I stand, realizing that we could have stayed on that couch all day being close and sad and in love, and announce that I am going to pack up my things so that I’m not rushed later.
I pack my suitcase, taking things off hangers and out of the drawer he’d cleared for me in the bedroom. Jefferson had washed a few of my well-worn items yesterday. I retrieve them, neatly folded, from the chair. When I’m anxious I work quickly. In ten minutes I am totally packed.
We shower. I tear up once or twice, but thank god it’s not noticeable. I’m holding onto him and the walls, still trying to maintain my balance. Partly it’s the sex, but mostly it’s my body’s unwillingness to accept what my mind knows: We have three hours left together.
First things first, Jefferson says; we need to feed Madeline. He’s right. I’m hungry, but feeling sick at the same time. Like, how much food could I keep down with my stomach this tied in knots?
We go to the diner up the street. I order grilled cheese. Despite the heat, Jefferson orders bean soup and a Rueben. This is where we ate our last meal together back in April. We know the drill: I pass him my coleslaw, he gives me his pickle.
I’m feeling better, stronger at least, after eating. We have a few errands to run.
I buy some presents for Miles and Jack, little trinkets like super bouncing balls and those little plastic soldiers with the parachutes that float down when you throw them in the air. They’ll last about ten minutes when I get them home.
On the way back to the apartment we stop at the shipping store to buy bubble wrap.
We found a painting last night while walking home from the concert in Central Park. Jefferson stopped at a pile of things set out against the front stoop of a building. One of the items on top was a framed oil painting. It wasn’t particularly good—rather like something Marc Chagall might have painted at age 8— but the subject matter meant that I couldn’t let it float away the next morning on the garbage barge.
Jefferson assures me that I can take it home once he’s wrapped it properly to withstand the flight.
On the walk home, Viviane calls my cell. We have a nice chat, during which I get a little lump in my throat. She asks me to text her when I arrive safely home. I tell her goodbye and thank her for everything. I close my phone, smile wanly at Jefferson, and we walk the rest of the way in silence, our fingers laced.
At the apartment, I finish packing my laptop and change into my traveling clothes.
When I am walking through airports I like to pretend that I’m somebody famous, so that people who see me think, “Should I know that person? She sure looks as if I should...” I am appropriately confident and nonchalant, my bag and sunglasses exuding stylish importance. I know it's silly, but it helps with the tedium of travel, and I get to laugh at my private jokes.
Jefferson has grabbed some cardboard from the recycling room, sandwiched the painting in the middle and is now wrapping it in plastic bubbles and packing tape. He goes off in search of some string, saying he’d feel much better about its safety if the painting were securely tied. He comes back to the living room with a spool of thread.
“That? Oh, honey, I don’t think that is going to work very well…”
“Well, it’s all I could find, so let’s give it a shot.”
The thread fails miserably. I am so anxious about leaving and still shaking and pale. He’s commented on that more than once. I start to think I may actually be getting sick.
Suddenly, in my haze and anxiety, I start laughing uncontrollably. Jefferson looks at me, confused and, I think, a little concerned.
“Baby, what are we thinking?? You’ve got ROPE! Jefferson, you’ve got LOTS of rope!”
We are both laughing. My eyes are leaking.
He goes to the bedroom and comes back with a very long piece-- about three yards. I help him wrap it around the painting, crossing it in a perfect +.
It is tight. Secure.
And there, on our knees, on my anniversary day, while wrapping a painting of a marriage, Jefferson offers me the ends of the ropes saying,
“Madeline, would you care to tie the knot?”
New York City