Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2002, 11:35 PM

Infidelity and the Erie Canal

Infidelity and the Erie Canal

I have been remiss in my duties to you, dear diary, but the reason is none too small. In fact, it has taken me almost a full month to recover enough to document the source as follows. I apologize to you and to myself. Words have always been better friends and lovers than most of my friends and lovers have been to me. I have neglected you for far too long and I will work to get back into your good graces. Please accept this rather bland documentation of events as evidence of my willingness and commitment to regain the familiarity we once shared more intimately than the moon shares the night. And now, on to the story:

It was the first day of October 2002 and I was in Rochester, New York on a business trip. Xerox was holding a developer's workshop for a small group of individuals representing companies from all over the world. The gathering was home to many technical geeks discussing computer stuff. That's not the point of this story, but if you listen a little longer...

I drove up early Monday morning, taking Route 79 north from Pittsburgh to Erie, and then Route 90 east along the underbelly of Lake Erie on my way to the city at the mouth of the Genesee River. The morning was crisp and blue and smelled of autumn. As I drove along the vineyards on either side sporadically erupted with clouds of birds flying south for the winter hiatus. All those birds, all going the same direction, all with a goal, and all leaving town. It was the winds of change illustrated in a fluid pattern in the sky. The birds were like fish schooling together, all one mind, one purpose, turning in unison and pursuing wordlessly the strong call home. Little did I realize that those same winds would blow ill in my direction.

Tuesday October 2, 2002 was a beautiful day in Rochester, New York. It was a crisp clear fall day with azure skies punctuated with sunshine. After a full day of learning a new printer device language we were set to be wined and dined at the expense of Xerox on a boat trip along Erie Canal. Not many people would get excited about this prospect, but having grown up in Pittsburgh and possessing an interest in history, I was excited. Most people in the Northeast had at one point in grade school sang one of several songs concerning the Erie Canal, usually with the chorus "Low bridge everybody down / low bridge 'cause we're coming to a town / and you always know your neighbor / you always know your pal / when you're eighteen miles on the Erie Canal". Not only was it a wonderful boat ride aboard which we were served a scrumptious dinner, but the first town we came to out of port required the captain to call for the drawbridge to be raised to allow for our passing. It was like living a childhood memory.

As I was experiencing the past, mine and that of the transportation industry of America, my wife was busy navigating the canals of lust with someone other than me. I wasn't aware of her transgression then, and in fact I would not become aware for another fourteen days. I tried calling her several times during my trip only to converse with her voicemail. I called several times more when I returned to my hotel room only to add to the list of messages piling up in queue like the flotsam that collects on the surface of a stream against any sort of impediment. Finally, after tossing and turning for several hours, I succeeded in reaching her at 3:30 in the morning. She was out with a mutual acquaintance. She swore that she had not heard the phone, and that she was currently eating a late-night snack at a 24-hour restaurant with said acquaintance. I believed her, and here is the reason.

Like religion, she was my only faith. I subscribe to no organized religion. I have trouble with blind faith, but I had accepted it in her.

In accordance with the Chinese proverb, I have lived in interesting times. My life is an interesting time, or it usually was before the engagement to my wife. It had since become sublimely uniform, and I found that to be just peachy. I had reached an almost Zen-like state of contentment. I was married to a beautiful and talented woman who inspired me in every venue, I was employed by a thriving company for work that I thoroughly enjoyed, I was causing considerable damage to the debt my degree had wroth upon me, and I was even saving for and searching for a house.

I have empathy for those in Pompeii. I understand what it is like to live in a peaceful idyllic setting and then to have the ground rumble and the earth explode and the sky fill with fire and smoke, to finally and absolutely be buried beneath the detritus of your previous existence. And worse still, to be the survivor.

Several weeks later I discovered evidence of the infidelity. Hard, cold, tactile, written evidence with words that forever engraved themselves upon my mind like a fiery brand. Those words who had been my lover, my savior, and my sanity had returned to disembowel my marriage and then gloat as my happiness, hopes, dreams and future drained from the wound. Perhaps it was some great reckoning in the karmic ledger. Perhaps it was a random event. Perhaps, perhaps perhaps.

As it happens, four weeks to the day have elapsed since I culled up out of the depths of an internet email account the offending message to learn the truth. Twenty-eight days since the admission of carnal exploration from my wife, one full cycle of the moon, one menstrual cycle, one short month. We have passed through the seven stages of reckoning, two office visits to a marriage counselor, and on to the doorstep of divorce.

And that, dear diary, is a reckoning of the events of my life the last month. My last entry was the day before our one-year wedding anniversary, and the marriage will not live through the night of the second. I will always have myself and language; at least I can find solace in that.