiring clients or colleagues. I know that wherever she works or goes, thereíre always a couple of guys trying to attract her attention, like a dumb dancing flamingo. Though traditionally minded, she is not sharp-eyed or sharp-witted enough to discern menís love tricks or womanizing skills. In other words, she couldíve made me a cuckold in a sense. She might, who knows, have been one of those wives who keep their own romantic secrets until their last breaths. Hearing such a counter-confession, I would most probably have a heart attack on the spot, or suffer from an emotional trauma for the rest of my life.

Alternatively, my confession could also turn out to be the last straw for her. So morbidly introvert and incommunicative as she is by character, she might never be able to digest the bitter truth, but take it together with her long-held grudges and resentments against me in such a bad fashion that she could develop a terrible mental disease, exactly as her mother did in a similar situation. Should that happen, I would be tortured by a worse conscience while I have to look after a lunatic crone. Or, if my wife chose not to forgive but to divorce me, then, as the faulty party, Iíd have to go through all variety of misery and trouble. That would be something to be avoided at any cost.

Needless to say, Iíve reenacted and rehearsed all these dramatic situations scenarios in every detail with Hua during our daily video-chats. As my soulmate, Hua certainly understands my situation and share my concerns, but knowing that thereíre no guarantees or magic bullets in any romantic relationships, we see no way out. All I can do is not to take any action while continuing to camouflage my unfaithfulness to my best ability. In so doing, I hope to prevent all the negative possibilities from coming true.

But Iíd rather die than make such a confession to Dan, Hua firmly told me the other morning, as if to make a conclusion about all the complicacies of the matter. Not really because she has fears about her husbandís possible counter-confession, loss of his mind, or choice of divorce, but because she cannot bring herself to humiliate him as a cuckold.

You still love him very much then! I said, in a tone carrying a note of jealousy and resentment, but you say you love me more.

Yes, but that doesnít mean I want to hurt him that way, Hua emphasized repeatedly. Donít you also love your wife nonetheless?

Well, thatís another issue, I responded. But I just hate cheating. Dishonesty is more hateful, more intolerable than infidelity per se.

Arenít they the same thing? Hua retorted, her position and pragmatics in this matter becoming more understandable to me now. Yes, sheís been suffering long from a desperately different dilemma. As sheís told me dozens of times, sheís also been tortured by an equally bad, if not worse, conscience. She often denounces herself for being an unfaithful wife, a bad woman, a hypercritical person whoís all her life been self-demanding and self-disciplined as a good traditional woman, but now sheís developed and maintained an unspeakable relationship with me while publicly recognized and praised as a ďmodelĒ wife. She often assures me that she most highly enjoys our romantic relationship, but she does have an ever-strong sense of suppression at the same time. Sheís also been hesitant all the time, though in a different sense, she says.

Thatís why, I wrote in a recent poem to her, your love feels like a loach in a rice field, full of splashing vitality but hard to catch.

And yours resembles an onion, Hua texted back. As I peel one layer after another, I can find no heart in the core in the end.

Thatís because I wear my heart inside out.

Then we should perhaps fry the fish with onion, or make a soup with these two kinds of love?

While she keeps hesitating about our ďabnormal, immoral and imbalancedĒ relationship, she admits that she just cannot help following her heart.

 Whatís your true dilemma then?

To continue or not to continue? Thatís the question about our connectivity!

Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include 12 Pushcart nominations for poetry and 2 for fiction besides appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17), BestNewPoemsOnline and 2019 other literary outlets worldwide. A poetry judge for Canada's 2021 National Magazine Awards, Yuan began writing and publishing fiction in 2022.  

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