The couples began arriving at my house just shy of a half an hour late, despite the fact that I had asked for them to get over to the house this evening by seven. I guess each couple had been trying to jockey its arrival time so that they would not be the first to arrive. As a result, the cars for two of the couples arrived at the top of my driveway at about the same time, at twenty-five after seven. My dad's truck, with him and Mama Connie, my stepmother, arrived just five minutes later.
I was still in the living room, trying to ask about drink preferences for Larry and Angela Klugh and Roy and Mary Jo Chastain, when Dad and Mama Connie came on in the front door without knocking or ringing, just as they had always done. While I was getting the drinks for the first two couples, Dad came back to the kitchen, retrieved two beers from my fridge for himself and Mama Connie, and followed me out as I brought the others' drinks out to them.
I'd already started working on a Bud Black Crown just as my visitors had begun to arrive. After ensuring that everyone was as physically situated and comfortable as possible, I sat down in my easy chair, facing all of them across the coffee table; except for Dad and Mama Connie, who sat near the piano, off to the right side as I faced the others.
Conversation to this point had been limited to simple courtesy greetings and responses, along with the minimum information passed among each other to determine drink preferences; adding their thanks for the courtesy. The emotional mix of sadness, grief, anger, and humiliation of the overall situation in which I now found myself, my family, and my friends this evening sort of put the brakes on the idea of trying to engage each other in any form of light conversation; no talk about kids, clubs, work -- especially not about marriages; most notably mine.
You see, I had had my wife, Jamey, served at her work place this morning for divorce on the grounds of adultery. She had not called me frantically, as some other wives might have done in that situation. I guess she had taken one look at the two pictures of her and Doug Stevenson in the throes of sexual ecstasy as Doug eagerly plunged his dick into her cheating cunt in doggie position (out of the couple of hundred that I had received from my PI) that I had included in the packet -- along with the transcription of extracts of some of their intimate conversations (also courtesy of my PI).
Evidently, Jamey had decided to follow my written instructions to pick up the bags that I had packed and left on the front porch, containing those items that she would need for an immediate move to wherever she would be staying temporarily (my grandfather had left me as the sole owner of the house when he had passed away before we were married, six years previously; and I had changed the locks after she had left for work this morning).
I had told Jamey in writing that I was putting the rest of her things, along with most of our (till now) mutually-valued items, in storage out on East Brainerd Road, just east of downtown Chattanooga. I had not heard from her at all, except for one sheet of paper she had evidently stuck in my storm door when I came back this afternoon that said simply, "I'm sorry."
Whatever conversation was going on in the room ceased when I finally spoke and all eyes fixed on me as they began to absorb what I said.
"I had my lawyer arrange for serving Jamey with divorce papers at her work place this morning."
I did not say it loudly or with any noticeable anger in my voice. But that one statement had the same effect as if I had shouted it at the top of my lungs. The all stopped talking and turned to stare at me. For a second there, all motion stopped as well. I was sure that word of my action had reached at least the two wives, but both husbands probably knew as well what I had done today before I spoke.
I was looking generally at a point relatively in the center of mass of all of them, so that I was not looking at the expression on any of their faces. I really did not care who was displaying awareness, shock, surprise, innocence, or the lack of any of those emotions.
This meeting tonight was not so much about announcing the dissolution of my six-year marriage to Jamey as it was to outline the path of my life in the near future -- "going forward," as the President and other Washington politicians liked to say in their speeches, in order to look as if anything they were doing was moving toward some sort of "goodness" in the immediate future; it was a silly Washington-focus-group-approved expression that meant absolutely nothing.
"Clint," my dad finally said, after about five seconds of silence, "are you sure there was nothing that you and Jamey could have done before having her served? Or, maybe, even now?"
When I did not answer immediately -- trying to hold in my anger and frustration over several situations developing concurrently this evening -- Mary Joe Chastain (naturally, as she was the most gregarious of the bunch) said, "Mr. Hood, as well as I know your son, you can bet that he weighed all the alternatives before doing what he did to Jamey." She placed her hand, the one not holding her glass of water, softly against Roy's arm, as her husband slowly nodded his head while pondering what he had just heard in silence.
Under other circumstances, I might have been grateful to Mary Joe for voicing a recognition of my emotional juggling abilities -- but, not tonight!
Just three months ago:
"Yeah, Clint," Roy said to me, in response to my observation, "it sure looks like a clandestine rendezvous to me too."
Roy and I were enjoying a beer together after watching one of the many basketball games on the big screens at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had just commented on the appearance of some hanky-panky in the far corner.
She -- an early-thirties bottle blonde -- had come in just short of an hour before with two other ladies. He -- a late-thirties guy with a nice suit and wingtips (definitely out of place in a sports bar) had come in alone just ten minutes ago.
Given the quickness with which he had vectored over to the corner of the room after getting his drink at the bar; and as quickly as she had detached herself from her group to join him in his corner; they had obviously either arranged this earlier, done this before, or both. Seeing the rings on each of their left hands, it was obvious that they were married, and other indications led one to be more than just a little certain that they were not married to each other.
"Hey, Roy," I had asked him, as I pondered the recent changes that I had noted in Jamey's level of affection and interaction with me -- and not for the better, I might add. "What would you do if you knew either one or both of those cheating assholes and you spotted them out in public like this?
"I mean ... sure, there's the risk of telling the aggrieved spouse and having the one that you tell getting angry and trying to 'kill the bearer of bad news.' But, don't you feel that the poor guy -- in the case of the cheating wife -- or the poor woman -- in the case of the cheating husband -- needs to know?"
Roy was not originally from Tennessee; he had only moved here from New York after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and being hired by the Department of Energy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He had eventually left ORNL and had come to Chattanooga after being hired by a local engineering firm four years ago. We had met, right after he and Mary Joe had moved here, at a book-signing that our wives had brought us to at Barnes and Nobel in town. We had discovered that we lived in the same neighborhood; dinner invitations were extended; and Jamey and I had added them to our list of compatible couples among our mutual friends.
Thus, having known Roy for a few years now -- and recognizing that he still had a lot of the New Yorker in him -- I was not really surprised by his answer. "Naahh! Too many complications. Anyway, the truth always comes out in these matters in the long run. Why ruin a good friendship by having a bad memory associated with you permanently?"
"So," I riposted, "you would just let it be and not say anything at all? What if it was the wife of a close friend? Would that not count for something?"
Roy rolled his glass between his hands on the small elevated table on which we had been enjoying our wings and drinks, thinking about his response. Then, he said, "I guess, if it was a good friend -- ya know, a close one -- and not just an acquaintance from work or other social connections, I might reconsider and try to let the poor guy know."
I was smiling at the very Southern influence that his wife, Mary Joe, was having on Roy just to get him to bend even a smidgen on his 'don't-get-involved' attitude ingrained in him since his childhood, growing up near the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.
I asked him, "You'd want to know if it was Mary Joe, wouldn't you?"
"Never happen," he bristled. Then he took a quick drink and banged his glass on the table to show that he was irritated with me; simply even for considering that his loving wife might stray.
"Easy, Boy," I said. "We are only what-if-ing here, ya know? I ain't making no accusations. I'd just like to know that my friends had my back if ... you know ... they ever ... well, saw..." deep breath, "Jamey ... was doing anything inappropriate behind my back."
I took a swallow of my beer. "Ya know what I mean, Verne?"
.... There is more of this story ...