I was picking lint off the sun-faded couch when I decided to check the messages on the answering machine in our New York apartment. Well, realistically, Ari's messages. But I had created the password. And people might be trying to reach me. People who didn't know we'd broken up. There could be messages from doctors with important medical results, or maybe that store had finally received the python cowboy boots I ordered. Or I could have simply been curious for clues about Ari's well-being. Let's face it: women are just better detectives than men. I had a friend who sat on a bench with a thermos of coffee all night watching the entrance of her boyfriend's building because she had a hunch he was cheating on her. She didn't see anything; he hadn't cheated, and she felt imbecilic. But she didn't regret her ludicrous behavior; after all, her mind was eased by the charade. What woman hasn't riffled through her man's e-mails, checked out his ex-girlfriend's Facebook page, or tested him with swabs for STDs while he slept? I called the New York answering machine, punched in the password, and this is what I heard (after a recording about a Filene's basement liquidation sale): "Afternoon sir! This is Veronica from Bahamian Charters! I just wanted to confirm your private charter this weekend for you and your wife!"
I felt like a Chihuahua after the neighborhood bully lit the firecracker in its ass. I started hyperventilating. For a second I thought I was going to black out, and smash through the coffee table like Sean Young in No Way Out. But then I realized that I couldn't die because I had just been served too much drama to sort out. What the hell was he doing in the Bahamas? It seemed like such a non sequitur. He had no connection to that island—or any other island, for that matter; he freckled and burned! And a private charter? What was a private charter? Was it a plane or a boat or a school? Was he continuing his education in a nonsectarian community-based public school? If it was a plane, why was it private? It sounded so sneaky and immoral. And who the f*** was this wife? I was the wife! The would-have-been wife! The could-have-been wife! No way could he be serious about anyone so soon! It had only been six weeks!... I racked my brain. Was it the writer's assistant who dressed like a prostitute? The platinum blond dog walker who always loitered to talk to him in the driveway? My mind was a Jackson Pollock of minuscule women's faces. I started to cry, which quickly escalated into screaming and wailing. I was unraveling at high speed. Like the evil Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark whose face melts off after he witnesses the opening of the ark. It felt just like that.
I grabbed the phone, concentrated long enough to stop my fingers from shaking, and dialed my mother. I needed to hear the voice I had been connected with since I was prenatal. A voice that was stronger and more resilient than my own. My mother, Muffie.
When she answered, I couldn't speak; I just gave out a primal, guttural howl.