Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13

I am writing on the Sunday following the last week of classes. Final exam week starts tomorrow, but I feel great—although I’m a little ashamed to admit it. I was feeling a little jealous of Doug for much of the semester since Briggs seemed to favor him over me. It became clear this past week, though, that Briggs is far less interested in Doug than in Doug’s wife.

It turns out that Briggs and Angie have been having an affair. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on, but Doug found out about it last week when he went back home earlier than he normally does. Doug told me later that when he went inside, he found two sets of clothes—male and female—on the couch. Realizing that he was there, Angie quickly threw on her robe and even gave Doug’s to “Barry!”

Doug was furious, he told me, not just at discovering that both of them had betrayed him, but at how nonchalant they both appeared at being caught. “Now, Doug,” he told me how Briggs had said, “I know this is a bit of an awkward situation, but I think it’s important that we all keep calm.”

Doug said that he was anything but calm, and that he called Angie a “worthless slut.”

“Well, none of this would have happened, Dougie,” she told him, “if you had treated me decently instead of like shit.”

Doug then told Angie that he wanted her out of his apartment (and him being the student, it was indeed his) as soon as possible. Briggs then said she could move in with him, at least for the time being. Instead of being ashamed of herself, Doug told me angrily, Angie appeared to be delighted by this turn of events.

After retrieving his clothes and retreating to the bedroom to change back into them, Briggs came back out and announced that he’d come by with his car at the end of the working day to transport Angie and her stuff out to his place. Angie, Doug said, remained in her short, skimpy terry cloth robe which she had not bothered to tie very carefully. She seemed to really enjoy showing herself off before the two of them, said Doug, scandalized. I have to admit: I wish I’d been there to see her dressed like that!

“Now Doug,” Briggs said just before leaving, “I’m sure you’re a little upset by all this, but I want you to know that I have great respect for your work, which I really do think is quite promising. From what I’ve seen of your work so far, I’m sure you’ll be earning an “A” in my seminar. And I really am looking forward to your being my TA next semester. If that would be uncomfortable for you, though, I’m sure I can arrange for you to TA for Trizenko and for Jonathan to take your place with me.”

Doug was indignant as he told me this. I have to admit, though, that I was thrilled at the prospect of our trading professors to TA for. The issue, however, was not resolved since Doug then ordered Briggs to get out.

Briggs continued in what Doug described as his patronizing tone of voice, telling Angie he’d pick her up around five o’clock and advising Doug that he had a great career ahead of him and that Briggs would hate to see him jeopardize it by doing or saying anything “rash” now. “This sort of thing happens all the time,” Briggs was saying as he stepped out into the hall and Doug slammed the door on him.

After calling each other a few choice names, Doug related, he and Angie quickly got down to dividing their few possessions which, fortuitously, did not include either a car or any furniture (the grad student apartments we lived in came furnished). That settled, Doug told her she could pack up by herself. He then went to their bank and drew out the few hundred dollars they had in their checking account. After that, he came over to the office where he found me and told me all about it.

I sympathized with Doug, but I didn’t want him to take up my entire afternoon talking about his personal problems. I was just about to get up and leave when Michael came into the room. Doug immediately stopped talking, and so I was able to get back to my writing. Michael didn’t say anything, but the supercilious way in which he asked Doug how Angie was doing these days indicated that he knew what was happening—indeed, that he had known for some time. Doug tried to act busy, not looking at him and only answering his questions with one or two syllables. Michael said he was glad everything was going so well, laughed derisively, and then made a show of getting to work himself.

Lisa came in the room a little while later. She apparently sensed that something was wrong because she asked why we were all so quiet. “I guess we’re just busy!” I tried to say cheerily.

Michael left the room a short while later, telling Doug to be sure and give Angie his best regards as he went out. Almost as soon as he was gone, Doug cried out in a hoarse whisper, “He knew! That bastard knew! He even intimated something was going on between them at Thanksgiving!” So that’s what they were really arguing about! Lisa, of course, was all curious and concerned, and so he told her the whole story. Lisa was indignant that Briggs had seduced Angie. She said that the university should not tolerate such unethical conduct.

At four o’clock, I reminded Doug that Briggs would be coming by in his car for Angie and suggested that we go over and help her get her stuff down to the lobby.

He thanked me for offering to help, and so we set off. Once we got to our apartment building, though, Doug said he didn’t want to even see her. He asked if he could wait in my apartment until she was gone. Since he wouldn’t even phone her from my place, I did. She said she’d appreciate my help. With him standing there in front of me and her on the line, I arranged to bring her half of their bank balance upstairs in exchange for her key to Doug’s apartment. She was quite business-like on the phone, while it was clear to me that Doug was becoming increasingly emotional.

I popped him a beer, gave him the remaining half of a potato chip bag that Shivvy and I had opened on the weekend, and then went over to what would soon be just Doug’s apartment.

I was amazed at the sight of her when she opened the door of the apartment to me. Although it was a cold December evening outside, she had on a short, revealing black dress and black stockings. The blackness of the dress vividly contrasted with her pale skin and blonde hair. But despite the self-confidence that being dressed so sexily implied and her business-like tone on the phone just a few minutes ago, she was crying quietly now.

“He treated me like shit, Jonathan! You and your girlfriend saw how he acted that night you came for dinner. I was so embarrassed! He was always belittling me like that!”

I tried to say something reassuring, but she wasn’t listening to me.

“Ever since we got here,” she continued, “he’s just steadily lost interest in me. Every time I tried to talk to him about what he was studying, he’d just say that it was too hard to explain to someone not already in the class. I even tried talking to him about the news, but he’d just blow me off by saying that whatever situation I wanted to talk about was `trivial’ as far as theory was concerned.”

I’m sure Doug was right about this, but I didn’t think that it was a good time to say so.

“For the past month or so,” she went on, “he’s just ignored me altogether. Why, he wouldn’t even take the time away from his studies to stop and fuck me!”

This was embarrassing. I didn’t know what to say. Luckily, the phone rang. It was the front desk calling to say that Briggs had arrived, and asking us to please hurry up and come down since cars were only supposed to be parked in front of the main door for just a few minutes.

I remembered to give Angie her cash, and she gave me her key. All of her stuff fit into just one suitcase and four cardboard boxes which she had gotten from the custodial staff. They had also let her borrow a dolly, which was great, since that meant we could take all her stuff down to the lobby in just one trip.

I reminded her to put on her coat and hat since it was pretty cold outside. She reminded me to lock the door since I now had the key.

As we got off the elevator, Briggs was there waiting for us impatiently. I went out to the car with them and helped him load her stuff into it. “Thanks for helping out, Jonathan,” he said. “I won’t forget this.” Turning to Angie, he said, “Okay, sweetheart; if you’re all set, let’s get going.”

Before getting in his car, though, Angie came over to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks for being a friend, Jonathan,” she said, looking directly at me. “I won’t forget this either.”

I said I hoped we’d keep in touch. She got in the car and as they started to drive off, I saw her take off her hat and release her long blonde hair to flow down her shoulders.

I took the dolly back inside and left it by the elevator for the custodians to find. When I got back to my apartment, Shivvy was there with Doug. After I gave him Angie’s key, he thanked me for helping him out and left.

“He looks like he’s in bad shape,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s a mess,” responded Shivvy, shaking her head. “But you know what? I think he’s a lot less bothered by the fact that Angie was cheating on him than by the realization that he really wasn’t Briggs’s prize little pupil after all.”

She laughed at her own observation and continued, “I’m afraid it’s the old story, Dougie! Briggsy didn’t love you for your brain, but for your body! Your wife’s body, that is!”

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