First written in 2005 and later revised in 2012, this paranoid fantasy reflected how I felt about my first wife and her new friends. After she passed on, I was able to grow beyond this rather sardonic piece of what is, ultimately, self-critique.
John viewed the occasion of his first wife’s funeral as an opportunity to pursue sartorial excellence. John regularly saw almost any occasion as an obligation to present himself as that most elegant of urban dwellers: The Well-Dressed Man. The supermarket would find him in raw silk trousers and an open collar oxford cloth pastel shirt tailored to fit. A trip to the mechanic would evoke jeans from his wardrobe, a rugged manly look balanced by devil-may-care loafers and a rakish sweater tied over the shoulders around a classic Hawaiian casual.
For the day’s requisite mourning dress, John chose a snappy navy three-piece pinstripe so dark it would appear black in most lights, a pale lavender silk shirt with deep indigo tie and matching handkerchief. Just the thing. Before departing in the taxi kept waiting nearly twenty pricey minutes as John polished his preparations he admired himself in the full-length faux-gilt mirror in the bedroom of his flat. “Damn,” he said to no one, “I know how to dress.”
The ceremony, such as it was, was to be held in the private home of one of the late wife’s arty friends. John was vaguely uncomfortable around her set. There were disquieting rumors of strange rituals, black magic. In fact, his wife’s deepening involvement with such people led, he often told himself, to their divorce. His numerous infidelities had been incidental. Well, he thought, they’re a bit odd, but my suit will carry the day (not to mention the brilliant burgundy Italian cap-toes now carrying him into the parlor of the arty friend’s home).
All eyes upon him, unease began to compete with self-admiration for his attention. He nodded to the general assembly, looked around for a chair, a familiar face, an interesting spot on the wall, anything to suppress the rising feeling that something was very odd here. He had walked into a room full of strangers who had been quite animated and who had now fallen into a silence as thick as congealed blood. He looked around again. All eyes upon him. He thought, I must get the hell out of here just as soon as it mightn’t appear rude. To his momentary relief, a person of indeterminate gender approached him. John held out a hand to empty space and said his name. “We know who you are, we’ve been waiting for you,” he heard.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was late, I thought,” he protested as fear rose within. Something was very wrong here. He fought to gain control of his voice, didn’t want to appear foolish, oh no. “Am I unwelcome, should I just leave?” He heard himself whine. How humiliating.
“Oh, we wouldn’t dream of letting you go.” A deep chuckle circled the room. “She would want you here, she wanted you to be here today.” John relaxed a little, and murmured his thank yous. The guests were forming a ring around him. John glanced about, and whatever respite from fear he had imagined now fled screaming, which is what he felt he had to do, and at once.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered thickly, “I just wanted to – to pay my- I really must go.” His Italian shoes pivoted of their own will and moved him into around and through the unyielding bodies of his persecutors. His arms, his elbows, his hands wedging grabbing, pulling. I’ve got to make it, I’ve got to get out, yes, yes, I’ve got to get out. “Please!” he cried. “Please!”
And then, suddenly, somehow, he was out, out on the sidewalk in the fading light, breathing hoarsely, shaking, sweating heavily in the cold twilight. And he said to himself, “I wonder if they noticed my suit?”
John’s arm shot up to hail a cab.