2nd Guilty Pleasures

Where was the guilt in this particular pleasure, he wondered. None, except he experienced a niggling sense of betrayal. Surely his ancestors would be turning in their graves if they knew. He walked restlessly between the fridge which was packed with beer and cider and the chips and dips that were stacked neatly on the table. Everything was ready for tomorrow’s State of Origin decider. He was the sole Blues supporter amongst a sea of Maroons. As his father had once said, he was the turd in the bathtub. Maybe that was a sign. Year after year he had been made to eat crow as the Maroons trampled over their traditional rivals. Not this year though, it looked like it would be a clean sweep. This should have thrilled him but all he could think about was that impossible love triangle.
Earlier that month he had received a text from his close friend telling him that he had tested positive for COVID. They had gone out the previous night and a rapid antigen test later confirmed that he had indeed crossed the red line. He settled dutifully into a period of seven days’ quarantine.
By the third day the action movies which comprised his usual diet of television felt dreary and predictable. When he got up to get himself a drink he must have pressed something on the remote because the usual sounds of fistfights and gunshots were suddenly replaced by a soaring melody and an anguished duet sung in a language he did not understand. Transfixed, he walked back apprehensively, afraid of what he might see. It would be the easiest thing to switch it off, but to do what? He sat down. He would give it 10 minutes.
It was dark by the time hunger made him look up from the screen. By then, it was too late. The door to another world had opened and he had stepped through and closed it firmly behind him. How could he explain to his mates about these women with their translucent skin, dark eyes and jet black hair who were both feminine and kicked serious arse. And then there were these impossibly noble dunderheads who couldn’t see that these women were secretly in love with them.
The eyes that stared back at him in the mirror were puffy and bloodshot. He barely recognised the ex-footballer, drinker and occasional gambler who now had a serious addiction to Asian soap operas. Was there a support group for that?
His girlfriend noticed nothing different and ostensibly left him to his Xbox that evening. It was their mutually agreed he/she time. The couples’ counsellor had suggested- and they had agreed- they would give each other an hour every evening, and they had stuck to their bargain. Now he had these other women in his life. Usually he and his mates would be playing their online games and carrying on like children, but he made an excuse that his machine was broken. Instead, he pressed play on the next episode. The hour passed in a flash and the episode ended on a cliff hanger. The suspense was killing him. There wouldn’t be time tomorrow. Their friends would be over for the grand final and preparations would need to be made. Maybe if he got up in the middle of the night and retreated to the toilet with his headphones. He dismissed that thought. His girlfriend was a restless sleeper and would soon come looking for him. He would need to purge his playlist. Soon the algorithm would be recommending all sorts of questionable things and he wasn’t ready for the awkward explanations that would follow.
He switched off the television reluctantly and wondered into the living room. His girlfriend was absorbed with her Kindle and didn’t hear him enter. When he sat down on the couch beside her she hurriedly shut off the device. He noted that it was password protected and that it rarely left her side. He smiled enigmatically. For once she didn’t ask him why. It was a tacit acknowledgement that their he/she time was not only a break from each other, but a break from themselves. He noted though a slight flush. He had seen it before; in the early days of their courtship and curiously with people on the bus who occasionally looked furtively up from their Kindles. One day he would see what all the fuss was about. Maybe after he finished the current season of ‘Eternal Love’ or ‘Crash Landing on You’.
‘Quiet at your end darling’
‘This new game needs a lot of focus’
‘Want to watch something?’
‘Sure, as long as it’s not all kisses and cuddles’
‘Right oh. Wouldn’t want people getting the wrong idea.’

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