‘San Bernardino’ by Lisa Fetchko
For a year or so, when our marriage was in trouble but before it was actually over, my husband and I used to go to a sex club in San Bernardino. It was a moldy old place that probably hadn’t changed since it opened in the seventies, a slightly dreadful place that perfectly reflected the state of our marriage, although I was strangely fond of it at the time.
It was raining the first time we went, on a Saturday night in what passes for winter in Southern California, and the drive from Santa Monica was long and tedious. The freeways were wet and slick and predictably jammed up. As we left the Westside and made our way through the Inland Empire—Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga—I asked myself the question the suburbs of Los Angeles always produce in me: What in God’s name am I doing here? Mercifully, we turned north, into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, and the abrupt decrease in cars and lights and shopping centers came as a momentary relief. As my husband, who’d been anxiously gripping the wheel, began to relax, I surrendered to the pleasures of the starry night. Surrendered, that is, until I began to remember the way the kids looked at me as I tucked them into bed that night, wary and suspicious, as if they knew where we were going. They didn’t know, of course, and how could they have known (so strange is the institution of marriage) that it was their very happiness we were trying to protect.