When an affair led to his heart being broken, this writer - who is in a relationship and has chosen to remain anonymous - discovered what it was like to have power over another person, and realised she liked it...
There's a guy crying in front of me. Every so often he wipes his face, looks at me and frowns before his eyes fill back up with tears. I stare at him a bit nonplussed.
I try to pat his arm but he snatches it away and the theatricality of the move, the vitriolic down-turn of the mouth, the up-spurt of tears, all mean I'm barely able to keep from rolling my eyes.He's blaming me wholeheartedly for how hurt he is and for my part I feel bad in an impassive, unhurried way. Beneath this perfunctory compassion I feel something entirely new: a little frisson of power.
His name is Matt* and he tells me it's my fault he's crying. Our affair has been going on for a few weeks now but he wants it to stop because he's single and available and thinks he might be falling in love with me. The trouble is, I'm definitely not available or in love with him.
I'm surprised by my own callousness, how cold I am and beyond that, by how good it feels to be so completely in control of the situation.
This has never been me. In the past it had always been the guy who was in a position of power and I was always the one who was hurt, who cried bitter, angry tears while they sat across from me with limp apologies.
Even with my boyfriend of five years (not Matt). I had been certain about our relationship from the off, I knew I loved him, that he made me happy. In comparison he was always wondering: should he be single? Did he want to be so settled so young?
Invariably, every few years the answer would become a "no". He'd become distant and cold and the power imbalance in our relationship would become such that we had to break-up. Each time, I was left heartbroken.
Recently I had the feeling things were going this way again. And that's where Matt, who I'd been working with for about six months and previously hadn't given a second thought to, came in.
It was a typical story: booze, a kiss, a thrilling secret. We saw each other with increasing frequency and each time, in the back of my mind, I scored a silent point against my callous boyfriend.
Matt knew the deal, I had been clear I didn't want to break-up with my boyfriend, that in reality, I was still in love with him and Matt seemed fine with it. He went out, he dated, he flirted with other girls in the office and it didn't bother me one bit. To me, he was attentive, available and pliant. He was exactly like I had always been in relationships.
Until this evening, when he begins to cry. I know I should feel something more, but I don't. I just don't love him and I never saw a future for us. I can see myself through his eyes because I have been in his position, I can see I look cruel and selfish.
And for the first time, I can see how I have come across for so long: like someone who is unwilling to believe the truth of the situation.
It is a revelation. I'm in a position of power because I can see the relationship for what it is. I haven't fooled myself into thinking love exists when it doesn't or everything is going well when it isn't.
Finishing things with Matt is easy but I'm sorry that he got hurt. My boyfriend is another matter. Despite what I now know, I still want to stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is OK. I know if I don't face facts, I'll end up, like Matt, desperately clinging onto something that is doomed. And this time, I won't be able to blame it all on my boyfriend.
*names have been changed to protect the guilty (me).