: Her Last Affair :

an excerpt by Catherine Hiller

Given how they met, Gillian was always amused at the bookish nature of their affair. Jasper quoted poetry to her, and clipped out articles for her, and sat her down on a folding chair facing his so he could talk about the latest things he read. She loved looking at his face, his expressive brown eyes and elegant, downward-turning mouth, and was happy to sit opposite him with one bare foot tucked under his thigh as they discussed Barthes or Updike or David Foster Wallace.  Hours might pass before Jasper would glance upward, toward the loft bed, and, feigning reluctance, Gillian would give a small nod. She always let him climb the ladder first. She did not want him below her, looking upward at her thighs.

He said when they met that he lived in a “slot,” and Gillian thought he was joking until she saw the place. It was a university dormitory room in midtown Manhattan, perhaps ten feet square, with a tiny bathroom attached. He had lived there for the past fifteen years.  “Nothing extra,” he said with satisfaction. No couch, no TV, no kitchen, no plants. She admired his austerity. Still, it wasn't very comfortable at his place, and he would never come to hers because she was married.  Even when her husband was abroad on business, Jasper refused to set foot in her spacious apartment. “That shows how patriarchal you are,” she said. “You think my husband owns my body and the apartment. But it's my body and my place as well.”  Jasper wouldn't change on this, so they always went to the slot. “Don't you want to picture me in my milieu?” she once asked, and he said, “Yes. Show me photographs.”