The first stone


I hurt my husband when I confessed.

In retrospect I might have been better off not telling him about the affair. But I was racked with guilt for months, especially after the novelty of the affair wore off.

“A year and a half?” he said, his face becoming as red as it sometimes during a passionate sermon from the pulpit. “You’ve been sleeping with this man for a year and a half and said nothing until now?”

I knew George. Once he expended the rage, he despaired. This game with a single huff like the air being let out of a balloon.

“Not constantly,” I said, trying to lighten the situation, but managing merely to sound glib – as if I thought the whole thing funny, when I did not.

That’s where George and I differed. I never took anything “too seriously” where he always did.

Yet that’s what had attracted me to him in the first place. He seemed as mythical as Moses, as if he had stepped straight out of the pages of The Bible – so godlike to the impressionable girl I was then.

And like so many things after years of familiarity, the likeness to God grew tiresome when all I ached for was a little fun.

George would have called my urges “temptation,” but I knew other couples shared more than supper and stiff, uncomfortable sex at night. Yet I could not broach the subject with George, though God knows I tried.

Nor did he let my glibness joke pass so easily this time, telling me that I should not joke about the affair.

Yet, the more I thought about it now that I had confessed, the funnier it seemed to me, a twisted joke, perhaps, but funny in that sad way all twisted jokes are: me being the wife of a minister and having a lover on the side. Soap operas made millions from such stuff. And I could not imagine how I could face the other wives of ministers with whom we regularly met and keep my face straight.

They all seemed as prim and proper as I was not, and during those social occasions when I had to sit in their company, I wondered about them: were they real? Did all ministers wives live lives of quiet desperation like I did, aching to break out?

“I wasn’t joking really,” I told George. “I just wanted you to know.”

“Who is it?” he demanded.

“That’s none of your business,” I said.

“NONE OF MY BUSINESS?” George roared his outrage renewed. “How am I to know what kind of trash you’ve been sleeping with and what kind of disease you’ve dragged home.”

That hurt. While I was prepared for the sermon, that “God save my soul” routine he usually reserved for errant couples, I did not expect the attack on my lover. I thought I would be enough of a sacrificial lamb.

“All you need to know is that he is a respectable man,” I said. “And I’m not going to let you drag him through the mud over this. I ended the affair. Things are over with him and me.”

“Well, thank the Lord for that,” George said. “But how could a man who takes another man’s wife be respectable?”

“I’m the one who approached him,” I said.

Again came the huff and George sagged. But his gaze stayed hard. “Now you expect me to forgive you?”

“I hoped you would,” I admitted.

Yet by the way he looked at me I knew forgiveness was not in his heart and while he would insist we continue the sham of a marriage, he would hold this against me for the rest of our lives, bringing it up again whenever we disputed anything even something minor.

“I supposed I could find it possible to forgive you – over time,” he lied.

“There is something else,” I said.

“What might that be?” he asked.

“I’m HIV positive,” I said.

The look of horror and fear fell across George’s face like a heavy curtain. “You have AIDS?”

“Not the disease. Not yet. Not ever if I’m lucky.”

“You filthy slut!” George yelled waving his fists not at me but at heaven.

“George, please, let me explain.”

“Explain what? Haven’t you said all you need to say?”

“Not quite,” I said. “I didn’t want you to find out for yourself.”

A puzzled look came over his face, shrouded once more by horror. “You mean to tell my you’ve given me this – this sinful disease.”

“No, George,” I said. “My lover and I have checked. I got it from you.”



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