Right before we walk in, Newman reaches for my hand and asks, “Are you ready?”
I lean in for a kiss. “Yes,” I whisper, squeezing his hand to reassure him, as if we are conspirators in a critical mission, one in which the icy footpath and barking dog are daunting omens. We hang back for a second, peeking in the windows like children sneaking in to a place they do not belong. In there are musicians, bright lights and bright sounds of friends catching up. In there is food spread lavishly across the kitchen counter-top: fruit and dips and sandwiches and a large cake that we will discover is made entirely of flowers. In there, drinks are being mixed and tilted, stories are being swapped, and impressions are being made.
Newman opens the door, what used to be his door, and we are swept into a series of purposeful steps that lend relief: coats and scarves must be shed, and greetings must be made to the kind friend I have met before who has arrived from the kitchen to lend me a smile and a casual yet certain comment: “I’m glad you’re here, and so is she.”
“She” is Newman’s ex-wife, and this is his old home, and this is the party for her fiftieth birthday where all their shared friends have come to celebrate. We have been invited and have already been through several waves of reactions. I don’t want to go. He wants to go. He wants me to go with him. I don’t want him to go. He wants to go alone. I don’t want him to go without me. I am going to have Free; I’ll try to get a babysitter. I can’t get one; he can go alone. I’m not going to have Free after all. I will go. He doesn’t want to go.
We will go. We won’t stay too long. He’ll stay close. It will be ok.
We arm ourselves with two Atavans, giggling by the sink as we take them, feeling like teenagers as we toy with substances that might help us impersonate confidence and calm. Newman chokes on his as he tries to swallow it, and we aren’t sure if he got it down or if it was spit out by accident while I gracelessly thumped his back and he coughed, leaning heavily over the sink. We are wide-eyed, waiting for an effect that we never feel. The dosage is tiny, prescribed, and far from illicit: a miniature buffer against the sure flood to come. We are spent from the drama of our negotiations and just need to get along again.
We enter the fabric of the party. A friend Newman does not like introduces herself and makes me a drink; she later tells me Newman does not like her and that I am to tell him I like her. I laugh, and I sip the pink fizzy thing she has made me while I look around the room. There are people I’ve met before, long ago when I was in this house as a guest at another party with my then husband. The house is large, welcoming and open. The barking dog is Ollie, and he and I are not strangers to each other. Downstairs, one of Newman’s sons is on the computer while the other is in his “cave,” the bar area I can picture from that last party.
I have been here before, and I have visited often enough in my mind through Newman’s stories. I have thought too much about him here, about her, about their life together. The photos on the wall are of the children, and there are new things here since I last walked through as a party guest without the weight of a history of divorce. Now the chess pieces have been rearranged; his ex and her boyfriend make occasional contact as the minutes pass; we smile and sip and slip and slide like pieces in a pinball machine. It is not entirely unpleasant. I know Newman is pleased with me for patience I have shown with him and with this scene, and I watch him now, watching me too as he attends to old friends and their new woes.
Newman’s friend who greeted me at the door, the one who lost his youngest daughter to cancer last year, has left early with his wife to go home to their other child. “She doesn’t like to be home alone for too long,” he tells us apologetically as he slides out the door. We are about to leave too when a couple comes in, the one Newman has been waiting for, the one who have been at the hospital with their son who will most likely not be here when Newman’s ex celebrates her fifty-first. We reach out our hands, we offer them drinks, we look in their eyes. We say things that don’t say anything–except to say how very sorry we are. The room has changed since they entered; the busy preparations of food and music have become a lulled background to their faces: animated and grateful for the company, yet drained too, their reality a yawning grip that clasps them steadily.
When we leave this place, it is with relief that everyone, myself and Newman included, was patient, nice, and friendly. I know the pull Newman feels toward this home, which used to be his. The circles that we have made all night as we traversed the party are ones he made for years and years, and the web he made is not one that is easy for him to erase; nor is it easy for him to weave anew with me. I know it will take time. I ease into the cold car. Newman is driving, and his youngest son is in the backseat. We are tired and eager for sleep, and he will navigate the icy patches of the road for us to bring us to our home.
An Easy (or Easier) Food Challenge
March is here! I completed the Fab Ab challenge and re-discovered my ab muscles. Now I am going to take on Kristen’s March challenge too and add my own version of a food challenge. It’s something anyone should be able to do, and I hope to lose a pound or two in the process. The Kristens are inspiring me! Here’s what to do if you want to join in.
1. List your top four food/drink loves or categories. Be as honest as you can be about what you love the most and could never give up for a long period of time. Mine are chocolate, wine, pasta, and cheese.
2. Give one up per week if it means you will be healthier or it will help you reach your goal of losing some calories. This is not a major diet; it will only work if you, like me, want to keep it realistic and hopefully start to shed a thin layer of the blub that is hiding those awesome ab muscles from the world.
3. Don’t cheat by compensating for what you’re giving up by taking in more of the other categories. The whole point is that you’re cutting one thing out each week so that over the course of the month, you’ve cut down on your overall caloric intake.
Here’s what I’ll do (and I’m already two days through!):
March 1- 7: No dessert (This includes candy, chocolate, cookies, etc. Fruit is fine, but no whipped cream or sugar on top.)
March 8-14: No alcohol or any kind, and since I usually drink coke with my rum, I’m not going to have soda all week either.
March 15-21: No pasta! This will be toughest, but if I’m successful with weeks 1 and 2, I think I’ll be up for the challenge.
March 22-28: Since I won’t give up cheese (it’s actually the primary way I get calcium, so it wouldn’t be good for me to stop), I am going to spend week 4 giving up all three of the categories in the prior weeks. Woo-hoo!
Easter Sunday Weekend: All bets are off. Knowing I can go to my sister and her husband’s traditional Italian Easter dinner will help me get through that last week.
Here’s another tip that I read about that can help: did you know that just by writing down what you eat, you should lose 6 lbs in a month? Redbook tells me that it makes you more accountable.
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