I met up with the group at Russell and Karens’ parents farm near Iowa City that afternoon. I was nervous about seeing my ex-in-laws, but they were more than gracious towards me, making me feel more than welcome. So much had changed in the last few years since divorce.
I had neither heard from Jess nor had I called her. When she left, our relationship seemed to be falling apart. I needed, I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to try to sort things out. So, late the first night at the farm I excused myself and went outside into a little garden area with several outdoor chairs and called. It would be early morning in Rome and I might catch her. Her cell went to voice mail. She had told me many times before each and every trip she took to always call her cell, never her hotel. That never did make any sense to me, so I decided to call her hotel and was quickly connected to her room. A man answered after the first ring.
“Bonjour, c’est Rémy.” (Good morning, this is Rémy.)
“Oh, I’m sorry. They must have connected me to the wrong room, I was calling for Jess . . .”
“Oh, Jessica. Of course. One moment. Jessica, Sweetheart. You have a phone call My Love.”
A moment later she answered, “Caio, Marco? We should be there around 10:30.”
“This isn’t Marco and who the hell is Rémy and what’s with the ‘sweetheart’ and my love’ stuff? What’s going on?”
“Goddammit! I told you to never call my room! I can’t talk now! Don’t call back!” Before she could click off I heard a child’s voice, “Maman, Qu’est-ce?” (Momma, who is it?)
I stood there starring off into the night with the phone still to my ear waiting for someone to tell me it was a wrong number, that it hadn’t been Jess, somebody else named Jess. I felt dizzy, like I was suddenly transported into another dimension where nothing made sense. Rémy? Sweetheart? My Love? Maman? I felt nausea rising and I went to a bench and sat. I was barely able to breathe.
After a few minutes with my head between my knees, the nausea and dizziness passed. I called her cell which went straight to voice mail. What would I say anyway? Nothing made sense. I had been in a relationship with this woman for over three years. She had a child? A family in Europe? Was she married? I suddenly felt like the biggest fool in the world. Six week long trips to Europe every year interspersed with numerous week long trips to New York. She was not only print shopping, she was seeing her family. What had I gotten myself into?
Karen came and joined me, “Hey, you’ve been out here a long time. Are you okay? My god, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?”
My shock had turned to anger and now, with Karen, it turned to tears. I blathered out everything to her through my sobs.
“I’m such a fucking fool. How could I have been so blind and stupid? I don’t know what to do.”
Karen put her arm around me, “It will be okay. Truly. This is bullshit, but you’re gonna be alright. You’re with friends whether you believe it or not.”
We sat for a long time, not speaking. Karen’s arm around me was comforting and felt good. Things were rolling through my mind like a runaway freight train. I didn’t ever want to go back to Chicago, much less ever see Jess again. My life as I had known it was no more.
The band was playing two nights in Iowa City. The next night I went in the to help Karen with the merch table. It was fun and took my mind off Jess. My anger with her had turned into seething hate. Neither Karen nor I had shared what had happened with the others. I tried to act normal and must have since no one seemed to notice my mood.
The next morning, Jess called, her first words, “What doesn’t, ‘never call my hotel’ mean to you, you stupid bitch. You could have ruined everything. Goddammit! Where are you?”
So I’m a bitch now? Interesting. I managed my cool, answering calmly, “I’m in Iowa at Russell and Karens’ parents farm and plan on hanging out with them for a week on the road or maybe longer if I feel like it.”
“So, what prompted that?” she asked incredulously and angry.
“They invited me, and since you’re off in Europe, I accepted their invite and took a week off to travel with them. I was lonely and needed a break.”
“Just like that?! How can you just up and leave your work on the spur of the moment?”
“I lied and told them I had a family emergency,” I answered with a chuckle.
“Dana, how could you be that stupid?! I they ever find out you’ll . . .”
I was smiling inwardly at her pathetic attempt to avoid the elephant lurking somewhere in the nether world of transatlantic cell phone connections.
“So what the fuck if they do. Right now I give a shit, Jess-i-c-a, m-y l-o-v-e!” I drawled with an exaggerated French accent. “So who the fuck is Rémy? And Maman? You have a child?”
“He’s a friend, just a friend. Nothing more. And . . . ”
“Yeah right, ‘my love’, sweetheart.” Fuck you Jess. What are you? A fucking lesbian in Chicago and a hetro with a family in Europe? Fuck you!”
“You’re overreacting. Really. You don’t understand . There is an explanation.”
“Over reacting?! Explanation?! You’re the one with Rémy calling you ‘sweetheart’ and ‘my love’. And who is calling you ‘maman’ a trained monkey?” I asked with sarcasm oozing from my words. “What the fuck is Rémy? A lesbian with a deep voice and a man’s name?”
“I can explain . . .”
“I’m sure you can conjure up more lies like all the lies of the last three years. Fuck you! I hope to god I never see you again. You’re dead to me . . . Bitch!”
I clicked off and turned off my phone.