Friday, January 28, 2011
In Search of Lost Time - Instalment 3
See Instalment 2 here
She’d sat across his desk at Kelly and Kelly when it was only Richard Kelly LLB. And he joked afterwards with her that it took all of five seconds for him to fall in love with her, hopelessly and forever.
She was wearing Levis and some wild tie-dyed tee-shirt and there were things threaded through her hair, feathers, he thought, strings, beads, heavy chunky things around her neck and around her wrists and her huge earrings were even bigger and carried some kind of payload as well, crystals and amulets. Her knapsack was purple and it would later spill books and papers and maps and even candles all over the floor when she went to find something in it.
But first she had shaken hands with him and then sat down and said: You’ve got to nail the fucker for me, Richard. Can you do that?
And no one had ever asked him to nail anything, not even a picture, ever before. And something happened inside his chest, a slow surprising warmth spread through it and his hands trembled as they played with the pen and the notepad and he cleared his throat and found himself tumbling into those golden brown eyes that were appealing to him as if he, Richard, were some kind of knight, some sort of saviour of maidens in distress and the warmth hit his arms and he spread them outwards and looked at her steadily and vowed fervently: Una, I’ll nail him.
And he had wanted to add ‘so help me God’ because it felt like that kind of moment. But he stopped himself.
And he heard about the deadbeat husband who had abandoned her and the twins and headed off to Toronto with the sixteen year old babysitter.
I mean, Richard, it’s like the cliché of clichés, right? She was breathless; there was very little anger in her. A waste of energy, she said when he questioned that. He was a useless fucker, she said, she was mad to ever marry him, not to mention breeding with him, and here she rolled her eyes at him, but the twins were dotes, gorgeous girls, three now, in pre-school. They deserved every bleeding penny he, Richard, could squeeze from the fucker. She was a writer; did he want to hear the poem she wrote about the fucker leaving with his kiddy-fuck?
Richard, stunned, still trying on his suit of guardian of the downtrodden, nodded and this was the moment she poured the knapsack all over the floor. Richard intercommed his secretary and said to hold his calls and cancel his four o’clock and he went around the desk ostensibly to help her retrieve all her stuff but when she sat down in the middle of it all, he sat down too, not even bothering to adjust the knife edges on his pin stripes. She read her poem about abandonment and her little girls and her mother and her father who had died at sea and the tears rolled down her cheeks when she had finished and it was just like that, so easy, so natural, he put his arms around her and rocked her.
And it was like finding all the remaining pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. It all came together without any big song and dance. The both of them sliding into place beside each other. He took down all the relevant and legal details of Hugh Doyle, the fucker, while still sitting on the floor and when all that was done he put the notepad down and took her in his arms again and said: Can you meet me at the Battery Bistro at eight for dinner tonight? I’ll make a reservation. Then he walked around his desk as if nothing of any import had happened. As if this cosmic tidal wave had occurred to someone else.
She had just nodded as she got to her feet, keeping her eyes on his as she threw her knapsack on and then, as if they had been saying goodbye to each other in such a fashion for years, touched her finger to the indentation on her lower lip, kissed it and turned it to him in a tiny salute before backing out of the room.
He had thought affairs complicated and not worth all the trouble. A matter of immense proportion to be ordered and plotted and planned and slid around and lied about. A lurking, messy business fraught with booby traps and hidden landmines.
None of this was the case with Una. Her mother took the twins on command it seemed and Una’s small apartment was on a side street off the beaten track. He was not so much aware of the breach of his wedding vows as not causing Doris any unnecessary hurt so took some pains not to flaunt it. That night, the first of many dinners at the Bistro, booth six in the back, he felt like a cliché himself, telling her, in a voice that had never before expressed the baffling loneliness of his marriage, that he and Doris had ceased to sleep together after her hysterectomy, but not from his doing. She had taken on the persona of many women he had observed in the province once they turned forty. She had shortened her hair to a brisk mannish razor cut after the operation and announced with feeling that thank God, they’d had enough of that nonsense and separate bedrooms were now the order of the day.
He and Una had talked of everything and nothing. She was an editor, writer, director, poet, actor totally involved in the arts scene in St. John’s. It turned out she had come to the wrong lawyer; someone had recommended Kelly the so-called barracuda of St. John’s. Richard told her that was Wild Willy Kelly, the divorce specialist. He, Richard, handled the dry as dust cases, the government ones, the ships colliding, the insurance, the falling walls and missing manhole covers, the sundry grievances of the disgruntled segment of the populace. She said, I’ve got the right lawyer, Richard, and took his hand across the table.