As Thomas Friedman finally realized that he couldn't alter my mood with sweet words, especially words like "Don't be such a backward idiot," he stormed out of the apartment and I was finally able to call Mrs. K. First, she explained that Nicky K was whining about all his hate mail over his column about how the whole world has ignored the Sudan except for him.
I wanted to ask her if this "me first and only" of Nicky's applies in the bedroom but I didn't feel like we were close enough to allow for that level of personal questioning. Instead, I told her that Thomas Friedman's on probation of a sorts after his last few columns which Gail Collins generously dubbed "sophomoric."
Then I got to the point of my phone call, that Thomas Friedman sang the praises of Lance Armstrong in his column this morning ("Learning From Lance").
"Oh, Bettina!" Mrs. K gasped. "I saw it. You know he only writes about himself. That's why he invents all those cab drivers who speak just like him."
"I know," I said evenly.
"So . . ."
"I think he's having an affair or planning one," I explained. "Actually planning one would be more likely because he's too lazy to actually do anything. And planning may be giving him too much credit as well so maybe just dreaming of having one."
"But with who?" Mrs. K asked.
"Well, he came home the other afternoon speaking of a ticket taker on some flight. Raving over her. She loved The World Is Flat, she thought he was brilliant --"
"how did so much intelligence fit into one brain, how could one man be so attractive, and yet so manly, then he got too her stupid mustache --"
"No, he didn't!" Mrs. K squealed.
"No, he wasn't that obvious but we both knew there was no woman and it was another imaginary fan of his writing."
"So you think this is just some fantasy on his part?"
"Well, I can think of only one woman who would be stupid enough to find Thomas Friedman a catch."
"Bettina, you're not stupid," Mrs. K. offered.
"I must have been," I replied. "But I wasn't thinking of me. I was thinking of Patti."
"Patti! Of course. And she is stupid."
"No, Bettina, she's truly, truly stupid."
So with Mrs. K's help, I was able to track down one Patti Nelson Limerick.
She lives in SoHo, natch. In a closet-size cubby hole that reeks of sandlewood and cat pee. It's a claustrophic's nightmare. It's an interior decorator's nightmare as well. Everything is white or off-white to give the impression of a blank canvas or possibly her mind. Instead of a couch, sofa or even futon, she's furnished the place with saddles.
"Have a seat," she chirped as she proceeded to sit side saddle on a red one.
The other five were all occupied with cats, so I stated that I preferred to stand.
"Let me get right to the point," I started off. "Do you have designs on my husband Thomas Friedman?"
"Designs? Hmmm. I think that there is a spontaneous quality that results in the creation of biochemical merger of sorts when the body and my own occupy the same space and time."
I wanted to knock her off her saddle. Instead I looked at the yellow cat that was coughing on a fur ball.
"The query goes to the issue of co-mingling in a cosmos where bondage occurs but in which, alas, free radicals will emerge and possibly alter the landscape of not only the outer exteriors but also our own shady interiors that we never delve into until confronted with the emotional reality that reaches to our core . . ."
As she continued to prattle on, I noticed that her turban, like everything else in the tiny space appeared to have cat urine stains. As the yellow cat continued attempting to hack up the fur ball, I could feel my own throat closing up as the room seemed to grow smaller and the plentiful cat hair littering the place only more abundant.
"When we visualize and conceptualize the very basic term resulting may be 'suprise' which mutates into realization as we grasp and devle further into --"
"Cut the crap," I said stopping her. "Are you sleeping with my husband or not?"
"So base, Bettina, so base. What Thomas and I are embaring upon will go beyond the realm of physical and enter a cosmic force that shakes us and wakes us."
"You go near my husband Thomas Friedman again and you'll find my fist shaking you and waking you up."
"So base, Bettina, so base," Patti breezily tsked-tsked.
I watched as the yellow cat finally coughed up the fur ball and began to pee on the saddle.
"Atta' boy, Roy Rogers John Wayne Reagan," Patti cooed encouragingly to the cat, "Express yourself out of the imposed limits."
As the rank odor enveloped the room, I tried another tactic since intimidation appeared to be ineffective with a nut job.
"You do realize that you'll have to give up your cats?" I asked.
"What did you say!" Patti gasped clutching her stomach.
"Give up your cats. Even little Roy Rogers John Wayne Reagan here," I said pointing at the yellow cat who had ceased urinating and hopped off the saddle.
"Thomas Friedman is allergic to cats," I declared proudly.
"You tell that asshole I never want to want to see him again," Patti growled in a very non-beatific manner.
"I'll do that," I said making my way out of the cubby hole Patti calls home.
On the subway ride home, I thought of what Mrs. K had asked me, "Bettina, if you're lucky enough to be rid of him, why not go with it?"
Believe me, I would. If I had a job right now, I would. But between hand washing his undergarments, squeezing his prune juice, scrubbing floors, fixing his meals and his frequent snacks, when do I have the time to look for a job?
I also don't know what skills I have. Memory's not a strong one obviously because if Mrs. K had prompted me to explain how I came to be married to Thomas Friedman, I couldn't have given her an honest answer. I honestly don't remember.
My childhood is also a blank. Thomas Friedman has told me about the village I grew up with mud huts and the village elder who oversaw our currency system based upon beaded necklaces but I remember nothing from it. Worse, sometimes I think I remember something. Like watching an old I Love Lucy episode with my mother but Thomas Friedman has insisted that my village had no electricity so how could that be?
I need time to figure it out. Time I don't have. Why couldn't it have been Thomas Friedman in jail and not Judith Miller?
Walking into the apartment, I surprised Thomas Friedman who was downing canned cheese with one hand while reaching inside his sweat pants with the other to scratch his ass.
"Your affair with the modern day Aimee Semple McPherson is over," I said as I walked past him.