Tag Archives: the deciders

The Flight

“Again, this is sweet, but insane,” Ian says as he rubs his eyes and shifts in the passenger seat. “My company pays for every cab ride I even think about taking, let alone take.”

“This is different,” I say. “Seeing you off out of New York is different.”

“You’re going to see me in eight days.”

“Please just let it be sweet, okay?”

He nods.

I start thinking about what I will miss most about Connecticut, and New York, and living here, and I wonder if what Ian will miss most are the same things. I wonder, as I drive down 95, a particularly ugly stretch of 95 where everything is very gray, where the palette is unwelcoming and dark even in July and the bark on the trees is a harsh brown, what I will fall in love with in London, and if I will even fall in love. I wonder if Ian thinks about these things, and I realize I don’t know.

“What’re you going to do with the house all to yourself for a week?”

“Dance on the tabletop. Invite the high school football team to party. Masturbate.”

“That’s my girl,” he says.

We don’t talk for a long while. Finally, he reaches in to the radio dial and turns up NPR to stave off the silence.

“Shit. This skyline,” he says as soon as we hit the Triboro Bridge. I don’t say anything back. “We’re going to have a real life over there, Rachel. Everything is going to be how it’s supposed to be.”

“This wasn’t real life?” I say, keeping my hands fixed on the wheel, not looking at him. I know he’s turned towards me.

“You and I both know this was no way to live. Any of it,” he says. “Me not being the best husband. And you…”

“And me what, Ian?”

“We’ve just been happier, is all,” he says. “We’ve both been happier without external forces chipping away at us, and we need to move on with our lives. This is us moving on with our lives. We’re doing the right thing.”

I start seeing signs for JFK as we cruise along the Van Wyck, not a speck of traffic in our way today.

“Virgin Atlantic,” he says calmly, pointing towards one of the big sign boards for the terminals. “If you didn’t agree with me in some capacity, you wouldn’t be doing this. But you are.”

Ian reaches down into his lap to adjust the buckle on his belt, even though he doesn’t really do anything with it, just sort of plays with it.

“You tossed and turned a lot last night in your sleep,” I say.

“This is all a big fucking deal, Rachel.”

I stare down into my lap for a second longer than I should.

Vows

We lie next to each other in bed and both stare up at the ceiling. My thumb keeps running over my naked ring finger. I am counting each of my breaths. I start counting each of Ian’s.

This is how we spend Friday night. Counting cracks on the ceiling. There is conversation, words with little meaning dribbling out in short bursts, but no movement. I finally turn towards him, and he mirrors me, our foreheads touching. We both close our eyes, and stay like that for a moment.

 “Let’s sleep,” he says, turning over towards the nightstand and flicking off the only remaining light in the room. I flip over so violently that I cause vibrations in the springs of the mattress. I don’t expect Ian to touch me, but he pulls me into him. And he holds me like the world is going to end.

***

I wake up early. The clock says eight, and Ian is still clutching me tight. I can’t remember the last time we stayed wrapped  into each other like this. I’m not tired, but the thought of leaving his arms is more terrible than anything, so I stay. He is asleep, but not fully, so I flip back towards him, willing, once again, for him. But he just rests his forehead onto mine, and inhales for more sleep.

I can’t be only one thing to him, whatever he wants me to be in this moment, so I sit up in bed and lean forward. He puts his hand on my back as he lays there, running his fingers over each notch of my spine, and as I shift to get up, he reaches out, and pulls me back into him with all of his might. And he will not let me go. We sleep another hour.

When I wake, I lie flat on my back, my ear near Ian’s lips. I get up to leave again, but I’m pulled back into bed with the same rubber band reflex against his chest.

At noon, when I wake back up for the final time, his forehead is tucked in against my shoulder, his breath spreading across my back. I reach my hand behind and find his hair, run my fingers through a thick patch on the back of his head, and he readjusts so his chin is resting in my neck.

 “I’m getting up,” I say, and lift myself off the sheets, starting to slide my legs down the side of the bed.

Ian has to catch my body on the way down, but he scoops me up, and doesn’t let me leave. And that’s when I start crying.

 “You won’t even kiss me,” I say, facing out, not looking at him.

 “It’s not you,” he says. “I just need to take this slow again.”

“I’m your wife, Ian,” I hiss. I’m trying to hard to stop the tears, pushing away any sign that they were ever there with the heel of my hand. “This is Kindergarten.”

I turn back so I’m staring back up at the ceiling, but he takes my hands and pulls me on top of him so I’m straddling him. I put my palms flat on his chest.

“What?” I say.

He puts his hands on my hips and, without a word, starts rocking me back and forth on him.

“What are you doing?” I say. “Ian.”

“Just stop talking,” he says, pulling my chemise up over my head.

Rachel: Ian’s Return

On Thursday morning around ten-thirty, I hear the lock on the front door undoing. My stomach clenches up from my position at the kitchen table, where I am at my laptop doing some insurance paperwork. I literally close my eyes when Ian walks in the house.

The front door closes. I hear the sound of his suitcase roll across the hardwood in the foyer. Stop. His footsteps over to the kitchen table, over to me, and I feel his kiss on the crown of my head.

“Hi, lovely,” he says.

I hear him track into the bedroom, his bag rolling behind him. Then, the shower in our en suite flips on. I don’t open my eyes the entire time.

Ten minutes later, Ian walks through the French doors of the bedroom in a dress shirt and a tie, and he’s looking down at his cuffs, struggling to button them. His hair is wet.

“I’m going to run to the office. It’s still only four in London,” he says. He bends down to tie a shoe, and then comes over to me. He puts both his hands on my shoulders. “Hey. I love you,” he says. Then he grabs his car key off the hook by the door to the garage, and disappears as fast as he came in.

I blink a few times in succession, not sure if what just happened actually happened. I get up from the table and walk into the bedroom, and sure enough, Ian’s jeans and t-shirt are tossed in a pile on the bed. I sit down on the edge of the bed next to them for a second, then get up, walk over to the bureau, pull out my jewelry box, and slip off my wedding rings.

Tiffany: Gossip

There is a big picture collage of college campuses that covers the wall behind my computer: historic New England architecture framed by trees turning fall’s most brilliant orange and red hues; gigantic mid-Atlantic lawns; quads surrounded by palm trees climbing higher and higher each time I look at them. I have always pictured myself somewhere in these photos, and ping-ponging among the images, back and forth between where I belong most, is one of the best things I have. The pictures have been there for the last year, since I started collecting the brochures that Mr. Rose gave me: Stanford, Pomona, Brown, Tufts, Hopkins, St. John’s, Chicago—that was just the start. I used to sit down on my floor, cross-legged, and sit down with the photos, cutting out the best ones, and putting them up on the wall. The last one to go up was Harvard. It was two weeks ago. I’d been afraid to jinx anything, or shoot too high or ruin something. Set unreasonable expectations. Hitting the top is never something we’ve known in this family.

“It’s time to aim for what you deserve, Tiffany,” Mr. Rose said. Another day working with him after school. An hour later, I’d written another poem, and it was a good one. He’d said so, but I also really knew it. That night, I came home, sat on the floor, cut out the big picture of the Harvard quad, and put it up on the wall.

I’m sitting at the computer staring into the collage when my email count goes to 1.

It’s so fucked up.

The email comes from tiffanyrosesullivanbaby@gmail.com. The subject line says Hi Mom. In the message, there’s a picture, and I gasp when I click on the attachment: open on my screen is a crudely Photoshopped sonogram with my face on it. It’s followed by a link to the Facebook page of “The Lovechild of Mr. Rose and Tiffany Sullivan.”

I’m just sick. There’s no other word for it than just sick. My stomach gurgles, the pit drops out from it again low, so low. There is a foot on my chest—an entire army of feet—and I swear I am wheezing, even though I am silent.

Tiffany: Thoughts on Mr. Rose

I’d fantasized exactly once about Mr. Rose. The fantasy, if you can call it that—the thought—it went like this: We were out to dinner, at some restaurant that doesn’t exist, or maybe it does, I don’t know. But we were there, and then we got up, and there was a rose, a red one, and he gave it to me, and we walked from the restaurant to his apartment where he took me into his bed. There was never any sound, no words at the dinner, which now, I think was in the Space Needle, which is really weird, and I never pictured any details about the sex, I guess, except I knew that we were having it kind of like you do in those PG-13 movies where it’s happening under mountains of blankets, and there’s lots of rustling, lots of dramatic movement, so much closeness, the weight of implication, but nothing’s never shown. My life as a montage. A highlight reel.

The thing about the dream, the fantasy, whatever it is or was, is that in it, I know I was older I don’t know how old, but I wasn’t me. I was future-me, and everything about that is what made it okay, I remember lying in my real bed thinking about it. About him, or not him, and me, or not me, and the soundtrackless scene. His walls were a sort of terra-cotta, but now that I think about it, I guess that’s the hazy color everything is in dreams. He was on top of me only, and bigger than me, always bigger than me, and his covers were brown, and the sheets were brown, and now that I think about it I could never see his eyes. I kept looking up in the dream-thing, past his shoulders, and there was a ceiling fan that kept spinning. It was gold-rimmed, and it went around about a million times, and we were listening to a song—again, one I couldn’t hear—but it was the perfect song, and the rose was on the bedside table. It was the only bright thing in the room.

Although I laid there in my bed, the real bed in the apartment with my mother across the hall, I had started with my hand between my legs. But one thing I remember, maybe the thing I remember most from the whole fantasy is that I stopped touching. It carried me off to sleep. I never finished touching myself.

Rachel: June 19

A good wife will not forget her mise en place. My last session cancels for the day, so I decide the effort for dinner will be paramount tonight. Purchases at the Longington Organicist included radicchio and swiss chard that I will grill, and two fresh red snappers I will filet and paint with olive oil and capers. Ian will smell the house filling with good things, the best things, as he walks through the door.

It is the first absolutely perfect night of the summer.

I don a mustard-colored apron, one I remember asking for on our wedding registry, and start gathering what I’ll need to cook tonight. The house’s kitchen is one of the things that sold us on the property, which we moved into right after we got married, its white marble countertops and stainless steel appliances still looking just as new two years down the line as it did the day we moved in. I never feel more adult then when I am standing here, prepping dinner for Ian and me, in this kitchen, in this house, in this school district, in this zip code.

I go to the bathroom, muscle memory flicking off the light switch, my gaze instead watching my feet trace the lines of the hardwood floorboards as I’m tightrope-walking a seam.

“Boo,” I hear in whisper, and subsequently jump ten feet in the air. Ian’s standing in the middle of the kitchen with a bouquet of white Gerber daisies.

“You weren’t supposed to be here yet,” I say when I return back to Earth.

“You weren’t supposed to be here yet,” he replies.

I can just laugh. I can just smile. I can just fall into him, apron and all.

I don’t know if it’s the summer sun that’s breaking through the French doors I’ve propped open onto the back patio, or that Ian has by some force of god stepped away from his desk at the firm in Stamford, or that I am here, in his Connecticut kitchen, as his wife, like out of a beach bestseller and not counseling a couple on their deteriorating marriage at five P.M. on a Wednesday, but it is something. Ian puts down the flowers—dangerously close to the fish—and picks me up, all five feet of me, and carries me to our bedroom. And although there is every bit of soft romance to Ian literally whisking me off my feet, there is nothing coy about what he does when he has me against our sheets. He reaches up into my dress to remove what is underneath, shimmies down his own pants to his ankles, and pushes me down onto him. He pulls me in against his chest, his teeth against my neck, and as he comes, I wrap my hands around his necktie. I am still in the apron.