Jan 30, 2010

Yesterday, my wife was caught in an indiscretion. She was visiting her friend Daniel at his store, which offers finely made unpainted, wooden bookshelves, racks and tables, along with books, cards and common sense. At least once a month Daniel also hosts a small poetry reading. The quality is uneven, and the store has no heat, but once in a while a faint illumination occurs.

If it doesn't, no matter, out of nowhere an anxiously sincere someone or other always appears offering a bottle of cheap Trader Joe's-Merlot, and a story. These are all women. The story is always the same, how speaking of poetry they slept with such and such a famous poet in college, or else how their husband recently ran off with a "promising" new novelist. "Excuse my French but what an asshole he is."

"By the way, you wouldn't be interested in seeing my chapbook, would you?"

No matter how promising the invitation, no matter how lonely you might be, you would not.

So this is Daniel's world, and also my wife's, and one afternoon he's explaining to her his dream, which is to buy property in Wyoming, assemble some small pre-fab cottages, and start a writer's retreat. This is something he's been thinking about for a long time and he's actually received a number of brochures filled with photos of land for sale. But he has to do all this behind his wife's back. She has the fury of a woman scorned for poets and readings and anything to do with literature or literati.

She is from Thailand and has an amazing story. The short version is that she grew up in a modest family, got married at a young age and suddenly found herself living in America. Her husband was a beast. He beat her, raped her, humiliated her but, thank God, didn't get her pregnant. The one good thing he did was to bring her to Oakland, to an apartment just down the hall from Daniel. The two became friends and probably not lovers but the point was moot when her husband caught the two of them together in Daniel's apartment, and took out his gun.

But at the last moment the man released the trigger, made some outrageous threats and took his wife back to their apartment by the scruff of her neck.

Daniel did the right thing. He's a man who always does the right thing. He got the woman out of her marriage, married her himself, and together they had four children, who are all brilliant and go to the top schools in the city. My wife helped him during the time he was trying to get his marriage up and running, and he has always been very grateful.

You would think Daniel's wife, having the life she did and been saved the way she was, that she would be eternally grateful but she is not. She has made it a point to oppose the world of poetry, and all that goes with it. What Daniel tells my wife is that this woman has but one interest and that's getting more material, more stuff. More of whatever America can give her.

And so yesterday, one of those moments when you get snake eyes and you didn't even know you'd rolled, along comes the wife, blowing in with the draft and the bells above the door, another customer so her husband doesn't look up right away, and suddenly she is approaching just as he is showing my wife some pictures of property he intends to buy, and he is explaining that one cottage will go here and another there.

His wife realizes vaguely that she's come upon something, but what is it? She tries to calculate the scene, her husband with this woman and these photos that she can't see, even as her husband puts them away. Something going on but there are too many variables. And so what else is there to do, how else to forestall what might be a calamity, than to say simply, "Hello. I'm Daniel's wife."

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

I've always thought my friends and acquaintances were the most intriguing- but then I started reading your blog :)...this entry had me on the edge of my seat and shaking my head. Smiling at the end.