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From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 1, 2013
pp. 81-112 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0040

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He should Google it—roses of the unborn—the random phrase flashes through. Meanwhile, he’ll just mince around his midden of sneakers and loafers and those leather ankle boots she bought him that he hates and take another sip—the glass sits in a little sock cubby. It’s dark in here. The liquid burns like distilled fire, which, in a sense, it is. Slow sips, coal smoke, Laphroaig in a California closet. Yessir. Not shit at all. Where was he? Joyce, perhaps. A little too romantic. Auden, maybe . . . Loved roses. The unborn . . . If he had his Blackberry he could check it right now. He thinks he hears something. The She. He knew it. Good thing he’s in the closet. And the She’s out there—her shadow through the louvered door. Quiet now. He laughs—damn! But fuck it, it is funny: I’m a closet drinker is the thought he has just had and it is funny, funny when the figurative becomes literal, that’s comedy, isn’t it. Make a note of it. The door opens and his heart does a gallop. Her face and hair and gray suit right there.

“I thought I heard something,” says She. “Imagine my surprise.” He can smell the acid of gone love in her breath, like ashes.

“I got lost,” he says to wife number three, who just stands there, adjusting an earring with both hands as if tightening a bolt in a mask.

Several beats. “And now you’re found again,” she says in a mock-childlike voice, pivoting. “We’ll be late for the theater.”

It’s Kerouac, he remembers, and throws back the rest of his Scotch. “The roses of the unborn behind his closed eyelids.” Big Sur.

Borkman, Borkman, Borkman and the shit does not hit the fan. That’s the problem with wife number three: she’s got her own problems that she prefers a blind eye to be cast upon, her Tiresias, and he doesn’t mind, and so she does not even call her man on his Scotch-in-the-closet trick. The quid, the pro, the quo. A classic co-dependency. She smokes and fasts and has her injections of Juvederm and Perlane; he has his five or six drinks a day, the patch, and an online gambling account. She has the indoor gym, he has the little writing studio. Little is done of late in either. But why mention it.

Borkman, John Gabriel. Ibsen’s next-to-last play. It’s from the Abbey Theatre, Frank McGuinness directing. They are schlepping to Brooklyn to see it and they are late. Or at least, they hustle down Church Street for the subway as if they are late. She welcomes the exercise, and he inwardly brightens at the prospect of an early arrival and time for a cold one in the lobby. It’ll work out just like that.

Must we narrate the 2 train to Atlantic Avenue? It can be cut, in life’s edit, if nothing happens or too much else of greater interest happens elsewhere or there’s a paper shortage or early death. But give it a chance: they crush through the turnstile one after the other and actually touch, a bit of comedy, Keystone Cop–style, when he hastily steps into the same leg-gap as the She and they jam to a halt, his front touching her backside, till he extricates himself with a backward hop. She actually smiles.

“Jesus, keen for Ibsen?” Lost.

The train is crowded—it is about 7:20, a Friday night. He checks his messages. She finds a seat, though, down the car; while he hangs on to his spot near the door. He can watch her. But not for long, for she looks at nothing, somehow. At no one or thing. She is no one. If there were a fire before her she would not see it. It would not see her. She’s moved to another world. She’s looking at a child eating an ice cream cone, her self, one knee skinned and her Mary Janes dangling from a wicker seat while her father in suit...

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