Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chapter 23 / Lipstick

“Nice wheels,” said Jaime, circling Annie’s new car. “What is it again?”

“A Lexus. Hop in, I’ll take you for a spin.” 

“Let’s go to Random Salad! I’ll get my wallet.”  

Annie adjusted the sunroof. She loved adjusting the sunroof, and she loved this perfect May day with air so sweet you could grab handfuls of it and everything in bloom, from the skunk cabbage in the swamps to the apple blossoms in the orchards. Chloe jumped into the front seat and Annie returned her to the back, carefully covered by Orvis, and gave her a dog biscuit to stay there. On a weekday off, she and Chloe had been looking for a friend to take along for the ride.
Imagine this in red

“It smells new,” said Jaime, inside the car. “I thought somebody died in this car.” 

“That was the Toyota pick-up. Father Paul has blessed Lipstick in case she had bad vibes. And she is practically new. It took three auctions, but she’s worth it.” 

“Five grand?

Annie nodded. “Someone else was bidding, but they dropped out at five.”

“I never thought I’d see you in a four-door sedan.” 

“I could trade it in for something else, but it has a standard shift and it’s red. I never thought I’d own a red car in my life. Plus the low mileage. A little old lady drug dealer must have owned it.” 

Pues. Did they have any Subaru Legacys?”

“That might be a stretch. But if you need a truck, they have lots of trucks. So, what’s the dirt?” 

“You have a boyfriend who bought you a car.” 

“—You’re kidding! People talk about this?” Annie felt herself start to flush.

“And your car is nicer than your bosses’. 

“Well, they can buy new ones!” 

Annie heard herself, defensive. When she had arrived at work last week, everyone had left the office to come look at her car. They had all just stood up and walked out—production first, then the ad guys, and finally editorial. They admired the gleam of the finish, the sunroof, the four cup holders. It had been another fine May day, and no one had gone inside until the phone rang. Tina had looked like a thundercloud.   

“Seriously,” said Jaime, “what’s the deal? How do you feel? Are you OK with this?”

“The deal is, there is no deal. He puts his money where his mouth is. He says, leasing a car is a bad idea. I will buy you a good car at an auction. It happens. 

“That’s the odd-feeling part. I have a problem. He solves it. Except for the damned cell phone, which never works. But he pays the bill. Or somebody pays the bill. A law firm in New York handles his money. I mean, they write his checks, so he won’t forget. I wish someone would write my checks.” 

“And this law firm was OK with his buying a car for some woman upstate.” 

“Apparently. I think if he had wanted to buy me a red Lamborghini there would have been a meeting. And perhaps a return to residential treatment. But five thousand bucks is well within the budget.”
Not purchased

“Well,” said Jaime. “Pues.” 

Pues indeed. Is he buying me? He doesn’t ask anything in return. Not anything that I wouldn’t give him anyway, even if I were leasing a car.” 

“You’re still not sleeping together?”


“Amazing . . . do you want to?”

“Almost. Physically, yes. Mentally, not yet.” 

“Are you both on meds? How do you divide them?”

“It’s been a tough eight months, Jaime. I’ve learned to wait and see what happens next. But speaking of sex, what did you want to tell me about Julia and Daniel?”

“She left him.” 

“I figured. But I couldn’t believe it.” 

Daniel and Julia and their two adorable red-haired children, still in the single digits, owned the produce farm north of Annie. Summers, Jaime worked part-time in their store, cashing out customers under the yellowing laminated newspaper feature on the “new family farm.”

“Yes. Said she needed more space.”

“Between her legs?”

“Sí. She’s got a guy. It’s depressing to work there. I’d bail out, but I can’t do that to him. He has to go on. He has the kids.”

They drove in silence for a minute. 

“Do you realize that all the produce farmers are breaking up?” said Annie.

Young or middle-aged, biodynamic, community supported, or just plain organic, they could not keep their marriages together.  

“Who else—oh, is it true about Laurence and Megan?”

“Yes. Catherine told me. She knows them.” 

“I never trusted him.” 

At the biodynamic complex, the Czech husband chucked his wife’s family company and compound, leaving her and their two blue-eyed, blond children to deal with her Catholic parents and the hundreds of farm shareholders who expected nuclear country life when they arrived in August for the annual harvest party in the fields and around the swimming pool. 

“And if you want to count Dutchess County, which I do,” said Annie, “Betsy finally left her husband.” 

The couple who owned the big farm—the real business farm, with a store that stayed open all winter selling shrink-wrapped cheese from 500 miles away—had broken up, she no longer able to tolerate his systematic unfaithfulness, even for the sake of their eight-year-old.

“He’s a jerk,” said Jaime. “She’s better off.”

“True. But I find this discouraging,” said Annie. “If raspberries and sweet corn and children can’t keep you together, what can?”

What was wrong in these gardens? Annie had expected these farmers, new and old, to be more, and better, with their ruddy skin, sun-bleached hair, their bodies uniformly thin and strong. 

“Farming is hard work,” said Jaime. 

“So is commuting on the Long Island Expressway to an office or running a newspaper, or a restaurant . . . though Katrina at The Dutch Inn does always look like she’s just eaten a bad oyster.” 

Jaime giggled. “Ed was divorced.” 

“But we’re not perfect. The farmers are perfect.” 

“Stop it. Charlotte is happy.” 

In her 50s, childless, Charlotte, proprietor of Random Salad, had, over the winter, harvested her husband of 25 years. “Michael and I are separated!” she had called cheerfully over the asparagus last week. 

“A little of this, a little of that,” she said, citing differing interests, growing apart. And Annie thought of Charlotte’s winter trips to Italy, Michael’s to Belize. “And he wouldn’t take care of himself when he got that virus last year,” said Charlotte.

“Granted, he was drunk sometimes during the day last summer, but what happened to ‘in sickness and in health’?” Annie asked as they pulled into the parking lot. 

“Annie, you’re such an idealist. And Charlotte’s not a farmer. She has the world’s best produce market, but she grows very little of it.” 

“Are you and Doc happy?”

“As much as anyone on earth. But it’s ‘a second marriage for both,’ remember. Sometimes you get it right.” 

“Thanks. I’ll hang onto that.” 

Copyright © 2014 Debby Mayer

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia


  1. I've got to be honest -- I don't know why you have so much talk about split relationships. You've done a great job of describing them briefly so we quickly know what's going on. In fact, the writing is as usual terrific! But while we know Annie is gun shy of romantic relationships, this seems a little like overkill. I did very much like the scene of all her work mates making such a fuss over her "new" red Lexus. And I do very much like her relationship with her friends.

  2. Random Salad! I like that.

    I'm not sure Annie would accept a car, a Lexus no less, from a guy. That's huge! She's too independent for that, no?

    1. Well, she needs a car. Hers has died and she's driving a rental. Even in 1993, $5,000 for an almost-new car was a good price (I checked). Maybe I should clarify some things, but I hate to bog you down with details. I gratefully accept any feedback for the next round. In the meantime, onward . . .

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