In January 2016, we appended an epilogue to The Paris Effect. Here it is:
But because you can’t walk away from a marriage just like that, or at least you shouldn’t, I take the chance to call William one last time.
Surprisingly, he picks up in the middle of the first ring. After the stone-cold way he cut me dead at the bar an hour ago I assumed he would take longer to answer. If he answered at all.
“Hey,” I say.
After an awkward pause I forge ahead. “We are at a pivotal point,” I say. “Don’t you think?”
More silent seconds go by and I start to wonder if he’s really on the line after all. I mash the phone up against my ear, trying to hear breathing sounds. This is when he explodes.
“Three years!” he screams.
I jerk the phone away from my ear with one hand and, with the other, silently pound the thin metal door of the bathroom partition. That’s where I am, again holed up in the handicapped stall of a ladies’ room at Sky Harbor Airport, down on the lower level of Terminal 2, where hardly anyone ever goes.
“Three years! More than seventy-five percent of our freaking marriage, spent mooning and moaning at Saint Kat’s bedside!”
Mooning and moaning? That’s what he thinks I’ve been doing? That’s how he describes my grief over Kat? I open my mouth to protest but he continues his rant, still at top volume.
“And then when she finally croaks you sneak away. You don’t ask me first. You don’t even leave a note. No, you fly halfway around the world without saying a goddamn word.” He stops to take a breath. “What the hell were you thinking, Amy? What the hell?”
“Listen, Will,” I say. “It’s not about Kat.” I am trying to keep my voice level, trying to get past his anger and that horrible word, “croaks,” because I do regret being so false. I regret being so sneaky and non-communicative, about everything, especially about going off on a trip to Paris without telling William. It was a bad thing to do. It would be a bad thing to do to anybody, not just to a husband you’re mad at. “It’s not about Kat,” I repeat. “It’s much more than that.”
But William is only pausing to gather steam. “And then when I go all the way to Paris to get you,” he continues, “to bring you home, you’re nowhere to be found. When you do decide to show up all you do is snivel and whine. About Kat, naturally. Then you disappear again, leaving me hanging out to dry for two and a half days, waiting for you in some shithole hotel in Paris.”
I want to interrupt this weird recitation, to explain how the last part was not my fault, how it was Margaret who prevented me from returning to my hotel, but I don’t. He won’t care. He won’t understand. “I’m sorry,” I say to him instead.
This is the truth.
He snorts. “You’re sorry. And that’s supposed to make everything all right?”
“No, no, of course it doesn’t. But I am. Truly.” Sorry for so many things, but chiefly for not having spoken up sooner, for having wasted his time, and mine.
“No-of-course-it-doesn’t,” he mimics in a high falsetto. “So what was your plan, Miss Amy? Did you assume that when you finally decided to come crawling back to Phoenix I would greet you with open arms?”
I press my hot forehead against the cold tile wall, embarrassed to admit even to myself that he’s right. I did assume that. When I rushed back from Paris to Phoenix—to William—I was envisioning a happy homecoming, a homecoming in which my husband was pleased to see me. I was coming back to the normal life that I thought I was supposed to lead, the life I thought I was supposed to want. I was convincing myself that the closeness we felt on that night Kat died was not just due to sex hormones and the astronomical number of margaritas we consumed.
“Will. I am truly sorry about the Paris thing,” I apologize for the third time. “I am. It was a crazy impulse. I was freaked out about losing Kat, about a lot of things.” I don’t mention the baby walk and talk because I know it will make him even madder. “Plus I really did think I would get back to Phoenix before you did and you would never—”
He cuts me off. “Spare me. I know your little plan was to go off on your own for a week, leaving me in the dark. It was that bitch Kat.” He says her name like a curse. “I never should have let you—”
Here he stops himself.
“Let me what?” I ask, lifting my head. “Have a friend? Have a life? Have dreams?”
He doesn’t reply.
“You don’t get it, do you, Will?” I say through gritted teeth. “Kat was never the problem. Kat is not why I went to Paris. I went to Paris because I had to go. Because it was there, waiting for me.”
This sounds woo-woo even to my ears. But I don’t care. Maybe it’s good that I drove straight to the airport after that wordless encounter with William at the bar. Maybe it’s good that, again impulsively, I booked a ticket for a flight to Paris.
In any case, my words have no effect one way or another because William is raising his voice again. “It’s just always all about you, isn’t it? You don’t give a rat’s ass about anybody else!”
Oh, how untrue this is. I loved Kat. Not in the way she ultimately wanted, but we had a friendship that was true and deep and loyal. I still love her, just as I still love my dad, who’s also gone now. And my mother, too—because you always love your mother even if you don’t get along with her.
But William. What I feel for him is not on this level. He is in fact someone I need to protect myself from. It’s a truth I’ve known deep down for a long time. I’ve just never been able to admit it to myself.
I am glad that this isn’t a video call, that he can’t see me. I wonder where he is. In his car maybe. Or pacing back and forth across the asphalt parking lot outside the bar. He would choose a place like that, an isolated environment where he’d feel free to give vent to his frustration.
“Anyway,” I say, again needing to work to maintain a steady tone, “if you thought I was such a jerk, why did you marry me?”
He just grunts.
Because we both know the reason why William married me. It was for the very same reason I married him—I got pregnant only four weeks after we started dating. I was careless. And crazy in love, or what I believed was love. Which can be the only explanation for why I never wondered how such a seemingly “great catch” could be so very unattached, could at thirty years of age have had only one other girlfriend. If we hadn’t immediately reacted, as William insisted we must do, I bet we never even would have gotten married in the first place. Our relationship would have just run its course.
“Where are you?” William abruptly asks.
“What?” I say.
“It’s not a difficult question, Amy. Where are you located right now?” His words ooze sarcasm.
I pull a length of toilet paper from the roll and use it to blow my nose. I am so tired of lying. I am so tired of trying to be the person William thinks he married. “The airport,” I say. “I’m at the airport. But if you’re interested in talking more I can be home in probably half an hour.”
I stand perfectly motionless, holding my breath. Because I’ve just told him the truth about where I am.
It’s a bad thing to have to admit but I’ve always been hesitant to be honest with William. To tell him my feelings. Part of the reason is that he rarely shares his own—so rarely that you might think he doesn’t even have feelings. But he must. I just think he sees them as the unwelcome, impossible-to-control-for variables that foul up his careful calculations. Emotions make hash of even the most well-designed hypotheses. That’s why he works hard to factor them out.
I pace back and forth, as much as you can in a handicapped toilet stall, and wait. I know he heard what I said. The silence tells me that. He is entering this new information into his databanks and calculating his response.
“Don’t bother,” he says after a moment.
“Don’t bother showing up back here again. I got nothing left I wanna say to you.”
I stop pacing and lean back heavily against the metal door. “William, this is not normal,” I rasp. “Are you absolutely sure?”
I ask this question even though William hates being accused of not being sure of what he wants, hates being accused of not being sure about anything.
“I am one hundred percent certain,” he says, his voice flat, “that I don’t want to look at your face ever again.”
I wish this ladies’ room had a sofa or chair or something because I need to sit down. There’s a toilet of course. But I’m not going to sit on that.
“Seriously, William?” I ask even though I don’t really want to go back to the house and hash things out face to face. And what would it change? Nothing. Still, I’m a little annoyed that he has taken over the decision. It’s just like him, to grab control, to take the reins right out of your hands.
But of course that’s been the whole problem all along.
“This is how you want to end things?” I add. “You don’t want to know why? To try to understand?”
“What is there to understand?” He’s again starting to yell. “I gave you your freedom, and you abused it. That’s a no-go. End of story.”
“Wow,” I whisper. “Wow.”
He hangs up before I can say anything more, and I stand there with my eyes squeezed shut until my heart stops galloping. Then I open my eyes and check the time. There are still two more hours before my flight leaves. Can I do this? During the last ten days I’ve been up and down like a yo-yo. My heart starts to thump again because I know that if I fly out of Phoenix a second time there will be no going back.
This time I will truly be leaving the only home I’ve ever known.
When I finally step out of the bathroom stall, I barely recognize the woman with the shiny bobbed hair staring out at me from the mirror above the sinks. She looks serious and pale. But at the same time she looks like a woman who knows what to do, where to go next. She looks like a woman who has a plan.
I wash my hands, splash cool water over my face, and comb my hair with my fingers. Yes, that is me, Amy, in the mirror, those are my hands, this is my face, the short shiny hair is mine. I lean closer to the mirror and smile at my reflection.
Two more hours.
Just enough time to get some pizza, and maybe even a little glass of red wine. Which is perfect, because I’m starving.