I planned to spend the long July Fourth weekend with my family instead of with Archie and felt guilty about it. I told him, but it came out so jumbled he thought I was inviting him to the shore with me.
"It should just be your family, honey," he said, and offered to lend me his car so I wouldn't have to take the bus.
"Thanks," I said, and told him that my brother was driving down from Boston and picking me up. But I pictured my parents' reaction to Archie's white Lincoln Continental pulling into their driveway.
"I'm trying to think how to tell my dad about us," I said.
"How about this:" he said, and imitated me. "'Good news, Papa! I'm with that charming fellow Archie again!'"
I didn't answer.
"What?" he said. "You think I'm bad news?"
I said, "If Elizabeth was going out with some guy who was twenty-eight years older, tell me you wouldn't be upset."
"Your father knows me," he said. "I'm not just some guy who's twenty-eight years older--at least that's not the way I see myself."
I didn't know how my father saw Archie.
A few months after Archie and I had broken up, my mother mentioned a friend whose daughter was involved with an alcoholic. My mother pronounced alcoholic like it was on the same cell block with rapist and murderer and meant crazy and violent and Lock the door.
My father didn't say anything, and it occurred to me that he knew, or at least suspected, that Archie was an alcoholic.
Friday evening, I took my duffel bag downstairs and dropped it by the door. Archie was reading in the den. I leaned over and kissed him and said, "I should take off."
He seemed confused. "Is your brother here?"
"No," I said. "He's picking me up at my apartment."
"Why?" he said. "Why isn't he picking you up here?"
"Honey," I said. "You know I haven't told my family yet."
"Jesus," he said. "Not even Henry?"
He shook his head and went back to his book. He turned the page, though I knew he wasn't reading.
I stood there, waiting for him to talk to me. When I looked at the clock, it was already seven, which was when my brother was supposed to pick me up.
"I don't want to keep you," Archie said, and his voice was mean.
I said, "I was just trying to think of Mr. Putterman."
He said, "I'd like to be Mr. Putterman once in a while."
I said, "You'll have to stop being Mr. Motherfucker first."
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