[This is a short excerpt from the first draft of a work-in-progress novella.]
Adrienne took an amount of pride in maintaining the defense of her position and for this, rather than despite it, she took a greater pride in her chosen situation. It had a certain religiousity to it, a Catholicism, in always that which required her greatest attention to remain at peace was of the highest importance to her. These times and situations often reflected her most personal betrayals; had she any awareness of it, she would have noted with dry irony that it was in this that she felt the most alive.
“It’s fine,” she said brightly, “I’ve asked him never to tell me about them. Their names, their ages, whether they’re men or women, I know nothing.”
“If you don’t know of them, how can you be sure he’s having them?” Kaitlyn asked, feeling Adrienne out for signs of a paranoid temperment.
“He makes payments on a second apartment, but he’s been living with me for eight years. He’s either continuing them or he intends to continue them.”
“I’m sorry,” Kaitlyn said with absolute sincerity, “I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s fine, really,” she answered, “It was my idea, I insisted on it.”
Adrienne’s idea was to remove the impetus for lying by the understood omission of truth. She had demanded this promise of him early on and had never wavered or made stipulations on it, nor had she demanded anything of him since. This was not made out of desperation, for had she asked James to stop, he would have, but was simply never asked and then explicitly given permission. She defended it to herself that James was only James to her in as much as she could witness of him. When she was painting, she reasoned, she was simply Adrienne-to-herself solely; James could never partake in the sense of who she was in her own moment. She could later tell him her working process, both in the academic verse to which she was prone and the flavorful simile which she liked to sprinkle. Adrienne knew she embellished her stories, particularly those she told James. She gave them a neat three-act structure, a classic hero, an ending with a satisying denoument. She did not do this out of malice, but to better serve the narrative function of her stories. She effortlessly understood the subtext of each and the meaning which her listener was to extract from them in relation to herself. Therefore, she concluded, who she was to James was factual only insofar as he could witness and experience of her and nothing more. Likewise, in his having selectively chosen the stories of himself to relate to her, James-without-her existed to Adrienne as a fiction which she enjoyed at his discretion. Why, then, if who he was apart from her existed only as her fiction, should she restrict the ways in which he created his own narrative function? It would be only in his telling her of his infidelities that she would enter them and be forced to reconcile with what was painful to her. After all, who would be so bold as to assert that Adrienne’s guarded watch to keep her jealousy at bay was mistaken for love, rather than its symbol?
Adrienne had correctly guessed Kaitlyn’s disapproval, but had assumed that the selective truth principle had offended her sensibilities. While Kaitlyn was horrified at Adrienne’s situation, it was, in fact, the indiscretion which appalled her the most, the very act of telling a near stranger such intimate details so as to completely invalidate whatever purity the selective-truth pact had offered them.
Rarely did Kaitlyn see more vulgarity in the action itself than of the telling of it. It was the call to attention, the invitation for the senses to scatter in imaginative detail to the recesses that they, she assumed, would not have sought without provocation. Kaitlyn had worked for several years in an office suite on the 10th floor of a quiet building. She was often the only person in the elevator. Nearly two years had passed before she glanced to the rear corner of the elevator to find a small security camera tucked between the walls and ceiling. She inquired of it at the front desk, had it been there long? It had been there as long as she’d worked in the office at least. Kaitlyn was horrified. She had adjusted her brassiere, counted the bills in her wallet, had scraped her fingernails across her teeth. These acts were in private, a humble affirmation of her humanity. Altered only by the mildest publicity, by the very act of being seen, they had rendered her an obscene woman.