Bad Connections

Bad Connections by Joyce Johnson Read Free Book Online

Book: Bad Connections by Joyce Johnson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joyce Johnson
her I understood.
    The conversation remained in my mind. I went over everything Deborah had said, combing it for significance. Conrad’s involvement with Roberta seemed more of a fact to me now, more fleshed out and tangible, not just something I had heard about. It existed as a fact for others, too, it commanded its own loyalties. Deborah had favored neither of us—her old tie to me was counterbalanced by her desire to behave correctly. Perhaps she even disapproved of me, thought I was in the wrong, that I should give Conrad up. I had thought of Roberta as the Other Woman, the interloper, even though it was she who had known Conrad first. Perhaps I was the interloper myself. It was not a role I wished to play. I wanted to be right. It was disturbing to think that I might not be, that as much as I wanted and needed Conrad I perhaps had no claim to him. And yet it was Conrad who had come to me, not I who had lured him away. He had his needs as well. His mistake had been his attempt to keep me from the truth.
    I tried to remember Roberta as I’d seen her that day two summers ago when she’d seemed so incidental to my life I’d forgotten even her name immediately. I attempted to reconstruct the scene of our meeting—the knotty pine walls of that living room in Amagansett, the white cane furniture, the orange Indian print spread on the couch. I remembered eating a pumpernickel bagel. Had it been a Sunday brunch Fred and I had gone to? Yes, people were sitting on the floor in bathing suits with plates in their laps, talking and drinking coffee. And someone said, “Where’s Bobbie?” And a woman in a purple caftan said, “I don’t think she wants to get up.” And I heard someone else say something about Brazil. But at some point later she came out of one of the bedrooms, and the woman in the purple caftan rushed over to her and asked her how she was and led her to the couch with the Indian print spread and got a plate of food for her which she didn’t eat.
    I remembered all that now, and how I tried not to look at her much because she looked so awful. I remembered a reddened, tear-sodden face and long tangled black hair which the woman in the purple caftan insisted on brushing, and some other people coming over to Bobbie and insisting that she go sailing with them. But she remained just as miserable. And when someone—Deborah—introduced us, she’d looked off into the distance as though she didn’t see me.
    I wondered if I would even recognize her now that she was outgoing and radicalized—more like the dancer I had imagined but still with that core of misery that commanded such solicitude from others, that bound Conrad to her in a way it was difficult to understand, the buoyancy and energy in him drawn to that inert figure I’d seen on the couch—which was the side of herself I was sure she consistently showed him.

S HE IS HAPPY on Tuesdays and Fridays and anxious the rest of the week. It is on Tuesdays and Fridays that she sees him. Sometimes a late Sunday night becomes free at the last minute. He says they are seeing each other two or three times as much as they did before.
    She would like to be like a friend of hers whose idea of a perfect relationship is to have an affair with a man who lives in a different part of the country and to meet with him once a month in a city somewhere in between. Another friend rides around on a bicycle picking up an occasional stranger. It would embarrass her if either of them knew how much time she spends waiting for Conrad. Even on the nights when she is not going to see him, she feels in a state of suspension, as if she is not quite real to herself. Why should she need his presence to animate her?
    He’s always later than he says he’s going to be. If it’s at ten that she expects him, he will arrive at midnight; if it’s at eight, he will come at nine-thirty and then she’ll have to contend with

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