After almost three decades, catch a glimpse of him at the Opening Night of the play your current husband is starring in. Get a bead on him in the crowd at the after party. Talk and laugh with friends but look up every few seconds so you know where he is in the room. Know that you have no intention of rushing over to him, but neither are you going to let him take you by surprise.
Watch with fascination and not a little chagrin as he tries to sneak past you down the stairs on his way out. Before you know what you’re doing, take five quick steps and tug on the back of his jacket. Lean over his shoulder into his left ear and murmur sweetly, oh no you don’t.
Stay steady on your feet as he whirls around to embrace you.
Laugh nervously and ask him if he really thought he could get away with it. Be mildly amused when he says ingenuously, I didn’t want to intrude on your evening.
Say, then why did you come?
Listen in amazement as he blurts, I’ve wanted to apologize for years. I should have written you. I should have called. Lorna (wife #3) keeps telling me I should have. None of it was your fault. I’m totally responsible for what happened between us.
Feel the room whirl around you, as if you’re at the centre of a bizarre scene being shot by a movie camera on a circular track. Be aware that a few feet away, the beautiful, blue-eyed man you are now married to has stopped taking accolades and is staring at you quizzically.
Say to your ex, “I want to hear what you have to say, but this isn’t the time or place. Let’s meet for a drink later this week.” Give him your phone number. Don’t believe him when he says he’ll call.
Spend the next several days watching old memories play like TCM movies in your head. Dig out the yellowed, dog-eared magazine articles you’ve had stashed in a shoebox since the 1980’s: Colette Dowling on The Cinderella Complex, Melodie Beattie on co-dependency, something from Glamour on re-decorating your bedroom in a weekend with a set of sheets and a staple gun. Throw them out.
After the call comes, and you’ve arranged to meet at a restaurant ironically called “The Hot House” and begun to process that this is all actually happening, look into the true eyes of the man you’ve been married to for twenty-two years and tell him your ex wants to take you to dinner. Interpret the silent shrug of his shoulders as a tacit blessing.
When the night arrives, light candles and get into a hot tub. Remember the tub you crawled into twenty-seven years ago, a glass of scotch clutched in your fist, your face wet with tears as hot as the water you wished-to-God you could just let yourself drown in. Think of the phone call on that far away night, how you heard the other woman smacking dinner plates down on the table in the background as he spoke. Remember how he said he’d rather rot in jail than give you another penny, though you had just separated and he’d barely given you a dime. Remember that pain, still neatly folded in the dark cupboard of your heart like an old T-shirt you can’t quite bring yourself to get rid of.
Stand naked in front of the closet and run your gaze anxiously back and forth over your wardrobe. You were a size 6 then. You are now a size 14. Fight breathlessly with your Spanx tummy slimmer. Load your breasts into a push up bra. Smirk at yourself in the mirror. Say out loud, “Who are you kidding?” Pull on a black silk knit turtleneck and black pants. Add a funky jacket and sexy high-heeled boots. Carefully apply makeup to a face you barely recognize as you think of the soft, hopeful countenance in your old wedding pictures. Remember the girl with the long, wild hair who drank Singapore Slings. Remember his agate eyes, and the way his fingers made fast love to pianos. Sing softly to yourself, lyrics from one of the old songs his band used to play, do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart?