I know what you’ve all been thinking, but have mostly been too polite to say: why have you really been writing about Frederic?
At the New Year, Frederic asked me to lunch. I’d been putting him off since August. But I agreed and said: Please don’t make me regret this.
Then I put him off for a few more weeks anyway. The lunch was supposed to be on Friday. In typical Frederic fashion, he called yesterday to cancel. He has a history of doing this, of building tension then leaving a cliffhanger; announcing the program will not return in the Spring after the last episode featured a car headed off the dunes.
This is not me trying to be inaccessible or difficult; I’m honestly trying to show you I’ve turned over a new leaf.
I recounted the story of the cancellation to friends last night. They all rolled their eyes. They refrained from asking the obvious, which was Will you take a raincheck? Maybe. And if I do I will probably regret it. The lunch will probably go like this:
I will arrive at the appointed time and location, looking like me; feeling like a woman who has felt spectacularly un-pretty since her divorce was final and since her ex-significant other cheated with a much younger, much taller, exceptionally more buxom woman. Seeing Frederic will not help matters.
He will look at me, and he will say something about how healthy I look which is what people usually say when they see me, which is code for: you don’t look quite so sick anymore. Unless, of course, I’m seeing people who haven’t seen me in a decade, in which case, they say, Oh my God, you’re so thin! And so blonde!
I will reflect on the fact that the photos of him in the Overshoes series include one in which he was wearing his old wedding band. The story goes that when he lost weight, and his marriage was on the brink, he’d remove the band. One day he handed a homeless man a pocket full of coins — and the platinum millgrain band went with the silver.
Upon meeting, I will see him his new band.
And I will reflect on the one weird Autumn afternoon I spent near West Point, at a mutual friend’s country house, with Frederic, and his ex-wife, and the woman who is now his wife, and my ex-husband. It was all for the purpose of a wiffle-ball game. Andrew and I were fighting all the way up to Orange County; continued to fight upon arrival. Frederic’s then-wife, Rosanette, wasn’t speaking to me, and his now-wife was being manhandled by the aforementioned mutual friend, with whom Frederic had a strange rivalry. The mutual friend had once been heavy and lost a lot of weight; was more senior in our law firm. Frederic was still heavy; lower on the food chain.
But we were there to play wiffle-ball, and play we did. The mutual friend put his arms around Frederic’s now-wife under the guise of “teaching proper wiffle-ball technique” and we all shuddered, while the mutual friend’s wife raised a pitcher of martinis cheerily from the deck, Andrew and Rosanette steeped in hot silence from the sidelines, while Frederic and I played the outfield.
I remember that day with frightening clarity. Frederic was sweating through his pastel polo shirt, and I was wearing jeans I still have, a cable knit sweater I still have, and a pair of flats that I don’t. Andrew and I left early and he took me shopping, because in those days we went shopping when things became such that we did not or could not say what we probably should have said.
That adventure took place two weeks after I discovered I wasn’t in love with my husband; the week before my brother went to jail. That day was literally the calm before the storm, and it seems so strange now that Frederic’s harem should’ve spent it together in the Hudson Valley on the edge of the Catskills, playing wiffle-ball of all things.
Sometime during the middle of the meal, he will tell me something rattling – something I should reasonably expect, but that is still hard to swallow. Like that he and his wife are having a baby. I will smile and nod and tell him how great that is. The cognitive dissonance will be deafening. He recently wrote: What I should have done: I should have hit the pause button with you; sobered up; should have accepted more readily that my marriage had ended; remained friends; and then courted you. I am not flirting with you or having fun. But what I did instead is, as I say, on a long list of terrible fuck-ups.
And then, face to face, he will say: We’re having a baby!
I will make it through lunch. Then I will take the long walk back to the office, and before I arrive, he will call me on my mobile and I won’t pick up.
Or not. Maybe it won’t go that way at all. Maybe the lunch will never happen. Perhaps I’ll demur then decline outright.
It’s all a bit romantic, like some kind of love song played on late night radio – Manilow, or Paul Simon: Looks Like We Made It; Still Crazy After All These Years. The titles are deceptive – they sound like the relationships endure – and they do, in a way – but they don’t. They’re nostalgic; they’re about a place to which you can never go back, about a lover in past-tense. And that’s the thing: he has regrets; a long list of terrible fuck-ups.
I suppose that’s the beauty of the past-tense for me; I am seeking resolution, not absolution: je ne regrette rien.