Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We Have To Look For The Black Box--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Thursday, February 7

     I met Gina, a friend who’s also a therapist, for lunch.
     “You wouldn’t believe how many men are leading double lives,” she said between bites of her sandwich. “Men you’d never suspect. They do something once, get away with it, do it again, and pretty soon they’re leading double lives. Men are wired differently than women Brenda.”
     “I honestly thought I was one of the guys,” I said. “I’m not touchy feely. I laugh at jokes a lot of women find offensive. I don’t remember birthdays or anniversaries. I don't worry much about what people think of me. I’m not a huge people pleaser. I’ve been slapped upside the head with this wired-differently thing.
      “My mother has a tendency to tell me things more than once,” I continued. “During the last two months, she’s told me at least four times that every man, given a desirable woman and a 100-percent safe opportunity, would cheat. Her sources aren’t usually credible. Who knows where she got her information. But my sister asked two guys she works with if it was true. Both have pretty wives, lovely families, and both told her yes, they’d do it. My sister gasped and one of the guys said, ‘Well, you wanted an honest answer.’”
     Gina furrowed her brow and nodded.
     “I keep trying to analyze why JB did what he did. It’s crazy making.”
     “That’s what we do,” Gina said. “We have to look for the black box when the plane crashes.”
     I walked to the frame shop where Sonia works clutching paintings for her to frame. A thick blanket of snow had covered everything by the time I walked out. Sounds were muffled. I smiled at the silent beauty, the large snowflakes floating everywhere.
     I drove to Tom’s school, picked him up, and took him to Lovin' Oven Cakery. My forty-ninth birthday is tomorrow so we each selected a slice of pre-birthday cake—I chose chocolate and salted caramel, Tom picked Oreo—and we drove home to eat them. We each put a candle in our cake, Tom sang happy birthday, then we each made a wish and blew out our candles. Tom handed me a birthday present wrapped in soggy tissue paper.
     “It got a little wet in my backpack,” Tom said.
     “Thanks buddy,” I said. I opened it. It was the fifth season of “Mad Men.”
     “Did you pick this out?” I asked.
     “Yeah,” Tom said. His eyes shifted back and forth.
     “Really? You picked out ‘Mad Men’?”
     “Well, Dad and I were at Best Buy. I picked out a bunch of CDs, but dad picked that.”
     “I love that you went shopping for me. I would have loved the CDs you picked. Please don’t feel bad, but I want you to give this back to Dad.”
     “Why?” A hurt expression spread over Tom’s face.
     “Dad told Blake he identifies with Don Draper. Don Draper is the main character of this series. He goes out with women behind his wife’s back. He’s good looking and women throw themselves at him. Dad would like to see himself that way, I guess.”
     “Oh,” Tom said.
     “Yeah, so put it in your backpack and give it back to Dad. I’ll drop him an email and let him know. You singing Happy Birthday is all I want.”
     “Okay,” Tom said and crammed a large piece of cake into his mouth.
     “Let’s shovel,” I said. “I’ll shovel the front, you do the back. Sully’s going to love being out there with you. Throw snow on him.”
     “Oh, I will,” Tom said, patting his big dog and getting up to pull on snow pants.

     “Tom gave me the present you picked out,” I emailed JB. “Blake told me you identify with Draper. I'm sure you’d like to picture yourself as him, glamorize your Internet rutting. I’ve lost my taste for the show and Tom is returning the DVDs to you tomorrow.”

     Tom and I shoveled and made snow angels in the quietly drifting snow. When we finished, I checked email.

     “Look, maybe that was a dumb choice in retrospect but I wasn't trying to send any messages,” JB wrote. “Tom and I were in best buy (sic) trying to find something you might like. I really thought you'd like it. I'm really sorry it has gone over this way. 
     “And as far as identifying with Draper... I was talking more about his psychology. Blake mentioned ‘Don Draper syndrome’ when we talked, and I thought we were talking about a personality type. I said I saw some of me in that—isolation, secrecy, detachment. Don Draper is a head case with a pretty face. I was talking more about the head case than the pretty face. Really. I'm sorry it was taken as something more superficial. I agree that would be pathetic. 
     “Brenda, I am not in the mode of glamorizing or justifying anything right now. Since I've left I have been reflecting on what I have done and I am not rationalizing anything any more. I certainly wasn't trying to when Blake and I talked. I don't know how to convey this more clearly.
     “I am really sorry about this.
     “Blake may want those DVDs. You might consider saving them for him. Up to you.”

     “You're just thoughtless and soulless,” I emailed.

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