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My flight took off in less than an hour, but suddenly, stopped cars littered the road like confetti. I just dropped my daughter off at camp so I’m going there to work.” I took a pull on my straw out of nervousness. “That must be pretty amazing to work at something creative.” Was it possible that he was flirting with me? I suspected my husband of at least one affair, maybe more. The six months we spent dating long distance, me in Chicago, counting down the hours until I flew to his bachelor apartment in Philly.
A summer traffic jam caused, I kid you not, by drivers slowing down to look at a couple walking two Jack Russell terriers. In therapy, I had asked him, jokingly at first, and then pleadingly, to make a list of reasons why he’d married me. However, that day in Southampton, I played the highlight reel of our relationship as I headed to our rendezvous point. How we both pretended he didn’t have an engagement ring in his pocket as we traveled to a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic.
Not surprisingly, my forty-nine-year-old reflection looked stressed, my forehead wrinkled, as if I were a once-sexy T-shirt that had become faded and crumpled after being washed too often. .” My voice trailed off as I registered the man whose drink I’d knocked over. The drink’s owner was, quite possibly, the best-looking man I’d ever seen. The man had to be in his late twenties or early thirties. This afternoon flight is always delayed.” He had a lovely baritone voice. The people in line for lattes and macchiatos snaked around us. This was not the man I married on a beach in Maui twenty years ago. .” He froze, as if surprised by the sound of his own voice. Months later he still averted his mouth every time I went in for a smooch. Isn’t the way a man kisses you a clarion bell for how he really feels? His words made my head spin as if I’d stood up too quickly. Back in Philly in September for the first day of school, I took pictures of the children with their squeaky clean, carefully brushed hair, new backpacks, and first-day-back outfits.
But somehow, I also looked thinner, younger, prettier, more myself than I’d looked in ten years. ” The frosted-hair clerk at the gate spoke without looking up from her mauve fingernails flitting across the computer keyboard. Thunderstorms.” I looked quizzically at the jets parked outside the window behind her. Feeling paradoxically pissed off and relieved, I whirled around, looking for an outlet to charge my phone, or at least an empty chair to collapse in after my Olympic sprint. He looked like an executive dressed for business-casual Friday, a blue button-down shirt tucked into dark Levi’s. A voice came over the airport loudspeaker announcing another flight delay, this one bound for Florida. That man had worn a batik sarong in the Hawaiian sunshine. “Obviously, I haven’t been in love with you for several years.” The “obviously” and “several” burned as if he were holding my palms to a hot stove. For Timmy, back-to-school meant a fresh buzz cut, shorts, and a T-shirt.
To have any chance of making my flight, I had to keep swerving my dented black minivan around idiotic drivers who did not have a plane to catch. That morning in Southampton, Marty had just come back from working out at Big Dick’s Boot Camp, where he hooked up with all his business buddies from New York and Philly who also had second homes here.
And whose cars presumably had air-conditioning that still worked. I hadn’t had coffee with a man besides my ex-husband in twenty years. The truth was, boot camp was a place to get away from us wives, to make up for too many late nights at the office and rich dinners with clients, and to network with the boys without making it seem like work.
In a radical break with convention, she dedicated a year to searching for five new lovers, seeking the rapture absent in a life of minivans and mom jeans—and finding a profound new sense of self-worth. ” His looks and his voice morphed into the perfect combination of Abercrombie & Fitch model and every country singer on my Apple Music playlist. I blurted out the first words that entered my head. Both sixteen-year-old Timmy and fourteen-year-old Bella were crazy about the pool and the ocean. There’d have been so much dog hair to skim off the water, I would have stuck a fork in my eye.I clattered past a Hudson News store and didn’t recognize myself in the plate glass window. His eyes held mine, replacing my shiver with the warm cloak of a cashmere sweater. Entire decades had passed during which I thought a man would never look at me like that again. Why was I thinking about taking off my clothes in the middle of an airport? When I never wanted to have sex again as long as I lived? I would feel better getting you another coffee,” I explained, squeezing my suitcase handle from sudden, excess adrenaline. “Very nice of you.” We mopped up the spilled coffee with napkins from my purse and then I looked around for the green Starbucks mermaid. I carried two iced Americanos to a wrought iron table we’d snagged, squeezed between the pastry display and a concrete pillar. And boy, he smelled good, like wood chips mixed with clean laundry hanging in the sun to dry. He examined us as if we were companies he was planning to take over and sell within a few years. Heart racing, blood pounding in my temples, I realized in a rush that this wasn’t a talk. Now I was the one with the poker face, even as the hollow of my stomach clenched. Tears came to my eyes as I tried to pinpoint the exact moment our marriage had died. I felt as if I’d swallowed Drano, but both kids looked at me, tears dripping down their cheeks, with a surprising measure of relief.I had on a stretchy black top and my favorite Lucky jeans. “You don’t need to buy me another coffee,” he protested, mildly, faint smile lines creasing his tanned cheeks. We sat across from each other, awkwardly holding our cold plastic cups. As if he were trying to ascertain how much we were worth in dollars. “I think we have to admit that our marriage is dead, Marty. I’m not sure we can revive it, no matter what we do.” I searched my husband’s face for heartbreak. Maybe years before, when he first refused to kiss me on the lips when I had bronchitis, claiming he couldn’t afford to get sick at work then. With that intuitive kid sense, Timmy and Bella may have already realized, probably even before we did, that our problems weren’t fixable.I pulled the van into the airport lot and parked in the first open space I found. He still snuck special hair-regrowth shampoo into the shower, assiduously turning the label toward the wall, as if I didn’t know he used it. “We’ve been married for twenty years.” The fury I’d squelched over a decade of Marty ignoring me made me so enraged, I was actually spitting the words at him. And I’d sunk to that level and repaid him with unrelenting anger and resentment. you know, your settlement.” “Fuck you, Marty.” It was hard to keep my voice low now. I’ve tried so fucking hard to be a good wife to you. Keep the kids out of it, motherfucker.” The sound of a splash came from the pool, followed by Bella shrieking “Mom, heeeeelp! I couldn’t hear the birds in the trees or the jets overhead any longer. Marty drove out from his office to Southampton for one night, so we could break the news together.I ran through security, my Rollaboard stuffed with books rattling behind me, checking the time on my i Phone as I went. To my surprise, instead of being annoyed, he offered me a lazy smile. The repressed grin on his face reminded me of the expression my grandmother called “a cat with a canary in its mouth.” “Of course,” he said politely. He looked at me now with his Wall Street lawyer face, the expressionless mask he wore when he talked to anyone, including our children, his mother, and me. Suddenly, it was crystal clear to me: I never, ever wanted to be in a therapist’s office, our car, our beach house, or anywhere else with this man, much less naked in a bed in his arms. Which obviously would make it tricky to stay married. ” as the kids roughhoused, oblivious to the fracture between us. I willed myself to walk to the pool to make sure the kids were okay. With a kid on either side, all holding hands, we clustered around the glass-topped table where we’d spent many summer evenings playing I Doubt It and Tunk and other absurd card games.