1. When he and his family were living in Rome for a year, Cheever wrote, “A reception in a palazzo, the quintessence of Roman dreariness. Rooms that were meant to be lit by candles or maybe torches do not seem to lend themselves happily to the kind of indirect lighting that latter-day Romans go for. The upshot is a dimness or dinginess that has an appreciable effect on my spirits. My feet ache from standing, but if I sit down I may get trapped. Butlers pass trays of bad brandy and bonbons.”
You obviously never had to put an Ikea bed together by yourself.
2. “The loud night sounds on the empty terrace outside make me uneasy. But what can I be doing that would trouble the unquiet dead? I sleep and wake at dawn-partly my bladder, partly the vigorous noise of nest-building going on among the birds. They can be heard dragging sticks over the tin gutters. They are all singing loudly.”
I can’t say I’ve been woken up by nest building but I have experienced a blonde homeless meth-head in the alley below my bedroom window moaning up at me, “Mom? Mom is that you? Mom?”
3. “Skating on the K’s pond last night after eating too much ham. Eight-thirty. Many stars. No moon.”
I would have skated on the pond, too, and eaten ham, you bet your ass I would have but I had to go to Target at 9 pm and buy my child an athletic supporter, which by the way now involves a pair of lycra shorts and a molded plastic cup that goes in the shorts. John Cheever, you never had to go to Target.
4. “I walk and walk. I say a prayer on Fifty-third street. I have lunch and see the ballgame. I come home on the train, drink some gin, and study Italian.”
You had lunch in the city, saw a ballgame, went home and hit the gin and then studied Italian? So did I! When I was 22!!!!!
5. “In the morning, I am quite shaky and have a flat tire. A garage mechanic who is even shakier than I struggles to change the tire. It takes him an hour, and he mangles the hubcap. When I see him later in the day he has improved, and I suppose he has a bottle hidden among his tools. I drink Scotch at ten, two Martinis before lunch, and go off to the shrink.”
Chekov of the suburbs, let me ask you this: If someone had a pistol to your head, could you make breakfast and lunch at the same time?
6. “Tonight, dirty movies at the firehouse.”
Let’s stop you right there, you mean to tell me you go the local firehouse to watch porn with brawny, helpful firefighters? Please tell me it’s not your weekend!
7. “Woke up at dawn. Wandered around the lawn in my birthday suit. Enjoyed the pale sky and the monumental elm but I kept thinking. It is better in the mountains; it is better everywhere. I have been here too long.”
OK, it’s 2:00 on a Saturday and you get a text from a mom you know saying, “What’s Billy up to today?” How do you ascertain whether she is looking to unload her kid on you for 4 hours or offering to take your child for the afternoon? In my world I call getting tricked into the former being a “playdate bottom” and should it get around that you are a “playdate bottom” you can kiss your weekends goodbye.
8. “ I call up everyone I know. They are away. I leave messages with maids. I drink a Martini. I wait for the phone to ring. When I’m unlucky I get drunk and go to the movies and return to Bristol.”
John, if I said to you, “I just went to Lice Schmice in Glendale for the third time this year” would you have any idea what I was talking about?
9. “For the record: On Valentine’s day I give Mary a string of pearls; she gives me a dish. I like china but would have preferred a suit of underdrawers with hearts on it.”
The Great Martini, you have never driven your child to a “Magic the Gathering” convention.
10. When he contemplates getting divorced, he wrote, “I am afraid of living in hotels and eating in cafeterias, and this seems to reflect on my courage. I am much too attached to cut flowers, to holding a seashell to my son’s ear to see the intent look on his face, to the smell of peonies (oh, how brief) in the stairwell…”
Make things right with your wife, Mr. Cheever. Because if you can’t live without the smell of peonies in the stairwell, you will not make it as a single mom.