Twelfth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers
12. This poem was never written
A shot of cortisol seeped through Geoffrey’s veins when he saw Nancy on his computer.
He closed the bedroom door behind him as he retreated to the empty stairwell.
“Arianna?” he said as his phone call was answered. “I’ve got a big problem.”
He nodded his head at the receiver while he listened to the voice at the other end.
“You sure?” he said at last. “She won’t be able to trace anything?”
For four months, Geoffrey had been shuttling funds from his private offshore account to the Green party. There was nothing illegal or even suspicious about it: it was his money, lawfully gotten, tax-declared and everything, and he could do with it what he wanted. He just didn’t want Nancy to know.
She’d been funding the Conservatives for the past decade.
Arianna, head of the hacking consultant group that Landgraab Industries hired for their security work, assured Geoffrey that there was no way Nancy could access his financial records on his computer. She’d checked last time she worked on his computer: his data was safely partitioned in a virtual drive that no other users could access without getting past a long series of security checks, including a retina scan.
“Your data’s safe,” she assured him.
He took a few deep breaths. Janet had been telling him how bad stress was for him. “You look tense,” she had said at yoga class a few nights before. “Breathe.”
She showed him how to put his hands on his abdomen and do belly breaths. The gesture was so intimate, and he felt so vulnerable, standing and breathing with another woman. Maybe that had been when it had happened.
“I’ll be back late,” Nance was saying. “Or maybe not at all.”
She had a meeting for the Conservatives. He knew she was seeing J Huntington III, the Conservative’s candidate. He always smelled J’s cologne on her after party meetings. Plus, he could tell from the way that J treated him, and from the way that Nancy looked at J, and from the ways that the light around their bodies inclined towards each other whenever they were in the same room. They were lovers.
It made him feel less badly about his growing affection for Janet.
“You’ll be out all night?” Geoffrey said. “But I miss you when you’re gone.”
“I don’t think you do,” she said. “Or at least, if you do, you’ll get over it. Watch a movie with Malcolm or something. Read a book.”
She laughed. She looked amazing. His pulse still sped up when he saw her, though he recognized now that it was adrenaline that made his pulse race. Fight or flight. And then once she was out of sight, the cortisol would be released again and he’d feel that sinking feeling.
Cortisol was messing with his blood sugar. It wasn’t easy being married to Nancy.
After he heard the Porsche drive off , he got on his computer. The plastic seat still held Nancy’s body heat.
The files looked OK, and he felt better. He should trust Arianna. She wasn’t the lead hacker and security expert for nothing.
His footsteps sounded loudly on the concrete stairs. Malcolm was out. He’d asked him to bring Cassandra back home after school. “Hang out here,” he said. “We can watch a movie.” Malcolm had laughed in his face.
He wondered what Janet was doing right then. Maybe she was making supper for Arianna and Orion. Maybe they were having salad, and she was slicing tomatoes at that exact moment. One thing, she was breathing right then. Geoffrey remembered how she’d showed him to breathe, and he felt his pulse steady.
This house was so lonely.
He ate his supper standing in the kitchen, looking out over the canyon. He pretended he could see the lights from Willow Creek in the distance.
After supper, he couldn’t find a movie that held his attention. He flipped through an old Le Carre novel he’d read dozens of times, Honourable Schoolboy. He stopped at one of his favorite lines: “It is also the pardonable vanity of lonely people everywhere to assume that they have no counterparts.”
He fell asleep wondering if, perhaps, Janet, with her eyes that filled at times with a softness that looked like loneliness, might be his true counterpart, and if so, then maybe an end to his loneliness were in sight.
He woke up inside of a dream. He was swimming in a warm pool.
Petunias and pansies perfumed the air. Waterfalls rained down. He felt a surge of vitality propel him up and out of the water. He was alive and strong! Through him he felt one emotion coursing: love! Geoffrey Landgraab was in love.
Nancy’s side of the bed was still empty when Geoffrey woke shortly before dawn.
He had to get out of the house. Arianna had told him that Janet sometimes took walks through the park in the early morning. This was a good morning for a picnic breakfast, Geoffrey decided.
Bjorn was playing chess when Geoffrey arrived at the park, and Max, who must have decided to skip school, was strolling through.
Geoffrey put the skewers of fruit he’d brought with him on the grill. You never knew when somebody might want to join you for breakfast, he thought. It was good to be prepared.
He waited before he sat down with his meal.
Mockingbird songs sound louder when the park is empty.
He thought back to the first time he met Janet. He’d seen her around before: it was hard not to notice that Scandinavian face, that Valkyrie body. And when she spoke–even butter wasn’t softer.
Arianna introduced them. She found out that Geoffrey wanted to support the Greens.
“It’s the butterflies,” Geoffrey had said. “They need the open spaces. I know what J wants to do with the fields and woodlands. It’s not pretty.”
“My wife is in charge of the finances for the Greens,” Arianna had said. “She can let you know how you can best help.”
He and Janet had talked for hours during their first meeting.
He became aware something unusual was happening to him when he kept giggling. He wasn’t normally one to giggle. And Janet wasn’t all that funny. But something inside him felt funny, like he was being tickled from the inside out.
He realized he was flirting with her when he asked what yoga studio she went to. Yoga! What did he know about yoga?
But he started going to yoga every other day. Sometimes, she was in the class with him. And sometimes, like that one evening, she would show him how to breathe or hold a pose or repeat a mantra.
“You’d be surprised,” she said, “how mantras can really make something happen. It’s because of the shift within you.”
Someone approached the table where he sat. Ah! Just the gardener.
He tried to think of a mantra. “What you most desire will appear.”
He said it over and over. Magical thinking. Is this what he’d been reduced to?
But then he saw her! She was talking to Bjorn’s wife, there at the edge of the park.
“Janet!” he called, and he ran towards her.
She waited for him, looking over her shoulder.
Do you feel adrenaline when you’re in love? His heart pounded. Then that sinking feeling as the cortisol spread through him. Fight or flight? Or lust. He stayed.
“Janet,” he said.
She smiled. Did she feel it, too? Her face was so open. She didn’t wear any make-up, did she? Nancy wore make-up to bed–he hadn’t kissed a woman without make-up since junior high. He smelled patchouli.
“Wait!” she said, as he leaned in for an embrace.
“Geoffrey! You’re married! I’m married! Nancy and Arianna, remember? We’ve got kids!”
She was right.
“You’re right,” he said. “Right. Right.” He tried to laugh it off, but his blood sugar was dropping fast.
“I like you, Geoffrey,” Janet said. “You are a great guy. Maybe, you know, different world, different life, different sexual orientation–things could be different!”
He was saved when some of the members of the Greens approached them.
“We need to talk,” said Dominic Fyres. “I just got the polls in, and the numbers aren’t good.”
“Breathe,” whispered Janet, as she and Dominic went over the figures he’d brought her.
The news wasn’t good, and they left to meet Alec at Emeliano’s café. Geoffrey stood alone on the path.
He pulled out his i-Pad. “Conservative candidate J Huntington III scoffs at concern raised over predictions of the extinction of the monarch butterfly,” read the headlines. Geoffrey scrolled to the comments.
“It is no small thing to lose a small thing.” This was posted by Orion Fuchs, Janet’s son. There are good people in the world, Geoffrey thought, even if they aren’t members of your own family.
I should be sad, he thought. But he was very happy. It’s brain chemicals. Serotonin.
The colors looked brighter. What had she said? In a different world. This world looked different. It was no longer the same sorry place, not with these bright colors on every tree.
It is a beautiful world, isn’t it? A monarch floated over milkweed flower. If it takes a million dollars, thought Geoffrey, and a million and one milkweed seeds.
It was a beautiful morning still. Geoffrey sat at the bench and pulled up The Honourable Schoolboy on his tablet.
He stopped at his other favorite line: “Home’s where you go when you run out of homes.”
He didn’t know if he’d run out of homes, for he’d barely begun to look for them. He only knew that the one true home he’d found lay deep inside a tucked-in corner where no one thought to look. But he looked there: he looked and he found brown eyes gazing back, eyes that maybe he’d never actually seen, but ones that understood him, nonetheless.