Friendship and Art
The buzzer rings near midnight. It is Robert, distraught. He has had a fight with his girlfriend and walked out. Can he stay with me?
Sure, I say, and put on some tea. We talk for a while. He leaves, and when I next see him, he says everything is all right. I feel good about helping to save a relationship.
Two years later I run into him on the subway. He tells me he is writing poems. He asks if I want to see one. As I read I realize it is about that night. I am portrayed as a cold person who barely tolerates the intrusion and says good-sounding things only to get rid of him.
“What do you think?” Robert asks, as if the poem were about roses in winter.
“It’s nice,” I reply, the words you use when you want to break a poet’s spirit.
Four Years, Four Months
My husband screws around. Not much and not often, but I know that Andy tries whenever he gets the chance. I know it, and he knows that I know it. I press him, and he says that if I want to split up he’ll understand. That’s him trying to make it so he can tell our two boys that Momma was the one who left, that he hoped to make things work. He says to me that he loves me and that I’m still his best friend—that we’ll always be best friends—but that maybe we just started out too young, had too much play left in us when we tied the knot. I’ve got a clock in my head that reads four years and four months. That’s how long until our youngest turns eighteen and I can call a lawyer. Yessir. Four years, four months.
She says that her name is Blue, like the color, and even though you’ve never met anyone named after a color, it doesn’t surprise you, there was something blue in her smile after all.
“Let’s go bowling,” she says. “I know a place that has guardrails so you can’t roll a gutter ball.”
Your first thought is, “Aren’t those for children?” But then you realize that a man as nervous as you are should accept all the guardrails that he can get.
On the way to the bowling alley, she says, “My son loves bowling.”
You don’t think to ask why she is walking to a bowling alley with a stranger and without her son. You don’t think to ask where the father is. You don’t think about how much more complicated this will all soon become.
“I wanted to tell you in person I’m not coming back,” Sarah said. “I’m filing for divorce.” She again sipped her drink, but it was a bumpy, awkward gesture, and Ben knew this was hard for her. He took some pleasure in it.
“I’ve spoken to an attorney,” she went on. “He says I’m entitled to half the ranch and half your business—but I wouldn’t do that, take your business from you.”
“But you’d take half the ranch?”
“It’s my ranch too,” she said, reaching for her purse. She slid from the stool, and as she walked behind him the air stirred and turned slightly warm. He felt her hesitate. And then the air cooled and he knew she’d gone, walked silently out the door.