(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)


At the very last second, Pia changed her kir order to a straight up vodka martini with three olives.  She gave George a quick, guilty smile, the one that used to melt his heart but now, and for the last five or six years, just gave him a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"Three olives, kid?" George had been nursing his Beck's for forty minutes before Pia arrived.  "Things must be real rough."

Pia’s eyes flashed with just a hint of contempt.  Another fleeting smile. He realized he was pressing his lips together in annoyance, what Pia used to call his "peevish look" as in, "you're getting that peevish look again, George--it makes you look so womanish."

George tried to relax his lips into a casual smile. Pia, with her cool blue chenille blouse and smooth blonde twist of hair, sat there with her hands folded. George deepened the smile. Pia blinked.

"Jesus, George, " she said.  "You look so damn weird. You've got this sharp, grimacy look, like George Wallace or somebody. Newt, maybe. All beaky and shiny, planes and angles."

George's face fell.  On the one hand, she was a little nuts. On the other hand, there was always a grain of truth there, always something horrifically compelling about her insights. Like the time she told him he danced like Jerry Lewis. Their third anniversary, away at that Mexican resort, he couldn't have been more in love with her. He thought he was looking like Cary Grant, dancing like Fred Astaire; he had felt light on his feet, but powerful. But at the moment she came out with the Lewis comment he happened to catch  himself in a mirror behind the mariachi band and sure enough, the wild arrangement of limbs, the spastic movement of his hands, the goofy tilt to his head--it was all there, all Jerry.  And he both despised and worshipped her for seeing it.

It was strange how all those feelings and memories could come back whole, as if time had never passed and both of them hadn't remarried.

Strange how he could forget--for one yearning second across from her cool blueness--how not too long ago he would have happily killed her had she imitated his voice or copied his walk or even given him one last haughty, snotty look. They were smiling at each other, clinking glasses.  He looked at his watch.

"I told Marcia I'd be back by nine, " he said. " To spend a little time with Geneva, read her a book, you know."

"You do have another child, George." Pia pushed her chair back lightly. "I mean, just

He saw reason for her to fall apart just because Derek didn't want to take karate next year

because he's too old for a bedtime story, it doesn't mean he doesn't need you."

"Take it easy, Pia. That's why we're here. That's why I'm here, to deal with Derek."

"Deal with him?  You make him sound like--I mean, he's not a problem. He's not a full-grown man."  She would not meet his eyes. She was biting her lower lip. Her arms were crossed. She could cry at any second.

"I know.  I know." George felt suddenly helpless. If only she were in her bitch mode.  Or something in between, something a little more logical. He could not see any reason for her to fall apart just because Derek didn't want to take karate next year.

"I'm sorry." He leaned in close to her and spoke softly. She didn't pull back.  "I didn't know you were so upset about this whole karate thing."

She slid her hands over her face. Her shoulders moved up and down and he couldn't tell if she was laughing or crying. He sat waiting, keeping his face blank so he'd exhibit a neutral response when she lifted her face.

She seemed to have been doing a little of both, because she was grinning now, but also sniffing back tears.  She had such a pretty face.

"Oh God, I'm sorry," she said. "You're right. It's not the karate thing, it's--" She, shook her head, laughing again, seeming dangerously close to hysteria.  She was half-choking when she spoke. "It's summer," she said. "I mean, summer ending.  It makes me so sad."


"That makes sense," he said.  And it really did, it was the only thing that made sense,  and it seemed to explain everything, even the strange feeling he had, the overwhelming feeling that no matter how many things and people and years and martinis and tears came between them, that what they had and would always have was nothing less than pure love. ##



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