Calvados, Part 2
[Continued from last week]
My wife sets the bouquet on the table. “Nolan…”
“It feels like another lifetime when we came here,” I say. “I used to think I couldn’t feel any more tired. Waking up that early to catch the first train in from your parents’? Me in that associate’s position, you studying all hours.”
“But we always made time for breakfast. Sleep be damned. If we’re going to work all day and commute in while it’s still dark out, we’re making time for coffee and waffles.”
Her left hand emerges at last to cover her face, wedding band missing.
“I was an idiot,” I say, voice faltering. “I’ve been an idiot for a long time.”
“I heard everything you said, okay? I listened and I’m going to do better. And… what I said? I was upset. I didn’t mean it. I mean, yes, we’ve made sacrifices but they’ve all been worth it because we built a life together and it’s a good life.”
“You said you blamed me –”
“You said, you blamed me for you quitting music.”
“You didn’t. It was my choice to focus on work, and I’m grateful for everything it’s helped us accomplish. I mean, look at what we have. Look at everything you’ve done. I’m so proud of you, Kitty. I know I don’t say it enough. And my job isn’t as bad as I make it out to be. I’m actually interviewing for this new opportunity. It could really be a fresh start. I’d love to tell you about it. It doesn’t matter right now. I just want to make you happy. I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”
Her phone buzzes underneath the table. She checks the name and returns it to her purse.
“I thought you said your phone was broken.”
She takes a long sip from her glass. When she sets it down, the last bit of apple brandy swirls a lonesome dance. “Is that everything you wanted to say?”
“I just. I love you, Kit-Kat. You’re my life. Home isn’t home without you.”
She nudges her bouquet of corpses, and says, “It’s over, Nolan.”
I try to swallow, there’s cotton in my throat. “It’s not.”
“We talked about this.”
“No. We had a fight and you moved everything out of our apartment.”
“I took the furniture you hated.”
“Do you know how many times I called? Do you know how many messages I left?”
The waiter refills our waters. My wife shrugs off another drink. When he’s gone, she says, “You’re upset.”
“Of course, I’m upset.”
“I was trying to give you space. Maybe this was too soon.”
“Just tell me what you want,” I say.
She responds, “I don’t want to do lawyers. I’m hoping, given everything, that we can keep this transition simple.”
“You supported me with my practice, I think it’s fair if you keep the apartment.”
“Please don’t make this more difficult than it has to be.”
“I love you.”
She drains her glass. “You haven’t loved me for a long time.”
“How could you say that?”
“You love the girl I used to be.”
“People grow up. They change. I did everything I could to keep this marriage going.”
The waiter drops the check, I summon him back. “Another for her and one for me.”
“I’m alright,” she says.
“Bring both. If she doesn’t drink it, I will.” He retreats. “You make it sound like our marriage was this horrible thing.”
“If you want to believe that you were alright with the long hours and the sacrifices, fine. But you have no idea what it feels like for the person you love most in the world to pull away from you.”
“I was supporting you, you said so yourself.”
“Financially,” she says.
“That’s bullshit,” I say. “I was there.”
“If you say so.”
“I listened every day for years to what you were going through. It was the same basic problems over and over.”
“There it is.”
“Life doesn’t have to be as hard as you make it.”
“Congratulations on having it all figured out,” she says.
“I’m not saying that. But, you’re putting me in this position to defend myself.”
“I’m not putting you anywhere.”
“You’re saying these things.”
“I came here hoping we could agree to a clean break,” she says.
“I don’t want a break at all,” I say.
“You haven’t been in our marriage for a long time.”
“I was there.”
“Do you remember when I used to catch you not listening?” she asks. “I’d call you on it and you’d check back in? You want to know how long ago I stopped calling you on it?”
“If I come home exhausted,” I say, “and you’re dealing with the same exact situation you’ve dealt with a thousand times before…”
“Only now —”
“… it stops being about figuring out a solution and starts being about you stealing every drop of energy I have left.”
“Only now have I reached a point in my career where I am comfortable,” she says, “where I finally achieved what I set out to do. I don’t know why you couldn’t just be happy for me.”
“I was happy for you. I’m still happy for you.” The apple brandy arrives, I down a large sip. I chase it with ice water, subduing the burn in my chest. “But for the record? There’s a difference between your job coming first and your job taking over everything.”
“When did you stop being on my side? What did I do that was so awful?”
“Do you know that Spud still waits by the door for you?”
“Are you serious?”
“Do you know that he whimpers at night because you aren’t there?”
“He’s as much my dog as he is yours.”
“I could never leave him.”
“I left him for you, don’t you get that?! I left him so you would be okay.”
“Bottom line, you left.”
She starts to say something but stops herself. She pulls her purse onto her shoulder and rises from the booth.
“I waited for your train,” I say, stopping her. “I was waiting by the platform. But you’re not staying with your family, are you?”
“Who is he?”
“I’m not doing this again.”
“Dr. Fuller?” Her expression. “Wow.”
“How long have you known?”
“What is he, twenty years older?”
“Does Ginger know?”
“I was thinking about what you said. About not having any time outside of work.”
“Nolan. Does Ginger or anyone else at the office know about this?”
I grab the brandy for support. “I think this might complicate your clean break.”
My wife seems to weigh her response before reaching into her purse. She withdraws a blue platypus and sets it on the table. “Give this to Spud, okay? Tell him I love him?”
It takes twelve minutes for me to finish both glasses. The waiter checks and rechecks on me to make sure that everything’s alright.