Thank you for helping me remember how to be happy.
July 12, 1977
It is I who should be thanking you. You have reminded me that no matter what happens with my marriage, all is not lost. There is still beauty out there, still unexpected wonders.
The only silver lining, should all this end in disaster, is that there is you.
July 19, 1977
You are the biggest surprise of my adult life. I had absolutely no idea when I wrote to you that first time that I was reaching out to a kindred spirit. And as complicated and unforeseen as this all has been, I don’t regret a single second of it.
How are things there? I have to ask: Since coming home, have you found any other letters from Ken? Heard anything else from Janet?
Ken has been oddly attentive as of late. He has come home directly after work. He has bought me flowers. Tonight he is taking me out to dinner at the Chateau Marmont (a fancy hotel for movie stars and rock bands).
I do not know what it all means.
July 25, 1977
I have found no letters lately, and Janet has stopped excusing herself after dinner to go for a walk, which I’ve always assumed she spent at the pay phone. I do not know what it means.
How are you? I hope your cold is better. I’m thinking of you and sending you thoughts of matzo ball soup with extra noodles.
July 29, 1977
I miss you. I hope that is all right to say. I wish, so often, you were here in person.
Yesterday, Ken told me that he is going to Palm Springs for a consult on a former colleague’s case. He says he’ll be there from August 8 through 13. I am assuming that this is a lie, but I have found no more letters from Janet, so I cannot be sure.
Has Janet mentioned anything to you? Has she planned time away?
If they are going away together again, shall we meet?
August 3, 1977
I’ve heard nothing from Janet about this. I have no idea.
I’ll check to see if there are any letters in the cookbooks or glove compartments or buried in the closet when I get home.
If she does go, I’ll call you and set a time for us to meet.
August 6, 1977
Ken leaves Monday for Palm Springs. Still no word from Janet?
Last night, Ken made me dinner. He went to the store after work and bought groceries. He grilled us steaks and made a salad, including homemade dressing that was from a recipe from a nurse at work.
He lit candles and opened a bottle of wine. I was confused and skeptical. But I was also surprised at just how pleasant it was to have his attention again. It had been gone so long, I had forgotten how it felt.
He started talking about when we met. He said he spoke to his father after our first date and told him he would marry me. He told me his father told him to choose a woman he could love for fifty years. And then Ken said to me, “And that’s what you are.”
I said, “Are you sure you won’t ever want someone else?”
And Ken said, “I will never love anyone the way I love you. Never.”
Obviously, a large part of me felt like he was lying, but there was another part of me that felt like, What if he has decided once again that I’m “the One”?
But I asked him if he really needed to go to Palm Springs on Monday, and he insisted he had to. So Janet must be meeting him there, right?
August 9, 1977
It’s now Tuesday, August 9, and Janet is still here. She seems to have no plans to leave. If Ken has left, I can say definitively he is not with Janet.
Do you think their relationship is over? I can’t make heads or tails of all this.
August 15, 1977
On Monday morning, just as Ken was getting ready to get in the car for the drive to Palm Springs, he looked at me and said, “Why don’t you come with me?”
I said, “With you?”
And he said, “Yes, come with me.”
And I found myself packing up a couple of things and getting into the car with him.
It turns out there truly was a consult. It wasn’t a lie.
How odd to feel confused that your husband is telling the truth. And yet, I have to admit, there was real comfort in that. It was as if the Ken I fell in love with reappeared: trustworthy, dependable.
I spent my days walking around the town and shopping, and then during the evenings Ken and I would go out to restaurants and have drinks at bars and order room service for dessert. I swear, when he looked into my eyes, it truly seemed like he loved me. It felt like a new beginning, I suppose. It was as if the past had never transpired.
He said he wants to take me on a vacation to Italy next year. He called it a “second honeymoon.” I’m not quite sure how I feel about it all right now. I’m a bit stunned, to be frank.
Is it possible that after all we have both been through, it has ended with them coming back to us?
All my best,
August 20, 1977
Last night, Janet and I put the kids to sleep and then decided to watch some TV in the living room. I was sitting in my recliner, Janet on the sofa, when she walked up to the TV and turned it off.
She said, “I’ve been sleeping with someone else.”
And she confessed everything.
She started at the very beginning—how they met years ago and she thought nothing of it but then ran into him for the second time last August. I didn’t realize it, but the night they met again was a night in which she and I had gotten into an argument about how I was always grading papers on evenings we were supposed to spend together. She’d decided, rather angrily, to go out with her friend Sharon.
Apparently, she didn’t come home until the next morning, and she said I barely even noticed. It strikes me as almost unbelievable how little attention I paid to her back then. Not that I’m blaming myself. After knowing the full details, my anger at Janet has somehow become stronger but also more tolerable. That doesn’t make much sense, I guess.
Anyway, she admitted how long they went on like that, how often they met up, what she was feeling, why she did it. And when she confessed, so did I.
I told her I had known for some time. I told her that you and I had been exchanging letters and had become close during this bizarre time. I shared some of our letters as well.
There was no confession left to be made by the end of the night. Or I should say wee hours of the morning. Janet and Ken are through. And there are no more lies living in our marriage anymore.
Janet told me this morning that she wants to stay together, and she asked me point-blank if I thought that she and I could get past this.
It was a difficult question to answer. I kept thinking of you, to be honest. What you have shown me, how much I look forward to seeing you. You have come to mean so much to me.
But if I ask myself whether I believe I can one day forgive the mother of my children and begin to trust her again, the answer that I keep coming to is yes. I believe that I can.
And if I find that I can’t, I still have to try. I want nothing as much as I want to live in the same home as my sons, to see them every morning, to say good night to them every night, as they grow into men. I want the future I had hoped for.
I told Janet that I am not quite ready to forgive her, but I do feel ready to work to get there. And that, right now, is enough of a start for both of us. We believe we can put this thing back together.
As for the details of the end of their relationship and the trip over the Fourth, Janet has told me the full story. And then she showed me Ken’s last letters.
From what Janet says, she and Ken spent the Fourth of July in Newport Beach. They made plans to contact divorce attorneys and made some decisions about where they would live and what kind of custody she would request of the boys. It was all but settled.
As they were getting ready to leave, Ken went to pay the bill, and Janet went over to the convenience store next to the hotel and grabbed a drink and a sandwich for the ride home. When she paid, she realized she was a penny short, and so she grabbed one from the “Leave a Penny, Take a Penny” tray. She said it was brand-new, not a scratch on it. It was bright and shiny, exactly the kind I’ve always loved. And as she held the penny in her hand, she realized she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen me pick one up.