Finnian Burnett


Here’s a creative non-fiction piece written years ago when I first met my wife. It was recently rejected from a submission so rather than re-shop it, I decided to publish it here.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

The Affair

We made love like we were already in love. I knew her. I knew her far more deeply than two women who have sparked a friendly connection over the internet should be able to say they knew each other. We had exchanged random messages here and there, and some of the conversations had gotten deep, but ultimately we were strangers.

Trying to describe it later, I knew I sounded like a romance novel. We looked into each other’s eyes and we just knew, I would say, and hearing it come out of my own mouth made me cringe. I’ve never been a fan of romance novels, and I’m not sure I have ever really believed in that all-encompassing romantic love that they write about in books with stupid titles such as The Love of a Lifetime.

Yet there I was, staring into the face of a woman who took my breath away even before she wrapped her arms around me with such exuberance, she nearly knocked me off my feet.

She was smaller than me, tiny really. Slender, short and delicate or at least I assumed until she hugged me and I realized she was a solid little bundle of kinetic energy and wiry muscles. I’m a big woman and she knocked me down and kept me down when we were wrestling, teasing each other, trying to act as if the physical play between us was simply for fun and not a prelude to the sex we both kept pretending we weren’t going to have.

We were married, but not to each other. And though I could give the million reasons why we weren’t happy in our respective marriages, the fact remains that no one likes a cheater. I could explain the long, lonely nights lying in bed next to an unappreciative spouse, or the years of suppressing our own needs for the sake of someone else, or the cold silences, or the way a passionate woman becomes dead inside when there is no one to appreciate it. But it wouldn’t matter. Because we were married and not to each other and that colored every moment between us, from the first time I slipped my arm around her across the back of a movie seat, to the way she leaned her face against mine as if she had finally found a resting place.  When you’re married to someone else, it becomes about the sex. They had an affair follows everything that comes next and the word diminishes the rightness of it. It wasn’t an affair. It was a homecoming, a burst of oxygen into my lungs after years of drowning and when we kissed it wasn’t about the way my body stirred and arched against her or the way the electricity shot between us, raising goosebumps on my long untouched skin. It was about coming home, about finding something you didn’t even know you were missing.

I feel like I prayed for you and you’re here, she told me, and I couldn’t breathe because it was so true it hurt. The universe usually gives us what we ask for but not always when we want it. If she was the answer to my prayers, why hadn’t I made space for her in my life before she showed up?

It was fast, we only had a few days, and we spent most of them heartily calling each other friend, pretending our skin didn’t burn whenever we brushed against each other, and carefully not talking about our spouses. We tried to keep our distance, but I found myself looking for her when I walked into a room and when I spotted her, she was always looking at me.

We were in her bed and we were hugging and cuddling, wrestling, laughing. Talking, always. Pretending we were becoming good friends while my hand rested on her bare stomach. She asked me to spend the night and I had a flash of premonition. I saw us naked and touching and I felt my mouth exploring her body. I saw us riding bikes through a park and walking the dogs. In that flash, for a second, I saw her grey-haired with a cane, staring into the glass at the bakery department of our grocery store and when I touched her hand, she looked up and smiled at me through the lines in her face. I saw it all from our sweating bodies locked together, screaming yes, to the end of our lives when I kissed her for the last time. When I went to my room to get my clothes, I took a breath and thought about not going back. I sat on the edge of my bed and told myself that from this moment on, I couldn’t claim that it had just happened. I knew. I knew what would happen if I went back. And I went back anyway. We were connected by then and she was waiting for me. We went to bed again and I said, I want to kiss you.

It wasn’t immediate. We pulled back and came together and pulled back and then the lights were off, and her mouth was burning against mine and my hands were pressed against her and the rest of it was a blur of love and desire and satisfaction and underneath it all, still, the comfort of coming home.

When we left, when we said goodbye, it felt as if the rest of the world had become other, like everything that existed outside of us was unreal. I wanted only to be in her arms, to smell her, taste her, live inside her. I felt exposed, raw. My skin hurt. It felt like a weight had settled into the pit of my stomach. Getting out of bed in the morning felt like fighting gravity.

When we next spoke, when I heard her voice, I could breathe again. I told her I was most sad that I hadn’t given her anything, that I hadn’t given her a gift, a trinket, something of mine that she could hold on to and remember how it felt. It hurt that I hadn’t given her anything. And she said, you’ve given me everything.

4 thoughts on “Creative Non-Fiction – The Affair

  1. Jacki says:

    So beautiful! Your words echo in me…

  2. Derrick Ford says:

    Your writing is beautiful and so full of emotion, Finn.

    1. Finnian Burnett says:

      Thank you so much!

  3. janbeee2 says:

    I love reading this. It is such a great love story. Messy, yes. Because life so often is. When I was younger, I used to foolishly think that “cheaters” should have ended the one relationship before starting the other. It would be “nicer” and less messy, but it can also be impossible. This is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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