Friday, January 13, 2012

Therapy Session Part 2

by R. Welch

[Read part 1 here.]

We got along, decorating that first place. I got hired by a good firm and Nina got pregnant. Which was some sort of miracle, because we hardly ever had sex anymore. I think we both had too much to drink one night and were so out of it when we got in bed, we were doing it before either of us had time to think it over. She was always waiting for me to make a move. Because somehow, to Nina, making love meant we were what we had been. She was the romantic to the end.

I was a total ass about Nina's pregnancy. There's just no other way to describe it. I thought it was a terrible mistake from the moment I found out, but she wouldn't even consider an abortion and I knew I had no right to insist, so it just became her thing, as far as I was concerned. I felt I'd made my contribution - the rest was up to her. It meant we had to move, and I wasn't happy about that, but our apartment was too small for the two of us and twins. Yeah, twins! Boys. My sons...

She wanted to move out of the city, "somewhere green" was the way she put it. But I wasn't about to leave Meyers & Stone - leave New York? For something like the "good of the kids"? Phrases like that were not in my vocabulary back then. I pointed out that millions of children had grown up in New York and turned out just fine, and so would ours. She didn't like the decision, but she liked the pronoun - "ours". It meant I was part of the deal, which up until then must have seemed uncertain. So she agreed, and we found a place on Central Park West with a view of the park. "Green enough for you?" I asked.

With Nina and the boys, I just wasn't there. And the nutty part of it is, I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do, as a father and, to some extent, as a husband! I was earning good money, the bills were getting paid. If someone had confronted me about the way I was behaving, I would have been mystified. I would not have gotten it! The fact is, I really wasn't around very much. David, my boss, had taken an interest in me, and brought me up pretty quickly. People are drawn to others who act like they know stuff. I was good at that! And I'd responded by becoming some sort of workaholic, routinely putting in 16 and 18 hour days, trying to justify David's belief in me, and it meant I was gone most mornings by 6AM, before anyone else was even up, and I usually got home long after they, and Nina too, were in bed. And if I was home, and they cried or fussed, I rarely went to them, because they either wanted a diaper or a tit and of course, I wasn't involved with stuff like that. I'm willing to admit, now, that it's far more likely my absence from home had more to do with anger than it ever did with professional zeal, but I never connected with those feelings while I was making those kind of choices. I was energized by the office when I was young and had so much to prove. And I knew what my role was there. I had no idea what it was at home. Every now and then, Nina would go out, to get her nails done or some such thing, and I'd be home alone with them. Before cell phones too! Imagine the recklessness! Lucky for all concerned, they were fascinated with each other and were probably as disinterested in me as I must have seemed to them. I was aware that everyone who knew about the troubles Nina and I had gone through thought the birth of the boys indicated we had emerged more committed than ever and I...struggled with that perception. It was such a lie!

I'd love to tell you that their charms and sweetness won me over; melted my heart. I have a photo of them that I carry with me. They were in the wedding of one of Nina's cousins. I thought they were too young, but when they came in in those bow ties and matching tuxedo vests... They're adorable, aren't they? Really. Their beauty could stop a clock. I was the one behind the camera that morning and I'd love to be able to say that the surge of love I feel now, looking at this photograph, I felt then, looking through the lens. That I rose above all the resentment I felt, and let them in. Wouldn't it be so nice if I could say that?


And, while all this was going on, I was sleeping with a lot of different women. One fling after another. I was known among the women in the office as reliable and discreet. In my defense, such as it is, it was the 70's back then, and the attitudes towards sex and fidelity in particular really were very different. Everyone was screwing around it seemed. But I don't think Nina was. And I hope she didn't know about me. I don't think she did. I wasn't fool enough for anymore confessions.

I had lost touch with Jill. I knew that after I left Boston she had gone to Santa Fe to visit her sister, and she ended up living there for a year or so. And then I heard her father became ill, and she came back east. Moved back into the family home in Greenwich, not terribly far from Manhattan, and took care of him until he died. I sent her a card. No real message. Just said how sorry I was. But I never heard back from her and I never followed up. It would have been too hypocritical, even for me, to pursue anything more after all the turmoil we had caused and still be in the same situation I was in when I left, only more so! But it was also because I was ashamed. I'd made so many promises to her that I ended up breaking. I thought she probably felt I was a liar. But I knew where she was all the time. And I kept it "on file" fantasizing how I might use it someday if I ever found a way to leave Nina. Jill and I never communicated in any way during that time. But she never left my mind....


We're together now. 10 years. 2 kids. House. Cat. Dog. A couple of goldfish. You might think we found our happy ending. But it’s much more complicated than that. It's just impossible for me to see it that way, after all...that happened....taking off for New York the way I did. With a woman I knew was wrong for me and leaving behind the one I allegedly loved. And in the process, set up a disaster...

Nothing. Never mind.


I'm sorry. I don't mean to be cryptic. I know I promised I'd get clearer and instead I'm just circling the thing...


I think about that a lot, you know. Or I used to anyway. How my cowardice set the stage with all the principals in their place. And it was my selfishness that kept them there, in harm's way. These are just facts, and they need to be acknowledged! I try not to beat myself up too much about it, and I know that to you it must sound like...I don't know; some reverse form of narcissism, I suppose, but it just feels more true to see it that way. The fact is, if I hadn't been trying to do my secretary that day...I shared her with my boss, both professionally and personally, if you know what I mean. Shelly was a very versatile girl. Look, the sad fact is, for me, all these little affairs of mine always started out as romances, before they invariably devolved into empty sex. But in the beginning, they sparkled! And even though she had never given me a reason to think I was anything more to her than a...distraction...I was caught up in the rush. Maybe she'd be the one to save me! It had become my obsession to monopolize her when I could and keep track of which one of us had her more. More often. I hated to be out of the office, particularly when I was "out of favor" as I was that day. That week, actually, I had watched her flirt with David, my boss, right in front of me, and then go into his office, directly across the hall from mine, with her desk in the space between. I could sit in my office and watch her watch me as she closed his door, and she'd stay in there for hours! It made me crazy! And it had been going on all week long. I had planned to take a day off and go across town with Nina and the boys to get them shoes at some fancy kid's store in the 80's on the other side of town. Then we were going to have lunch at the Russian Tea Room and go to the zoo in Central Park. Nina had this whole day planned. We would be this dream family for an afternoon, the beautiful couple with the beautiful tow headed twins...but I invented a report with a deadline at the last minute so I could be in the office. I wanted to talk to Shelly, or at least, by giving her dictation on my so-called urgent report I could keep her away from David. Nina took the boys by herself.

It was unseasonably hot that day, considering it was September. The humidity was so thick, it hung in the air like a scrim, blurring the edges of things until they looked like they were melting. Just walking from the subway on Lexington to the office had stuck my shirt to my skin. I was halfway across town when I realized I'd left my briefcase in the car, but Nina had been so upset with me for bailing out on her and her shopping trip, and it was so goddamned humid, even at 7AM, I wasn't about to go back for it.

Shelly arrived late that morning and was behind David's closed door before I even knew she was in, so it had all been for naught. I didn't even see her until after lunch. And by then it had all ceased to matter.


There's a song by Paul Simon - I don't know what it's called but it has a line about "the fire in your life...all over the evening news." Do you know it? I like that song...

It was so hot out that day, I did something I never did. I took the elevator up to the 26th floor and had lunch in the firm's cafeteria. I had a bowl of watery tomato/celery soup while my life burned down! I got a window seat and I actually watched the sky turn black. Literally, black. It got so dark out, the streetlights all came on! It was...alarming. All that humidity and heat brewed up one hell of a thunderstorm and I sat and watched it long after I'd finished that shitty soup. While downstairs, all hell broke loose.

The policemen, two of them, had knocked on David's door, looking for me. But no one knew where I was because, like I said, I never ate in the company cafeteria. So I sat up there, 12 floors above them, oblivious, watching the sky flash and the rain fall. It was rain like I had never seen. Sheets of it. And then I think I had a sort of premonition. Really! I knew Nina was out there, with the boys, behind the wheel of our car that she hated to drive in Manhattan. But with two year old twins, and all their paraphernalia, busses and cabs were just not an option. I actually got up because of my premonition, or whatever it was. I was going back to my office to try and call.

When I first saw them, standing with David and Shelly, I stopped dead in my tracks. But, premonition notwithstanding, I didn't have a clue. In fact, I was much more interested in David's disheveled hair that the cops who stood with their backs to me. It made me forget all about the phone call I'd come downstairs to make. Not even when Shelly looked up, and I saw her say something and they all turned and looked - I still didn't know! It was clear they were there for me but I thought I was about to be arrested in front of all my colleagues and I stood there like an idiot, trying to think what I had done! The younger cop approached and tried to speak but he was oddly distracted by the hat in his hand, and I had the sense he was using it to avoid eye contact with me. The other one stepped forward and said my name. And then I saw he had my briefcase in his hand - the one I had left in the car, and finally, I knew. Something terrible had happened. Everything stopped. I think I must have managed to nod and then he just took charge, and I was aware of his hand on my back, pressing me toward the elevator doors as he explained that I had to come with them right away. There had been an accident. We needed to hurry. And just that quickly we were gone.

The ride to the hospital was surreal. I have a vivid memory of being in the back of that cruiser with those well pressed blue shoulders in the seat in front of me. The siren was screaming, the cars were pulling to one side, the crowds on the wet sidewalks all turning to stare as we flew up Park Avenue. The younger cop was driving. He had a ledge worn into the back of his hair from his hat band and I tried to focus on it. And then we passed a hansom cab and the horse reared as we went by. I hadn't asked them anything after they told me they had no details. I was too scared to press them and just wanted to get where we were going and find Nina, shaken and bruised, with Cody in her arms and Michael clutching to her legs. But when I saw that horse rear, it seemed a kind of omen. I knew it was too late. My mouth was suddenly dry and I sat back into the seat, willing myself not to be sick.

We lurched to a stop in front of the Emergency Room entrance and I realized there were no handles on the backseat doors! I couldn't get out of the fucking car! They scrambled out, both of them, and each opened a door and I went running in, and was directed down this hall that seemed very long. I rounded the corner in time to see the doctors and nurses filing from what turned out to be Cody's room. He was the only one who had been brought to the Hospital. Nina and Michael had gone straight to the morgue.


My memory isn't too clear after that. I have no recollection of anyone saying anything to me actually, and I've tried very hard to remember, because it seems someone must have. I couldn't have just walked into that room without someone asking me something. I wonder if they could they tell just by looking at me. Or maybe I fainted and didn't fall down. I was just in that room, and he was so small on the table...and so still. Weirdly still! Because they were never still. Not for a moment! Even when they slept, they thrashed. I - I stepped over the IV tubing and syringe caps that littered the floor and saw, for the first time, how pale the skin was just below his eyes, webbed with these tiny veins. I wondered how it was possible I'd never noticed it before. I became transfixed by his eyelids. I couldn't stop staring at them. I was afraid to stop! If they fluttered, I would miss it. But...they never did. He was just gone. He was right there, but he was gone. They were all gone. I swayed. An orderly named Al brought me a chair.


I'm sorry! It's still like swamping a canoe. ...Look, I know my time is up. I was wrong. I can't cover this in an hour. Do you have another appointment? Can we - would you mind - if I kept going? I think if I were to stop now - it wouldn't be good...


I don't know how long I sat there. But I had a paper cup of water in my hand that someone had given me, and the cup had gone soft and felt damp, so it must have been for a long while. And the table, and Cody, had been taken away. The younger cop who had driven me to the hospital had come back and was arguing with this sumo wrestler of a nurse who was trying to keep him out of the room. He seemed very agitated. I thought I must have left something in the cruiser. He had his arms wrapped around two boxes. The nurse tried to take them from him and he became very upset and crushed them to his chest, shaking his head back and forth. I'm not sure what happened. I think I stood up and he made eye contact with me. That was all it took. He muscled his way around the nurse and handed me two boxes from a store called Salamander. It was two pairs of beautiful leather shoes; tiny black boots with bright red and green and yellow and blue leather piping on every seam. They were buried in them.

[Part 3 will continue next Friday.]

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