My husband revealed his infidelity to me at a hypnotist’s stage show. Those selected by the hypnotist were up on stage in a row of cheap blue plastic chairs, heads thrown back, swimming against invisible tides, when he turned to me and said, very clearly, very lucidly, ‘I’ve been sleeping with Patricia.’
He wasn’t even one of the performers. He was sitting beside me, watching from the floor as I was. I waved a hand in front of his face. ‘Is this part of the show?’
‘Are you hypnotised?’
‘No! I just needed to tell you.’
‘At this moment.’
‘I need to explain.’
‘We were on a walk at the beach. It was evening, near dusk really. The beach was almost empty.’ He was whispering this urgently as the victims above us began to change an invisible lightbulb. ‘And there was a bull on the beach. A bull from a story, huge and brown and white. You don’t realise how large bulls really are until you see them fifty yards off. Haunches like mountain ranges. He was wandering down near the shoreline. He must have come down from a field above. And the whole beach was standing, watching him. By “the whole beach” I mean the twenty or so people on it. Nobody went near him of course. He kicked at the sand and tossed his head and then began taking short runs up and down the strand. Everyone stood well back, up in the dunes.’
‘Why were you at the beach with Patricia?’
‘We couldn’t get back to the car, you see. We were trapped. The exit to the road was beyond the bull, and nobody was going past the bull. He was so huge! We tried to call the gardaí, but there was no signal on the coast. So we had to sleep in the dunes. That was when it happened.’
‘Do you think these people are really hypnotised, or are they plants?’
‘We had to. It was so cold. We did it to stay alive.’
‘Where were the other people?’
‘What other people?’
‘The others on the beach?’
‘The must have found some other way. I don’t remember.’
The hypnotist had removed his purple velour jacket and was holding it by the shoulders and waving it in arcs above his head, having convinced one of the women it was a ghost.
‘Is that the only time it happened?’
‘There was one other time. We were at Patricia’s house in the countryside. There was a terrible rainstorm.’
‘Why were you at Patricia’s house in the countryside?’
‘And the rain fell for hours and hours. So heavy. It was like a tropical storm. When I tried to leave, the rain had made a huge, deep moat around the house. It flowed in front of the front gate and around to the back garden. We were completely trapped. I couldn’t get the car out onto the road. I would have tried to swim, but it moved too quickly. I could see strange shapes moving in the depths. I had to stay there until the flood waters abated. It took three days. There was only one bed. It was terrible. We thought we were going starve.’
‘What three days was this?’
‘In February. The three days I told you I was reading at the conference in Edinburgh.’
One of the hypnotised men had begun having sex with an invisible goat. He was sobbing.
‘Are you sure you’re not hypnotised? These sound like dreams.’
‘The one and only other time was in my grandmother’s house. Granny was there. She had tried to buy some chickens from the neighbour, but the neighbour had gotten angry and threatened her with a shotgun. Myself and Patricia were locked in the bathroom. My grandmother wouldn’t stop crying, we could hear her in the kitchen. It was terrible, it was all so terrible.’
‘But you had sex anyway.’
‘It was terrible. It was terrible.’
The hypnotist clicked his fingers, and the stage guests came groggily awake and began to disentangle themselves from one another. Two men sheepishly exchanged shirts. The audience clapped uncertainly. My husband was still weeping softly into his gin and tonic. I waved a hand in front of his eyes again, clicking my fingers.
‘I’m so sorry, honey,’ he sobbed. I clicked my fingers again.