field guide temptationDo not send song lyrics to Facebook or post YouTube music videos or listen to any songs about love gone wrong or one-night stands or anything on country music radio. Okay, no music at all. Tell him no more, you are done, you are disappearing, removing him from your phone and from your Facebook and from your e-mail, and when you’ve said all that, mean it, don’t re-add or spy or stalk. Don’t search for him on Facebook again to see if he’s posted any more YouTube music videos that you listen to and Google the lyrics of and then know he’s still thinking about you late at night so that your finger itches the mouse and you almost click “Message,” almost click “Poke,” almost click “Add friend.”

Whatever you do don’t send him a meaningless text or ask what he’s doing or how things are going. When you think of something funny, text it to your husband. When something makes you angry or upset, text it to your husband. When you think of texting anything at all to anyone else, text it to your husband. When you want someone to tell you something beautiful and romantic and sexy and you can’t get your husband to say it, text your best friend who knows what it’s like to want to offer your heart, divided, just so part of it can be filled at least part-way, and wait for it to pass. It’ll pass. Just be still and wait. Don’t call him. Don’t text him. It’ll pass.

And remember your kids, the ones who keep talking and talking, Mom, Mom, Mama, Mommy, MOM! but your thoughts keep slipping elsewhere. Remember them, strap them against your chest, wield them in your hands, stand them in front of your eyes, and eventually, you won’t see through them anymore. Your three children won’t understand your need for attention. Anything you do or say will shout that their dad wasn’t enough. The same man you spent eight years creating babies with, for some reason isn’t enough now, which isn’t true, it isn’t the full story, it’s only a moment, this moment when you are small and insecure and not even looking for something more. They will wonder whether it was their fault. Later they will know it wasn’t, it was you, all you. And him. And him.

Of course you will fail if you keep telling yourself he’s just a friend, it’s fun and easy, there aren’t any consequences, you aren’t actually doing something, just flirting, it’s harmless, it makes you feel good, he’s a city-a-state-a-country-an-ocean-a-universe away so what does it matter? What does it matter, except you wonder if it shows in your eyes when you tell your husband I love you. What does it matter, except you are afraid you might say something in your sleep even though nothing has happened, nothing is happening, nothing will happen. Stop lying to yourself. Turn off the computer. Put down your phone. Stop checking Facebook. Listen to your husband play the guitar and sing songs you adore. Eat your baked sweet potato fries and guacamole with a glass of American Honey over a game of rummy and realize later you are here, wholly, mercifully. Keep looking into your husband’s eyes and search until yours answer.

Sarah M. Wells is the author of Pruning Burning Bushes and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award. Her essays have appeared in Ascent, ReliefRiver Teeth and elsewhere. Poems by Wells are happily floating about in all sorts of places.  Sarah’s poetry has been honored with two Pushcart Prize nominations. Her essay in Ascent, “Those Summers, These Days” was named a notable essay in the Best American Essays 2012. Sarah serves as the Administrative Director for the Ashland University MFA Program and Managing Editor for Ashland Poetry Press and River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. More information at (Ms. Wells comments on the origin of her essay at the Brevity blog.)

Photography by Paul Bilger