Today, we are thrilled to publish “Private Affair” by New Voices author D.S. Englander. In this quiet and powerful story, a man feels fiercely protective of his wife, who is receiving threatening letters from one of her students. This is complicated by the man’s reflections on his own history with women.
“He had met Ali in his early thirties after a long lonely stretch of years. She had changed his life. He felt only horror at the thought that she could somehow be hurt or taken from him.”
A light breeze played through the windows of the Subaru, and it felt refreshing to Desalt, who was visibly perspiring behind the steering wheel. It was hot, hotter than was normal for May. He tried to inch a little closer to the gearshift, to escape the sun’s glare, but that didn’t do much. The whole parking lot was baking.
He watched the doors to the school, where his wife would appear. Presently, it was mobbed with activity. Teenaged boys were filing out, dressed in khaki pants and oxford shirts. It was a uniform that he thought marked them for future corporate lives. Some wore blazers, and Desalt noticed two boys with white ball caps pulled low on their brows, as if they were a pair of executives about to hit the links. He pulled the lever on his seat back in disgust, and reclined just enough to give the tightness that had been bothering him lately in his lower back some relief. He tried closing his eyes against the sun’s glare, but that didn’t work.
The school was a brick building with little flourishes and buttresses from another century, three, four stories high. From where he sat, Desalt could see the curtains billowing in the high, second-floor windows, perhaps in one of the classrooms where his wife taught. It was a pretty building, capped off with an old-fashioned clock tower, complete with roman numerals and handsome greenish metal. Yet, even in the full bloom of May, there was something a little foreboding about the school. Perhaps it was the generations of students who had passed through its doors, the sum total of old exertions and humiliations.
He watched the students form a loose column to the flat roofed athletic building, at the end of the parking lot. They were hapless as they walked through the parked cars, oblivious to his presence in the driver seat of the Subaru. He imagined they would drift through their lives in a similar fashion, hardly aware: to college, their first jobs, straight up through middle management. Even as he thought this, he knew it wasn’t true either.
Some were probably his wife’s students. While he had listened to Ali describe her students, and even remembered names, he would never be able to match those names up to faces. In any case, he couldn’t think one generous thought about these kids. One of them may be the one threatening his wife, leaving lewd notes and promises of violence.