Yes, it was my choice to hang up the spurs of fulltime employment, establish a consultancy, and reveal those developments to spouse Jo Ann. Thus, I have no one else to blame for what happened afterwards. I tell folks that I was conscripted. That I was a victim of impressment. That Jo Ann’s man-o’-war frigate pulled alongside my humble fishing ketch in open waters, slapped irons on me, and forced me into the ranks of the duplicate bridge-playing galley serfs. But the truth is that I acquiesced to her entreaty, once I’d made the colossal mistake of sharing my intentions with her.
“Becoming a part-time consultant will give me time for other things,” quoth I. “Opportunities to indulge my creative bent. Script doctoring. Freelance writing. My first novel. Things I’ve put off for far too long.” I was being open. Soul-baring. Communicating. Bonding, even – but unilaterally, not meaning to initiate a dialogue.
“Good for you, Gordon,” said she. “And about time, too. I’ve been doing the Tuesday trash and recycling all by myself for twelve years now.”
That’s spousal empathy for you. No wow, honey, that’s so bold of you. Or congratulations, babe, I couldn’t be more proud. No, it’s good, now you can do the Tuesday morning schlepping to the curb. Taking out the trash. The great equalizer. Like baggage claim at the airport. First class and back-of-the buss deplaned passengers standing side by side, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Hmm. I reconsidered. “Maybe we should keep the apartment on 44th Street for a while longer, anyway, just to see how things work out.”
She put the kibosh on that immediately, with erudition: “Nuh-uh. No way. The apartment goes.”
“You sure? I mean, we could stay in the city for long weekends or even weeks at a time. Museums, restaurants, wine bars, Broadway. Shopping.”
Yes, I know: shopping. Milking a stereotype. Could I have been more obvious? And yet, she didn’t call me on it. Instead, there came more kibosh, with a dash of j’accuse, delivered in regional patois: “Fuhgettaboutit, to use one of your favorite New York end-of-discussion squelches. I can think of a lot better ways to spend that money. And this woman does not need a pied-à-terre in New York to go ‘shopping.’ That I can do perfectly well right from here.”
So correction: she did call me on it, with a heavily accented fuhgettaboutit to emphasize no dice.
I didn’t want to ask what she had in mind. I didn’t have to. Through the modern miracle and curse of virtually instant gratification via online shopping, her craft room became a knitting and sewing boutique in very short order. There were Ott lamps galore, newly upgraded equipment, fattened inventories of bolt-cut fabrics, and skeins upon skeins of wools, acrylics, and blends. Floor to ceiling cubbyhole étagères enabled easy identification and access. All manner of appurtenances and raw materials made their appearance. French curves for pattern-making. Special purpose scissors and cutting boards. Cornucopias of spindles and needles and threads. Zippers and buckles and buttons – oh, my!
Once upon a time, New York City’s Garment District, the muse of textile crafters, had exerted its irresistible gravitational pull on Jo Ann’s psyche. No longer. She had imported a microcosm of its offerings. So long, Pacific Trimming, hours of travel north on Manhattan’s West 38th Street. Hello, Repurposed Guest Bedroom, right-down-the-hall.
In due course, therefore, the mooring ropes to The Big Apple, my home away from home, my island redoubt, were cast off, unceremoniously, through non-renewal of the lease. I was in mourning. I wanted to hold a wake, to hole myself up in the Algonquin Blue Bar near Times Square and imbibe deeply of their stock of high end spirits. But there was no time for bittersweet, whiskey-drenched farewells, as the bridge lessons were to begin almost immediately.
I reflect on these events now, because even though it was a scant few years ago that I erred by sharing my plans for a spiritual renaissance (foolishly daring to dream that my time was my own), I remember it like it was yesterday.
“You’re going to love it,” her rope-a-dope sales pitch began. “It’s nothing like the party bridge we played when we lived in Connecticut way back when. Remember Goren? Charles Goren? Well, don’t. He’s out. There’s so much that’s new, but you’ll catch on quickly. You love puzzles, and you’re so good at them.”
Flattery? Really? “Thanks, honey, but you know, I actually had in mind doing other stuff, like I said. Writing. That’s what I do. That’s been my career, pretty much. My mainstay. And now I’d like to take it to a whole new level. For the pure, unadulterated joy of it. The top tier of the hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization. Literary nirvana. You do understand, don’t you?”
I must have been whimpering plaintively, like a scolded puppy, because she patted my head and tugged my earlobes gently and trilled, “There, there. Not to worry. There’ll be plenty of time for that. We’ll take it a step at a time. I guarantee – you’re going to love it.
(To be continued. . .)