Chapter 4: NEW YORK, NEW YORK (Part 5 and 6)
It was the night he shocked me with Angie’s marriage to Bobby; that Bobby was a doctor, in residency; that they lived in New York City and he had seen them many times. No, seen them isn’t right: He called them; visited them; ate dinner with them at their place; he’d been social with them without ever uttering a word. Worse, he claimed he’d been secretive at Angie’s urging.
I was distraught, when I said, “I suppose they have a family, too.”
Richard can be maddeningly indifferent, painfully cruel, brutally insulated from feelings, mine specifically. He said, “You suppose c-o-r-r-e-c-t-l-y.” A slap would have stung less than his snide exaggeration.
I collapsed on the floor in our bedroom. I think that is a real recollection, me prostrate on the floor, he perching on the edge of the bed, observing me, cocking his head, inspecting me as if I were a curiosity, a zoo specimen that should have no feelings but, oddly, against all zoological laws, seemed to possess them; hurry up with the dissection kit, Charlie, here’s the missing link.
“It’s not exactly a family, yet,” he said.
I choked on a dry sob, as if he had suctioned everything from me, even my tears.
“She’s pregnant. Not too far along, about three months. Now,” he said, rising, “if you’ll excuse me, I have to get into the bathroom.”
Pain pierced me, inflicted agony in every part of me, my head, my eyes, my chest, but most viciously, my heart. It was like everybody I knew, I loved, I believed loved me, had surrounded me and were jabbing me with daggers: Richard poking with a degree of malice too great even for him; Rosemary, the nun, the celibate, stabbing, as if to enforce Paul’s Corinthian admonishment, reminding me that I was a fool for putting my life in the hands of any man, especially Richard’s; and Angie, the Brutus, running me through with a sharpened, greasy screwdriver forged in the union with Bobby, the devil, one of the few people who I could unequivocally declare I despised, twisting the fouled steel on the fulcrum of her pregnancy. I wanted to scream and beat the floor with clenched fists; but I couldn’t. Samantha and Emily would have heard and wakened; and fabricating an excuse, containing my anguish, carrying on normally, would have intensified the torture immeasurably.
When Richard emerged from the bathroom, I was still on the floor, in a fetal curl, whimpering and jerking spasmodically. He glanced down at the wreck that was me. He shook his head in mock pity.”Got to go,” he said.
Richard is a list maker, an annotator, and a note taker. He’s fully electronic, but he also resorts to pen and paper. His pen of choice is a Mont Blanc, a bulky black tube large enough to be a weapon. It’s self-aggrandizing, his personal award for a promotion, or maybe it was for driving his office to achieve a nearly impossible goal; Richard calls these Olympian efforts “stretching” and he delights in devising “reach” goals, more of his deceptively benign nomenclature. He lugs the pen in the inside pocket of his suit jacket, along with his small leather notepad. His notes are mostly reminders to himself. He files them in his pants pockets, but often, more often than not, forgets them the second he yanks them from his pad. I asked him about his habit early on, why he bothered when he immediately forgot about the notes, and I was left to snatch them from his pockets before the dry cleaner bonded them where he’d filed them. The notes themselves weren’t important, he’d informed me; it was the act of writing that seared the messages to be remembered permanently in his mind. Inadvertently, while caring for him and his clothing, I found the address of Bobby and Angie McFarlane.
Emily skips into the kitchen.
“Finished already,” I say, not a question, but a skeptical declaration.
She nods vigorously and requests a glass of milk. After she drinks it, fast, gulping loudly, as if she’s munched a desiccant packet, which once she did as a toddler, she asks if she can go next door. I call across the way, clear an afternoon of play at Carol’s, and send her out the backdoor. I watch as she runs through our yard into Carol’s and disappears into the house. Carol pops her head out and signals Emily’s safe arrival.
I decide to check Emily’s work, always a good idea with her. I find she has removed every object from Richard’s desk. They are in the box. But she has clumped everything together in a single piece of clean newsprint, sort of like dead soldiers in a mass grave. I sit on the floor and settle into the task of doing the job right.
I’ve properly wrapped half the items in Emily’s clump, when I stop. What the hell am I doing? Taking special care of Richard’s ridiculous testaments to his ego. Serves him right if the things show up in San Diego as broken meaningless garbage for dragging us away from Cranbury, for lying, for cheating, for taking me hostage and locking me in a velvet prison. And me, what’s to be said of me, who abets him?
I promptly unwrap the items I’d meticulously wrapped. I bunch them in Emily’s fashion and drop them in the box. My daughter was right.
My small act of vengeance improves my disposition and I go down to the kitchen to pack things that hold meaning for me.
I’ve put most of the dishes and silverware in boxes. I’ve held back four of everything we use daily. Miscellaneous platters and bowls and the like remain and I set to work on them. I remove them from the cabinets and stack them on the table in the breakfast area. I sit, begin, and stare into the backyard.