It’d been a rotten day. Crew show wasn’t early, eight A.M., but nothing had gone right. Maintenance problems undermined plans.
Away at Sigonella, they spent hours broiling on the flightline while trouble with a GTC was tracked down and resolved. By then, they had to abort their primary mission. Though it was beyond his control, he felt responsible. A secondary mission of overwater navigation training was taken on, six hours of droning over the Med, then through the STROG and over the Atlantic, and up Europe’s coast. Matching the day’s tone, thunderstorms pushed them to change those plans and find the most direct path home. Between the flying time and debrief, he got home at ten that night.
He wasn’t expected, of course. They were supposed to be out two more days, but that GTC issue terminated that plan, so here he was.
The house was weirdly dark. Entering, he found his wife in the bedroom, with another man.
He knew the other man as her friend, Curt. She was in bed. Curt was clothed, but on the floor beside her. She leaped out of bed. She was in the sweat clothes she usually wore to bed. Curt’s watch was on the nightstand, beside an unopened condom package.
Coming to him, she hugged him. “It’s not what you think,” she said. “It’s not what you think.”
He didn’t have thoughts. He couldn’t answer.
“What are you doing home?” she asked.
“Aircraft problems,” he answered. Turning, he picked up his car keys and left, going to the club for a drink.
He stayed there for a while.
She explained the next morning that Curt was just visiting. She was cold, so she’d put on her sweats and went to bed to stay warm. They were just making jokes about the condom.
He didn’t say a word. He didn’t know if he believed her.
It wasn’t visible for twenty years, but that’s where the spiral began, he saw. Now he was so far down in it, he didn’t see any way up.