White hair. In one day, I noticed more than I had seen in a year in Manhattan. And permanents. Curls all over heads, turning older women into lambs. Fashions dating back in time. No, that's not quite accurate. No sense of fashion. A sort of immutability in women's looks. But not Jane's. While her approaching middle age might be visible in a certain widening about the waist, her hair remained a flashy honey yellow, a color that could be created only artificially. Hair dye alone identified her as a transplant.
In Sakonnet Bay, people aged and looked it. I had auburn hair and there was no way I was going to let nature take its course. At this time of my life, age thirty-seven, the only thing I had to do about gray hair was extract one strand at a time, but I already had plans to eradicate one irritating vertical crease between my eyebrows. I'd read in Elle about this magical remedy, Botox. A little shot of botulism. No beau of mine would ever boast, Lily doesn't wear a lick of makeup. But many women here didn't wear a lick, and I found it cozy. Sam and I were moving into a village of grandmas.
After we walked the business district, Jane took me on a ride through the pricey area. "The ocean-side of Maine," she called it. An elegant landscape of groomed gardens and sprawling houses, but deserted, lifeless. It was late April, a month before the weekenders and summer residents from Manhattan would begin their occupation. Then we went north into my future neighborhood.
Here locals lived on tree-lined streets in two-story shingled dwellings on identical quarter-acre lots. The houses appeared to have been built at the same time, because they resembled one another like members of a large extended family. Jane said they dated from between 1875 and 1920. Each had a bit of personality-a path bordered in whitewashed rocks, dormer windows edged with gingerbread-but only personality, not eccentricity, and that was further confirmation of solidity, of a world that fads passed by.
I wrote about our move for Ladies' Home Journal, in a cheerful upbeat piece, which was what the magazine always wanted. I described my going-away party at a SoHo bar, claiming that my friends had sworn to visit. They did promise-that was true-and we all kissed and cried; but they were like me, diehard Manhattanites. To leave the city, unless it was to go someplace thrilling like Paris, they would have to be towed. I said that the traffic, crowds, and noise were driving Sam and me away. In fact, I thrived on chaos. It was unlikely we'd be back, I insisted, neglecting to mention that we'd sublet our rent-stabilized apartment month to month, to a writer friend who needed an office. I also enthused about how glorious it would be to see stars at night, when actually a grand sparkling night sky would turn out to be intimidating. Fodder for my overactive fearful imagination. Until I moved to a quiet place, I didn't understand how fears and fantasies could expand to take up all available space. So in this article, I was as inaccurate in projecting my tranquil future as in describing my troubled present. I omitted that my fifteen-year-old son was sneaking out to Manhattan clubs. Several times I'd caught him returning at four in the morning. And I certainly didn't mention the incident that had triggered my panic and subsequent break with the city: I had found a knife in Sam's underwear drawer. A steak knife, imitation-wood handle and blade with serrated edge. I'd been hunting for drugs, been prepared to uncover a baggie full of grass, when I discovered the knife instead.
I removed it and mentioned it to neither Sam nor his father, whom Sam visited in Massachusetts every fourth weekend. I couldn't imagine waving and yelling, What was this doing there? Besides, I thought I knew. Its presence was consistent with a crayon drawing Sam had made as a six-year-old, after the divorce: a stick figure of a boy under a sky filled with long narrow triangles.
Reprinted from Big City Eyes by Delia Ephron by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Delia Ephron. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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