by Marge Lurie
She is crouched under a canopy at the New York State Theater, trying to shield herself from the rain. She is waiting for a man she thinks she loves. She believes that her love for him will take her straight to the finish line. She knows that she looks like a homeless person, squatting in a doorway on a rainy night. Still the wait is worth it, she tells herself. Soon she will have a home.
Now the plaza is swarming with people rushing to snatch up the few available taxis. The opera has just let out. She watches the sated music lovers scamper back to their dry homes, still waiting for this man she thinks she loves. She waits and waits, needing to believe that there is some forgivable explanation for his lateness. Some mitigating circumstance. Just as later she will need to believe that there is some forgivable explanation for his decision to excise her from his life at the moment he is truly separated from his wife.
She will ransack the DSM-IV looking for a label for this thing that makes him turn on people on a dime and then redouble his religious efforts. No one would say he is a handsome man. But since the evening they first met, she has felt irresistibly drawn to him. In the early stages, their relationship was like an orchid in a hothouse, shielded from the vicissitudes of nature. And in those artificial circumstances, it flourished. They made love early and often, and talked as new lovers do, about themselves. They presented their best selves, as if they were rare jewels stowed away in safety deposit boxes, taken out only for special occasions. And they revealed their injuries. The injustices of the world. Together, they would make a safe haven against those injustices. That was the implicit promise, and so long as it wasn't tested, things were good. The love-making continued.
There were incidents, of course. Like the one at the State Theater, when the rain wouldn't let up, and he didn't show for over half an hour because he could not leave the rabbi's house before the Sabbath meal was fully over. But still she chose to believe in him, as he chose to believe in his God. They made a pact with the devil. She would fuck a married man and root for the collapse of his marriage, and he would pray twice as hard. Twice as frequently. He would impose new culinary restrictions on himself, and she would tell herself that it was just a phase he was going through, like a child in the throes of the terrible twos.
She would be wrong, of course. She almost invariably thinks that she is right, but still she would be wrong. This is not a phase he is going through. This is who he is. A man who gets bored, and then destroys the things that bore him. He is having a tantrum. Throwing his new toy against the wall, smashing it to smithereens, letting the pieces fall where they may. The chaos resembles his inner state, the turmoil there, and seeing the external world reflect back his inner world calms him. Temporarily.
He will get a new toy, he knows that, and she knows that, and for a while he will take that new toy to bed with him, and tuck it in at night, and wake up in the morning beside it. But that too will be a phase. The calm before the next storm. He will break his new toy, too. He will add new dietary restrictions and secretly delight in the fact that he is losing weight. But then, with his new svelte figure, he will begin to prowl again. He will find yet another new toy. With enough money, there is no limit to the number of new toys he can buy.
So what then is she waiting for? She is the old toy. The one that is irrevocably broken now. What will it take for her to understand that there is no glue that could put her back together again? She is not Humpty Dumpty. She is marred beyond repair.
She wants to change his mind. Convince him that he is wrong, that she is still lovable. She is a good toy. A toy that other boys might envy. But she does not believe it herself. All her arguments are pointless now. Empty words. She believes his verdict. She believes that his truth is also her truth. She wonders how she could have begun life as a feminist and ended up here, believing that a man could tell her what is so.
She will fight it, she tells herself. She will redouble her efforts. His opinion is just that. An ill-considered, erroneous opinion. She will not corroborate his world view. She will come up with her own arguments. She will prove to him that he is wrong. She is not a toy. Not a glittery, new toy. And not an old and tattered toy. Not a toy at all. That is what she tells herself. For now.
About the author:
Marge lives and works in New York City. She earned her M.F.A. in writing from The New School University, and her B.A. in philosophy from Barnard College. Her fiction can also be found online in the Summer 2004 issue of ducts.org.