your cheating heart or not

Dear Uma: I don't think scratches on a husband's back automatically brand him a cheater, Uma, though of course they do give one pause for thought.

Dear Uma:

I don’t think scratches on a husband’s back automatically brand him a cheater, Uma, though of course they do give one pause for thought.

Pete came home one time with scratches on his back: one on each shoulder and one on each hip – very mysterious. I don’t know why I didn’t do what I am advising you to do; simply ask him about them.

My excuse was that we were a fairly new couple and I was so flummoxed by the sight of the bloody little claw marks that I was struck dumb. I have also had a lifetime of missing the point and defeating the purpose; nothing in this world is straightforward to me. Everything, especially the actions of human beings, confuses me, bemuses me, and is almost guaranteed to be misunderstood and misinterpreted in the tortuous labyrinth of my thoughts.

I managed to give both of us a fairly strange week before I managed to inquire as to how his back came to be decorated with what surely must have been the marks of a passionate encounter with someone other than me. We both knew it couldn’t have been me as I have never been able to give up the childish habit of gnawing my fingernails to the quick, with the result that I have had to come up with more innovative ways of expressing my passion.

One of my first thoughts when I saw the marks was that Pete must have been overcome with a need to be scratched while in the throes of lovemaking. It is, after all, one of the more common sensations of pleasure/pain in the act of intercourse, though I have never understood that mixture as desirable. As one who has suffered more than my share of physical pain, I am not keen on it in any guise.

That is what I suggest you do, and quickly. There is nothing to be gained by waiting; either Andrew is having an affair, as you suspect, or he is not. These scratches may be a sign that he wants you to ask, that he is lacking the courage to bring it up himself.

I have had a difficult time imagining that gentle, loving man, whom I have known for 20 years as a devoted husband to you, as a man who would be furtive in any way at all, but I must say, some of what you have been telling me regarding his changed behaviour does appear to be suspect. Now I, too, am lying awake at night fretting over him; I would so hate it to be true, for all of our sakes.

When I finally faced Pete with my suspicions, he nearly fell over laughing. This was not the response I was anticipating and I was fairly miffed with him, thinking maybe we should separate after, all seeing as how he so seldom showed himself willing to take me seriously about anything. It struck me that this was his reaction to most of my queries; was it really very healthy?

When he had recovered from his amusement, he explained that one of the guys at camp had a cat.

Yes, I said, and does this cat live in your room and sleep in your bed? And if so, is that not a little bit odd? What if I were allergic to cats; is this not grounds for a divorce? Or at least a serious discussion; it warrants some attention other than falling about with amusement.

Collecting himself, Pete explained that the cat is in the habit of coming and going from all the rooms, visiting. He never stays long and he is not a nuisance and no one minds; his food and his litter box are in Steve’s room and that is where he lives.

The scratches, I remind him; I am curious as to how he got the scratches. If they occurred during one of the cat’s visits, exactly how did they happen? Obviously Pete was naked at the time and just as obviously he must have been complicit in whatever activity brought about the marks. They were not the scratches one would get in an attempt to escape the claws: something was hinky about his story.

Entirely sobered by my stern demeanour, Pete told me exactly how he came to be sporting such sporty little marks.

He is in the habit of sitting on the side of his bed before getting into it and scratching his back with a long-handled bamboo back scratcher. I conceded this to be true to the best of my knowledge, having witnessed him engaged in this very act many times. He had two backscratchers; one at camp and one at home.

On this particular night, he didn’t notice Kevin (the cat) had come into his room and was watching him. Maddened by the movement of the bamboo stick, (it was later assumed) Kevin leaped onto Pete’s back, flattening himself by sinking his front claws into Pete’s shoulders and his hind claws into Pete’s hips and clinging there with a fierce intent. Pete couldn’t reach the cat to get him off and he didn’t want to try anything that might make Kevin hang on tighter, causing chunks of flesh to be pulled from his body, so he sat there and hollered until one of the guys came in and carefully disengaged the cat.

It was all over camp the next day, with lots of the men and some of the women wanting to see the marks. Everyone was quite amused by the episode and one girl did suggest that it might be in Pete’s best interests to tell me about the incident right away.

And why didn’t you? I wanted to know.

Truth to tell, Pete said, I was sort of embarrassed; I don’t know why.

Anyway, Uma, I relate this to you in an effort to remind you that things are not always what they seem to be and the best thing to do is to be up front with your wanting to know. I can’t imagine Andrew not telling you if you were to ask him.

Yes, we are over the dreaded Yukon head cold, thanks for asking. This was the first time either of us has gotten a cold since moving here. I took vitamin C and drank copious quantities of ginger tea while resting a lot, and staying warm. Pete went ice fishing over the weekend, got thoroughly chilled, drank hot rum, smoked a cigar and every night before he went to bed took two of everything on the bottom shelf of the medicine cabinet. We both got well in about the same length of time.

Take care of you!