There is a slight defensiveness on her part, an anxious tone, a quiver which he recognizes from strained conversations. He brings with him a Hallmark greeting card as his peace offering. She reads, her face resigned, tight at the corners of her mouth, pinched; this mouth which received him openly, tenderly for twenty years, but never enough. They sit on the patio park bench, in the stillness of the late spring morning.
She sets the card down, opens her day planner, business face on. “The way Violet did it is she gave me all the cash and you all the assets, so we just have to tweak it.”
He delays, attempts another strategy. “Stock market’s up!”
“Figures are all right here on the page.” She points, ignoring him. “Here’s your copy.”
He scans the paper, asks, “What about the liquidations, loans, more recent acquisitions?” As he glances at the document his eyes narrow.
There’s a pause.
She shifts her weight, crosses a leg. “Maya’s not ready to see you.”
The image of his precious girl dropping her bicycle, running to him for a hug.
He clears his throat. “Your choice, or hers?”
“She probably won’t want to see you.” Her jaw muscle strains as she looks out at the traffic on Walker Street. “Not just yet.” Then, “So I believe the only thing left is meeting with the lawyer, getting signatures.”
“Lawyers,” he corrects, a little louder than he’d meant. “I mean, you have your cousin. I’ve hired George Hershberg.”
She removes her Helly Hanson coat revealing her perfect body. He can’t help notice her amply sculpted breasts despite the cancer. She bites an immense section of the bottom of her bagel, barely chews, swallows. Says, “Whatever, lawyers, fine. But all the work is done. Look at your copy.” She points to the report on his lap.
He reads, shakes his head. “It’s not right! It can’t be right.”
“That’s all I have. I don’t know why you think that I always have money. I don’t have any hidden money.”
He knew that wasn’t entirely true. Part of the reason he’d married her in the first place was her family’s deep pockets. They retreat to their clipboards to reconfigure. He uses the calculator on his laptop while she finishes her bagel.
He says, pointing to the paper, “Here’s how I see it: here’s your cash, here’s the American Express. Here’s the lake house, and here’s the house split right down the middle.” He continues, explaining his method of dividing the assets.
“It’s exactly what Violet already prepared.” She tries not to look at the family photograph he’s selected as screensaver. “You just did it a different way. It’s still divided 50-50.”
The name of this scenario is breaking up at Einstein’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist.
He has to do it his way, cannot abide the possibility that someone, anyone, especially a woman, might configure his life into 50% margins, into half of what his esteem requires. As he shrugs, it’s as if he offers back to her, back to the world in which they created all of his burden, his carriage of their responsibilities, a lifetime of self-deceit. He coached himself that morning in his bathroom mirror while shaving,“Bern, you will remain calm. You will not raise your voice. You will not show emotion. Be a man! Be a man, goddamn it!”
She looks at her Rolex. Sighs. They’ve reached the end of their agreed meeting time. She says, “So- is that it?” while leafing through the numerous pages drawn up by the innocuous lawyer. The cousin, hired by her father, hired after everyone warned her: don’t get fucked one last time by this guy. She says “So…” another three or four times to prolong their parting, to jab one last time, like she does when she offers, “She’s just trying to protect me.”
As she walks to the trashcan to throw away her half eaten bagel, he notices how much weight she has gained. Especially her rump looks plump.
They assemble their possessions; she pulls out the last page, hoping to get the final signature. Before he does, he still has a few more “I this and I that…” He wants to discuss more about Maya as the trump card, insist upon seeing her, but she’s rigid about this. It will have to do for now.
They walk away acting complete, satiated, giddy almost. Meanwhile, he is bitter, resolute. Thinks, I will never marry again.
Before she gets to her newly leased Volvo, she plans in her head to call her divorced parents, and her entire Park City social network to say: “It is OVER! What a relief! Let’s meet at Maggie Moos for some Butter Brickle!”
Years later, he’d recall how exciting it was that as a bachelor, he was saving so much money on toilet paper.