Year 2021, Bronxville, NY …………
Saturday night and I was in a good mood. Not just because there was only a week until Memorial Day Weekend (and summer is my favorite season), but also because I had a relaxing evening planned. “Clay,” I told myself, “you are one lucky dude.”
I stretched out my long legs on the recliner in the living room of my spacious co-op in Bronxville. I reached for the TV remote and found the right channel. An episode of The Honeymooners, my favorite show, would be starting in a little while on an Oldies channel. I laugh every time Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) tells his wife Alice, “I’ll send you to the moon.” I had been laughing even harder since my own wife, also named Alice, had gone there.
I suddenly felt tired. I checked my watch and saw that I still had 25 minutes until The Honeymooners show time, so I closed my eyes for a brief rest.
I thought back to the day a few months ago when Alice had first broached the subject of a trip to the moon. Unlike me, she had always been interested in space travel and so when she spoke wistfully about a three-month vacation trip to the moon being offered by a local travel agent, I encouraged her to sign on. “But the expense,” she had said. “We really can’t afford it.” But I saw the longing in her eyes, as I fought to hide the longing in MY eyes at the thought of being on my own for a few months.
“Yes, we can,” I remember assuring her. “I’ll borrow from my pension fund. You deserve a nice vacation, the trip of your dreams.” And of mine, I was thinking–a bargain at any price for three months of blissful solitude. I’d send her on a vacation so I could have a vacation.
We had gotten married in 2001, shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City. At that time both of us were 34 years old and had lived together for two years. We just sort of drifted into marriage. After the bombing of the World Trade Center, there was this feeling that life was short and it was just time to get on with things that were probably inevitable anyway. We had a lot in common and got along okay, so it seemed the right thing to do at the time. One fall day we bought rings and schlepped down to City Hall. That was that.
I shifted my position on the recliner; for some reason I felt kind of achy. Reflecting on a failed marriage can do that to you, I guess.
The first years of our marriage were pretty happy. We liked to do a lot of the same things–everyday things, like going to the theater and movies, spending time with friends, wandering around all five boroughs of the city. But then a few years ago, things changed. We drifted apart. All of a sudden Alice started spending a lot more time on work-related activities. Have to admit I was suspicious. I remember thinking, do librarians really have to take that many in-service classes, and are they required to work that much overtime? But then I really couldn’t complain, since my own investment banking job is quite demanding and often necessitates last-minute changes in plans.
I yawned as I thought about the fact that, in the last few years, even the time we did spend together just wasn’t fun anymore. Alice’s trip to the moon had come along at a perfect time. Three months apart to plan for the rest of our lives. At least that was what I had figured on the evening when we decided that she should make the moon trip. But then came that fateful day–in fact, the very next day after we had decided on her trip. I’ve thought a lot about how that day turned out to be a life-changing one, although it had started out like any other Saturday.
Alice and I were in our living room, each engaged in a separate pursuit; not unusual for us.
She was sitting on the couch near a window, working on her laptop and I was relaxing in a rocking chair across from her and reading a murder mystery. Looking back on it, all I can think of is that it was a peaceful day. At least the morning was; but the afternoon, not so much.
Anyway, it got kind of breezy and I got up to close one of the windows near where Alice was sitting. As I passed her, she looked startled and hastily put her hand over her computer screen, shielding it from my view. I looked at her face and it was flushed. She smiled but looked guilty. She was obviously working on something she didn’t want me to see. Right then and there I knew I had to see it.
Alice went out shopping a little later, leaving her laptop on the desk in her study. As soon as she was out the door, I had my hands on her laptop. She didn’t realize it, but I knew her password, as I had seen it a few months before, “hidden” in her jewelry box. I saw that the last email she had sent was to a co-worker, Charlie Stevens. Nice guy. I had met him at a few socials at the library. I opened up the email she had sent him and was stunned by what I read:
It’s a go, honey. I’m over the moon. Clay (the chump!) said he’d borrow from his pension fund. You and me, we’re gonna have the trip of a lifetime, simply out of this world. We’ll be together for a whole three months and by the time we come back, we’ll have figured out a way to be together forever. The past few years have been great, but we can make the future even better. Onward and upward. xxx
Hmm. Nice guy Charlie Stevens wasn’t all that nice if he considered someone else’s wife fair game, but it was my wife who I was really furious with.
End of PART ONE… PART TWO to unfurl on May 25th
Original publication by Kings River Life Magazine.