Mr. & Mrs. H called and checked in on me while I was in a taxi on Park Avenue. The night was wearing on.
Mrs. H wanted to tell me that she’d read what I’d written; that it was okay to be human; that she loved me; and that I was being a fool. And not to do what I had done again. The undertone was a bit of a stern talking-to; a bit of a note of remember, Mere, Andrew did this to you; you know better present in her voice.
And the thing is, I do know better. And she was telling me this because she loved me; and I needed to hear it.
“I know, I know,” I said, saying aloud what I was saying over and over in my head.
“How did he take it all? How is he reacting?”
“Jury is still out.”
“That’s the measure of the man — how he handles this. I suppose only time will tell.”
I thanked her; told her I loved her, because I do. But the baby was waking up, and I was nearing my destination, so we hung up, the rustles of parenthood the sweet backdrop to our goodbye.
I was on my way to meet WK for dinner, after the fact, to discuss the matter. Or not discuss, as my invariably waspy tendencies tended. It was always that way in my marital home, so nearly-intolerably Fairfield County, Connecticut. Me in my pearl earrings, shaggy showdog in my lap, hovering by the window in our Tribeca apartment, I would bite my lower lip and speak volumes by not saying anything.
And Andrew, having been raised on the art of clearing his stare – not just staring blankly but actually clearing his face – would look at me with his expression that was not blank, but blameless, as if to say, well, if there is a problem here, it is yours and you created it.
So WK and I sat at dinner, aperitifs placed haphazardly on the table between us, everything suddenly seeming incredibly melodramatic and heavy-handed: the Belgian block streets outside; the alcohol on the table; the cavernous restaurant; the Tribeca money with their untucked striped shirts over $400 jeans, driving loafers without socks – how do you tell them from the B&T, I wondered? I never could.
What were we doing?
What do you want?
I don’t know.
The rest of the dinner was a blur. I seem to bring out the best-and-worst in people. I had managed to take a New Jersey-raised; beer-and-sports-loving German and shape him into a tightly-wound similacrum of a preppy in less than twelve months.
I’m like the bloody wasp whisperer.
In the taxi back up the FDR, swampy night settling over the East River, I texted my ex-husband, who was about to leave for a 5 day vacation with Mommy and Daddy and MC and Pumpkin.
Bean, I feel like something terrible is going to happen.
Calling him by the nickname I haven’t used since the early days of our marriage; the nickname that arose in sleepless nights in our nascent legal careers, the days of $1000 summer associate lunches. When bonuses were big and shoes were white and compensation was lockstep and jobs were plentiful. Back when New York was new.
The name had slipped out — almost desperate, as if I were clinging to something, but what? Some days I feel I don’t know my own name — people sometimes use my married name, and I don’t respond because the sound of the words is foreign; strange. As if the woman with that name is dead, and I have to reacquaint myself with Meredith S. Similarly, talking to Bean was me talking to a ghost.
How do I conjure the dead man — the man I loved, who is dead, and I had to divorce the stranger who cloaked himself in the deceased’s skin? Can I have just a few moments more with that man; hear his voice; remember what it was like to be a young wife to the man who died?
For once, I believed him. And I put my mobile back in my totebag, and put my hand to my forehead in that weird way that I do that drives my therapist nuts: tell, don’t show.
But in retrospect, a few sober days later, I’m not sure why I believed. He was, at that same time, preparing to send me our finalized divorce papers for review and filing.
When WK and I arrived back at my apartment, he looked at me long and hard like he was trying to stare right through me; like he was trying to bore holes into my brain and suck out the information I had perhaps been withholding.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Everything’s fine,” I said, softly, differently.
And it will be, eventually. Everything will be fine.