"I hate the Tappan Zee. How about the other way on 84all the way to Brewster and then down the Hutch."
He was comforting me with his own obsessions. My father could debate four different ways of going down to the 7-Eleven for a pint of half- and-half on a Sunday morning. Around the time I started growing pubic hair, it started making me crazy. Then in college I found myself doing it. Later, I found it made my wife nuts. That's not fair. My wife was more than a bit nuts when I met her.
"You know what I want? I want to see New York from the GW Bridge."
"It's your day."
We rode in silence for a while.
"You want to play something on the radio? You go ahead." This was a hugely magnanimous gesture. Not only was he tone-deafhe loved to repeat the old line "I only know two songs. One of them's 'Happy Birthday.' The other isn't"but he also had, what I considered to be, an unhealthy addiction to sports talk radio.
"Thanks, Pop. I'm enjoying the quiet."
The quiet didn't last long.
"Have you heard from Angie at all?"
Angie was my wife. Ex-wife. We met at a Bear Stearns party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She and two hundred other models had been hired to circulate at the party and "add color." I'm sure that it was the first time she had ever been there. I was an adult version of a nerd, a Wall Street trader, and a multimillionaire. Angie was an underwear model with a charming, bubbling ditzinessthink Myrna Loy in a D-cupthat disguised all clues to her dark side. She was also a monumental narcissist, a street fighter, andI discovered latera lush. But she was never boring. We were both asked to leave that party after Angie convinced me to go wading with her in the fountain at the Temple of Dendur. For the first time in eight years, I called in sick the next day. And I stayed in bed all dayher bed. We were married eight weeks later. I thought I knew what I was doing.
"Idiot!" Pop said, as an SUV swerved into our lane without signaling. The car behind us flashed its brights in protest.
I let him ask the question again.
"So, I was saying . . . heard from Angie?"
"Nothing," I finally answered. "Not since they left."
It had been almost eight months. At first she made regular once-a-month trips up to Ray Brook. I grew to resent how dependent I became upon those visits. They brought no pleasuredivorced men get no conjugal visitsonly desire, pain, frustration, and anger.
But they were all I had. I never thought they must have been tough for her as well.
She sent me a card announcing the move. Gilt lettering on heavy linen stock, like a wedding invitation. "Angie and Jason Jr. are leaving New York and heading home. Y'all come see us sometime." Underneath was her mother's address in Beauville, Louisiana. There was no signature. I suppose I should have been gratified that I was on the distribution list.
"I'll go see her," I said. "We can straighten this all out." I might have believed it, too.
My father made that little noncommittal grunt that manages to express nonbelief in the most nonconfrontational manner and we lapsed back into silence.
The traffic was starting to get to me. They all drove too fast. The trucks and SUVs all looked impossibly large and the way everyone careened from lane to lane with only limited regard for human life their own or anyone else'sgave me a headache. I put my head back and closed my eyes.
A few minutes later, I felt my father's hand cover mine. He gave a gentle squeeze.
"Keep the faith, bud. Fresh start. It's all going to work out."
I didn't tell him about the big trucks and the headache. I just squeezed his hand back. Maybe he was right.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...