Installment 5

Jack was already reading the new New Yorker, half way through Talk of the Town, when Mavis walked into the therapist’s office. Neither of them were late, but Jack’s extreme punctuality always made Mavis feel harried, as if some gremlin had messed with her watch while she was sleeping, turning it back or forward, randomly, five minutes or ten minutes just to screw with her head, so that she was never quite sure that she knew the right time. She used to think that Jack did it just to drive her insane like the creepy husband in Gaslight. That explanation evaporated when he’d moved out.

Out of habit, she leaned down to give him a kiss right on the center of his perfect part. “Hey, Honey,” she said smiling. He nodded, keeping his eyes on the magazine. She still liked the way Jack looked when he was all dressed up in his suit. Clean and unfussy. Buffed shoes, sharp crease, shirt and ties with just enough ambition to show he appreciated design. And never those silly ties from the Andover Shop with rows of martinis or dancing tennis racquets. In contrast, Mavis felt she was a fashion mess. She never got it quite right. When she played it safe and wore all black the like the chic New York women do, she thought she looked like she could be at a funeral in a minute’s notice. Maybe she could be a professional mourner instead of a writer? It would definitely be a more dependable source of income.

“Did you talk to my sister today?” Jack asked, precisely folding his magazine in two. “She seems fried by the stress of putting on this party.”

“I talked to her. She’s okay. I think it’s the whole getting-ready-for-Nepal-thing that’s making her nuts. She wants to go, and she doesn’t want to. Depends on the time of day and whether she’s found someone dependable to pick up the David’s dry cleaning while she’s gone for three weeks,” Mavis said. “The party is the least of it.”

Mavis wasn’t willing to get into anything controversial – like Jack bringing his current girlfriend to Belinda’s party — before the two of them even sat down in Dr. Ennis’ beat-up leather chairs. It seemed an infringement of the rules of couples counseling. Her timing was prescient.  A breath later, and the outer office doors opened as a quiet couple exited, heads down, avoiding all eye contact. Two layers of doors protected the entrance to the office; she presumed they were to shield patients in the waiting room from marital eruptions in the inner sanctum.

Dr. Ennis always needed a minute or two between patients. To decompress? Call his Oriental rug consultant? His analyst? So Jack and Mavis waited calmly, oddly without any tension. Mavis’ tried to maintain the belief that Jack would get over it. He’d have the girlfriend for a while, maybe even move on to a second starlet with another pair of exceptional breasts, but he’d get tired of the disorientation of life as a gay blade. He was a tidy man. The kind of person who painted the outline of all of his tools on a peg-board so that everyone knew exactly where to replace the odd hammer or wrench they’d borrowed.  It might take a year or two, but he’d be back.

Jack and Mavis had been married since before he started law school, even though she didn’t like it, she was branding his “current living situation” as a mid life crisis. She’d had her a sort of crisis of her own when she gave up her “real” job and went freelance. (Though she acknowledged that was different than shacking up with a boopsie, But whatever. ) Mavis was working hard to master the correct attitude, trying not to be resentful, staying calm and supportive so that when he did come back, there wouldn’t be a lot of shrapnel to pick out of everyone’s psyche. So far, it had been five weeks and four days since Jack moved out, if you counted the day he packed everything he “needed for his new life” into to his silver blue 350 SEL, including his golf clubs and two sets of skis.

Dr. Ennis was ready for them. Courtly as ever, Jack held the door for Mavis. She sat down near the tissue box. Just in case. But she didn’t really have to worry. She’d bought the waterproof mascara that Susan had recommended. She could weep an ocean and still not look like a raccoon. After all, she had other things to do today. Like finding something to wear to Belinda’s party tonight.

Jack, settled in his chair, crossed one tassel foot over his knee, and began. “She has no right to muddy my relationships with my family!” he raged, red spreading up his neck from his cobalt blue button down shirt.

Dr. Ennis smiled. “Something new?”

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