So my husband Thomas Friedman finally showed up Tuesday at one p.m. He'd been gone how many days? I was so focused on school, I had honestly forgotten he was gone after failing to read in the New York Times of him being mugged or worse.
He showed up in oversize sunglasses, smelling of Ikon vodka and wearing a shorty robe version of a trench coat. A little tipsy but heavy on the dramatics (in other words, basically the same), he stumbled around the living room in his flip flops as he hurried to the window, peaked out the curtains then went to the phone and picked it up listening for I don't know what?
"The Russians are coming," he whispered repeatedly at several points when not muttering darkly, " "Gosudarstvo i Evolutsia."
Sizing him up, I asked, "New shorty robe?"
He ignored me. Lowering his sun glasses and looking over the rims dramatically, Thomas Friedman added, "They are coming and they are coming to get me."
"Thomas Friedman, no one is coming to get you," I sighed. "I could not be that lucky. Now you just sit yourself down on the couch, watch your 'Saved by the Bell' and I'll fix you a grilled cheese sandwich, some coffee and we'll try to get you sobered enough to write that column that Gail Collins keeps screaming she must have in the next few hours."
As I turned to walk to the kitchen, the electricity went out.
"Betinna!" he yelled. "They are coming!"
In the darkness, I could make him out, perched on the sofa, holding a throw pillow at the ready to defend himself. I had to laugh as I pictured an army of KGB agents swarming the apartment while Thomas Friedman held them at bay with a non-lethal pillow fight.
"Gosudarstvo i Evolutsia," he muttered again, honestly creeping me out.
"I'm going to the kitchen, to fix that grilled cheese," I declared turning back towards the kitchen.
Suddenly, he was right next to me, his chunky fingers digging into my upper arm.
"We have no power!" he hissed in my ear, the alcohol on his breath so intense that even I felt a little intoxicated.
"Fortunately," I reminded him, "the stove, like you, runs on gas."
Throw pillow raised at the ready to do maximum non-damage, Thomas Friedman tip-toed into the kitchen with me still muttering "Gosudarstvo i Evolutsia."
As I fixed the grilled cheese, he darted to the window over the sink and peered out giving me a report, "I count ten maybe twelve. They are down below on the street. Dressed as construction workers."
"They are construction workers," I corrected.
He threw back his head and laughed loudly.
"Betinna, you are so simple," Thomas Friedman declared. "When they place you in the gulag, you will not see things so innocently. All this time, we have been worried about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Brazil when what we should have been worried about was a reunited Russia, out to crush the world and destroy our very concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of globalization."
"Brazil," I said buttering the bread, "Because Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is going to spearhead the free software movement?"
Thomas Friedman sighed, shook his head and replied, "Yes, Betinna, that and the fact that I do not believe the Lambada is honestly dead."
"The Lambada?" I asked laughing as I put the sandwich in the skillet.
"Do not scoff," Thomas Friedman insisted, "it is the forbidden dance."
I quickly gave up on the idea of making coffee both because the power was out and because it was obvious there was no sobering him up.
Thomas Friedman lumbered around the kitchen to illustrate his point about the 'forbidden dance.'
"There is revolution in these movements," he said quite seriously.
"Plop it down at the kitchen table, Ricky Martin, your sandwich is ready."
Thomas Friedman sat down and began tearing into his sandwich, smacking his lips with delight while he told me he had been held prisoner by "the Russians" for the last five days and how naive we had all been (even Thomas Friedman?) to assume that we had entered into a phase of friendly relations. He predicted the return of bomb shelters, cold war, and the imprisonment of
Yakov Smirnoff and Tatu which were both acts designed to lull us into a false sense of security and lowered expectations.
"That is when they will come for us," he said quite seriously.
In the midst of all of this, the electricity came back on. Thomas Friedman leaped to his feet, throw pillow at the ready, looking around for the non-existant KBG officers he expected to come storming across the linoleum. It was obvious to me that the current conditions in Iraq, the war he helped cheerlead, had finally caused him to crack up.
Pushing him down the hall to the office, I told him he had a column to work on.
"But Betinna, the Russians --" he began.
"You can write all about it in your column," I interrupted. "Just don't sound to nutso, I'd like us to be able to afford a real vacation for Labor Day."
Ten minutes later, he handed me "The Post-Post-Cold War" and asked me to read it before he e-mailed it to Gail.
"It is in code," he declared seriously.
"Well good," I said giving it a quick once over, "at least this time, readers will have a valid reason for not being able to grasp it."
He ignored me and went to the hall closet. Checking it out, for moths?, he finally nodded, told me that if anyone came by I was to say I hadn't seen him, then stepped inside, shut the door and remained inside until Thursday.
I e-mailed the column to Gail who called later.
I thought she was going to ask me, "What is this crap?"
But instead, it turned out that she just wanted to talk about Tom Cruise whom she was convinced had cracked up as a result of his divorce from Nicole Kidman.
"It surely does not help him," she informed me, "Seeing Nicole cavort with that strapping young man in the Chanel ads."
"Gail," I told her, "I see now you how you rose to your current position."
She took it as a compliment. Which explains how so much crap makes the op-ed pages of the paper.
Around six p.m., Yuri V. Ushakov was knocking at our front door. He handed me Thomas Friedman's silk shorty robe and explained that in the missing days, Thomas Friedman had entertained the Russian embassy with humorous tales of a world that was flat, McDonalds as the global equizaler and much more. He did not know, Ushakov said, that the "New York Times" had a humor columnist but now he was very interested in checking out my husband's writing.
It had been a time filled with laughter and vodka, Ushakov informed me, until they had made the mistake of inviting Yegor Gaidar to meet Thomas Friedman. Apparently Gaidar had raised the issue of private properties impact on liberal societies once too often for Thomas Friedman's tastes. The next thing they knew, he was screaming and running stark naked out of the embassy.
At first everyone had laughed because "we love a jolly fat man in my country as much as you do in yours." However, as minutes turned to hours and then a full day, they began to wonder that they might not be dealing with America's print version of Chris Farley and began to worry.
"No, need to worry," I explained after thanking him for returning the shorty robe, "the joke is always Thomas Friedman. Always."
When he sobers up, I intend to ask him what all that talk about Nicky K before he left was about?
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