Chapter One: A Pair And A Spare
IT WAS APRIL FOOL’S DAY, 2003-FOURTEEN DAYS FROM TAX time-and the biggest joke of a day. I sat on the floor of his closet, my head between the hems of his pants. His suede loafers made imprints on the backs of my thighs. I’d bought him those herringbone pants at a Zanella sample sale, that reversible leather belt, and all those fine sweaters and tailored shirts. I’d shop with an index card of his sizes so he wouldn’t need to return things. I wanted to make him happy.
He’d said pleats were outdated and told me to return them, but you can’t return samples, so they remained, tags intact, toward the back of his closet. I could touch the grain of his wooden shoe trees, finger his cashmere sweaters, and cry into his shirts. I still had his things. His smell was still there, but he was a stranger.
The ties were the hardest part to leave. I’d bought more than a handful of them for him in Paris, when he’d proposed marriage to me at the Eiffel Tower in June of 1998. Charvet, Ferragamo, and Hermes were all he’d wear. I didn’t know from any of it. Unlike him, I wasn’t raised on a diet of designer. So I made an effort by introducing him to Etro ties, hoping he’d tell people I’d turned him onto something new. But he didn’t like Etro-he liked what he knew. “I’m sorry Stephanie, but your taste, uh . . .” he said shaking his head in disproval, “it’s from hunger.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“You know how when you’re starving you’ll eat anything?”
“Well,” then he closed the lid on the tie box and pushed it toward me as he said, “you’re looking at anything.”
My twenty-eight-year-old husband Gabriel Rosen never pretended to be a retrosexual. I mean the boy was a hardcore metrosexual before its emergence in the lexicon. He always knew from hair product and thread count. Then he joined a new gym and never missed a tanning appointment. For the five and a half years we’d been together, I’d occasionally joke when he revealed his chest at the beach: “Oh look, you decided to wear a Gap sweater.” Back then, he was too fixated on his bald spot and Propecia to ever contemplate hair removal. But suddenly, after two and a half years of marriage, his Palm calendar included laser sessions for his arms, chest, and back. A foreign cologne hung heavy in the air, clinging to his new Prada button-down. His new shirt wasn’t red, but the flag was. The signs were there, an article straight from a woman’s magazine:
• JOINS A GYM
• VISITS A TANNING SALON
• SPORTS A NEW HAIRSTYLE
• WEARS HAIR PRODUCT AND COLOGNE MORE OFTEN
• PURCHASES VARIOUS NEW AND DIFFERENT CLOTHES
• SUDDENLY AND INEXPLICABLY CHANGES HIS CLOTHING STYLE
He wasn’t gay. He was cheating. I didn’t say adultery. I didn’t say sex. I said cheating as in living as if I weren’t in his life.
WHEN I CONFRONTED GABE, HE SWORE. NOT “SHIT” OR “oh, fuck.” He swore, “Nothing . . . happened.” In his pause between “Nothing” and “happened” he was devising the next lie. “Nothing,” I would later discover, consisted of movie premieres, courtside seats at Madison Square Garden, Bungalow 8, text messages, late night phone calls, meeting her friends, and a string of missed electronic pages. “Happened” was a forty-three-year-old socialite. If recklessness were currency, he could have purchased all of Prada. When tax season approached, he had nothing left to expense. I’d already written him off. Dependents: 0.
Enough with his designer closet; none of it was mine anymore. I needed to finish packing. As I sat cross-legged on our hardwood floor, I smelled packing tape and was surrounded by brown. Brown packing boxes, brown shadows cast on barren walls, left only with brown rusted picture hooks and sun rings, revealing what was no longer there. Depleted from a day of instructing movers which boxes would go to storage and which would go to my new smaller apartment across town, I sat alone. All I had were the keys I’d need to turn in and the last wheel of brown tape in my hands. I sealed my last box, the Gabe box-full of vacation itineraries, smiling photographs, our certificate of marriage, old tax returns, printed e-mails, and folded notes signed with xxx’s, ooo’s, and Always. The box was leaving the Upper East Side and heading for storage. I was heading to the Upper West without any of it. I closed the door behind me.
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