Chapter 29

29-1

Helene sits in the lobby of a large office. She’s surrounded by news tickers, and studies one intently as a young office page retrieves her: “Ms. Hill, Mr. Kleinhaus is ready for you. Helene hoists herself up and steadies her cane, just as an old, sharply dressed man in a trench coat appears behind the page. “Helene. I thought we’d go to Stousser’s. You love their lunch.” // “YOU love their lunch. I haven’t been there in 20 years.” // “Even better.” Cut to the two of them studying menus at a white tablecloth establishment. “It’s exactly the same,” Helene remarks. “Even the typeface on the menu is the same.” “It’s hard to find any reliable consistencies in life,” the man remarks. “So, this is sort of my rock.” Helene rolls her eyes. “Are you blaming your ADD on others?” // “Certainly not.” // “Because that, Harvey, is something that will not have changed.” He shrugs like “so sue me” and smiles. She huffs and shakes her head as she returns to the menu.

29-2

“Are you seeing anyone?” Helene asks Harvey. He swallows a bite as he nods. “I suppose so,” he replies through his chewing. “For a month is all. She’s at the network, in development.” // “Another intern?” // “An associate, thank you.” // “You will go to your grave having always gotten what you wanted.” // “I worked hard, Helene. You saw it.” // “I did. I won’t discount you. But damn, if anybody ever told you ‘no’, I’d love to be there to see it.” // “You were there.” // “I was.” // “I remember it well,” Harvey says. Helene smiles: “You cried. I remember that well.” // “I didn’t cry.” He’s defensive. “Not really debatable, darling,” She sips her wine. “Where is Ginny, anyway?” “She remarried, twice I think. More recently to some oil hound in Texas.” Helene chuckles. Harvey only gets paranoid: “What? What’s so funny?” // “Listen to yourself.” // “What do you mean?” // “Everyone is just so disposable to you. You don’t even know what your ex-wife is up to? You had a child with her! Doesn’t Emily tell you anything?” // “Emily and I barely speak.” // “Because you’re fucking women her age, Harvey! You’re not exactly a role model.” // “Dammit Helene. I wanted to have a nice lunch.” // “Then you shouldn’t have invited me. You know better.” She sips her wine and stares coldly at him. Then: “Would you care to ask me anything, since you dragged me here?”

29-3

“I’m retiring,” Harvey says to Helene. “I’ll be done by May. I saw the announcements your team made, and thought we could celebrate together over lunch today. I haven’t told anyone else yet.” // “Not even your girlfriend?” // “Helene…” // “Sorry. But Harvey, this is great news. Congratulations. Are you happy?” // “Are you?” // “I– I’m relieved. I’m absolutely relieved. My life is almost 100 percent different now than it was a year ago. Suddenly I’m a free agent. Free of everything. My home. My wife. My career. And I’m not even gonna die now.” // “What?” // “The cancer came back, except in my spine, just before Alina died. Then I broke my hip. In case you were going to ask about my cane. But, I got better. Completely better.” // “Oh my God, I had no idea. I’m terrible, Helene, I’m so sorry–” // “I didn’t want you to know. That’s why you didn’t know. I wanted to die. I still do. Someone told me the other day that I could still have another great love. Like, another you or another Alina. Isn’t that just fucked up? After all this, I could start over, square one, learn the rules, and build a new life? What’s the point?” // “That is the point, darling.”

29-4

“Maybe you won’t get a third ‘great love’ as you say,” Harvey continues. “Sounds like you don’t want that to happen anyway, but what’s there to be afraid of? Why don’t you get out there, just to seek intimacy with new, also-vulnerable people? Or to have sex with anyone. Or everyone! Old people know how to do it best, but young people know how to do it most eagerly. It’s fantastic.” // “I haven’t exactly been shriveled up, I’ll have you know.” // “Congratulations. So go out and find somebody else. Or at least find another Helene, from someplace inside you. You don’t owe it to me or Alina to be miserable for the rest of your life. I’m miserable enough for the both of us.” // “You’re fucking a 26-year-old.” // “She is 31.” // “She’s 31 and she’s only an associate? Ha!” // “Lay off! I don’t even need the pills with her. She gets me there.” // “Gross, Harvey. I’m glad she’s so eager. Is she your next ‘great love’?” // “No. Absolutely not.” // “How many have there been, for you?” // “One.” // “Don’t say that, Harvey.” // “It’s true, Helene. One.” // “You broke your own damn heart.” // “Well, I got on living my life, even if I have hated myself for the last 20 years. So why don’t you give it a try?”

29-5

Harvey helps Helene into a cab. “Where to?” he asks her. “I’m renting a furnished apartment in Prospect Heights. Have to move into my own place next week. Still have to find that place.” // “That’ll be in the neighborhood, too?” // “I’ll never leave Prospect Heights, dear.” // “Maybe I should move back.” // “No, you stay in Manhattan. It suits you.” // “Let’s have our next meeting there.” // “So they’re called meetings? And… I’m to believe this is regular?” // “Would you prefer I call them ‘dates’?” // “I would not prefer that. I leave it to you to plan our recurring, ex-spousal, recent retiree committee meetings.” // “And I shall.” They kiss on the lips, like old friends, and he shuts the cab door for her. The car drives away, and we study Harvey’s face as he watches it go: He adores her, painfully.

 

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