October 29, 2009
Dear Fellow Spinster:
It’s hard knowing where to start a story as long as mine: my first memory of lying in a crib in the childcare room at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Huntington, Long Island, wrapped in a blanket and staring up at a mobile that hung like a branch just beyond the reach of my tiny fingers? My need to forgive my dad, who charmed nearly everyone with his mad genius and good looks, and who I lost nearly three years ago? My dream last week of a certain philandering Senator otherwise dubbed “the little Breck girl” back when he tossed his hat into the presidential ring and the name “Rielle Hunter” still meant nothing to the public?
Hmmmm. They are all related, these stories: my upbringing as a church girl, the senator’s infuriating penchant for affairs, my dad’s infuriating talent for charming ladies far and wide and the way he cheated on my mother right up to the day she died of breast cancer and I sat at her bedside at our home on Lake George, holding her hand until her eyes closed forever.
Let’s have fun, shall we? John Edwards for five hundred, please.
This is the story.
I spied him two weeks ago on University Place in front of the dry cleaners, where he sat, alone, on a park bench.
“John Edwards. What are you doing here!” I exclaimed upon spotting, first the top of his head, then, beneath it, his famous face, which was tilted downward, as if he was trying to hide behind all that famous hair, which had grown longish, by the way. A bit Bohemian, the way I like it.
Let me say that I had liked him as a candidate long ago, less for his good looks than his appealing virtue of being a handsome man who appeared to be a one-woman man, a devoted family guy and public servant to boot. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. And then the National Enquirer burst my bubble.
The sight of him sitting there in the morning sunshine right outside the dry cleaner unleashed in my thought a meteor shower of tabloid images. Elizabeth. Rielle. The baby. I immediately recalled the story of how she met him, improbably in midtown, and got him at hello. Well, it wasn’t hello. I think she said, “Hello,” and then said, “You’re hot.” And the next thing you know, she’s moving to South Carolina with the baby and Elizabeth is all over the Huffington Post saying she’s going to toss the bum out.
I looked at John there, on that bright October day, and had a Rielle moment of sorts. I say “of sorts” because he looked vulnerable and, I felt, needed a friend. Otherwise, why would he be sitting like that? I mean, he wasn’t even trying to hide behind a newspaper. He just looked, well, dejected.
I am no Rielle. My thought was merely to be a good Samaritan. Being a bit of a prude and disapproving of how he’d treated Elizabeth (and also being a firm believer in the seventh commandment and the Golden Rule), I wasn’t hitting on him. I was wearing sweats, having just walked the dog, besides. I was just being a helpful neighbor. Offering a helping hand, because that’s just the kind of person I am.
“Aren’t you afraid of being spotted?” I asked as he looked up at me. It was an inviting look, the look of a man with nothing to hide. Still I wondered what he was doing there, where people who disliked him for being a bum could look down at the top of his head as I did and take in his famous face as I did and perhaps make disparaging comments, as I do every time I see a picture of him in the Enquirer at D’Agostino’s, or see Rielle with that baby on Entertainment Tonight, and think about him promising her a rooftop wedding and a serenade by Dave Matthews after Elizabeth passes on. I mean really!
He smiled and I sat down. “You could sit in Washington Square Park,” I said, describing the lovely park renovation, the fountain that spurts water that I cavorted in with that nice guy from Church on the last hot days of August, and how the whole thing now lines up with the arch and Fifth Avenue. “You would have some privacy, there,” I said. But he wasn’t interested.
I was perplexed by his blankness. I mean, it conveyed a complete lack of awareness and propriety. “You’re persona non grata around here, John,” I wanted to tell him. “People don’t like you any more. At least have the common sense to remove yourself from being seen and judged.”
But I didn’t.
“Union Square is also a bit more private and it’s closer,” I offered, thinking that he could disappear more readily there, too. Perhaps he could sit in the dog run? I mean, it’s a bit smellier than the one in Washington Square. Not many people go there. Daffodil doesn’t even like it. He would, at the very least, not be seen—or judged by the likes of people like me.
He didn’t say no. He just didn’t say yes. It didn’t interest him and I was somewhat concerned. Here was John Edwards, looking a bit out of sorts. Had he lost it, mentally? Where was the big smile? The crisp suit? Gone. He was, to all appearances, an ordinary handsome guy — and a bit of a depressed one, if you ask me.
He looked so harmless I offered to get him a glass of water and a place to cool off. He didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no. I thought, this is a bit weird, but I’m offering him a cup of water in Christ’s name. Where’s the harm in that? I was mindful that he was married and also that the last time I’d allowed someone that attractive upstairs to use the loo that there had been some amount of making out and grappling. But this guy? I wasn’t worried. He didn’t look up to it.
As happens in dreams, my apartment was no longer a studio when I opened the door to let Mr. Edwards inside, but had undergone a Cinderella transformation. Gone was the tiny kitchen and short hallway in which that last guy—a handsome Columbian art director from work who also happened to have a girlfriend—had entrapped me in his arms. In its place was a vast sunlit space with expansive marble floors and expensive modern furniture, the kind of space in which you don’t consider anything untoward happening because, well, I wasn’t going to let it and also because it looked so much like the lounge of the W Hotel.
I led John into my large dream kitchen with the granite counter tops and marveled at my new Sub-Zero fridge and how I could fill a glass with ice cubes and purified water right from the door, unlike the 18 year old GE model I owned when awake that froze everything in it even when turned off. John was quiet. He leaned against the counter and when I handed him the glass, drank thirstily, poor dear.
We walked into the living room, which was now overlooking Central Park. I turned on some music and we sat down. And then—I can’t say how this happened—he had taken off his shirt and we were dancing, me in my sweatpants, him bare-chested. Let me say that things didn’t go farther than that, physically. I enjoyed the feeling of being held like that by someone who shouldn’t have been doing it the way we do in our dreams and some people do when awake: without recrimination.
The next thing I knew, I’d taken him to an outdoor wedding where the banquet tables looked out on what is perhaps a uniquely Southern form of wedding entertainment: a tractor pull. Perhaps we were in his home state? I guess it must have been. The landscape was not that of upstate New York. There were barns, sure, but I’m pretty sure the crop I was looking out on in the distance was tabacky. Not that I know.
I woke up in the morning, after my night of dancing with a bare-chested John Edwards and watching the tractor pull feeling as I always do after one of these no-strings-attached nocturnal dalliances: a lucky woman. The feeling of satisfaction lasted all day—and the next. I may be a Christian spinster, but I am a uniquely modern one: I had him at hello. And now he is gone — back to being just a face in the tabloids and perhaps soon dancing on a rooftop with Rielle to some Dave Matthews song. Frankly, I hope Elizabeth keeps her word. You just can’t trust guys with hair that perfect. And Dave Mattews? He should have the good sense to be busy that day. Heck, let Rielle and John settle for a tractor pull. Between you and me, though, even that’s too good for them.