The Poet in My Heart
Nora pressed a dainty finger to her temple then dumped the steaming dark roast coffee into a white porcelain mug. Her shoulder squeezed her cell phone to her ear and listened to Paulie complain of feeling as if he might die and ask if she felt the same. She assured him that her head throbbed endlessly and she was amazed that she was able to get out of bed.
“What time did you get home?” Paulie moaned.
She rummaged her hand through her thick matted curls and as if he could see her, she shook her head. Realizing this, she tried to snap out of it and explained that when she had come home the sky had taken on a gorgeous red and purple hue so she assumed it was dawn. The colors had moved her so much that she had tried to capture them in a sketch. Now sitting at her work desk, with the drawing laid in front of her, she laughed observing how the jumper’s colors were intended to be purple and blood red were all actually green. Paulie giggled and congratulated her for creating a drunken Girl Scout.
“You and Rada seemed to hit it off,” he said with a raspy voice.
Clearing her throat she tripped endlessly over her words, praising the Russian designer for her flawless skin and kindness. Rada had inspired her, she divulged then confessed that although she had come out of her coma several months ago, it was not until last night that she truly felt awake.
“All right, calm down Anthony Robbins,” laughing at Paulie’s jab, Nora coughed.
“Look I gotta get my shit together, Rada and I are meeting at Grandma’s in an hour,” Nora explained dreading having to leave the flat.
“Wow, fast track friends! Who knows, maybe she’ll replace that God awful Sara.”
“You damned imp!” she chortled and choked on her coffee causing some of it to shoot out of her nose.
Wiping spats of coffee from her face and robe, she recalled, with great shame, how she had recently made a fool of herself trying to coax Nigel into sleeping with her. If anyone was dreadful it was certainly not Sara. A loud knock echoed in the wide empty foyer. Nora froze, and just in case the visiting stranger was able to hear him, she shushed Paulie. She kicked off her slippers and avoided walking on the creaky long planks. Through the door’s peephole, widen and distorted, stood a rather impatient looking Sara. Somewhat in shock of Sara’s arrival, Nora covered her face with her hands then whispered to Paulie that Sara’s ears must have been burning. Paulie demanded a prompt call back and hung up quickly. She placed her cell phone down on the foyer end table and replacing her slippers, she pulled her kimono taught. The pink fuzzy slippers brushed and slapped against the floorboards at what seemed one million decibels. Sara knocked again.
With her heart beating inside her throat and her head throbbing for hydration, Nora tried to greet Sara with as much warmth as she could muster; however, when the door opened, Nora’s anxious expression resembled what Joan Rivers might look like stuck in a cab with Nicki Minaj. Seeing her expression, Sara began to fidget with the burnt orange scarf, perfectly placed around her neck, and tied in a large poof that somehow only Sara could have elegantly pulled off. She stood quite stiffly, in low-rise dark blue jeans, a loose fitting black blouse with three quarter inch sleeves, and medium heeled black and gray pumps. Her mind was flooded with thoughts of the last time she and Nora had spoken. Underneath her overly long blonde fringe, her gray eyes nervously darted to and fro. After all, the last time the two women had spoken it had ended in a mad brawl in the filthy snow while café patrons cheered them on. It would have been quite fitting had the crowd been shouting,
“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
Her curvy hips had grown wider and the very elegant blouse, as Nora observed up close, seemed to rub slightly against a growing belly. Was she pregnant or was she keeping late night company with her Cheese It pals? Nora blamed her Cheese It pals as she recalled Nigel, the night in Gramercy, vehemently complaining how his wife whom did not work, cook or clean also refused to give him a child. And considering how he had rejected a pregnant Nora several years before, that night, several weeks ago, she stood in her best friend’s tracksuit with the jacket opened in awe of his statement. Now face to face with his wife, Nora swallowed her heart wondering what had actually happened after she opened the jacket then blacked out. Hitting her harder, she pondered what did Sara know if anything, about that night? Breaking the guilty silence, Sara climbed atop her soapbox and quoted months and months of research.
“According to my many sources, all women want the violence to end; but many do not wish for the relationship to end,” she paused waiting for a response. Nora’s round black eyes stared back unblinking.
Sara spoke confidently, “And they say that most women believe that once the violence ends then their relationship will be normal and happy. But the truth of it is Nora, it isn’t your fault and you can’t change him,” she shifted her jacket and the clutch hidden underneath into the other arm and continued, “You stayed because you believed in love and you were desperately still in love with him and as your friend, I should have known this, I should have been there.”
She paused briefly allowing Nora to ask, “Would you like to come in?”
Nora was deeply touched and relieved that Sara had not overheard her phone conversation. Sara tossed her hair out of her eyes and entered into the flat. Her heels hit loudly against the hardwood. Landing in an awkward silence, they stopped and stood in the hallway between the bedroom and the kitchen. Nora fidgeted with her robe’s sash while Sara constantly ran her hands through her thin silky hair. Standing across from one another they glanced out the large bright windows, and tried to avoid each other’s eyes.
“Nigel says, at times, that I can ride on my high horse; I suppose he’s right…I mean, when you needed me most, I arrogantly flung in your face my prestigious education and did nothing,” she paused again and waited for Nora to respond. Nora continued running her fingers over the silk sash and said nothing.
“My God! Are you to stand there, then, and…and…say nothing?” Sara argued.
“Sara, you’re the poet in my heart/Never change/And don’t you ever stop!” hoping to change the painful subject, one she had recently blocked from her mind, Nora mocked Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 hit song, Sara.
“Nora! I’m quite serious and…wait…were you just singing?”
Still trying to avert the Ian topic, Nora laughed and stuttered how she could never stay mad at Sara for too long and that she missed her desperately and why not forget it all over a nice bottle of wine. As if she hadn’t heard Nora, Sara, began to pace and ramble on about how she had been researching online the effects of domestic violence on its victims. She pontificated how the physical pain that victims endure pales in comparison to them trying to give up their lover. Sara went on chastising herself and explained that she had no right to not at least try to put herself in Nora’s shoes and walk that painful mile. Amused with Sara’s dramatics, Nora finally stopped her and again, accepted her apology. Sara dropped her jacket and clutch atop the foyer tabletop and followed Nora into the kitchen for a glass of wine.
“Well, now that we’ve got those nasty bits behind us, cheers, love,” raising her glass, Sara had dropped the dramatics and took a huge drink of wine, leaned against the counter casually and asked, “so how are you and Jackson?”
Nearly forgetting her and Jackson’s deal, Nora stumbled through her words, “Oh…yeah…it’s good, I mean we’re fine.”
Hoping she wouldn’t notice her awkwardness, she poured Sara more wine. In a successful attempt to distract her, Nora spoke nervously as Sara sipped from her glass, about how impressed she was with the surprising cherry notes and spice in the firm Argentinean Malbec. An easy prey to such pretensions, Sara agreed whole heartily and added that the floral bouquet was especially enjoyable.
“Nora,” Sara started, “I don’t mean to cast a maudlin air on such a beautiful morning, but, what did ever happen with…well Ian?” she asked, hardly able to speak his name.
Nora shrugged, shook her head and told Sara that she had not seen nor heard from Ian since that night. Sara poured herself more wine and sighed angrily. Ian, she thought was the reason for Nora’s overdose yet the pathetic coward could not be bothered to make sure whether or not she had survived. Holding her tongue, Sara complimented the wine again.
“Oh shit!” Nora suddenly blurted.
Startled, Sara’s hand jerked causing the wine to swish and swirl and eventually splash onto the counter. She apologized profusely. Nora waved her hand to show that she was not bothered by the spill and tossed Sara a dishtowel. Sara wiped up the spill while Nora called Rada, who she was late to meet at Grandma’s Frabric.
“Rada? Hi, it’s Nora,” she sounded breathless.
Sara stood listening and wondered who was Rada. Judging from the phone call, Rada wasn’t polite, as she seemed to interrupt Nora each and every time she tried to speak. Feeling protective and jealous, Sara asked Nora what Rada was saying. Nora waved for Sara to be quiet and continued to fail at explaining herself. In the quiet apartment, Sara could hear Rada’s loud complaints.
“Jesus!” Nora said finally and placed her phone on the counter.
“What was that all about?” Sara begged.
Nora shook her head in disbelief and confessed that she did not know. She explained how Paulie had talked her into attending Bryn’s party and that she had met Rada. She reminded Sara that Rada was the designer that had invited Nora to Russia months ago to collaborate on a new line. Sara advised Nora that she rethink working with a woman that doesn’t allow her to get a word in edge-wise. Nora sipped her wine and laughed.
“She must have been hung over or something because she was so angry. I mean, I was only five minutes late,” Nora tried to reason Rada’s behavior.
Sara rolled her eyes and suggested that perhaps Rada was just rude, and she offered that if Rada was one of those Czarinas she’d been following in the Times then she most definitely was rude and spoiled. Nora panicked imagining that her tardiness could have cost her such a lofty opportunity and at this point, her only opportunity. Rada was preparing for a huge show at Bryant Park, who wouldn’t be on edge? Nora continued to defend her created image of Rada. Sara, not buying it, stuck with her original assessment.
“Trust me, those wealthy Russian designers are not to be trusted. They are born with everything, then, once in the States or England, they lie insisting that they have and come from nothing. And the western world just seems to gobble it all up,” Sara exposed.
“Oh bugger!” Sara blurted checking her watch. “I’ve a hair appointment, so I must be off.”
Sara hurried to the foyer and gathered her belongings. Still feeling anxious about Rada, Nora followed behind and thought how she would ask Paulie for his opinion. Sara turned to Nora and extended her arms. Nora embraced her and assured Sara that all was forgiven. Sara laughed rather loudly and charged for the door.
“Oh my God! I nearly forgot! You are coming out tomorrow night with Nigel and I,” Sara ordered to a confused Nora, “Nigel has scored us some VIP passes to Dirty Herberts!”
“You must be ecstatic!” Nora smiled.
Sara, in her very English manner, hurriedly revealed that although Nigel had finally become the man she had always wanted him to be, that it was now quite unfortunate that he seemed so unattractive to her. Nora felt a rush surge through her entire body while Mrs. Stone pondered quite rationally, that perhaps it was a typical marital stage that everyone had to sort out together, but what was so bloody awful was that she didn’t really want to bother. In Sara’s eyes the pain seemed unbearable. Nora had always secretly known and perhaps even hoped that their relationship would fail eventually but at the time she had thought that she would have been happy for it; instead, at that moment, she felt that she was to blame. Had she caused a permanent rift in the couple’s relationship? Was she so arrogant to even think it had anything to do with her? Probably so but it was time that Sara knew what sort of friend and husband she was really dealing with.
Nora started to confess but was swiftly cut off, “Oh Nori, I’m sorry to unload this on you after we haven’t even spoken in months,” Sara groaned beleaguered.
“Stop it! It’s what I’m here for, but Sara I should tell you…” Nora began again but Sara’s tongue was always too quick.
“Bugger, I’m going to be late. Look, you’re going tomorrow and I’m not taking no for an answer. Be to our flat by 5pm and we’ll chat more then,”
“You two got a flat?” Nora asked surprised.
Sara shouted behind her, “What, did you think we’d live in a hotel forever? I’ll text you the details! Ciao, love you!”
Resources: Why Battered Women Stay by Susan McGee, Stopviolence.com -Excerpted from an article of the same title by Susan G. S. McGee