First, that scooter he bought to ride around with June. Then showing off at beach yoga. Anyone could have predicted what would come next.
Facebook posts. Many. Of his kid and his wife, at the volcano and the waterfall…OMG, JUNE IS SNORKELING!
Worst of all, selfies from the golf course.
The only pics left in the camera were of food. Sure, you could have tasted that brick of flaming marshmallow flanked by banana ice cream and an elegant pile of graham cracker crumbs right through the video. But he had to maintain a shadow of his fiction. That cool reserve.
After the morning race for chairs, from which Julie emerges with four under an umbrella, away from the smell of the grill, McCormick remembers rising early in Laguna Beach to claim the curtained couch by that pool. Because his sister-in-law needed privacy and the softest seat.
He’s glad Julie, helping June into a shimmering mermaid suit she bought her on the way to breakfast, doesn’t hear the women in the row ahead describing elaborate exploratory, the chance of biopsy.
Why do they sit together, leisure and mutation? And, as June asks often, what do you look like when you’re dead?
“Julie, Jesus! Go!”
“He sees us, Michael. Stop barking.”
“When I fear for our lives, I bark.”
Oh my word, this is the fourth time today. I don’t even know before I say it that I am going to say:
“That’s enough! Next time decide not to argue before we get in the car!”
Mommy says, “If your father could calm down…”
Daddy says, “Sorry, June Bug. We’ll do better.”
I guess better means not talking for like ten or twelve minutes and then asking each other how much it costs to buy the houses we just keep driving past.
Their visit to the funky Northwest recalls the disappointment of his beloved alma mater almost making him faculty when he finished his Ph.D.
But if he’d gotten that job, and not stayed in New York and found Julie again, where would the life force that is their daughter have manifested?
In the Peconic Bay mansion of a German fund manager Julie met at a private equity conference? Crammed into a two-bedroom bungalow with McCormick and a grad student who dropped out when she got pregnant?
No. Those are stories. Really, without this overcast day, June wouldn’t be anywhere.
McCormick returns from the morning run with a glad heart. In two days they fly west.
Oh, sweet reprieve!
Then he watches the English bulldog from 3-J (Cromwell) pissing on the planter out front. That will smell good later.
A predictable blip, but he’s irritated. Why must we pack so early? Julie makes several lists as June drags everything she can reach from her closet.
“That many dresses?”
“In case I eat cake and pie and tarts all at once again.”
She spreads her arms, New Yorker born and bred. “What? I throw up at weddings. That’s my thing.”
(McCormick has discovered that Sal Bergen referred him to his ex-wife for marriage counseling…)
Because he hasn’t yet agreed to lie on the couch three times a week, McCormick can study his analyst’s face.
Setting aside Sal’s Parkinson’s, he sees guilt in the tremorous lip.
“You didn’t think I would find out. You thought the two of you could have a little rehearsal of your conflict through me and Gwen. Do you do this to other patients? You’re sick, Sal.”
McCormick watches Bergen blink and purse. So sweet, for once, to be angry as he fucking wants with no fear of smack down or freeze out.
And now leaving Gwen won’t be his fault.
(He’s recalling therapeutic passages that led to the moment at hand...)
Elaine Southard was recommended to McCormick and Gwen (his partner of twenty years) by Sal Bergen, McCormick’s analyst.
Sal and McCormick’s signal exchange had been punctuated by Bergen gasping, dropping his shaved head into his hands, and saying “The self-deception is just breathtaking.”
That inextinguishable memory lit up when Southard, describing her own divorce, said “marriage can be an arena of sublime self-delusion.”
At his next session with Sal, whom he loved, McCormick said, “You sent me to your ex-wife for marriage counseling.”
Sal flinched, and the sadness in his eyes was something they could not help each other process.