The Sureness of Horses — Chapters 20, 21, and 22

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20

Six weeks later, when Jorge was going to meet me at Buck’s for lunch, he called at the last minute and said he was running late. Instead, he asked me to meet him in an Indian restaurant a block from the Enersystems office in Mountain View.

He was sporting a new look—a black polo shirt and a blue blazer, and he wore his wraparound sunglasses at the table. “You’ll like this place, good food,” he said as I sat down. One of the walls was hung with red patterned cloth; the storefront feel of the place was mitigated by white tablecloths.

“So should I start calling you Giorgio?” I asked.

Smiling, Jorge raised his glasses to his forehead and said, “You can call me Jorge, but roll the ‘r,’ Pasiano.”

A lithe waitress, a young Indian woman with a red dot on her forehead, came into view, Jorge gave her a wave and said, “Hi, Chetana, you’re lookin’ good.”

As she approached our table, she tried to hide a smile and seemed to blush. “Hello Jorge. The chef has very good lamb curry today.”

“You know best, Chetana.”

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

She looked back and forth between us. “I will bring your naan.”

Quickly she was back at our table with hot bread and a green sauce. “Chetana,” asked Jorge, “How long have you been in America?”

“Almost three years.”

“Your English is very good,” Jorge said.

Lowering her eyes, she thanked him and turned away. “I will see if the curry is ready.”

“Pretty direct flirting, big guy,” I said as she disappeared around the corner. “How’s Eva doing? Did those tests show anything?”

“She seems better. She still doesn’t have her own room. We thought about a bigger apartment but Marita wants to save every penny for a down payment.”

“You can afford to buy a house?”

“You’re thinking the old SnyderSound way. Like you told me last fall, the Valley’s hot. Half those options come due next spring. The stock’s been going up fast, so if nothing changes it should be well over three hundred thousand dollars, maybe much more. Can you believe it? Marita wants us to buy a house in Palo Alto first thing, no matter what.”

This news shocked me. I tore off a piece of naan and dipped it in the sauce. “The town’s gotten so  ex-pen-sive.”

“We know. Marita checks the real estate listings on the Internet twice a day, and we hit the open houses every Sunday now.”

“Do the real estate people say you can afford it?”

“I sat down with a mortgage guy who said if I could come up with three hundred fifty thousand dollars, he could make it work. We have money salted away, so, with the stock up, that should be no sweat, but we’re scrimping anyway.”

“What, exactly, does Enersystems have you doing?”

Jorge dipped, too. “If I told you that, compadre, I’d have to shoot you.”

“Come on. Let’s start with the basics. Do you have to be at your desk nine to five?”

Eight to five.” Jorge laughed. “I can take all day for lunch, but they really want me to have my feet under the desk at eight. If I get in early, keep my mouth shut, and the presentations go without a hitch, I’m golden.”

“What are the presentations like?”

“Don’t ask. I really could lose my job, and I couldn’t stand poverty again. I will say that the presentations are getting more and more elaborate. I set up surround sound in some shabby office in Sacramento. It went off perfectly. I keep backups of everything they present in the Cloud now—the sales guys love me.”

“You’ve always been able to set up anything.”

Jorge looked away. “One thing I can talk about is the new knockout receptionist; guys take extra trips through the lobby to check her out. There’s eye candy everywhere.”

I thought of the receptionist at SnyderSound, pleasant-but-tired Helen. I laughed. “I’d have a hard time giving up Helen, the way she helps with our trips.”

“The one who wore that brownish-green cardigan all winter? You’d give her up if you saw this gal. Last Friday it was supposed to be super-casual, so she wore a see-through blouse, brown-shadow nipples and all. The talk of the office. The office manager sent her home. He took his time doing it, but by ten thirty she was out of there.”

“She does the travel stuff too?”

“We have a separate travel department. She’s a babe as well.”

I sat back in my seat, looking my friend over. If something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is too good to be true. Was I just jealous? I was doing okay, but I’d never take home hundreds of thousands dollars in a chunk like that. The energy Jorge exuded was palpable. Still I felt a need to caution him. “I wonder about you and this job.”

He shrugged. “Marita’s never been happier and in some ways I’m having a blast. I’m headed to Houston next week; some muckety-muck insisted on approving these presentations and they don’t want anything to go wrong. Another surround-sound presentation, with tons of video. They booked a limo to take me to the airport—and one on the other end, too.”

“Living large, amigo.”

Jorge sat back, smiling. “You bet, gringo.”

21

A few weeks later I sat reading the Sunday Chronicle in the room next to Diana’s kitchen while she baked a coffee cake. The noon sun filled the west-facing room with light. Seated across the counter from me, she asked, “So, what did you think of my church?”

Diana had taken me to a storied mid-Peninsula church with thousands of members. There were several things I didn’t like about it, but I wanted to be circumspect. I noted a “my way or the highway” undertone in their service, but I knew better than to bring that up. I decided to talk about the songs. “I miss the old hymns,” I said, looking up from the paper.

“Ah, the new-music question. Young people like the new songs—they played similar ones back in Texas, too, in a big church we used to go to out by the airport.”

I put the newspaper down. The aroma of baking sugar started wafting our way. “I’d heard about them—called ‘7-11’ music; seven words repeated eleven times—but I had never actually heard them. They border on a rock concert.”

“The youngsters like ’em,” she said, “but I prefer the old hymns too.”

“Good,” I said. The kitchen timer still had fifteen minutes on it. I set a couple of place mats with silverware and braced myself for a talk about her kids. We’d taken them to a park with paddleboats the previous afternoon. It hadn’t gone well. Beth had played the part of an overly polite southern girl, friendly but reserved. Robbie didn’t even try. I asked, “By the way, have the kids said anything more about yesterday?”

“It’s going to take time,” Diana said. “We always knew that. I’ll have you to dinner with them in a week or two.”

“Sounds like yesterday was hard on you too,” I said. “I lost sleep wondering if there was any way this could work.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Diana took my hand. “Worry seldom helps anything. Robbie adores his father, so I was surprised he came at all. He knows—they both know—that you’re not just a riding partner.”

I went back to the paper. “Oh, Galway Kinnell died. Damn. I’d heard he was quite sick.”

“I know that name from somewhere,” said Diana.

“Maybe from that poem I have on my refrigerator. He’s one of my favorite poets. You know that poem, ‘Oatmeal,’ about an imaginary breakfast with John Keats. It’s his.” I handed her the newspaper.

“I’ve chuckled at that poem.” She looked at his photograph. “Was he really this handsome? Was he a big deal?”

“His poems are often in the New Yorker. He won a Pulitzer and started the Poetry Workshops at Squaw Valley. That’s where I met him.”

“Oh, it’s coming back. Did he write about a bear? He’s Irish, right?”

Galway? Hmm, let me guess.”

She laughed. “What was he like in his workshop—is he a decent man?”

I smiled as I slightly shook my head. “Only you would ask that. I can’t judge whether he’s a ‘decent man’ or not, but I like—liked, I guess I have to say now—him, very much. He was an excellent teacher. I sometimes fantasized about following him out to Vermont and sitting at his feet. His voice is both strong and gentle. Here, I can pull up a YouTube of him reading “The Bear.”

We listened silently. “Smart. Crazy poem. Good looking guy,” she said.

“Galway’s poetry is sensual,” I said. “He was exceptionally generous with his students. Sometimes one of us amateurs would feel so full of poetry we’d want to do it full time. ‘Don’t quit your day job,’ he’d say. Galway would say it more gracefully. He had a nice touch. Once, during the worst time of my divorce, I went to a workshop with him. He asked me a few questions about my family and I ended up writing a poem about Amelia.”

“Oh, could I see it?”

I grabbed my laptop from my briefcase and pulled up the poem. “Here, I’ll read it to you.”

“Japanese Graveyard on Kauai

One afternoon I drove Amelia past Kapaa,
deep into desolate cane-hauling roads.
We came upon an old graveyard on a hill near the ocean.
Before the tall cane it had overlooked the Pacific.

I got out, trying to convey my wonder to my young daughter.
Wooden markers, in Japanese with a little English,
marked the lives of turn-of-the-century fishing families.
I coaxed her out of the car and she walked

to one grave, then another, one with fresh flowers,
but most overgrown with weeds.
I told her about prosperous fishing fleets,
gone now. She stood silent.

This is all that’s left,
I told her at one family’s grave,
after the tortuous trip from Japan,
after building the fishing fleet

after extracting an honest living from the sea,
after constructing villages—
they’re tourist towns today, I said.
No words from her as we returned to the car.

I said I hoped we had more left than that
even though I’d moved away from her mother.
I watched her so silent,
dwarfed by the tall sugar cane

I kept looking over at my small passenger,
in a cotton skirt over her bathing suit,
watching her father out at the edge of somewhere.
Her eyes asked what can he teach me but chaos?

Diana closed her eyes. “Divorce . . . so tough.”

“Yes, the gift that keeps on giving. I wrote that poem so long ago . . . it seems like an artifact. Maybe you realize now why I don’t show my poems at work.”

She waited a second and then nodded. “Yes, Rob always talked about wearing his game face at the office. I get it.” She walked to the window overlooking Stanford. “But divorce, oh, divorce. Some days I wake up and would do anything to stop the process in its tracks. Do you think kids get over it?”

“I’d like to think so, but . . .” Quietly I ended, “I doubt it.”

“That poem helps me understand you and why you write . . . there’s no other way to say some things, is there?”

“The coffee cake won’t be done for another five minutes,” I said. “I like the music you have on. Perhaps we should dance.”

She stood and I put my arms around her. Diana felt light, as always, in my arms. She followed me even when I messed up. Over her shoulder, lights sparkled.

Diana convinced Edward to give me jumping lessons, which I’d been taking for a few weeks, feeling more comfortable on horseback.

The next week she took me on a long trail ride. Using keys she borrowed from someone in the hunt, Diana opened gates that took us far off the Jasper Ridge Ranch past nature preserves that smelled of redwood trees and grasses. From there we came to a big road with traffic, Sand Hill Road, not far from Rob’s law office, the one Jorge was so taken with. To cross the road, with cars whizzing by, took patience and not a little courage. Once we crossed, I asked where Rob and Billy lived. “Jorge went up there once and I’m curious. He said it’s called Whileaway Circle. Could we ride past there?”

Diana hesitated, then said, “Sorry, it’d add an hour and a half to our trip.”

“Neither of us has that kind of time.” I was feeling quite good about having crossed such a busy road safely, enough to ask her a tough question. “Unfortunately, that reminds me of the one thing that keeps bothering me. I’m not sure about Billy. You know, with Marita and Jorge and all.”

“Jorge was out of work. Jolene tells me he’s going to make a ton of money in options. He’s not a lawyer or an executive or anything. Not even middle management. Jorge has to be one of the luckiest guys in the world.”

I asked, “You think Billy’s actions here are on the up-and-up?”

Diana stood up in her stirrups and swung around on her horse. She had the same determined look on her face she’d had that time she forced Gray Cloud to go over the bridge. “I’ve explained to you, very carefully: Billy is like family to me. Everything is going so well for us now, Wade. Why spoil it?”

I thought of a few clever rejoinders, all revolving around Billy’s character, but I held my tongue. We silently passed one elegant home after another. The new Japanese-style estate of Larry Ellison had security signs posted everywhere and two German shepherds, who barked ferociously from behind a barbed-wire fence. Artemis, thankfully, didn’t let the dog scare her and was sure-footed even in traffic over blacktop, which we crossed again. Except for the conversation about Billy, which never got resolved, it was a perfect afternoon.

In bed that night, we found ourselves laughing at the fact we couldn’t agree about anything. Diana challenged me to find something.

“Politics? I don’t think so.” I shook my head. “This can’t be so hard.” A few minutes later I said. “We’re both Presbyterians?”

“There you go, although I suspect your Presbyterian church is a lot different from the ones I’m used to.”

“Presbyterian, nonetheless,” I said. “And we like hymns. What else? Of course, horses.”

“Bingo,” she said. “It really helps that you like them, I’ll admit that. I never imagined I could share that with a man.”

“And at least you now can abide poetry.”

“Galway Kinnell’s poetry, for sure. That makes four things we agree on!” Diana said with a laugh. “The Presbyterian church, hymns, horses, and Galway Kinnell.” She put her hand on my thigh, and I covered it. “You know,” she continued, “from this angle, you’re more handsome than Galway.”

“You must mean with the lights out.” I ran my fingers through hair I imagined I could feel thinning on the spot. “He kept his hair into his eighties!”

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me,” she said as she moved over toward my side of the bed.

22

I met Jorge for lunch roughly once a month through the spring, almost always in the restaurant with the walls painted in red. The place seemed friendly, perhaps because I’d only been to this restaurant with Jorge, or perhaps I enjoyed Chetana, our Indian waitress, almost as much as he did.

Except for the sunglasses, Jorge was subdued, in a blue suit with a blue tie. He told me, for the first time, that his job wasn’t working out quite as well as before. “Enersystems is changing, almost hourly. Even before the stock turned down, the company sucked, and it’s worse now. People are worried it’ll go even lower.”

“But you’re doing okay? The presenters still love what you do, right?”

“Yeah, that hasn’t changed. But no one would call me part of the in crowd.”

“Well, the stock’s still more than doubled from when you took the job. If I remember right, next month you’ll get almost three hundred grand.”

He nodded, but even the prospect of a huge payday didn’t seem to cheer him up.

“I’ve worried about that company ever since I met Billy,” I said. “But it’s only recently that I’m starting to read negative articles about it.”

“Even out here in Silicon Valley, they’re just such Texans,” Jorge said, shaking his head. “You wouldn’t believe it, but the newly minted Stanford Biz School grads at Enersystems come into the office in cowboy boots! They seem so green.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Is there stuff you can share with me.”

“No specifics, but I will say our guys call commissioners in Sacramento ‘Sacra tomatoes’ behind their backs. Then they shorten it to tomato—they say things like, ‘What was it that tomato said about power spikes?’ I’m expected to laugh with them. When I do, I don’t sleep.”

I tried to envision what his work life was really like. “So, you go to all these meetings with powerful people. Do you say anything?”

“Not a word. Sometimes I wonder if I’m their token techie or token Mexican.”

“I’ll buy you some thick black glasses and a serape, and you can be a dual threat.”

“Not me, man,” Jorge said. “I wear dark suits and blend into the woodwork.”

“That’s probably smart.” I nodded slowly. “All alone, huh . . . no friends at all?”

“They’re MBA lawyer clones. They don’t have friends, they have con-nec-tions. Jorge looked around. “I wonder where our favorite waitress is today.”

“Maybe you scared her off, Lochinvar.”

Jorge shrugged. “The guys who count are Texans, or from there. I’ve learned one thing—if Billy Tyler wants something, the only discussion is how fast it can get done. He seems to outrank everyone out here in California. I hear he talks to the Enersystems President several times a day.”

“Billy’s no energy expert. I mean how much lawyering do they need? Does he really have that much clout?”

Jorge shook his head and looked around the restaurant, which was filling up quickly. “He does, but I give up. Let’s not talk about Billy.” He took a bite to eat. “Are you still riding horses?”

“I am. I’ve learned a lot about consistency from Artemis. She just goes out and does her job.”

“You and Diana are finally doing it, right?”

I hesitated. “A gentleman’s lips are sealed.”

“It’s about time. Have you moved in with her?”

“No, that hasn’t even come up. But we see each other a lot. Tonight we’re taking a picnic up to Foothills Park.”

“That’s for Palo Alto residents only, isn’t it? I told you Marita has her eye on a house near you, right?”

I nodded, but I hadn’t known this. Near me? That couldn’t be good, but I couldn’t say that to Jorge. “You’ll need to pretend money doesn’t mean anything.”

“Well . . . with options, that almost seems true.” He tried to hide his grin.

I grimaced. “Yeah, I guess. That’s how a lot of people are making money these days. Gates and Ellison are two of the richest people in the world. Can you imagine? As rich as Kings and Arab Oil Sheiks. And now these guys from Facebook  and Tesla and whatever’s next. Still, things can go wrong. A guy I met on a plane still owed taxes on his options, even though they’re now worthless.”

“What?” Jorge asked. “How could that be?”

“The stock was high when he exercised them, so he had to pay taxes on the profit. Then the stock cratered to under a dollar and he was left holding the bag. Make sure you set out money to pay the taxes the day you get the stock. Promise me that, okay?”

“Sure,” he said, and then he shook his head. “I should be okay. The executives assure us business is great. Even when I hate the company, I smile knowing I’ll get the big paycheck—and soon. How about if I ask around there for a job for you?”

“Hey I’m just a kid from the Midwest,” I said, “finally feeling ahead of the game because my house keeps going up. I’m putting Amelia through school and will still have a little money left. What an investment! One house down the street sold for twice what I paid. That’s nothing like your fancy stock options, of course, where you make the money overnight. I haven’t gotten used to them . . . they seem like magic to me.”

Jorge flashed a satisfied smirk. “You should try it.”

I smiled back. “I have so much else going on with Diana and horses and everything—I’d better keep the job a constant for now. Ray really seems appreciative for what I do. But thanks.”

Jorge leaned across the table. “Can I ask a question, and you’ll answer truthfully?”

“Sure, Jorge, anything.”

“Remember how Billy interviewed Marita alone? Have you ever heard of a wife interview before?”

I felt implicated here. I had, after all, introduced him to Billy. “Jorge,” I said. “That kind of thinking could eat you alive. Can you just put it in the past?”

“I’m not sure it’s in the past. Marita disappeared one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. She started wearing this bracelet she says she’s had for years but I sure don’t recall it.” He looked directly at me. “I need your honest opinion. Before Mom died, she made me promise that I would forgive a wife anything. She said marriage is one long lesson in forgiveness.”

“You really think Billy gave Marita a bracelet? What kind?”

“You know, gold. Simple. She has a lot of jewelry I don’t pay any attention to. Who knows? I get exhausted worrying.”

“So stop. You could drive yourself nuts over this, Jorge.” I pushed back from the table.

“Marita finally admitted, last Saturday night, that she was alone in her interview with Billy. That personnel specialist—Robin—should have been at that meeting. When I asked Marita if Billy gave that bracelet to her, she said she wouldn’t honor the question with a reply and made me sleep on the couch.”

We know things we can’t admit even to ourselves, and when he said that I knew that this was going to get a lot worse. What could I say to him? I stood up. Knowing I was asking the impossible, I said, “Jorge, you simply have to let it go.”

He stood, too, took a deep breath, and clapped me on the shoulder. “I know, I know. Let’s get out of here.”

Saturday a few weeks later was not a good day. I fell off Artemis in my jumping lesson with Edward. I scraped up my forearm but didn’t break or even sprain anything. Still, falling off a horse isn’t fun, and dinner at Diana’s with her kids didn’t go much better. Robby was nothing short of rude. With the kids there, Diana and I couldn’t even say a proper goodbye.

Sunday I had a hard time starting my day. Diana was taking her kids to Jolene and Billy’s for the day, where I didn’t feel comfortable calling her, so I felt separated. After I got up and retrieved the paper from the driveway, I broke my own rule—instead of getting dressed, still in my pajama top and boxer shorts, I got back into bed.

Later that morning, almost noon, the doorbell rang. It was Marita, holding a newspaper. “Oh, hi. Let me get presentable,” I said as I opened the door and scooted back to my room.

When I returned in my robe she was standing in the entryway in a dark blue workout suit. “A house across and down the street is for sale,” she said. “I want to go to the open house but I promised Jorge I’d be home around noon.”

I was relieved to hear she couldn’t stay long. “I haven’t seen any signs up around here.”

She turned around, re-opened the door and pointed at a house. “It’s almost identical to yours, I think.”

Sure enough, a for-sale sign had sprouted up overnight. “That’s a different model, I’m pretty sure,” I said. “I think it has a double fireplace between the living room and family room.” As I looked Marita over, the covered-up conservatism of her stretchy athletic suit was lessened by the way she pulled the jacket-bottom up, which drew attention to her small waist. Flesh showed between her jacket and hip-hugger pants.

“But yours is a three and two also, isn’t it?” She hesitated. “They can’t be that different. Would you mind if I just peeked around in here?”

I hesitated, but finally said, “Sure, of course. But the house is a mess. I’m not prepared for guests, sorry.”

The hug she gave me felt better than it should have. As I let her go, perhaps a second later than was normal, she said, “Oh, don’t worry about picking up. Your house can’t be worse than our apartment. I’ve been spending so much time house-hunting that I never finish the housework.”

I offered to make coffee and moved into the kitchen as Marita surveyed the living room. She checked the view out each window. From behind the counter I said, “The houses around here are all pretty similar. We could be anywhere in suburbia.”

“Oh, I like this neighborhood. And you can walk to parks and shops. These houses may have started out alike, but, with landscaping and remodeling . . .”

“I haven’t even made my bed,” I said, working up the courage to ask about Billy. She was wearing an expensive-looking gold bracelet.

She ignored what I’d said and entered the bedroom wing. She poked her head into Amelia’s old room, my study. “All these books!” she said. “I’ve never seen so many books in someone’s home, and believe me I’ve been looking at a lot of homes lately. Have you read them all?”

“I wish.”

“Is the master bedroom small too?”

Rather than offering an opinion, I made the mistake of opening the door. At center was a bed Liz and I had bought when we had a little extra money, a California King, unmade. Rumpled.

Marita walked alongside the bed. “This is roomy,” she said, throwing her arms up. Laughing, she let herself fall backwards onto the bed. Any thoughts of my asking her about Billy quickly receded. After a bounce she lay there, still with arms wide. “I feel like a kid in here.” Her jacket bunched up around her breasts, extending her long torso. She made no move to cover up. She just smiled.

All I had to do was drop my robe and lie down next to her. That would be just plain wrong. But she held the promise of being so . . . so soft, so pliant.

She smiled as if she knew more about what I was thinking than I did, not completely unlike Jimmy’s mom the first time I’d seen a strapless bra. When she finally rolled to her side and stood upright she said, “It’s not small but somehow it’s cozy. I feel relaxed here.” She took a step toward me.

My mind whirled. My best friend’s wife. A familiar aroma wafted in from the kitchen. “I think I smell coffee,” I finally said. I turned and scooted off to the kitchen.

I cooled down by fiddling with coffee mugs while Marita stayed in the bedroom wing. When she came into the kitchen she said, “I like these houses. This is about as high as we can go, pricewise. I’ll work to convince Jorge to look very hard at that house down the street.”

I handed her a hot mug. “How much do they want?”

“It’s listed for one point eight million, but I’m hoping we could get it for less. I love the kitchen.”

“Are you sure you want to pay that much? Even if someone would give you a mortgage, the payments would choke a horse.”

“If we wait until the other half of the option money comes in, a house like this could be out of our reach. Houses around here are going up at least ten percent a year. We have to get in.”

“I can’t believe this place is worth a million, much less one point eight,” I said.

“I want Eva to grow up in Palo Alto.”

“You could always move here later. These prices are so high.”

Marita put on a fake pout. “You don’t want me as a neighbor?”

“You know it’s not that.”

“It’s important Eva starts in this school system right from first grade. Here, where she can ride her bike to school and her friends.”

“These schools aren’t for everyone. They’re competitive, without the hand-holding of private schools. I know one girl who just transferred into them and isn’t at all happy.”

“Getting her into the Palo Alto school system,” Marita said, “is what drives me these days.”

“I don’t know. I worry about Jorge too. He’s not the . . . risk taker you are.”

She made a cat-like movement with her hand as a paw and murmured a meow. “You’re the one around here who understands me.” She moved toward me in the kitchen.

I walked around her and opened the front door for her. “Maybe it’s time to head home to the old Tom, pussycat.” My thin laugh sounded nervous, even to me.

She shook her head in disbelief, but she left. I wondered if all men felt an implied imperative when a woman offers herself. I knew I did, and, having turned her down, had to keep telling myself I had done the right thing.

I couldn’t clear the image of Marita, her midriff bare, laughing on the very same bed in which I slept, from my mind. She may be right; I may be the only one around who understands her single-minded ambition for Eva. If she had to go with Billy, that wouldn’t kill her—it wouldn’t hurt her anywhere near how much it would help Ava.

Beyond the chemistry we shared, I actually liked her. She had a strange kind of courage—not like Diana’s horseback riding courage, but grittier. She wanted to give her daughter the opportunities Jorge and she had been denied. She’d never said one thing to demean Jorge; I liked that. She seemed to live by the dictum, “never complain, never explain.” Marita’s ambition for Eva, though quiet, was palpable. She would do whatever she felt she had to do, and it was hard to fault her for it.

The actress Drew Barrymore once stood on David Letterman’s TV desk and flashed her breasts—away from the audience, but toward Dave. The routine may have been rehearsed but David seemed genuinely tongue-tied. “You don’t understand, Drew,” he said after she buttoned up, “I’m from the Midwest. This is work for me—I come in to work.” I, too, am from that part of the country where women don’t engage in such explicit female display, especially to her husband’s best friend. Marita hadn’t exactly flashed me, but her intent was obvious.

Yet I’d controlled my urges; turned on my heels. I’d “done the right thing.” I’m involved with Diana; I feel responsible for Jorge; it would have been adultery. So why did I feel so torn?

Taking out a pencil and writing pad, I wrote:

Offering

The opposite of someone who strays and feels guilty,
I have acted properly and feel blue.

My friend’s wife offered herself, attractively,
unambiguously. I pretended to ignore her, retreated

from bedroom to kitchen. I’ve been down ever since
I led her out the door. Diana would be proud of me

but I don’t always share her faith that only one of the two pulls in life
is valid. The inward-facing draw, the one that will lead to heaven,

shouldn’t be ignored, but we must listen to the outward draw as well,
that hard-to-discuss pull, the desire to open up to a stranger..

The opposite of someone who falls and feels guilty,
I have acted properly and feel blue.

The satisfaction of getting my feelings down on paper dimmed when I realized I couldn’t ever show the words to Diana or, as I thought about it, to anyone. I tore the sheet from the pad, folded it in quarters and then eighths, and tucked it in the back of my nightstand drawer. Hours later, after tossing and turning and doing breathing exercises, I fell asleep.