I’m just now understanding the old saying that beautiful women die twice.
I live in fear of chipping my happy toe nail polish. The other day I went swimming in Stephanie’s pool and had to swim upside down so that my nails wouldn’t be scratched by the rough bottom. It’s a stone pool.
I had to be revived 3 times but I was a lot cooler.
But back to the subject at hand.
I have a neighbor, not Liz or David, that I knew for over 20 years. I won’t say we were friends, more like acquaintances, but through the years we behaved like neighbors should.
I let her use my Montauk house. I kept her children in my house after school if she wasn’t home. I also cared for her animals, her bird and even her cat. She’d frequently travel for a month at a time. When I found that her cat hadn’t had water for a week , I went to the woman who was supposed to care for him. Since her answer was that a cat can live a long time without water I offered my services to feed him in the future when she went away.
I won’t say she wasn’t grateful. Although she didn’t ever say thank you, she did bring me a gift from one of her trips of 3 vanilla beans.
It all went smoothly until IT happened. While she was away, I broke an ashtray. It was a pretty ash tray.
Now I could have said that the cat knocked it over but I never lie, except to save my skin and I had no idea that this was one of those times.
I wrote her an email saying that I broke the ashtray and how very sorry I was. I told her I would search for a replacement and if I couldn’t find one I would certainly pay for it.
I received an answer the next day. I assumed it would say please don’t feel bad. You were such a dear to be kind to my cat, who by the way, left a crap gift under dave’s desk almost every day, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The letter said to never set foot in her house again, that she’d arrange for someone else to feed the cat and that the ashtray was a priceless heirloom.
When she returned a few weeks later, she came to my door and said that she was furious that I hadn’t come to her house immediately on her return to further apologize.
I was forced to tell her that when the painters dropped my grandmother’s hand painted 100 year old mirror and broke it, I treated them with more compassion than she did me.
I said that I’d certainly pay for the ashtray. Her response, “It’s priceless”.
I said “Priceless? No such thing. I’ll write you a check right now. Was it $1,000, $5,000, $10,000?”
I could see dave in the background looking like he was going to faint because my writing any of those checks might well have put us in the slammer.
Anyway she thankfully felt that calling me out on how low class I was was sufficient punishment and she walked away never to speak to me again.
That is until recently.
She owns the apartment that the french people rented down the hall and since they’ve vacated, she’s back to prepare it for the next renters. When she came back she heard about me and dave and became miss chatty.
She has been divorced for many years. “I’m so surprised. I couldn’t believe it. You were such a loving couple, We must have a drink sometime”
Since I’m a live and let live girl, when David invited us both for dinner, I accepted.
It is certainly better like this. Just imagine what going down in the elevator with someone who is giving you dirty looks the whole time is like. I much prefer this.
However, she calls me and comes over constantly. She borrows stuff and ignores my “That’s not necessary” when she suggests coming over for a drink to thank me for the dishes, or bowls or whatever I’ve given her since she’s staying in a mostly empty apartment.
Just last night she came over and started sobbing because her daughter is getting married and she’d miss her.
Luckily I’m very good at comforting people. “There there” I said.
I started thinking why now, after about ten years, has she decided to reconnect with me.
Then I remembered what my friend Susan and I had been talking about yesterday.
I told her that even though my everyday life is better now, my feelings of self worth are not.
I think it’s because I was raised to believe you’re only as valuable as the man you married.
My identity was largely built around being dave’s wife. He was a very successful musician and writer. I gained a great deal of status by being married to him.
I was always being told “Your husband is such a genius”. I believed it to be true and I bathed in some of that light. Since he wasn’t that much of a talker I spoke for him frequently, telling musicians that he admired that he admired them and sometimes doing his dirty work so he could stay pristine.
When dave left me he took a great part of my identity with him which is why that bitch thinks I give a shit that she’s going to miss her kid.
I wonder if selling something I write will restore something important in me.
Probably not as much as marrying one of the Rolling Stones would.
At least in my mother’s eyes.