“Reading Rose Tremain’s stories is like sipping a Campari and soda in the bar of an elegant hotel that manages to be up to the minute without being a slave to fashion: the Carlyle, the Algonquin, the Plaza before it was turned into condos.”
I don't know if the stories are any good, but that one line from the review is for me. There is nothing more reassuring than an elegant bar in a good hotel that is staid. Anything could happen, but only in a certain manner.
Then there is real life. My house repairman called me, asked me how I was doing. I gave him the report. Then he gave me his.
"My wife left me again."
"Well. . . there's a real surprise."
"I'm done with her this time."
I didn't ask, but obviously she had taken their daughter, too.
"I came home and parked in the driveway. Her car was there. I always go in through the garage. When I opened the door, there were little white styrofoam packing balls all over the floor, and I thought 'what the fuck is this.' When I got into the house, half the furniture was gone. She took my money, too. She took $23,000 out of the safe. That was the money I was going to use to pay the IRS."
"Holy smokes, man, that's awful."
"I've got to raise nine thousand dollars by April. I'm going to have to work double."
I felt a bit of the pitch coming on, but it didn't.
"She left me a note that said if I didn't try to come after her or fight her on the divorce, she wouldn't go after the rest of my stuff."
"You need to get an attorney now," I said.
"I'll get one when the papers are served."
"Where'd she go?"
"I don't know. Her car is here, so someone helped her. She'll come back for the car. I am going to change the locks, I guess, so she can't take the rest of the stuff."
"I don't think she can just leave with your kid and not tell you where she went," I said. But there was something he wasn't telling me, I think. He didn't want to call the police or an attorney or anyone else.
"I'm done with this shit. I'm never getting married again, that's for sure. Now I can be happy."
Well, I thought, if that was all it took. . . but he'd be miserable before he felt any better. The numbness would come eventually, and then, maybe, there would be a woman who made him feel better. His buddies might succor him a bit, but only the attention of another woman would bring him back to the old life, the one that might better be avoided.
They make us feel so good, the women who love us. They flatter us and make us feel like the biggest cock in the henhouse. But never believe it. There are lots of cocks strutting around, and at any moment your girl might like one better than she likes you. It is almost sure to happen. And if you have been basing your identity on that thing, you will suddenly have a gaping hole where your confidence used to be. Not acting like the biggest cock in the land won't help you, either. Nothing will when it happens. And then, eventually, someone might be willing to stand you up back on your feet again. And you will be foolish enough to believe that again, too. It is what we have, what we do.
We've imagined Love incorrectly in our culture. All the movies and books depict it as the thing to be desired, but it is really a beast and should be shown that way. It is fearful and to be avoided. That is what we should teach, not the other.
But I have never been able to change my spots. I am a romantic through and through. And The Beast won't leave me alone. I run to it like The Angel of Mercy.
I should have been raised in the era of the Transformers. Then, perhaps, I would not be so surprised. The repairman, he's no romantic that you would recognize. You might think him the other to hear him talk, but I know that is not the case. As so often, it is not.