Friday, June 06, 2014

Mike's Story Part 42 - Boys' Night Out

By Jenna Orkin    

January 25 2007
   He is in deep shit.  Not with the government but with me.
   Ever since Marian suggested that he see Sander Hicks, it’s been on the agenda.  That’s been fine with me.  A "boys’ night out," as he described it.  Mike flexing his independence muscles in NYC.
   This morning Sander called to arrange to meet tonight.  I heard Mike’s end of the conversation which concluded:  “Great.  So you and your wife’ll be by here with the car at seven.”
   “That’s an odd configuration,” I said when he got off.
   No more, "boys’ night out."  Now it’s, "Everyone can come but you."  And it wasn’t Sander who put up the objection.
   “You’ve been out, what, ten times on your own since I’ve been here, to events you couldn't bring me to, to your mother’s...  And I haven’t said a word, right?”
   He wanted to come to my mother's?  Give me a break.  As for the event I wasn't allowed to bring him to, he threatened to kill himself.
   I brought you to everything I could.”  
   “Barry and his wife each go out on their own.  Do you think we should just stay home every night doing nothing?”
   “What do we normally talk about?”
   “My stuff,” he conceded.  “I need to get out of here.  Remember, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder?’”
   “That’s the principle I’m operating under.
   'Don’t worry; I won’t throw you out.  You can eat the food.”  
   “I’m going for a walk," he said, changing tack when he realized he wasn't getting anywhere.  "I’ll do the shopping.”  You could see the middle-aged cylinders turning:  "Girls like it when you offer to do the shopping." 
   “I already bought dishwashing powder.”
   “I guess I’ll just go for a walk, then.”
   He came back with a bouquet of African daisies.  What cliché are we living in?  1955?
   “Do we have anything to put these in?” he asked, since I hadn't acknowledged the peace offering.    “In the kitchen, on the right.  Not there.  The other corner, that’s your bete noire.”  Like many New York City apartments, this one came with some ingrained grime between the floor tiles which made Mike recoil in horror.
   On the way to the gym, I thought about how cramped he felt in my apartment and how he subconsciously blamed me for cramping him.  He was treating me like a good mother, nurturing when he needed it, then kicked aside as soon as the fledgling grew strong enough to venture out on his own.
   But I’d already raised an adolescent.  I didn’t need another one, especially one with a graying mustache.     
   Since absence makes the heart grow fonder, or at least less hostile, for the rest of the day I absented myself. 

   11:30 P.M.
   He got back at 9:30.
   “Would you have had a less good time if I’d been there?”
   He thought a moment:  “Maybe.  We talked as two peers, authors and publishers in the same genre.  If you’d been there, we might have had to stop and explain things.”
   Despite having written for FTW at Mike's request and found many of the articles on which he built his analysis, apparently I was not a peer, much less an "Author."  Did he know how strenuously some reknowned writers avoided that designation as pretentious? 
   “What did you talk about?”
   “Mike Vreeland and Brad Ayres.”
   “I remember Mike Vreeland.”  An entire chapter of Crossing the Rubicon addresses the problematic US Naval Intelligence officer whom Mike interviewed  in a Toronto jail.  While not wanting to get involved with the "gigantic wriggling can of worms," Mike couldn't avoid the fact that Vreeland had forewarned of the attacks of September 11 in a sealed statement written the previous month.  
   “Brad Ayres was in the book too but you wouldn’t remember him.”
   True.  He takes up less than one page of the 600-page work and as an honorable guy, makes less of an impression.
   “I thought you didn’t want to talk about any of that stuff.”
   “Sandor turned out to be very mature, very spiritual.”
   The word made me puke.  [Sander, if you're out there somewhere, I'm sure you realize that the reaction is not personal.]  So I was good when he needed something but when the conversation got interesting, it was above my head?
   “Wouldn’t you have wanted to explain it to me?”
   How pathetic.  No, of course not.    
   He did get credit for trying to hash it out but disputed the notion I was a mother figure or that he was acting like an adolescent.
   “Look,” he said, “I went out without you.  I had a great time and I’m not apologizing for it.  You go out without me and have a good time, don’t you?”
   “Yes, but I don’t exclude you by choice.”  I might have added, "or because you're too dim to follow the conversation."
   “It’s part of a healthy relationship that men have a boys’ night out, women have a girls’ night out.  I feel less cramped here because I went out and had a great time.  And I don’t love you any the less.  Do you believe that I love you?”
   “I don’t think you know me.”
   He mock-collapsed on the floor in surrender.
   “This is what I told you was going to happen,” he said.  “I’m getting stronger and more independent and you don’t like it.  I think you want me to be dependent.”
   Maybe that's true if independence means he comes back when he needs something then goes off with the cool crowd for the interesting times.

   January 26 
   He does get credit for listening.  He didn’t acknowledge anything and still stalwartly maintains his right to "independence."  But something must have snuck in because he’s more solicitous and doesn’t automatically assume I want to talk about his problems whenever he needs me to.

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