|Lorraine and daughter Jane, summer of |
1982, seven months after we met
* * *
The following morning, July 5th, my virginity, such as it still remained, seems as outdated as a lorgnette, pretty to look at but impractical to use. Dashing scion continues to pursue me with the kind of charming intensity that such men possess when their goal is a reluctant cherry. I am a modern woman, right? I am hip, right? It is 1964! Even though all I knew about birth control could fit in a thimble, I am hardly the good Catholic who once believed in mortal sin, or someone who would reveal this transgression in a confessional. If I went to Confession.
Yet. The piercing remembrance of my pledge to Tom—that would only sleep with
one man in my life, my husband who would be him—is there in the bed with me
and this ardent Lothario a few weeks later. He might have lust in his heart; I only
have despair. Sex is awful in all the ways that sex for the sake of simply doing it is awful.
That January a call comes seemingly out of the blue—an offer of a flight to Rochester,
New York for a tryout on the morning paper there, for a job cityside, not in the ghetto of
a women’s department. Somebody from the Collegian knew somebody there, and my
name came up when that somebody mentioned they were looking for a feature writer.
I leap at the opportunity; I do not hesitate even when the editor of The Saginaw News
makes a counter offer, saying they will revamp the women’s department—they want to
modernize it—call it Lifestyle or some such thing, and put me in charge. The woman’s
editor, who is on the way to retirement anyway, will be eased out.
But I will be Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, Brenda Starr! not some lifestyle editor
in small town Michigan. “You need to go to one of the coasts” now rings prophetic
in my head, and Rochester is at least in the right direction. Besides, and this is a
very big besides, I heard that Tom had married—at the end of the year to that other
girl, the one I knew he had been seeing when we drifted apart, the one who also
went from Jackson JC to some school in central Michigan when he did.
Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but proximity yields marriage.
Good bye Tom, goodbye Midwest.
Chapter Two: CONCEPTION
In mid-February, I am walking across the Genesee River on my first day of
work at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. I do not acknowledge it—I barely
know it—but my heart is plenty sore. I am ripe for the attentions of someone who
is substantial, fervent and present. Present is very important. A month after that,
Patrick and I kiss. Kiss. It was on the eve of the Ides of March, a bad omen we
make light of. No strings, we hurriedly agree the next day, right? I don’t want
you to get the wrong idea, he says. I’m married. I’ve got a family.
I understand, I say. I don’t expect anything. How in charge I sound. I am not
the guardian of his fidelity; that is up to him, and I am not cheating on anyone.
I don’t feel like a seductress, nor do I feel like the one seduced. All is light and
His wife dislikes—make that hates—his job: the long hours, the not-enough pay,
the whole dirty business of working on a newspaper. He might be a hot shot in
the cityroom and a man respected about town, but at home he is a husband who
ought to have a better job. What I admire, she berates. He does not complain
about this, but it comes out in chance comments. One could smell trouble right
there, because for those of us who love the work—the story, the buzz of a deadline,
the satisfaction of front-page bylines—no better job can be imagined.
Though he sits directly across the aisle from me—a few feet from my desk
and no one has a cubicle—we are cool comrades. Instead of talking, we type each
other notes and leave them in our mail boxes at work. To arrange where and when
we will meet up for our dinner break we call each other on the interoffice phone.
When I hang up, he stays on the line and talks to the dial tone for another minute
so no one will notice we both hang up at the same time. We take to eating dinner at
Bryant’s, another reporters’ hangout but not as popular as the ‘Path, so we are
likely to be alone in a booth of red leather for an entire hour. Yet Bryant’s is not so
out of the way that if we run into other reporters we can carry off the fiction that
we just happen to have chosen Bryant’s instead of the Towpath that night—Come
on, join us? They usually do.
He reads my stories and offers a compliment or a critique. He suggests I read
The New York Times every morning to stay informed. We note a graceful turn of
phrase here, a detail to savor there. He buys me books, the canon of the times—
Hemingway and O’Hara, even Rostand (Cyrano De Bergerac—what made him
think of that?)—and Billie Holiday records to complement my Joan Baez. Patrick
is my friend, my mentor, (almost) my lover.
Not that we jumped into bed that first night we kiss, or the night after that.
Oh no. My Catholic guilt might have been left back in Michigan, his is running up
and down his Irish Catholic psyche. He’s never had an affair before. The all
systems-go switch in his brain turns off. Back then, no little blue pills to get us
over the hump. But for me, this was a plus of sorts. I do not have to do something
smart about birth control. I don’t have to think about it, and naturally I am not
prepared. All things considered, his impotence is kind of a gift. This I do not share
But all good things come to an end.
It happens in Manhattan. He is to cover a big Republican dinner there in
June. He asks me to come along, he’ll arrange everything and we could be together
without hiding for a couple of days, he’ll do an extra interview with someone in
Manhattan so we can have more than a single night there. I arrange for the time
Everything is planned so no one would connect the two of us. I will take an
early flight down, by myself, and meet him later in the day at a hotel on the east
side of Manhattan, far from the west side hotel where the event is taking place, and
everyone else will be staying.
Except that my flight is packed with what appeared to be the entire upstate Republican Party contingent, as well as the other editors and reporters going. Hello, everyone, what a surprise! Everyone going to the dinner is on that flight—on a suddenly very small plane—except Patrick. The GOP county chair, charming and chatty, sits next to me. Why was I going to New York midweek? Seeing friends. Did I know Pat Brasley, the paper’s political reporter? Of course. Where was I staying? With those friends. Could he buy me a drink in the next few days?
I’ll be busy. Did I want to ride into town in their limo? No, a friend is meeting me
in Manhattan, thank you, I’ll take a cab on my own. Since nobody with a shred of
street smarts would have turned down a limo ride into midtown, that probably was
a tip-off I was meeting the one person who should have been on that plane but
wasn’t. All I had to do was get off in midtown and say, thank you.
It being a Wednesday, and early enough to take in a matinee, I take myself to Broadway
and get tickets to Any Wednesday, that biting romantic comedy about a young single
woman and her married lover. Why not? It was amusing, the jokes close enough to singe.
That is what you went to see, he asks wryly, when we meet up later. I nod and
smile wryly in return. I can control this, right? I won’t get hurt, right?
We dine at La Caravelle, feeding trough of the haut monde and expense
accounts. I order vichyssoise for a starter, how delicious; we drink stingers after
dinner, how sophisticated; we hop a cab downtown for jazz at the Village
Vanguard, how hip; and on the second day in the late afternoon, we become lovers
in the sense that the world understands.
It is too late to not be in love. The words have been said. And said again. It’s
a story as old as time, as common as roses in rhyme.
But of course I am keenly aware of his young children, three—he spoke of
them the morning after the first kiss, how “this couldn’t mean anything”—but we
have both given into the heady intensity of our romance. He gives me gold
earrings, I buy him silk ties. Occasionally we meet at a restaurant that has a single
rose on each table and waiters who speak with French accents. Saturday afternoons
we might listen to Herbie Hancock—the pianist that night at the Vanguard—on my
stereo. Guilt once had set out its snare for him, but he beat it back, and I reject
being schoolmarm of his marriage.
If Tom was raw and unfinished, Patrick is the opposite: he is already a star
in the firmament that matters most to me. And married lovers are so caring, so
constant, so unlike careless young men who do not yet see how easily love can get
* * *
A Chinese woman at the newspaper is known to read palms. What do you
see in mine, I ask one day. She must have told me more than this, but this is all I
recall, as she curled my palm into a fist: You will have one child, but there is
something wrong, like he’s adopted.
How very odd. Why would I adopt? -lorraine from hole in my heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
From Chapter 1, Back Story. and the beginning of Chapter 2: Conception
Sorry is this is confusing; I intended to finish the chapter in last blog post but got sketchy about admitting....well, you know.
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