They’d been tempestuously married for nearly seven years when she calmly announced the thrill had gone out of their almost daily warring and the follow-up make-up kissing and cuddling. She said she had landed a job as secretary to some New York big shot. The pay was great, she’d be taking their four-year-old son to live with her. Several weeks earlier she had written from New York to say the child was with his maternal grandparents in Barbados.
They had never bothered to divorce. For almost three years they had simply carried on their separated lives on separate coasts, she in the east, he in Los Angeles. Now that he was visiting New York, she came to mind. He called her. Would she care to join him for lunch? At first she sounded hesitant; he blamed it on surprise. She’d had no way of knowing he was in New York. But then she got all giggly and said why not, lunch would be just fine, it would be super to see him again after all this time. Perhaps they could meet at the Golden Coin, a Japanese restaurant on Second Avenue, say about 1.30. He was smiling as he replaced the receiver. Perhaps it was true after all, that time was indeed the great healer.
Five months earlier they had exchanged Christmas greetings. He had phoned from L.A. to speak with their young son in Barbados and was surprised when she answered his call. She said she was sorry things hadn’t worked out for them, often she had wondered how he was making out in California. On one or two occasions she’d actually found herself missing him. He wondered: Was she flirting with him? Before she put their son on the line she wished him a happy Christmas and the best for the coming year.
Outside the Golden Coin the usual traffickers were hawking their suspect wares at irresistible prices: Rolexes at a fraction of the regular cost, tape recorders shaped like ballpoint pens, porno flicks, tickets to live sex shows, packaged marijuana . . . At a quarter to two he glanced at his watch and was surprised to catch himself smiling at the discovery that she still had not acquired a respect for time. Their worst wars had broken out of that particular Pandora’s Box. Shortly after two o’clock, she showed up. At the last minute her boss had required her to do some typing, she explained. He said he hadn’t minded the wait, he had nothing better to do, and anyway the sidewalk con artists had provided much free entertainment.
They both ordered a steaming potpourri of clams, steak, shrimp and vegetables. And a bottle of her favorite California wine. Over lunch they chatted pridefully about their son. Only a few weeks earlier he had won several school awards for his athleticism. She produced from her wallet several pictures of him frolicking at the beach, splashing around at the water’s edge, attempting handstands, watering flower plants. He was reminded of good times on the island’s west coast, before marriage intervened. He switched channels, complimented her on how well she looked, pretended he had not noticed the extra weight around her waist and cheeks, or that her hazel eyes, once so full of life, now seemed to be drowning in a sea of telltale red. She quickly concurred when he told her she seemed very happy.
Three times he reminded her it was getting close to four o’clock. He didn’t want her getting into trouble at work on his account. Each time she tapped his hand and smiled, said work could wait, she was in no hurry to end the best lunch she’d had in a long time. They ordered more wine and he permitted himself to half-believe she may have been speaking truth when she said she missed him. Then she glanced at the restaurant’s entrance, somewhat impatiently, checked her watch had said he was probably right; she’d better be heading back to her office. He was helping her into her coat when suddenly she turned around planted a quick peck smack on his lips. She must’ve noticed his look of surprise. She lifted her mouth close to his ear and whispered: “C’mon, you know I still love you, right?”
They had just stepped onto the sidewalk when she asked for a minute to speak with a man who was leaning against a nearby lamppost a foot or so from a busy newsstand. He wore a hat and a crumpled gray suit two sizes too large that brought to mind magazine pictures of Dr. King and other front-line members of the NAACP. While she talked with the stranger, he kept on walking, slowly. He wouldn’t want her to think he might be snooping on her private conversation, like a jealous husband. He was
but a few feet when she called his name. He stopped, waited
for her and her friend to
By way of introduction, she cooed, “Darling, you remember Dennis, don’t you? He used to visit us in the old days, whenever you were in Barbados.” He had no such recollection but offered his hand anyway. Instead of grabbing it Dennis passed him a large brown envelope, turned around and was on his way without uttering a single word. For a split second she seemed embarrassed. Then she smiled, kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Bye darling,” she said, indicating the envelope in his right hand. “Wait till you get back to your hotel to open it.”
He flagged a taxi. While instructing the driver where to take him, he tore open the envelope, flattened out its folded content, then started to read: “Action for divorce . . . You are hereby summoned to appear . . .”