When I got back to New York from L.A. she wasn’t in the apartment. Her clothes were gone. I called everyone we knew and told them or left messages that I had to see her, for her to call me.
She never did. I walked the streets, deathly cold and crazed. I checked out our usual haunts and talked to mutual friends. Nothing.
I asked her best girlfriend to get her to call me. “It’s a matter of life and death,” I told her. Desperate days and nights I walked the streets of Manhattan looking for her, not sleeping, not eating, swallowing Valium and drinking whiskey from a flask.
Finally, on the afternoon of December 31, her girlfriend called and said V. would meet me at the corner of Third Avenue and Sixtieth Street at five o’clock.
I got there early and stood outside Bloomingdale’s men’s store, the collar of my coat turned up against the wind. I hadn’t eaten for days. I was trembling with cold.
She came walking toward me, red cashmere coat blowing open in the wind, long ballerina legs striding forward with confidence, all style and sensuality.
“Can’t you leave me alone?” she said.
“I had to see you.” My voice was rough with whiskey. “We have to be together tonight.”
“Are you kidding.”
“It’s New Year’s Eve.”
“I’ll be with someone else tonight. I’m staying with him. That’s why I didn’t call you back. I had to interrupt my day with him to meet you because you kept calling my friends and leaving embarrassing messages.”
“Who is he?”
“None of your business.”
“What’s he do for a living?”
“He’s in advertising.”
“Makes a lot of money, I suppose.”
“Quite a bit.”
“Is that the reason?”
“The reason for what?”
“Why you don’t want to be with me.”
She stood there studying me, the wind opening and closing her coat, showing those legs that had spent many Jack of Hearts nights wrapped around my body. Then she said, almost sympathetically, “You really don’t get it, do you?”
“Just tell me,” I said, nodding my head up and down like a crazy man, sick from a week without food or sleep, nothing but booze, pills and panic, “what’s so great about this guy?”
She didn’t even have to think about it. “He knows where he’s going in life.”
“I know where I’m going. I’m working on a new novel.”
“Good for you,” she said, unimpressed or unbelieving.
I put my hand on her arm. She pulled away. I had to get her back. She had seriously loved me. Couldn’t imagine being with anyone else, she had said. I told her, “I think things are going to start happening—”
“Forget it,” she interrupted. “You don’t control me anymore. You dangled me on a string for too long while you wandered off, counting on my fidelity, pretending to make book deals or whatever bullshit you could come up with.” Her sexy mouth curled down. “All those trips to other cities. You were fucking around on me, you bastard.”
She looked at her watch and then at me. “Don’t you see what’s happened? I’m no longer the naive little girl who fell in love with you. I’ve grown up. I’ve become one of those women you say you always hated. I’ve become a strutting bitch.”
She stepped to the curb and looked down Third Avenue for a taxi. She turned and faced me. “Forget about me. Leave New York. Go back to California and write that novel.”
As she flagged down a taxi I told her insanely, “I’ll follow you and kill that advertising son of a bitch.”
“Go ahead,” she said, as the taxicab pulled over. “Kill him. And kill me and kill all the sluts you slept with for all I care.”
Turning away, cashmere coat blowing open, cab door opening, long legs disappearing, cab door closing, taxi lurching into traffic, speeding away.
I spent New Year’s Eve alone in my agent’s basement, drinking myself into a screaming stupor.
Another day in the basement. That night the agent told me I had to leave. He told me to get on with my life.
It was ten degrees in New York when I took a redeye to the furthermost shore. For five hours I drank himself into oblivion. Happy New Year, asshole.