Mean, Part Two

Wife one was a child-bride. He introduced her to me, wife number three, in Greenport, New York, eight years ago. She wore her black skirt the same length I wore mine. A woman like that, who covers her legs, likes to hide. Right away, she told me she was always torn over work. Told me how she cried her eyes out years earlier when, divorced, she had to leave her baby for a long day away. By then, she’d been left for wife two.

And you have to wonder about a guy like that: trading in his child-bride, leaving his son and newborn, for wife two. But we skipped over that part of the yarn and didn’t stop to speculate. Besides, it would have been disloyal. She asked: Where’d you get those shoes? She wanted some, too. Later, I sent her some fabric for a cushion. She dug a chair out of the trash, varnished it, recovered it, sent it to me whole and new. I stopped by her house for tea. She came to a barbeque to celebrate my first anniversary. We roasted pig. Where’d you get that skirt? I asked. I wished I had one like that. She sent me postcards and recipes for bisque. Thanked me for taking care of her son in California. Once she flew here with her youngest, a girl. We went to the beach. Got burned.

Two years ago, I went to New York and we did the city museums. Tried to catch up. On the first floor of the Met, like a docent, she lead me through the armor: The boys always loved this part. It was still magical, you could tell, not the armor, not the shield of King Henry II of France, its battle scene intertwined with the story of his marital wars. Just a memory of boys looking at gold-gilt or dreaming. For the afternoon, we were at home among steel, brass, and iron. If things were difficult as a child-bride, you’d be surprised how much wife one doesn’t let on. If things were ever rough for me, I’d be hard-pressed to complain to wife one. We’re both loyal, after all. We learned it late. Better just to know it: who he is, how we were both mean to wife two, how, if you saw the length we wore our skirts and heard us talk over lunch, you’d wonder who on earth we were.

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