Max met me after I got off work at school that day. Together we rode to the house closing at Dan’s bank. I was grateful for Max’s support. The house that was being sold was his house, too, the one that he had lived in ever since we moved from New York when he was two. And the seller in the dark heart of that market was his own father.
I arrived at the bank with a pounding in my chest, a breathless, strange unease, and a rock cold fear. After eight hours in a middle school, I was also tired and frazzled. On the way over, Max and I had made a quick run into my bank to my safety deposit box to pull the checks that had been prepared, amounts that Dan had told me would have to be paid to settle his debts on the house, and the balance in a check for Dan himself, money that he would use to pay for his three weeks with the Instagirl on her visit to the U.S. and his trip to Australia to live with her. And what was this money of mine that I was giving up? Hard-earned teacher pay. No one who has not been a teacher can know how hard-earned it is. But there I was walking into Dan’s bank with it in my hands for this closing and with my heart so heavy.
Property closings often involve ordeal both in the negotiating phase and on the actual day itself when papers are being signed and money changes hands. Ours involved ordeal, for sure, but that was just the business hassle of it. There was also the emotional side, the turning turmoil of my life going swirling, swirling down through a spiritual vortex.
With relief, I saw that Dan’s father was already there waiting for me. If my father had been alive, he would have been there with me to offer support. As it was, I had turned to Papa, as we called Dan’s dad, and he in his goodness had answered my call.
One more person was needed. Because Max and Papa were relatives, they could not serve as a witness on the closing documents. My dear friend Kate agreed to help me, and soon she, too, was with us. I spoke to the mortgage banker Mrs. Simmons. She was ready on her end and placed us in a small conference room. All that was lacking was for Dan to arrive. Meanwhile, my throat was closing up; it was all I could do to contain myself and sit as I knew the situation required. My heart was pounding so powerfully that I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. Would I be able to withstand the next hour?
Finally, I looked up and saw Dan enter dressed all in black. I wondered if he would actually sign the quit claim deed. I wondered if the check denominations that I had brought could be made to work once it turned out that Dan had given me incorrect figures for how much I would need. Since the closing papers had been typed using those incorrect figures, they had to be retyped. Kate volunteered to do this, so in the middle of the closing, she was in the office next door typing and coming back to me with questions. The tension was terrible.
Dan was so cold and remote, not like himself–not as I remembered him. I could no longer make myself stay in that little room. I rushed out and began to pace the lobby of the bank blinded by tears. The president of the branch came out and rescued me. She brought me into her office and gave me tissues and a few minutes of privacy to collect myself. Eventually, I was able to go back.
In the conference room the atmosphere was chilly between Max, Papa, and Dan, who had all remained in the room together while Kate and I had been out. I would later learn from Max what had created that cold and empty climate.
At last the papers and monies were ready. The notary was brought in and we all signed. I now owned the house that I had thought I already owned and would live in forever as Dan’s wife, and he and his bank had all my teacher savings.
None of that really registered with me at the time. My emotions were running so strong that perception and memory were disjointed. There were sudden vividly held vignettes and then gaps where I’m not sure how I got from one place to another. I don’t remember Kate leaving, but clearly I remember what came next. Max and I stood to bid goodbye to Papa. We were all three in tears; Papa’s eyes are blue and the sunset light in the crystal blur of his eyes, oh, I remembered that. Max and I hugged him, one of those three-person hugs. There aren’t many of those in life, so I remembered that. Dan just sat there, disengaged, a demonstration of how done with all of us he was.
The next that I can remember, I was rushing from the bank with Max right behind me. I was crying, moaning, feeling as much pain as I had ever felt in my life. Was I saying something? Was I moaning, “I can’t believe this is happening to me! I can’t believe this is happening to me!”?
As Max drove me away, I think I looked back and Papa and Dan stood together and watched us go. In that moment, Max saved my life. One more minute in that bank, one more look of pain from Papa or Max, one more look of indifference from Dan, and my life would have ended.
On the ride home, Max told me what had gone on in the conference room while Kate and I had been out. Dan had finally confessed to Papa the truth that he did have another woman and he told about her. We all, of course, already knew about her, knew, in fact, that she had arrived a few days earlier from Australia. But here, two months after the Crack-up, Dan finally, formally admitted his deception. He had waited until “the money was in the bank,” so to speak, his bank. All along he had feared that a revelation of adultery with the Instagirl would affect the financial part of our separation proceedings. Now that he could see how pitiful and cooperative I was being, he knew I was not in a state of mind to make trouble for him. He was going to have it all his way. I could feel the tension and the hurt in Max’s voice when he said that Dan had said he loved the Instagirl more than he had ever loved anyone. There was such hurt and anger coming from Max.
Dan was still married to me that day when he professed his love of the Instagirl, so one might suppose that Max’s anger was for me, for the faithlessness of his father and the betrayal of his mother. But I believe that his anger and hurt were for himself. When Dan professed a love for the Instagirl beyond anyone one else, Max took it personally. My life with Dan cracked that night at the dinner table when he told me he was leaving. I think Max’s life with Dan cracked that day at the bank. For Max, that day was a journey into the heart of decay. He witnessed firsthand what Dan could do so easily, so carelessly to me, to Papa, and to him. That day was the end for him. Dan would never get another chance to hurt Max. Max would see to that.
Our home–the home that Dan and I had lived in, taken care of, and loved for years, our son’s home–was broken. I alone now owned it, but with a price paid that would impoverish me for the rest of my life. My savings were gone.
Relationships were gone as well. That day marked the end of any hope Dan would ever have of a relationship with his son. The relationship between Dan and his father would be forever tainted by the fact that he had lied to his father’s face in response to a direct question about the existence of another woman. And it separated me not merely further from Dan himself but from any sense that he had ever loved me.
I long for a day free from the downward spiral, the sinking, the loss. I long for a day when the late light will shine on eyes of crystal vision instead of eyes of crystal tears. Papa’s heart was broken, Max’s heart was forsaken, and my heart learned that it had never been loved. On that day at the bank, we journeyed into Dan’s cave of lies, of forsaking, and the knifeblade of neverlove. We journeyed into the heart of decay.