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    Amity Gaige

    50. Belinda

    By Amity Gaige

    For John Updike

    He was sweet, her first husband. Karin met him fresh out of college, at an office party. He was a friend of the boss; she wore an intriguing vintage dress. Looking back years later, the spree of youthful follies seemed almost blameless.

    Her first husband was from a moneyed New England family. When Karin first met her in-laws-to-be, it was all she could do to keep up with their jokes and apocryphal stories. She kept looking face to face for clues. The family seemed to have stepped as a cast right out of the same bawdy play: there was the boozy, likeable mother, walking around with her apron and her smudged glass of Tempranillo, the red-faced father whose life was marked by acts of accidental heroism, as when he saved a woman by walking into a building he did not know was afire, and finally the boisterous sister, who came home to stay after her second divorce, and who liked to amuse them all with nihilistic half-truths.

    Sometimes, until you laugh, you do not know how buttoned-down you’ve been all your life, how reverent, your sense of pleasure asleep like a leg. Around her in-laws, Karin felt veils lift. She felt oppressive laws of the spirit repealed. She felt consequences inconsequenced. In her in-laws’ presence, her suspicions about who she might be at her best were confirmed. Yes, she thought, this is where I was always heading. And whenever it got a little windy—for sometimes, it did get a little windy, the mother too drunk, the sister too black—her husband was there to guide her through it, through whatever it meant to join a family that was not originally your own.


    He was a sensualist, her first husband. He lacked desperations. He had small, comprehending eyes, a pat of soft pale hair through which he would stare at her roguishly. A kernel-sized birthmark sat below his eye like an ironic tear. When he was around his family, her husband was quieter than usual, playing the straight man, an act that belied the tenderness he felt for them. Sitting close together on the ottoman, he would whisper into the softness of Karin’s neck, I know, I’m sorry. They’re crazy. . . . Read More.


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