Wife swapping is a delicate matter, frowned upon, yet it tickles the curiosity.
My name is Joon Wong, and my wife, Jeeng Chou, is a stunning woman. I fell for her the moment I laid eyes on her. We′ve been married for four years, and my love for her is as strong as ever. But love alone doesn′t cut it in life.
Leo Tolstoy once said that life is not about indulgence, but rather a burdensome task.
Fyodor Dostoevsky also mentioned that life is only dull and empty in the eyes of those who are themselves dull and empty.
Perhaps we took different paths in life. As the market competition grew fierce, the demands at work skyrocketed. I don′t know if it was the pressure of life or being drained by work, but over the past two years, the spark between my wife and me started to fade.
We still shared the same bed and were sure of our love for each other, but the passion was gone. Even making love became a mere physical necessity, sometimes once in two weeks, sometimes not even once in a month. It felt like we were just going through the motions.
Though unspoken, I could feel that we were slowly losing something.
I had heard about wife swapping before, but never thought it would creep into my life.
The catalyst for this was my wife′s 26th birthday, or maybe it started even earlier, and we just didn′t notice. Life changes bit by bit, and by the time you realize it, it′s too late.
I had promised to celebrate her birthday with her, but as fate would have it, things went south at work. A last-minute marketing project landed on my desk, and after pulling an all-nighter, it was rejected by my boss. He got an earful from the higher-ups and passed it down to me. I was the team leader, and I got chewed out like there was no tomorrow.
It wasn′t entirely our fault. We were pressed for time. How could we create something perfect in such a short span? We reworked the project, got yelled at some more, and finally finished it by 11 PM.
My team wanted to grab drinks to unwind, and I agreed. It was only when I checked my phone and saw a dozen missed calls that I remembered my promise to my wife. I rushed home, but it was already midnight.
The house was dark. The table was set with a cake and dishes that had gone cold. I felt guilty and wanted to make it up to her. I went to our room and saw her curled up in bed. I wanted to hold her tight, but as soon as I touched her, she pushed me away. She was furious and lashed out, accusing me of not caring about her.
I wanted to apologize and make amends, but she was too angry to listen. After half an hour of trying to explain, my patience wore thin. The frustration from work and now this boiled over, and we had a huge fight. I ended up sleeping in the living room.
For the next two weeks, she gave me the cold shoulder. Even our physical needs were off the table. Every time I tried to approach her, her guarded eyes infuriated me. I was her husband of four years, not some intruder. The apology kept getting postponed, and I felt our marriage was hanging by a thread.
I felt helpless and tormented in our cold, empty house. I still loved her, and I knew she loved me too. I wanted to save our marriage, but I felt powerless.
I started avoiding home after work, not wanting to face the icy atmosphere. I would go to a nearby bar, drink until I was almost drunk, then go home and crash. Wake up with a hangover, rinse and repeat.
It was during one of these nights at the bar that a woman, who would change my life and lead me down a path I couldn′t escape from, quietly appeared beside me.
It was my third night hiding out in the bar. The bar had dim lighting and an old-world charm that made you feel the passage of time. Vintage vinyl records played soothing music, and the bartender quietly polished glasses. The few patrons spoke in hushed tones, as if not to disturb the ambiance.
The atmosphere was romantic, giving the bar an autumnal feel, like a place where the leaves have fallen and twilight is setting in, reminiscent of an old soul. It was the perfect refuge for someone like me, looking to escape the realities of life.
I had been sitting there for an hour, downing three bottles of beer, and taking solace in the fact that my tolerance for alcohol had increased. I used to barely finish one bottle, and two would have me hurling. But that night, three bottles in, I was just slightly dizzy.
“Hey handsome, are you alone?” a voice inquired.
The voice was elegant, not at all intrusive, and devoid of any seductive undertones. It was more like a stranger casually asking for the time. I first heard the voice, then caught a whiff of a subtle fragrance – not quite perfume, more like the scent of aged wood.
The voice and scent blended perfectly with the bar′s atmosphere, giving off a vibe of someone who had weathered the sands of time. I expected to see a mature woman in her late thirties or forties, but when I turned my head, my brain went blank for a few seconds.
Standing next to me was a young woman, no older than twenty-six or twenty-seven. She had wavy hair cascading over her shoulders, delicate features, and striking red lips. She wore a black, form-fitting cheongsam with a high slit that revealed her long legs wrapped in silk stockings. Her black high heels glimmered, making her look like a woman who had just stepped off a 1930s Shanghai cabaret stage.
The cheongsam hugged her curves perfectly, and her slightly upturned lips hinted at a faint smile. Her porcelain neck was exposed, making her look like an elegant black swan. She was the kind of woman who could make any man′s head turn. I had never seen anyone like her outside of TV.
She was stunning and alluring, but I was sure I didn′t know her. Assuming she had mistaken me for someone else, I turned back to my drink.
Unfazed by my indifference, she continued with a gentle smile, “You don′t mind if I sit here, do you?” Without waiting for my response, she took the high stool next to me.
I couldn′t help but steal glances at her. She reminded me of an old saying, “In ancient times, those who were adept in achieving harmony with the universe were subtle, mysterious, profound, and penetrating.” The words that came to mind to describe her were “subtle” and “harmonious.” She didn′t have the flamboyance of modern city women, nor the unworldly aura of a hermit. She was just right, like a glass of aged red wine, exuding an enchanting aroma.
“Isn′t it boring to drink alone?” she said as she took out a slim, lady′s cigarette from her pink clutch with black trim and offered me one.
Through the dim light of the bar, I noticed her slender, long fingers, which looked incredibly fair in the dark. Her nails were neatly manicured but without polish. A silver ring on her ring finger caught my eye, and for some reason, I felt a tinge of regret.
I rarely smoked, so I shook my head.
Seeing that I didn′t smoke, she arched an eyebrow and smiled, seemingly surprised. She quickly put the cigarettes back and said with a hint of self-mockery, “Not smoking is good. I′ve tried quitting, but I just can′t.” She took out a cigarette, held it between her fingers, and as she was about to light it, she looked at me and asked, “You don′t mind if I smoke, do you?”
Her cigarette was slim and white, a brand I didn′t recognize. I felt a sense of gratitude for her consideration and shook my head with a smile.
She smiled back and expertly flicked open her lighter. The dimness was momentarily pierced by a spark as she lit her cigarette. The sight of her red lips parting to take a drag was so captivating that I had to turn away and focus on my drink. I bet many men who′ve seen this would fantasize about being that cigarette between her lips.
With a ’click,′ she closed the lighter. Her eyes were dreamy as she exhaled a cloud of smoke, as if releasing a lifetime of worldly ties. I didn′t know if it was the alcohol or her beauty, but she seemed almost unreal, like a figment of a dream.
“Can I buy you a drink?” she said, closing her lighter with practiced ease.
I was about to decline, but before I could speak, she called the bartender and said, “Make an Old Shanghai for this gentleman.”
The bartender nodded with a smile and swiftly began selecting ingredients. From his demeanor, I could tell she was probably a regular, well-acquainted with this place.
“Thank you!” The bartender had already started...
Soon, the bartender slid a cocktail in a fancy glass across the counter to me.
I had never tried a cocktail before, and I rarely even drank hard liquor. The strong aroma wafting from the glass made me hesitate, and I glanced at the beautiful woman beside me.
She flicked the ash off her cigarette and smiled, gesturing for me to “give it a try.”