Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chapter Twenty-Two of Hampton from the Halfway Line

Yes, we know; this is not a snap of rural Vermont. This is a city where Julius and Marianne found and then lost love. can you guess?


South Derry, Vermont

With two, full glasses of Roger’s vin rouge de la soirée placed on the table between their matching comfy chairs, Roger’s daughter, Marianne faced the Papineaus’ eminent guest, Ben Hampton and his tape recorder for one, final, soul-cleansing assault on Julius Novak’s ever-spottier, spotless image. She wasted no time.
“He went to Spain with that pesky little Sami about a month after he first saw and supposedly fell madly in love with me. I’ll bet he didn’t tell you that.”
Ben was stunned and not stunned. He had been under the impression, ever since the ‘Marianne as nude artists’ model’ story, that Novak had sworn off women until he could somehow manage to capture the sculpture student’s heart.
Marianne folded her arms in front of her torso. “That was his idea of ending the intimacy after he’d been ‘hypnotized’ by my spell.”
“I think he said scale back the intimacy, actually,” Ben said, stupidly.
“So he scaled it back by taking her to Spain?” her voice rose. “He never took me to Spain.”
“Well you’ve been there together since, haven’t you? Benicassim and all that?”
“Yeah, with Isabel and my brother and sister-in-law and their kids and some other people.”
He and Sami went with a group,” Ben said, again stupidly.
“He did tell you??” Marianne sounded angry. “Why did you act like you didn’t know??”
“I didn’t know. I knew he went with a group,” Ben was flustered. “He said he went with a group from Cologne when he explained about seeing Valencia play for the first time back in ‘82. We were talking about football. He didn’t mention … Sami. So, now you say she went along. That means it was a group that included Julius and the girl. Enlightenment is all it is. The power of logic.”
“Guess how I found out?” she asked, with a sideways glance, tongue pushing out her cheek.
“Sami told you?” he asked, thinking nothing of it until he saw Marianne’s face explode. Then he flinched.
“He told you that too?? What are you playing at?”
“No! God. You said to guess! I guessed, ‘Sami.’ That’s what guessing is.”
“It’s just odd that she would be your first guess.”
“Honestly, I really don’t have all that many names from this period of your life that I can pull out of a hat – if you know what I mean. I did just meet you yesterday.”
“I just think it’s a load of crap he’s feeding you. That’s all.” She took a hearty pull on the wine. “He tells you he was dating Sami; met me and went over the moon, supposedly, with lust and heartache; went to Spain and saw a Valencia match; saw me nude in public; then finally I asked him out. Then we lived together for five and a half years. I just think it’s bizarre that he would mention Sami and mention Spain but fail to clarify that Sami and Spain were the same thing.”
“He’s still somewhat new at the whole ‘being interviewed’ thing,” Ben offered sheepishly.
“Whatever. No hiding the fact, then, that there was a rather tasteless and demeaning overlap between the two relationships. If we confronted him right now, Julius would scratch his head and claim it was all very hazy as to when one ended and the other began. Would you pour me some wine, please? He led that poor girl on while he followed me around Cologne like he was KGB. Why don’t we go down to the house and ask him?”
“Marianne, this is a book about a footballer’s life; not the Jerry Springer Show.”
“Yes, well if you’re serious about a book, then you should take a good look at the man.”
“I’m sorry you’re still upset about it. What was he, like, eighteen or nineteen at the time?” Ben could not hide his cynicism nor his mild annoyance.
“I suppose you’re going to defend his behavior by saying he was young and didn’t know any better?”
“I’d rather not be put in that position, to be honest, but … yeah.”
“What do you mean … yeah?” she said.
“I mean, he was eighteen bloody years old, Marianne, and still just twenty-five when you kicked him out. Fucking hell. You could have given the man a chance to grow up before you pulled the rug out from under him. When I was twenty-five, my only yearning was to get a proper Charlie Nicholas haircut …”
“I was going to have a baby …” Marianne tried to speak over him.
“… but I’d already lost too much hair.”
“ … I had to decide what to do quickly before everything was decided for me. I wasn’t going to follow him around for the rest of my life or always be waiting for him to come home, so I could suffer the way my mother did. How can you even say such a thing?”
“I was rendering a judgment.”
“Aren’t journalists supposed to just ask questions?”
“I was framing my question as a declarative intended to provoke a compelling quote, and you obliged me quite neatly. Thank you.”
“I just don’t understand how you can talk to someone like Julius Novak a few times, swallow every rotten fish he feeds you, then come into my home as a guest and throw accusations around like you think you know everything about me.”
“All right, I’m drunk.”
Marianne laughed and Ben joined her, if tentatively.
“How much time do I have?” she asked, having heard of his taste for 90-minute intervals of action.
“Go for it.”
“Let’s see, what else? He had relationships – at best, inappropriate -- with women everywhere he went.”
“As a journalist I’m going to need documentation on these … ‘liaisons,’ as you call them.”
“I didn’t follow him around or have him followed … exactly. I was very busy – university; two minimum-wage jobs; and hours apprenticing, on top of my studio hours with my classes. Then, after my first degree, I always taught, whether it was drawing or pottery for schools or wealthy kids in the summer. Our little community within the altstadt of Köln was like any other small village. You couldn’t pick your nose without everyone knowing the next day.”
“I would hate that,” Ben said, moving his hand away from his face.
“And don’t think of me as some woman who gets upset if her man flirts with other women. If it’s harmless, and it makes people happy, where’s the harm? I think it’s sexy. I can be in a relationship and flirt with men. I’m comfortable with my boundaries. How do you think you get your work into the best art galleries?”
“I’d as soon not tell you how many publishers I’ve had to sleep with,” Ben took a healthy drink of wine. “It’s a real sewer out there.”
“If making bad jokes allows you to listen to female emotions, then be my guest.”
“But with Julius, it was more than flirting. Every time there was the least little problem with us, his thoughts about what to do to strengthen the relationship simply vanished. His energy left the building. I was the only one putting anything into it. He was absent so often that the part of my mind that thought about our love had plenty of free time, you see, to conclude that he was never going to be in the … I almost said marriage. One woman after another.”
“What do you mean … affairs?”
Ben was not enjoying this. An interview too far, he reckoned.
“I think he tried and failed.”
“Failed … how?”
“You know, peeking through fica plants like he did when he first saw me.”
“He’d get arrested each time?” Ben asked, half-seriously.
“He would do nothing each time. He would wait for the woman to come to him.”
“And you’re telling me they didn’t? He’s not exactly a gargoyle, you know. Was he never approached by star-struck co-eds?”
“All the time. But that was beneath his ethical code. Julius wouldn’t dare compromise his position in the faculty. He’d worked too hard to let some little Twinkie bring him down. He kept a just-barely-wide-enough gulf between the junior professor and his female students. The men he would have a beer with, but he told me he didn’t even want to be alone with a young female student because you never know what they might do.”
“What they might do, or what he might do?”
“Ben, that’s a very female observation.”
“Thank you … I think. What type of woman are we talking about here -- these attractions?”
“A lot of times it would be the girl who ‘makes his cappuccino,’ so to speak. He had a thing for working girls – landscapers, bank tellers, women whose voice he heard on the radio, the girl who greeted everyone on the Rhine tour boats, out-of-work actresses, poetry readers, bakers, kitchen help, revolutionaries, girls with hairy armpits.”
“Ahead of his time, was he?”
“And all the women, one after another, whom he talked to, watched, thought about, fantasized about being with, were in addition to his having left the relationship by choosing mother fucking Wüppertal and Köln University as his primary loves. He dumped me into the third group with all his other flirtations.”
“You really believe that?”
“It’s the truth. After I asked him to please leave, he immediately had an actual physical affair with a black dancer whom he’d been salivating over after having met her in the painting class where I was the artist’s model. You know, your tentative chapter one?”
The fiction writer lit up.
“Why are you grinning?”
“Foreshadowing I didn’t even know I had!”
Marianne ignored him.
“Her father was a black American serviceman in Frankfurt and her mother was the product of a similar kind of thing – same basic category. Black serviceman gets it on with white German babe. This next part makes me sick …”
“By all means,” Ben waved her on and looked to be getting ill himself. He was fantasizing about a fag.
“He suggested we go see this black dance troupe. As a sculptor, he said, I would love it. Just so he could see her and the other glistening, athletic women squirm around practically nude under the hot stage lights. He had this adolescent, white boy fetish for black girls, and he had to satisfy it before he could get on with his life.”
Ben ran his hand around his mouth, looking guilty.
“It’s so pathetic to witness and so demeaning to women,” she continued. “These little punks with hard-ons fool themselves that we live in a color-blind world, and we just don’t. I felt his cock in the dark theatre. It was practically bursting at the seams. Fully erect, all right.”
“Thank you … for that, Marianne, really.” Ben shifted his weight.
“I’m just illustrating a point. Is it disturbing?”
“Funny,” Ben chuckled. “I was just about to say, ‘This is mildly disturbing.’”
“I’m glad it’s disturbing. It was disturbing to me and eventually to my child. Did he also tell you he was brokenhearted and devastated when we split up? That’s a laugh.”
“Well, uh …”
“His little Josephine Baker moved to London to join a company. I think he chased her there. Cambridge and Arsenal were just an excuse to keep her interested in him.”
Ben looked dubious.
“Yes, I really believe that. She was perfectly satisfied to be fucking a sexy footballer. But she wasn’t interested in him. He refused to take that on board. That’s why he didn’t retire and just teach. That’s why he didn’t move to Paris and get a job and be with his baby and me. He couldn’t manage to get Miss Dark Chocolate out of his system. She finally stopped answering his calls and sent a menacing-looking criminal guy to threaten him so he’d leave her alone.”
“Shit.” Ben honestly never suspected. And he was a little drunk. “Sounds like something out of an early Guy Ritchie film. You know, like, ‘Are you gonna fucking pay???’” He snarled and pretended to hold a man’s head under water in a barrel. “Are you gonna fucking pay???’”
Marianne ignored his dramatic allusion to modern cinema and, after her interviewer collected himself, continued.
“And did he tell you he never considered playing professional football when he first moved to Germany? That it just sort of happened?”
“Not true, eh?”
“Another lie to paint a certain picture of an intellectual who happened to be a sportsman, rather than the other way around, which he absolutely rejects. All along when we lived together, if you asked him what he was. What is your occupation, or whatever? He would say university student or grad student or teacher or getting my doctorate and lecturing and writing or professor and consultant and I’m doing field work with, you know, dead languages and nearly-dead languages -- like those Dalmatian dialects and the people who nearly-speak what’s left of the nearly-dead language.”
Ben found that Marianne was remaining surprisingly calm and even cheerful during this bitter criticism of Novak. She relaxed in her chair with her legs crossed delicately and one foot bobbing softly.
“And the Serbs thought they’d go in and just massacre them all and have dead people to go along with the dead language. Oh, my. As you can see, my teacher had an effect on me.” Marianne had a look of disgust.
“He used to walk around with his ragged copy of Das Dalmatische – like a couple thousand words written down a hundred years ago by some Italian. And the original Italian is gone, so the German one was the definitive text. So fucking weird. Notice I still remember it all. I actually gave an effort to listen to him when he spoke and show an interest in what interested him.”
Marianne was taking alarming swigs of her wine and refilling the glass herself.
“Furthermore, he was sexually attracted to suffering Croatian women and oppressed Albanian women and, generally anything downtrodden with a vulva.”
Ben winced. This was not how he had expected to wrap up his day of research. On the other hand, he recalled his conversation with himself, the day before, while driving to Vermont.
‘I should like to discover what motivated these two people to fuck up their personal lives by splitting (and, of course, pray the details are mildly interesting and workable).’
Well, now he could tick off the ‘mildly interesting’ box. He would worry about ‘workable’ at some later date.
“But did he ever say, ‘I’m a footballer.’ Period? Never. And he never led with it either. It usually came out after more questions. ‘I thought I’d seen your name with Wüppertal -- that small side that won the cup?’
“‘Yes, that’s me,’ he would humbly and undeservingly reply. ‘I’m monster fortunate to be in the side. It’s a bit of a struggle, bit of a reach. Every week I see my name on the team sheet, and I thank my lucky stars. It’s an honor and a marvel, really.’ Can’t you just hear him?”
Ben was still.
“He is humble,” she finished off her former lover, “as long as he’s the topic of conversation.”
“Is that really fair?” Ben took a hack at defending the man, who was becoming his friend, from the wicked assault or the cold-eyed character assessment – whatever it was. “I don’t get that sense at all.”
“Fuck fair.” Marianne proclaimed with zest.
All-righty, then.
“Did he leave out how I put everything aside to go to Yugoslavia with him for his research year abroad? I went to fucking Yugoslavia, because I loved his rat’s ass so much. I know he didn’t tell you that. Oh, Marianne kicked me out. She kicked me out. Your knowing how I allowed my life to be consumed by his wouldn’t help make his case as the victim, the hard-done-by wonder boy.”
Ben no longer had anything to say. He looked at his watch. Injury time. The home side looks to have a few more wallops at it.
“I went to fucking Yugoslavia for eight … months. They didn’t speak much English there or any French and they hated Germans, so they rejected speaking German even if they knew it. I was so lonesome. Julius would leave for days at a time to venture into the Balkan linguistic wilderness. Tito was dead. We were in the Serbian part. The politicians were whipping the Serbs into a nationalistic frenzy. It was sick, and we watched it begin to happen – or, if not begin, then to grow very quickly. This was just before Milosevic rose to power. I became depressed. I began to imagine what Nazi Germany was like in the 30s. I felt I was living it, and I was scared to death. And I was alone. Even when Julius was with me, I was alone.
“The whole time I’m there I’m thinking, ‘Well, I love him, and this is what you have to do sometimes. We’ll look back and say, boy, remember when we were in Belgrade? We made some nice friends. It was hard. It was spare, but it brought us closer together, Belgrade.’
“In reality, it was the first of countless times when I gave and gave and he gave back nothing of importance. I made a terrible mistake then, and I was so unhealthy I stayed with him three more years.
“I asked him to go to India with me for three weeks once in the next summer or maybe the summer after that.”
‘India? I can’t go to India.’
“Then he started listing all these reasons why he couldn’t possibly leave the country. It was just noise in my ears. By the time I grabbed a few things and made it to the door of our apartment, he was up to about reason number twenty. I suppose he left that out, how he could never be bothered.”
“Mm.” Ben scratched his ear, tightened his whole face and nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Guess what eventually lured him into staying closer to Belgrade? Was it the notion that the woman he dragged along with him was in Belgrade? No.”
“Football,” Ben whispered, suddenly ashamed to be a supporter.
“Exactly. His club arranged for him to train with Red Star reserves. Then, when they liked him so much, they requested official loan papers to be put through so he could run out for their ‘B’ team. I trust he told you the rest of that story. I’m certain he’s covered anything that made him look good.
“And as far as coming to West Germany as a teenager to pursue his academic dream, that was the biggest lie of all – the lie that laid the foundation for all his other deceits.”
“How do you know for sure?” Ben asked, wanting to understand even though Marianne’s narrative delivery was becoming quite grave.
Surely, she couldn’t be talking about the same person whose company he’d actually come to enjoy – following the initial tedium. Besides, she’s making him sound like a double agent who sold secrets to the enemy. Of course, as big a fan of Graham Greene as Novak is, he might actually enjoy Marianne’s rendition of his life creeping amidst the dying embers of Cold War Germany.
“He drunkenly admitted it in a bar to teammates. Two of the players told their wives who then asked me if it were true. One week later it was over between us.”
“If what were true, Marianne?”
“That the only reason he left the United States for Europe as a young man was to make it as a professional footballer, as high up in the ranks as possible. But he had no confidence that he’d be successful, so he devised a way of covering his bases if he failed, or if the dream never got off the ground.”
“I don’t completely follow you,” Ben was overwhelmed.
“He made up his mind when he was fourteen years old, Ben, that he was going to play football in the Bundesliga, and his target club was F.C. Köln. He never told anyone – no one – because he thought he’d be the butt of jokes, and he was terrified of not being taken seriously. Every decision he made, every move was designed to get him closer to his goal. And the goal was not to be a teacher or something having to do with languages or academia, like he’d told everyone back home and everyone over here – even his … me.
“Even when he signed for the second-division club, basically realizing his dream then and there, he didn’t share his true feelings with me. That was 1983. We began living together while he was still with Wüppertal’s regional fourth division … sister side, or whatever you want to call it. When they moved him to the reserves of the big club, we had already been together for many months. Just one more season, he’d say. One more year, and then we’ll see where we are. It’s going to come to an end.”
“What’s the whole Cologne thing?” Ben asked, wondering if her football ignorance had been a put on.
“That was the club he fell in love with as an adolescent. You were already a hopeless Arsenal fan, and Julius, for some reason, lost his mind over Cologne.”
“The Billy Goats,” Ben said mistily. “Dieter Müller, Harald Schumacher.”
“Yeah, Die Geißböcke, everywhere you went in town, of course. Julius didn’t pick Köln University for its program offerings. He chose the city to be near his soccer heroes. The college was a convenience. Don’t get me wrong. He was a very talented student and linguist. But, Ben, think about it. Nobody can make it to the peak of anything without dedicating every thought, every deed to make sure nothing stands in his or her way. He dreamed of playing soccer in Germany, preferably for Cologne, every day and night of his teenage years.”
“Why didn’t this superhuman drive, then, land him with the club of his dreams?”
“Didn’t work out. Besides, his loyalty was to Wüppertal after they showed so much faith in him.”
“I read in old news reports on the Web that Köln was one of the teams that were plumping for him when he left Germany to come to England. Why didn’t he go then?”
“I guess he was over that particular obsession,” Marianne said. “And don’t forget the black dancer.”
“Oh, will you stop with the black dancer.”
Marianne drank the last of the wine.
“Have you heard of Gin-ev-ra Carlyle?” she asked, twisting her mouth in mockery of the Brontë-esque name.
“The grad assistant who ran Julius’ Cambridge office?”
Ben knew the name and her official and vital role in Novak’s hectic, early years in England but nothing else. Marianne nodded.
“Mm, yes. He thought of her as a sister, he said. Always made sure she knew it too. By the time he left for his first year abroad in Spain, she’d become crazy in love with him. She was now twenty-seven, no longer assigned to help keep his university life and his football club life running smoothly and both organizations happy and satisfied with his contributions. He’d left Arsenal, so that bit was over, and he was taking two years away from Selwyn College. He would be provided a new Ginevra, so to speak, to coordinate between the University of Valencia and his new club.”
“That wouldn’t have been Dora, by any chance,” Ben asked as he cowered.
“Ohh, you know about Xalbadora Guerra Valloso. Excellent,” Marianne seemed to grit her teeth as she stuck her chin out. “That’ll save time. Well, Julius stayed in contact with Ginevra, who had left the university to work with the Labor Party. Julius helped her secure some extra income doing little projects for the EU and, I think, UEFA. She dated men, but, by all accounts, never let anyone get too close because she longed for Mr. Wonderful’s return to England.”
“Did he know that?”
“He says not.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Listen, when you have a little girl who wants to see her daddy, and he’s a perfectly nice daddy in every way, you must arrange for them to spend as much time together as possible. I had no interest in keeping them apart. That would have been wrong. They’ve always loved one another deeply, and they’re so charming together. So I made it my business to know everyone Isabel might be around. I developed new relationships in Julius’ various worlds, and there was a lot of cross-pollenization. My brother, Danny, lived in London. He was always friends with Julius. The two of them and some of my new friends had friends in common, and there you are. I steered him toward couples with children who would be good for the baby to be around and play with once she was older. I even knew people who knew you, like Anthony Mirren and Stella Byrd.
“Isabel made London friends and Thaxted friends and Cambridge friends. I was in contact with all of them. We invited people to Paris – her little friends and their parents; you name it. Some people were under the impression Julius and I were married. We would show up places with Isabel – weddings; birthdays; country weekends; school performances. He and I apparently looked as though we went together, we were told. Julius and I have always been very much in each other’s lives, except for just a brief period when I sobbed and got sick every time I saw him or heard his voice. But that was just off and on for a couple of years. He was quite easy to keep track of, and I have no difficulty doing so. I was just being a momma bear looking out for my cub.”
“For two years, then, he mostly traveled between Spain, Slovakia and Paris with only a few quick trips to England. But he rented out the Cambridge rooms, had neighbors to look after the cottage, and he put his London solicitor’s office in charge of the Camden flat. They stayed in touch, but Ginnie-pooh lay very low when it came to being available for him while he was out of the country. I believe Julius was oblivious. Of course, I’ve never had any trouble coming to that conclusion.”
“You and Isabel saw him a lot during that time?”
“Oh, yes. Julius can create circumstances to be practically anywhere in Europe. I can imagine him saying to one of his assistants, ‘Find a reason for me to go the Aegean, and you and a friend can tag along.’ He came a lot to Paris. Isabel was just starting school, and that was so much fun for all of us, and so very important, especially for grandmère and grandpère. My father! You can imagine, now that you’ve met him, Roger Papineau questioning the headmaster and the staff and the teachers. What a comedy. But he was charming and harmless. Julius and I felt like we had accomplished something together as we peeked through the classroom doorway. She held hands with the other girls and sang songs and talked in her little grown-up voice to the teacher and the other adults. The college girls who interned at the école thought she was priceless the way she spoke – as though she were one of them, and they needed Isabel to help them with the little ones. Yes, Julius was around as much as most other dads for that part. He behaved responsibly and was very sweet for what must have been a trial in many ways.”
“But enough of how he was uncharacteristically appropriate.”
“So when he came back to England in, oh, I suppose it was … 1997, he offered the foolish girl more work, very challenging and gratifying work; and they basically picked up where they had left off two years before as far as time spent together and collaboration and the like. I could tell when I saw them together, a couple of months later, that either they were already fucking or at the very least that she was in love with him. When she was away from him, everyone said she looked like a librarian. But when she was with him, she was glamorous and looked to me like that Scottish actress, Kelly MacDonald – two different people. I couldn’t tell right away though what exactly his role was in all of it. As time went on, I kept a close eye on them. Isabel was eight or nine and very savvy and an excellent reporter of absolutely every word that was said anywhere. I discovered Julius’ role was ‘idiot.’ Many who knew them in England were pushing for it and often right in front of them. Ginevra would blush and be mortified, because she was afraid of losing him completely if he felt cornered. She didn’t know how right she was. Julius was, typically, on a different wavelength from every other person. All the talk, all the innuendoes, all the arranging by others so they’d be together went right over his head. I told him what I saw and that everyone saw it.”
“What did he say?”
“We were only on the phone, but I could tell that he was aware of what was going on. Even as he insisted on doing his tap dance, he was saying things that indicated to me that he was alert to her feelings and her state of mind. He allowed it to happen, in my opinion, subtly condoning it and even opening his heart to what one might call ‘concealed longings’ for the poor girl.”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s not a Cinderella ending here?” Ben said.
“Because, in spite of your Arsenal bullshit, you’re admirably feminine and perceptive. He invited her to some awards dinner, she showed up actually looking like Cinderella. Later that night they had an ooh-aah moment where they gazed into each other’s eyes and saw stars and heard angels strumming harps. Then they went to bed in Essex for about two weeks, occasionally driving into the village for food and rambling among the sheep. She was ecstatic. Unfortunately, our hero very soon freaked out, thought he’d made a terrible mistake and started behaving like an idiot.”
“What was his problem?”
“Have you not paid attention to anything I’ve said?” Marianne stared at him.
“All right, I’ll give it a go, since I’m half-bird. Selfishness and fear of commitment.”
“Close enough. He broke her heart, devastated her. Ginevra thought she’d found the perfect man. What she found was a perfect adolescent. Their friends were furious. She moped around London for a couple of weeks, then moved to Sweden for some job in the ministry there. I know exactly how she felt – deceived, foolish and alone.”
“There’s not going to be ten more years worth of this, is there?” Ben asked, exhausted.
“He’ll never commit, because he wants to make all the decisions about how his life is laid out. That’s who he is. He didn’t mean to hurt me. And I’m not angry anymore, Ben. I’m not even hurt. We’ve both moved on. We’re both in a different place. We have a daughter. And things are very nice. His good points were always very good: one of the funniest men I’ve ever known; he was a perfect lover ninety percent of the time; loves his mother; gorgeous; strong physically; great brain; responsible; politically liberal; kind to animals and children and the elderly; and very sweet and honest with facts.”
“But?” Ben asked, really hoping to wrap this up and rejoin the festivities in the main house.
“All of his poor marks, if you will, the things I could never find a way to overcome, stem from his emotional immaturity – some kind of gaping hole of insecurity in relating deeply and sincerely to other human beings, exposing himself and giving something truly meaningful to people who are important to him. He was emotionally dishonest, meaning he always had to hold something back. He still does. He’ll do the same thing with you.”
“I’m really not interested in him in that way.”
“You cause your wife to cry, don’t you?” Marianne’s sense of humor, Ben found, came and went like the wind.
“It’s been known to happen.”
“I could tell her a few things about men like you.”
“Really, that’s OK. She’s very busy. And, remember, it is my second marriage; and I am actually trying to make a go of it.”
“You can’t possibly make a real ‘go of it’ if you make a joke out of everything meaningful to her or discount her as your equal partner. You can’t make a go of it if you never try to discover whom she is and what she really needs from you. Your relationship with your wife or your lover cannot function and grow if the account is empty. You both must make deposits so you have money in the bank for the lean times.”
“Honestly? You’re scaring me.”
Marianne laughed a sweet, harmless laugh. “I get carried away. It’s not directed at you. You’re a wonderful man.”
“Have you ever tried sculpture? I hear it’s very relaxing.”
“See? That was funny. You’re very funny.”
They rose to go outside in the cold and head back down to the party, the music and laughter from which they could hear once they opened the door to the guest cottage.
“And, ask my wife, I’m perfect at sex … what was it, ten percent of the time?”

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