Goodbye, Mr. Big! The End of the Affair

It wasn’t the first time she’d been in this situation. There had been, with past boyfriends, the time at the Hotel du Cap in the south of France; the time in Sydney, Australia; and three years ago in St. Barts. On the last evening of that trip, while the “boyfriend” was sleeping, she’d snorted the shitty local cocaine (which came in a straw) and the next morning, she played “You Can Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac over and over again, until it was time to go to the plane.

The month had also been April.

That relationship hung on until just before Memorial Day. He was going away for a big weekend. “Are you coming or not?” he’d asked. Everyone recommended she not go, on principle. At the last minute, she didn’t go. He didn’t call for a couple of days after the weekend, then he did call. Then she found out that he’d brought someone else, a girl he’d met on a plane the week before. The new relationship didn’t last for more than a couple of months after that, and he was miserable—which was also a standard subplot in the drama. Then the attempt to be friends with Carrie: the twice-weekly phone calls, which were about his misery (why he couldn’t figure out how to make a relationship work); the new woman (why she wouldn’t be able to make it better); and what a good idea it would be if he would see a shrink.

It was coming home from the St. Barts week that Carrie allowed herself to acknowledge the fact that the relationship with Mr. Big would probably not last the summer.

Don’t ask questions.

Don’t waste time.

Do what’s right for you.

Move past it.

Get over it.

What happened between April and the middle of July was nothing. A few incidents stand out: the explosion of T.W.A. Flight 800. The hurricane. The fights.

The fights were: She wanted to talk, he didn’t. She wanted more attention; he didn’t want to make the effort. “Now you sound like all of my ex-wives,” he’d say. “Always demanding something. Don’t ask for anything and maybe you’ll get it. Don’t tell me what to do.”

Why had she thought that if they were married, she’d get the attention she wanted? Why didn’t she understand that if they did get married, she’d become more and more of an accessory? That was a pattern.

The warnings were (dropped casually by Carrie, after either one of them had made any vague reference to the future): “Well, after the summer, I’m probably not going to be around.”

What are you talking about?”

I don’t know.”

That was also a pattern.

One day at the beginning of July, on another lousy gray day in the house in East Hampton when Carrie had stayed out for the week, some friends dropped by.

I’d break up with him tomorrow if I could. I’m dying to get out of here,” she said, slamming cupboard doors. She’d just hung up from yet another remote conversation on the phone, all about logistics.

Why not end it then?

That would be inconvenient.

Instead, she was doing laundry (why? They had a maid), she was making sure the kitchen was stocked with food (with things they would never eat, like packages of yellow rice), and she was watering the vegetable garden. The relationship was over before they had any vegetables, but the garden was useful because it gave her something to talk about with him and his friends. Everything was growing but nothing was ripening. No sun.

In the evenings on the weekends in the Hamptons, they’d have dinners, or go to dinners. Everyone got drunk, very fast and very early, and went to bed by 11.

Goodbye, Mr. Big! The End of the Affair