It was the third time in the evening that she had dropped by my seat at the bar to make idle chatter. That she was evidently targeting me surprised me. I couldn't figure it. She was a nice looking woman, shoulder length brown hair, dark eyes, flaring hips, and maybe C-cups. She was also six feet tall. Me? I'm way on the short side of average in the looks department, a shade over five-six in height and not an ounce above 140 pounds. I was most definitely not in her league on any level that I could ascertain. But here she was again talking to me—about football for chryssakes!
"'Bama," I said. "I went there, so I have bragging rights."
"They're gonna have problems with Arkansas this year," she said. "I went there." I looked at her with what had to have been a questioning look.
"Why? What's the matter?" she said, noting my apparent quizzical attitude. I started to speak, shut up, and then started again.
"Margo, Margo Potts," she said. "And yours?"
"Uh—oh yeah, Ely, Ely Barnes. Okay, Margo. Margo, you're an awfully pretty lady. And, well, I'm not an awfully pretty guy," I said.
She giggled. "You're fine," she said. "But what would looks have to do with anything anyway. Can't I talk to a gentleman if I want to?"
"Well, yes of course. But—well—there's all of these good lookin' Southern boys in here eyeing you; and well, me?" I said.
"Ely, there are indeed some nice looking Southern boys, as you call them, hanging out here tonight. I'm sure they'd be fine to dance with once or twice, but after that—and I do know several of them—they pretty much run out of anything meaningful to do or say if you get my drift," she said.
"So you don't wanna dance," I asked.
"No, it's not that, rather it's that I want more than just that," she said.
"Well, that still doesn't explain why me," I said.
"Because you have a mind," she said. "I've overheard you talking to the bartender several times tonight, and also about a week ago. You actually have something to say. You're not boring.
"So how about it?" she said.
"How about what?" I said.
"You gonna ask me to dance?"
"Huh?" I said. "Me—you?"
"No," I said.
"How come? I'm not pretty enough for you?" she said, wrinkling her brow.
"Hardly," I said. "Listen, Margo, I like myself well enough, don't get me wrong. But, well, you are clearly way out of my league. You may not have noticed, but I'm only maybe five-six. You on the other hand, I'd estimate, are six-foot, and that even without those three inch heels you're wearing. I'd feel funny." She slid out of her shoes.
"Six-one," she said. "And I wouldn't feel funny." The look I gave her forced her to choke back an outright guffaw. "Hey, I ditched the shoes, okay?"
"You wouldn't," I said. "I mean feel funny?" In spite of myself I was really becoming interested in a girl this much in control of her own person. She apparently did not need the approbation of her peers. She was what she was and was happy with it.
"No, I wouldn't," she said. I shook my head indicating I wasn't sure if I believed her.
"Okay, in some folks minds, a girl must always be shorter, weaker, and dumber than the man. But, I don't live and die by other people's mind sets or rules. Do you?" she said, challenging me.
"Well, do you?" she said.
"Well, no, I don't guess I do," I said. "Say, you wanna dance?"
"Love to," she said.
My face came up to maybe her chin. She leaned her head forward onto my shoulder. I guess we didn't look as ridiculous as I thought we might, nobody laughed. We danced several times that night. Six months later she became Mrs. Margo Barnes.
That was twenty-five years ago. Now, at our common age forty-seven, we have settled down. Margo is a sales rep for Heidi Salon, a beauty products distributor. I'm a lawyer with Brooks and Siefert. We've been doing fine. One kid, a daughter, Marissa, at state university; a four bedroom ranchstyle, with pool, in the subs; good friends; and a good sex life overall. Well, the sex life part was good until this past year or so. It seems to have fallen off pretty dramatically ever since the Christmas before last, a fact that has put a strain on me if not on her.
The kitchen is large. She's standing in it, on the phone, near the entryway; her back was to me.
"No I can't ... Maybe next week ... He's very bothered by it ... You're asking too much ... No, I've been cutting him off too much; you're asking too much... (laughter) ... Okay ... like I say maybe next week." She hung up. She walked through the entryway and into the front room. She hadn't seen me.
I was stunned, "cutting me off," she'd said. It could only mean one thing—couldn't it? Twenty plus years down the shitter? I had to know. All those years and nary even a suspicion that she was unhappy with me or with our sex life; well, again, except for the past year. Looking back now it had started, I'm guessing, around the time of our Christmas party year before last. After that things in the bedroom went slowly downhill. It wasn't all that noticeable at first, but had become a bone of contention lately: twice a month doesn't do it for me, but it seems to be more than enough for her. And when we do do it, she acts bored. It's been pissing me off, and now maybe I knew why.
I'm a lawyer, after all, I've had a bus load of experience with this shit. Well, now I was in it myself, the shit that is. That said, I knew just how to handle it. All I needed was the evidence and then I would act.
The Big Tuna was still my favorite watering hole even after all of these years. The name derived from the limited but terrific menu that the bar had. It's where we'd met, Margo and I. As I sat on my favorite bar stool, I was thinking that it, life, had come full circle. It, our life together, had begun here, and now it looked like it might end here. The tap on my shoulder broke me out of my reverie.
"Hello, Ely, got your call," said Jude. Jude is Jude Mason, a stand up guy: he'd saved almost as many marriages as he's gathered evidence to destroy. He's not only a licensed private-eye, he also holds a doctorate in Psychology. To say he's been useful to the firm wouldn't even come close to telling the real story.
"I think she's cheatin', Jude. Need you to find out," I said.
"What! Margo!" he said. "No way."
"Yeah way, and it's killing me. Can you do it?" I said.
"Of course I can do it. It's what I do. I mean I am a private dick, right?" he said.
"Pics, audio, all of it: okay?" I said. "I hope I'm wrong, but I know I'm not."
"Okay," he said. "I'll call you when I have what you're asking for. Any idea who he is?" said Jude.
"No, but I wanna know, and I wanna screw him over if I can. Find out about him too while you're at it," I said.
"Okay. Ely, I'm sorry, man."
"Yeah, me too," I said.
I decided to settle in and keep a low profile for the interim. I knew Jude was on the job and there was no use calling him every five minutes for updates. Unless I was totally off base, and I knew I wasn't, I'd know soon enough. It was two weeks later that I got the call. We decided to meet at the Big Tuna.
We sat in the booth farthest from the bar. "Is it bad?" I said.
"The baddest," said Jude. "As a psychologist, Ely, I like to save marriages if I can, but—well, in this case I would advise you to just divorce her and forget it. Do not listen to the tapes or look at the pictures or watch the videos. Usually, I mean very often, there is some way to save marriages that have lasted so long, but ... here, I just don't know."
My look brought him up short. "That bad, huh?" I said. He didn't say anything. He just looked down.
"Well, okay then. Anyway, what about him?" I said.
"Name's Fawcett, Harvey Fawcett. He's a realtor; got his own shop. Married, four kids. A few years younger than your wife. History as a womanizer, but seems to be pretty exclusive with your wife at the moment," said Jude.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," I said. Jude looked at me and noted my hurt.
"It happens, guy. You gotta let it go," he said.
"Make a second set of everything for his wife," I said.
"Already done. Say the word and she gets it all. For the record, they bad mouth her even worse than..."
"Yeah, than me. I get it," I said.
We talked for a while more, and he advised me as to how I should deal with it all from his point of view as a psychologist.
"Well, I gotta be goin'," I said. He slid the overly fat manila envelope across the table to me. I picked it up as though it were toxic. Well, it was, to my marriage at least.
Actually knowing was, if possible, even worse than the possibility of knowing. I wanted to be sick but couldn't. My stomach was roiling, but nothing was coming up. I tried to force it, but still nothing came up. I cried instead, like a baby.
I looked back on our beginnings. I was so desperately in love with that woman, still was. There would never be another; I was sure of that. The hurt was too deep. I was forty-seven years old. The prospect of being single again terrified me.
Jude had strongly advised me not to look at the evidence. To just give it to an associate at the firm and let him or her handle it. "Save the good memories," he'd advised, "don't create a whole new set of bad ones."
I'd decided to take his advice at least in part. I'd listen to the audio, some of it, but leave the pics for the legal eagle I'd ask to take care of the divorce.
Divorce? A very nasty and evil thing; I hated the very idea of it. But what other option was there? What else..."
.... There is more of this story ...