A couple days ago I brought up someone who was a good friend for a little more than a year. She distanced herself because her life was undergoing changes, then it seemed she wanted to be friends again, then walked away.

Please note my memory is fallible. My recollections are not precise, but I am doing my best to be fair.

This is about Edna.

It's 2016 and Leah, my soon-to-be ex-wife, suggests I read a few articles about jobs for introverts. At the time I had dead-end call center jobs and was going nowhere fast. The one profession which kept popping up in these listicles was bookkeeper. Fortunately the local library offered a free "Universal Class" subscription where library patrons can take online courses which included a course for bookkeeping. After I finished and decided to begin the course for doing payroll, Leah mentions how her friend Edna does our taxes and runs a small bookkeeping business. Edna's business partner was going to drop out to engage more as a mom in her personal life, and Leah thought I could be an asset for Edna.

By Hallowe'en Edna is over to talk business and bookkeeping. As was the social dynamic in the house, Edna was Leah's friend and they hung together while I was in my office doing whatever or being told to complete chores.
My bookkeeping gears had been installed, greased, and I was thirsty to start learning practicalities and hands-on training. In the end we basically agreed to partner up with her business then Edna vanished for a few months. Holidays happened, New Year was rung in, and Edna gave me a sign of life. She was busy preparing for the new tax season but wanted to meet up to talk business.
Edna is epileptic and, a few years before, chose to stop driving because a seizure would prove deadly to her and other motorists. It became part of my duties with the business to be Edna's chauffer, ferrying her from eastern Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore and back. On these 90 minute drives we got to know each other, talk a lot about philosophy and theology in addition to bookkeeping, becoming friends. I was hesitant because she was Leah's friend and not mine. Leah is charismatic and a conversationalist with a knack for getting people to confide in her so I am holding back. Still when Edna was visiting and went out for a smoke break, I came along so we can talk some more.
One thing which was big for me with Edna was her easygoing personality. I'm driving her home at night, I miss the exit for the Pennsylvania Turnpike and wind up going the wrong way. About thirty minutes into going the wrong way, Edna remarks, "I don't know this way" pulls out her phone and gets us back on track. Leah, on the other hand, would've excoriated me for not paying attention and getting us lost and adding extra and unnecessary time to our trip. They were night and day.

Must've told my therapist this anecdote, or similar ones, several times and equated it to the parable of the wind and the sun.

Once upon a time, the sun and the wind argued over who was stronger. They decided to settle the argument by seeing who could get the jacket off a tiny human far down below. Wind won the coin toss and blew, and blew, and blew! The more the wind blew, the tighter the human held onto the jacket. When the sun's turn came, the sun merely shone, the human became warm and took off the jacket.

The moral being brute force isn't always necessary. Leah was the wind and Edna was the sun.

At the time I was socially starved. Attending the astronomy club was not enough for me, and I already feeling socially-awkward, spectrum-y, and introverted. I managed by saying to myself, "Y'know what? I'm married to Leah. That should be enough for me." I mean marriage is forever. For better or for worse. Thick and thin. Sickness and health. Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune among other clichés. Who knows, maybe I'll start forming relationships with clients who will bring in more business and the business will really take off.

I think it was during that January meeting where Edna got me to lower my guard. I'm probably conflating two different instances. Please bear with me. Edna loves playing board and card games and she has quite a collection at home. I figure it comes from her upbringing where she was raised by liberal hippy Christians, Jesus freaks in the non-pejorative sense, who would gather around to tell each other stories or read from books rather than mindlessly watch television together. Reckon sometimes instead of stories and readings, there were boardgames. Edna had brought along one game where cards are pulled and one tells a story based upon the drawn cards. The ones I pulled had me tell a story of someone who was isolated and didn't feel truly loved nor valued and I cried a little.

Edna could tell it was a roman à clef, decided to change the subject with a YouTube video, I think. We sat together on the couch in the sun room while Edna held up her phone for us and began to lean very close against me. My arms were at my side because I felt it was a bit weird and I didn't want to make her uncomfortable. Eventually my arm became really achey from the position, I shifted, raised my arm and put it on the back of the couch. She was non-plussed and seemed happy, and a minute later I had my arm wrapped around her shoulder.

"I'm not cheating. I just have my arm around her shoulder. We're not doing anything out of the ordinary. Okay, this is nice. Plus she's really religious so there's no sexual tension."

Visits from Edna were typically over weekends, but also Edna would stay longer. I think one time she was at the house for a week. Leah figured that Edna needed a break from the kids and her husband, but Edna was a bit of a handful being so chatty and sociable. Fortunately for Leah, Leah would just say "Listen Edna, I need you to be quiet" or "I need time by myself" and Edna would be completely fine with it. No ruffled feathers nor hurt feelings. So Edna would hang out with me where we'd talk about stuff, work or non-work topics, and I was fine with it because I was getting attention.

Not to say Leah didn't give me attention, but we just had different modes of communication and I guess we were mutually incomprehensbile with my tendency for silence exascerbating the situation.

At the time I was toiling away at a part-time, dead-end sales job for a local lawn treatment company. Outside of those four hours a day, it was fucking around on the internet or doing bookkeeping. For me, Edna's visits were an event because I got to have a friend. We had mutual interests, we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things. And all this time I thought Edna was just some preacher's daughter who would be cold, judgemental, and always talking about how Jesus is the best thing since sliced milk. Boy was I wrong.

When Edna was over, but Leah was at work, we'd do some bookkeeping together then Edna would be like, "Okay let's take a break". We'd head to the couch, sometimes she'd put my arm around her shoulder. Other times I'd just do it. It was becoming normal. Again I felt everything was fine because I'm married. Edna's married with children. Also Edna's a liberal evangelical and wouldn't break the sixth commandment. I didn't want to throw my life into chaos with divorce especially with my wife's friend. And we started napping together. She'd put her feet under my thigh and lay across the couch while I'd nap sitting up. Sometimes I woke and found myself leaning against her shins but I'd always adjust and move.

While Edna and I were spending a lot of time together, and when we were together there was nobody else in the world, I was neglecting Leah. I knew this kind of connection with Edna was really nice, but I really wanted to do bookkeeping or learn more of the trade. With each visit, Edna and I did less bookkeeping and just hung out. If we got around to the books, or not, for one of our girls doing LuLaRoe that was not a big deal. Since it was tax season, Edna wasn't around that much but she mentioned how we were going to meet when April 15th was near.

Fast forwarding to mid-April, we hang out. We celebrate the end of tax season with edibles. It wasn't my first time with edibles, but it was Edna's first time. I remember the first night that Edna was on the love seat and I was on the couch, we were trying to have a coherent verbal conversation but we'd trail off when we lost our trains of thought.
The next few days Edna was on a kick about setting up my office to be more amenable to working, like getting me a new desk. First item on our agenda was to visit numerous second-hand stores in hopes of finding a desk. The gist I got from Edna is that if we made a good-faith effort to get a second hand desk but didn't find one, then it'd be perfectly okay to expense a new desk to me. We spent the morning making a route to visit second-hand stores, then our afternoon was spent visiting them. Many of them just had junk, some were second-hand stores but just for clothes.
Shopping with Edna was interesting but required patience. She saw so much and would become easily distracted, going from looking at desks to remarking upon a donated couch then wondering why someone would donate a picture frame which still has photos in it. One of the last stops was a warehouse full of donated furniture and sundries. We spent more time in there than necessary but in my head I just thought being around Edna was good enough. At one point her attention was drawn to something on the ground, so she got on her knees to rummage. I looked down, saw her wide, child-bearing hips in the air and marveled at her magnificent ass in leggings before my brain said, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SHE'S MARRIED!" So I walked away and continued the search for a desk.

Time passes. We attend some Quickbooks convention in Philadelphia. She has an aura, an aura is a weird feeling which often precedes a seizure, and Edna put the car seat back to rest. She asked that I take her hand so she was grounded and we held hands the entire drive to the convention. She woke while parking and mentioned how her father would hold her hands during a seizure to give her comfort. The convention is alright, I observe Edna socialize and try to learn the skills she uses to reach out to other people, and we head on back to her house.

Time passes. I'm driving Edna home and as we're approaching the tunnel through Trenton on Route 27 when I realize my jeans were getting snug. I was getting randomly hard for the first time in forever. At the time I hadn't had a decent boner in years. Years. I look over at Edna, she's watching the road. I look inwards and can't figure out why the hell I'm getting a spontaneous boner. Eventually I reasoned it was the fact that I was happy and I hadn't been happy in a while. I wasn't even thinking about Edna nor doing anything to her.

Time passes. Leah's in bed, we're up late, Edna's feeling self-conscious about her looks. About a year before Edna underwent brain surgery in hopes of getting her seizures under control. Doctors removed a quarter-sized piece of the left side of her brain, but the seizures didn't stop and she had begun to be plagued by presque vu. Many times I'd feel like we were on the 10,000 Dollar Pyramid and I was helping her find the word which eluded her. The surgery left her with a dent on the side of her head which she kept covered with her hair. I gave her a hug, touched the dent, and told her there's nothing to worry about while reminding her that when she's called home that she'd be leaving behind this mortal shell, and how God would give her something completely new and beautiful just as she proseletyzed a month or so before.

Time passes. There are times when Edna asks me to wake her up after Leah leaves for the day. I go into the guest room, rock Edna on her shoulder to wakefulness and walk out while she got ready for the day.

Time passes. Leah's out at one of her concerts. Edna and I are home alone. Edna suggests we watch something and that something turns out to be To Kill A Mockingbird. Just like with our naps, just like with our breaks, we are sitting together. This time I have one leg up on the couch and the other foot on the floor. Edna's sitting against me and my arm's around her middle with her arm atop mine. While Atticus Finch is in court and arguing the injustice being perpetrated, Leah comes home. My brain races, "If we get up and we separate it'll make noise and we'll look super guilty. Just act natural like nothing is happening whatsoever because nothing is happening. We're sitting close together watching To Kill A Mockingbird not Deep Throat." Leah comes in, says hello, gives us a strange look then goes to bed without further comment. The next morning Leah confronts us and says that seeing us sitting like that made her very jealous and she wishes we'd not do that again.

Time passes. Leah's going away on a cruise. Everything I heard about cruises from Leah didn't sound very comfortable nor relaxing. Tiny, claustrophobic rooms with even tinier claustrophobic toilets. As Leah put it, "I sat on the toilet and puked in the sink." As usual, I decide to stay behind. Edna and I make plans to do bookkeeping while Leah's away. When I picked up Edna she wasn't feeling entirely hot but she definitely wanted to come to the house. Edna's husband was concerned, but let Edna go. Edna's mostly quiet but she mentions how she had a migraine and thought she had an aura coming on. I let her into the house, bring in her stuff, and I make sure she's fine.
She mentions how she'd prefer to sleep in the sunroom. Fine. She asks that I sleep with her.
Now when she's asking me to sleep with her, she meant literal sleep rather than the tried-and-true euphemism for sex. I'm reticent because to me it seemed to be a bridge too far, but if it gave Edna comfort like when I held her hand for a long drive while she was having a seizure then okay. I laid as close to the edge as possible with Edna on the inside then watched an episode of Giant Robo on my phone. When I heard her breathing begin to even out I figured she was finally asleep. I sneaked out of the sunroom back into the master bedroom hoping Edna wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night.
Next morning Edna wasn't feeling so hot and asked that I drive her home. So much for getting any work done.

Time passes. I start challenging Edna on bookkeeping, talking about how we need more of a business plan and drum up more work so we can make a living rather than being hobbyist bookkeepers. I feel awful for raising my voice in frustration at her, but it's clear bookkeeping isn't working for either of us. Despite all the dreams of making it big, everything falls apart and we eventually stop bookkeeping together. It was rough. I was hoping to work for myself, develop a career and break the cycle of limiting myself to call center and sales jobs. Yet Leah told me that if I didn't find full time work in a month that we'd be out of the house. I did find work in record time but things between Edna and myself were the same as before.

Reckon it was Memorial day of 2018 when Leah screamed at shouted at me for about two hours, tearing me down, enumerating all the ways I was an awful husband before and after Edna while building herself up that only a woman like her could endure what I put her through. We try marriage therapy which goes down in flames followed by Leah telling me she's going to act like she's single and "do what she's gotta do" regardless of how I feel about it.
Some time later Leah's in the kitchen and cooking, she goes into the fridge for something then closes the door. "So did you suck her tits?"
"Did you suck Edna's tits? Did you fuck her?"
Leah did that searching-look thing which I associated with her trying to find clues from me about me lying to her. I wasn't lying. Did Edna and I have boundary issues? Probably. Leah gave me one of those long stares which would usually make me crack up, dropping any poker face. Nothing. Leah confronted me a few more times, sometimes prefacing with "It's okay if you did" but I didn't do anything.

Yet Leah accusing me of having gone all the way with Edna, Edna of all people, affected my tunnel vision. The one time where I marveled at her ass in the second-hand warehouse. Edna asking me to wake her when Leah left. Edna asking me to sleep with her. All those "just-friends" feelings I had bottled up had fermented into thoughts of, "Wow, I could've tapped that?"
Maybe my memories became twisted and everything about Edna was that innocent, and during my time of crisis I was getting nostalgic for something I probably could've had now that I was losing my wife. Yet from my perspective I was blind and now I could see.

Thing is between our bookkeeping breakup and that point, Edna had come out as being polyamorous. We had a few conversations where Edna would go on about all the rules and regulations of polyamory, how it's about communication and trust, metamours and other sexnobabble concerned with the poly lifestyle. One night Edna invited me to join her at a diner in Pennsylvania for a poly munch. It was okay, Edna was more preoccupied socializing with other people but I did chat up this thicc latina but it amounted to nothing. When the munch wound down, Edna and I talked a bit in the parking lot but it was late and really needed to get home. Funny bit, I wanted to get home before Leah as if it fucking mattered. I don't see Edna again for about a year.

My employer at the time had an outing to Laurita Winery in September of '18. As much as I loved the job and the people I worked with, it wasn't my scene and the one person I wanted to hang with didn't show up. I left before sundown.
I knew Edna was visiting her parents and I decided to wing my way to New Brunswick to drop in. Edna's there with her parents, and her parents are entertaining their theologian friend and his wife. We have dinner then go to the living room for "conversation". It was very Ned Flanders. Some time later the conversation winds down and Edna and I go into the basement to her father's office. I tell her that I have so many mixed emotions about her, how I miss her company, her friendship, and start crying. She takes my hands and listens as I ramble on about how I feel about her and how she made me feel and how important she is to me. All she does is listen and comfort me a bit. I decide it's time to go, I say good bye to her parents and she walks me back to my car. We give each other a hug and it's one of those hugs.
One of those hugs is when we'd hug, but I'd feel weird or uncomfortable or think I was making her uncomfortable and move to let her go yet Edna would not let go and hug me a bit tighter because she wasn't done yet. But we did let go and went our own ways.

Flash forward to May of 2020. The pandemic is spreading in earnest. Infections and deaths appear to be on the decline, but that's because people are going outside and the COVID-19 virus isn't easily transmitted in open spaces. Maybe there is hope and we'll beat this thing before a vaccine is developed. On a lark, I decide that I'm going to visit Edna unannounced because I missed her. She's happily surprised by my appearance. Her husband had already moved out to her apartment so she could be with the kids since he wasn't entirely happy with polyamory. Boy that's an understatement. We hang out, we catch up, but she has company coming but walks me back to my car. We wind up talking for another hour in the back parking lot. She asks if I could come over tomorrow.
On Sunday she's in bed and feeling very tired and I wind up making sure the kids aren't getting into trouble. Not that they're mischief makers but kids can be kids and do stupid shit. Around two Edna wakes up and we hit the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and come back. Back at her place, we go upstairs and talk in private. That's interrupted when I see my phone light up. I look at the screen and Leah's calling me.
"Hey. Where are you?"
"I'm at Edna's. I was helping her watch the kids."
"You need to come home now."
"Uh, okay." I hung up the phone. "I gotta go. I don't want to."
That's when Edna said, "You really love me." Her voice was full of surpise and I could hear she was touched by the sentiment.
"Yes, I do. But I gotta call. My master's voice."
And I went home.

For a few months I made a point of visiting Edna at least once a month. One time she had her long-time poly boyfriend over, another time their relationship had broken up, yet another time she was getting ready for a date with someone she met on a poly site or through a poly group. I felt like I was wasting my time and maybe it really didn't matter to her nor the world that I loved her.

I tried contacting Edna but got no response or, "There's so much going on in my life right now" which made me frustrated. So I reached out to her father on Facebook. It was cringey, it was awful, and it seems the message wasn't saved when I unfriended him because I was going to share it here. Some time later Edna emails me and cc's Leah with "Cease all contact" as the subject. I didn't read the email but the subject line was enough, so I archived it and filtered Edna's email address.

Honestly I wish I had fucked Edna. At least I wouldn't feel the way I do now as this separation and divorce being undeserved. If we had fucked but a relationship didn't work out, I would still be okay with my life right now. But right now I'm glad I didn't and I'm glad I avoided being splattered by everything going on in her life.

One final aside, Leah told me that she told me to leave Edna's that last time because Leah knew Edna was a hot mess and figured I was in danger around her. Not physical danger, but emotional or mental danger because of Edna still needing a lot of growing-up.

I know this was a lot, but I wanted to share my story and get it out. If Edna or Leah ever read this, fine. If they don't, that's fine too. I wrote this for me in the vain hope of catharsis and getting my head screwed on straighter than it has been over the past four months.

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