Monday, September 12, 2011
Forgive or Forget
(Click here for the first episode; here for the previous one.)
“Morningside Heights?” the taxi driver asked.
Zach didn’t bother to answer; the man knew the way.
Beth would take him back—she always did. Of course, he had not hit her before. And, he had never confessed to an affair before. But he would promise her, first thing, that she was the only woman he loved and from now on, she would have no reason to think otherwise. As for his open fist punching her in the face? Unspeakable!
Unless, of course, she wanted to hear the words:“Christ, I'm sorry; it was an accident. But it's an accident I swear will never happen again.”
Real forgiveness, however, took effort, time, and patience. So Zach would call her the day after tomorrow. By then, Beth would have concluded that what he had done wasn’t much worse than what most men did at one time or another. He was a selfish, greedy bastard who didn’t deserve her but needed her desperately. Zach would make amends; he would woo her and do all he could to make her happy. “Please,” he practiced begging, “give me another chance.”
He leaned forward in the taxi. “You can drop me off between 115th and 116th.”
When the taxi pulled away, he stood beneath a dim street light and recalled Beth claiming at nine-thirty this morning that she had already contacted a lawyer. Was that possible?
He stood there, recognizing his arms and hands, his pants and shoes. And for a minute or two, he was too stupefied to move. After a chill wind blew, however, he walked briskly to his office on Columbia’s campus.
Both Beth and Vida grew dreamy after making love. The minute he moved onto something else—sex was over; what next?—Beth and in her turn Vida asked if she was his one great love. The question arose ritually and yet he answered incorrectly every time—talking about his next Boy Scout excursion or whatever he was honestly thinking. When obviously what he should say was: “My darling, yes, of course, you are my one true love! Didn’t I just show you that?“
Women wanted to measure love as if it were solid matter, an inert thing that would never change. When Vida had called his home weeks ago, she must have known she was pregnant. She must have wanted to talk about it with him. Before the test results proved the pregnancy viable, she must have phoned for reassurance. If he hadn’t been so preoccupied, he would have said not to worry. No wonder today she told him to go away. She had every right to feel angry. But her anger just like Beth’s would fade sooner rather than later. In which case, this afternoon wasn’t the end at all. It was a tiff!
He shouldn’t have neglected her. He should have guessed she wouldn’t have phoned his house unless it was dire! But up until these two weeks out of pocket, Vida had clung to him. She acted so absurd and moonstruck, he might have thought she was joking, except Vida never joked. And so naturally he took her seriously, when she played the needy other woman.
Now that she wasn’t afraid, she had every right to let him know: “Too little, too late.“ He admitted that. In his mind, he rehearsed: “Vida, please, accept my apology. We have twin girls on the way!”
And yet, what if the next time she saw him, Vida didn’t light up? What if?
In that case Zach would be lost. Amazed and enchanted by Vida since they met, he hadn’t calculated the risks. At the Younger Institute, Vida was the queen bee. And until further notice, Zach Severins was the buffoon.
Since leaving his home early this morning, he felt as if eons had passed.
After he strained and shoved to open the window behind his desk, Zach fell back on the rough tweed couch that Beth had bought him when he earned tenure. Without removing his trench coat, he slumped and dozed long enough for his neck and shoulders to ache. Waking, he shuddered, both overheated and chilled.
(click here for the next episode)