I live in the clouds, in a beautiful apartment made of glass, in New York City. My husband is a tall, wise, epically handsome, highly successful man. My good fortune humbles me. I get tired of the things I say to him, though, and how I say them. “Might go to the gym,” I say. “Might pick up some vino.”
Tonight he came home with terrible news. His ex-wife—they were only briefly married—was killed this morning. She was one of these out-there types. A photojournalist, quite well regarded, with the Associated Press. Her colleagues don’t yet know exactly how it happened. She was covering a drug-related skirmish in the Sinaloa highlands, in northwest Mexico. They know she’s dead.
Dead! As dead as anyone. Any dead person.
In any case, she and my husband were married for several months when he was twenty-nine, almost ten years ago. There was no unfinished business. If there was, and I didn’t know about it, it’s finished now.
In our kitchen, scraping dinner from our plates, I think of her. Her hair, her hips he handled. Lips he kissed—all alone now in the hot dark of a morgue in Mexicali.
One thing to know: I’ve heard myself described as a “solid nine,” which, from time to time, out to dinner, when I catch myself, full-length, in the dim jewel of a brasserie’s artfully distressed bathroom mirror, strikes me as actually low, and unkind.
Now, I’m not one of these wash-and-go types. I do require some overhead. My husband wonders what I’m doing in the can for hours. I tell him, Honey, I’m making magic happen.
My forehead, I’ve noticed, at a certain angle, has a slightly upper-penile (lower-penile?) ridge to it. In the final analysis—I’ve gone back and forth on this a bunch—bangs are my friend. My eyebrows must be penciled in in quite an exacting way, like very lightly italicized commas, or they tend to disappoint the Vitruvian good sense of my features. Twice daily I’ll use a product called Sel de la Pêche Lash-Amplifying Complex II, which comes in a teeny-weeny, ninety-dollar tube, and though it smells and feels a lot like Vaseline is actually filled with things called “deep-sea microcrystals.” I think it’s working. But my tits. My tits, since the milk came in, are extremely gloopy. There are days, finally, when I’m horrific: I call this my Aileen Wuornos look, when I very closely resemble the notorious serial highway mankiller Aileen Wuornos.
Leaving the bathroom I see my husband recoil for half a second at today’s lipstick choice—an on-trend fuchsia—the dumb Kabuki of it. As if to say . . . but someone’s died.
There’s a picture of his ex-wife standing in the desert, in the evening, no makeup and no bra, and it’s as candid as if God Himself took it. Even the mule looks just right. Looks jaunty. Several bearded, hunky men flank her. A few of them I’ve since met, friends of my husband’s—reporters and aid workers, their roving fraternity—whose bonds were forged on the front lines and in hellish cantinas. (All of this from his first career as an NGO operative, which I’m not sure what that is exactly.) My husband’s there, to her immediate left. He looks unbelievable—Hemingwayesque—wry and strong and in his prime, paused midsentence on the edge of an important thought, and there is something in this picture, in the freedom with which they all wear themselves, that hurts and haunts me slightly. Looking at it, you can feel the loss. Not just of her—of youth.
In one of the better photos I have of me and him, he looks annoyed, I look like Kelly Ripa, clenching pearl-white teeth, and you can see the blurred fingertip of an inconvenienced maître d’.