Chapter 5: CRANBURY, NEW JERSEY (Part3)
Richard wants to live on a grand scale, and the christening party is a manifestation of his desire for a showy life. He dictated what he wanted, painting his vision in broad strokes, and delegated me to execute it.
Samantha is down and I can get on with my tasks: Arrange for the tent and meet with the caterer.
I phone Rent-All that, as the name advertises, rents everything, from trucks and forklifts to furniture and tents. A man answers. I ask about tents, chairs, and tables, informing him we are holding a christening party in our backyard. I ask about the tent colors. He asks the size, and I am stumped. I want to say, “Big.” But I judge it too vague. I tell him for a party of one hundred or so adults. He advises I rent their extra big tent. I’m happy too, and what colors are available? White and more white is his answer. I know Richard will be unhappy. He wants color, brightness, big and bold; he wants to make a statement; he wants the entire neighborhood to know we are throwing a party and maybe if they are fortunate he will invite them next time; he wants the flyovers to realize they are missing something as they head to or away from New York City. My tone must convey my dissatisfaction, because the man says, “Sorry, white’s it. It’s the season.” I should say I’ll get back to him and check other places. But if it is the season, I might risk forfeiting the big tent.
I panic at the catastrophic prospect. I know Richard will find no tent unacceptable. A plain white tent will upset him, but no tent will infuriate him. He will stare at me, scrutinize me head to toe. He will not utter a word, but his criticism will as pointed as if he’d screamed in my face.
I order the white tent and ask about round tables. Richard specified round tables, as these are more conducive to conversation. However, the man informs me that he has no round tables. It’s the season, you know. Rectangular tables only. I have no choice but to order them. Fortunately, he has chairs. I wonder why, since it is the season for everything else. “Always got plenty of chairs, season or no season.” It’s a small blessing, I guess.
The caterer is easier. It’s the season, but he can accommodate me, if I’m throwing an evening party. I am relieved. Richard wants an evening party; he says it is more sophisticated.
Mercifully, Samantha has slept through the morning and is waking as I finish with the caterer. I go up to her and bring her down to the kitchen. I feed her. I spend the afternoon reading to her, watching her play under her gym. She bats the black and white objects suspended from the bar over her. Then it’s time for her to sleep again. I return her to her crib and return myself to the kitchen to prepare dinner for Richard. When Richard is not on the road, he likes dinner at six. He prefers Samantha sleeping during dinner and for an hour or so after. He explained his reason after Samantha and I had been home a week from the hospital. He felt an awake and sometimes wailing child would not allow us to talk and, later when I was able, to make love after or before dinner. It seemed sensible to me and I agreed. In the beginning, it proved the correct thing to do. The problem came when I discovered Samantha would not always cooperate with what Richard and I wanted, and when Richard startled me with his unreasonable inflexibility. He wanted it his way and nothing less would do. It was his job to earn the money and mine to ensure a peaceful, accommodating home life.
I am shaking my head in disbelief as I finish assembling my tuna-noodle casserole. This is especially for Richard. Casseroles are among his favorites. I have mastered many varieties of the species, employing tuna, chicken, beef, and vegetables; he doesn’t particularly care about the main ingredient, or even the taste I suspect, as long as it is moist, gooey, and salty.
I’m panicked and angry. The panic is transitory, related directly to Samantha’s presence in the house that I’d had all to myself before she arrived, and to the pressure of planning the party to Richard’s specifications. The anger predates Samantha. It has been building and intensifying until it nearly engulfs my days, dampening the love, what had been my hot and irrational passion, for Richard.
How can I permit Richard to rule me as he does? Richard earns the money, and through his efforts is responsible for what we have. I understand and grant him that. But he is inflexibly dominating. It’s not only me he controls; his employees receive the same treatment. To remain Richard’s employee, a person has to perform exactly to his expectations. Deviate a little and he will transfer you, or worse, fire you. He is remorseless and vicious. He admits to it. Conversation with Richard consists of him talking and me listening. And what he talks about, almost exclusively, is work. His work possesses him. He might be home, but he is never away from work; it is in him, there like an extra organ. He expounds constantly on his business philosophy and his method of training and handling his employees. At first, after we had moved to New Jersey, I loved that he would confide in me. But after a short while, listening to him transformed into agony. It’s difficult to bear the repetition; Richard repeats himself terribly. Once I mentioned this tendency of his to him. He regarded me with his disdaining stare for a long, disquieting time. His expression conveyed I was naïve, I knew nothing about business, and it was good I didn’t work. Finally, he said, you have to state what you expect again and again; his experience taught him most people didn’t get it the first time, many not even the second, and those who couldn’t grasp his point the third, those people were gone. For a moment, I thought he was referring to me. But he smiled and I reassured myself it was just more of his business mentality spilling over.
I am angry because I am Richard’s prisoner. True, I can come and go as I please, physically. I can hire a sitter for Samantha, if I choose. I can ask either of our parents to visit us, leave her with them, and takeoff for a weekend, even without Richard. However, I cannot escape him, for he has entrapped my mind. He is in me every minute. What he likes and dislikes. His demands. His voice. He drones in the background, maddening and distracting, like a dull, incessant headache. I believe he is deconstructing me and reassembling the parts of me into a robot, accepting and acting on his command; an automaton striving to execute his orders to his ideal of perfection; but I fail because I am human and I commit errors. Yet, I don’t feel human. Organic is what I am. Living, sentient, capable of low-level thinking, a delta. But not full fledged human, not like Richard.