Saturday, January 29, 2011
In Search of Lost Time - Instalment 4
See Instalment 3 Here
This would all have been enough, he was content just sitting in the car with her, in the booth at the Bistro, walking by the boats in the harbour, her hand in his. He had heard the expression that his cup runneth over, but this was even bigger, astonishing him to the core with the magnitude of his feelings, his desire to be with her.
Even that very same night, lying in bed with her afterwards, knowing he had to tear himself away he had said and so seriously:
Una, I’m not the kind of chap who does this.
And she had understood him as she always would.
I know, was all she said, I know you Richard, and then she kissed him and pushed him gently out of the bed.
And next morning over breakfast, he had lied skillfully about a case he had to work on, he had shut off the office phones they got so busy after the secretary had left, lost all track of time, fell asleep at his desk, woke up at two in the morning, what a shock. It was easy. Just like that.
And later, walking around at lunchtime, finding himself at a jewelers and catching sight of a bird of paradise brooch and walking in and buying it. Just like that. And writing a cheque on the company account. Just like that. And it felt so normal, it took his breath away. As if he were born to it. And going over to the Writers’ Club on Abbot Lane and leaving the box in a company envelope in her mailbox. Just like that.
And her voice on the phone in late afternoon.
Happy anniversary, darling, he’d said.
Anniversary? She’d said, laughing. Her laugh, smoky with the Player’s cigarettes and the Jameson’s whiskey she favoured.
Twenty-four hours, he’d said, his breath catching, it’s the bird of paradise one. And she’d laughed again, her breath catching too.
He looked around him, my god, he’d left the bench at the park and now he was in the grounds of the hospital, looking up at the windows, which one had it been? He found himself at the main desk, a man of measured words always, now searching and fumbling.
Una Doyle, he got out. Una Doyle?
The receptionist looked at her computer screen and clicked a few keys.
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, my love… but he broke in before she finished.
I know, I know, what room was she in? his strangled urgency sounding strange even to his own ears.
Four sixteen, why? Can I help you? And he heard the words echoing behind him as he pushed the button of the elevator, once, twice, three times. As if he were a man on the run.
What did he hope to find in room four sixteen? There were two occupied beds, several visitors turned to face him as he stood in the doorway. Which bed? He’d like to think it was the one by the window. You could see the lake from there and if you looked downaways you could nearly see the bench they would sit on in the afternoons.
He had thought he could leave Doris. Maybe after Gavin left law school, but then Susan said she wanted to become a doctor. It was all too much. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t squeeze Una into the picture of lawyer’s wife, stepmother to Gavin and Susan and himself as stepfather to the vapourous toddler twins. He’d never even met them. Una had been adamant on that. Only if they had a real commitment.
He had told her for two years to leave it with him. He’d sort it. But he couldn’t, could he.
He was president of the Bar Association, chair of the Rotary, deacon at St. Paul’s. He couldn’t get his head around Una fitting in with all of that. Until Una, he’d never thought about any of that stuff. It just was. Until Una. Una with her diaphanous skirts and peasant blouses and loud orange boots and Jesus sandals and chain-smoking and chugalugging her whiskey and laughing uproariously and obscene poetry and daring him to do it in a public place (and they had on the bench in midsummer), and sometimes no underwear.
And then he’d made the big move. He went and talked to his rector at St. Paul’s and told him the whole story, watched as Reverend Cripp’s eyebrows just about folded into his hairline.
Are you mad, man? was all Reverend Cripp had said, out of your mind? Think of Doris, of your poor shamed children. And all for what?
And it was the shamed children that had done it. Susan and her dreams actually. Poor shamed Susan, she might have run away, drugs, pregnancy, who knew. Her medical school aspirations trashed by her own father. He asked Una to wait for another five years. To be his mistress in the meantime. He’d given that a lot of thought. He could afford to subsidize her. Keep her and her children.
She’d reacted like he had offered to pimp her on Duckworth Street. Her horror and rage knocked him sideways.
You think this is about money? She’d yelled at him, leaping up from the park bench, standing, leaning over him, shoving his shoulder crudely over and over again. The words following were horrific.
He agreed with all of it, now sheltering his head from her blows. Yes-yessed her until she collapsed again beside him. Sobbing. Rejecting his arms, finally staggering to her feet, wiping at her cheeks, hitting the handkerchief he offered her.
You’re like the rest of them, all the other fuckers, you either die or leave. Useless fucker! I never want to see you again!
She had yelled this as she backed away, down the path, and then turned and raced off in her pink runners with the yellow laces and their smiley faces, her jewellery clanking, her hair flying in all directions.