Emily woke early and without disturbing Jim, headed down to the kitchen.
She wanted to think. Something was going on with her that needed quiet time to work out.
There was no one to talk to about it because frankly everyone she knew was part of the problem. This was the sad reality she faced when alone, having her coffee, and planning her day. But an hour or so later it would be shoved to the back of her mind as she was swept into another day of routines and obligations that defined her. She was Emily, wife to a successful news broadcaster and mother to twin boys now off at college. She filled her time with whatever was expected and suggested by those who knew her value to the community in which they all lived.
After a few weeks of suppressing conflicting thoughts Emily had come to the conclusion that she absolutely hated her life, hated what she had become and hated herself for letting it happen.
Somewhere along this road to self-discovery she missed some telltale signs of anxiety. Like how her hands on the steering wheel of the latest car Jim thought she would look good in, had moved from the left hand loosely on the steering wheel while the right adjusted the rear view mirror to see herself, to the traditionally cautious two hands on the wheel at ten and two o’clock positions with her body leaning forward. She hated that car and the messages it sent – rich, superior, well maintained.
Lately she preferred to use “the family car”, the one she drove the boys to ball practice with and then delivered them to college in. She missed them and felt closer to them using this car. Well that was what she told Jim when he wanted to know why the Miata was now parked in the garage. Her hands had now moved to eleven and one o’clock.
She also wasn’t conscious of how often she was using paper napkins instead of linen. And how she was making excuses to miss out on the workshops offered to members of the country club. Did it really matter whose Ikebana arrangement was judged superior to another when sooner than later the pedals would drop off and the perfectly placed leaf would curl up and ruin everything. Every single one of those arrangements of forced control was going to be defeated by the very Nature they were presenting. How she spent her days was not making much sense to her anymore.
And she began coming up with excuses for not playing tennis with Donna on Wednesday mornings and mahjong with Maureen on Thursday afternoons. What used to be fun with the ones she had considered to be friends was becoming predictable, then boring and finally tedious.
Emily wanted out of those friendships, out of the club and truth be told, out of her marriage.
She had fallen hard for Jim twenty-five years ago. He was handsome (still was), came from a “good” family, or so her father told her, and was hell-bent on getting Emily to marry him. And it worked. She helped him advance his career in broadcasting by keeping herself as attractive as possible in a community where everything was about appearances. She gave him two healthy boys to brag about, kept a perfect house for him to come home to, performed admirably and smiled along the way. The benefits of all that effort was being appreciated and well-cared for….maintained in the manner to which Emily had become accustomed. And it was all good for many years.
That is until Jim made his way to the top of the heap in conservative cable news. The way he could look his audience in the eye through a camera and spew vitriolic commentary was surpassed by none. This was his game and his to lose if he could not do it convincingly. He was good. This was his calling.
Those closest to him were sure it was an act, a live performance of theatrics. It was part of the job and no one bothered to question the integrity of what he was saying. No one seemed to grasp that he was talking to an audience that was becoming more and more unwilling to seek out opposing points of view. If the ratings were up, it meant more viewers. More viewers meant more job security. It was the perfect connection for Jim’s arrogance and his audience’s ignorance.
And of course with the club they belonged to being predominantly conservative with the built in biases of any closed, members-only community, Jim was quite the man to be admired. After all he was saying things out loud that most of them previously had the good sense to keep to themselves.
Emily and the boys went along with it, privately believing it was all an act. And a very good one. Of course they could believe whatever they wanted in the protected bubble they all lived in. No one could possibly be in disagreement with what Jim and his news network were doing if you stayed inside that circle or others like it.
But that all changed when the boys went off to college. Here there were so many points of view to be tossed about, discussed, and conclusions come to. Education is exposure to knowledge that is just sitting there waiting to be absorbed by open minds. Then put to use in ways that deepen understandings of how things are, were, and could be. The boys took to this learning opportunity like they had been wanting it without even knowing it existed.
The result: fewer trips home to try and get their father to understand how many people his words affected. But they were unsuccessful in getting this through to him. Jim was the classic example of, if you say it enough then it becomes true. His sons were dumbfounded by the way their father had lost all rational reasoning, all interest in seeing how much he manipulated people into closing off any discourse. They saw how their father had managed to get the very people who put him in this position of power to either become believers or simply be replaced.
He was someone they no longer admired. Frankly, they saw him as an asshole, pure and simple. If he wanted to cut the funding for their college education when they told them how they felt, then go ahead, they’d just go public with what they thought of him. Jim’s ego and arrogance could not take a blow like that coming from his own children so he set up accounts for them to finish their education and after that as far as Jim was concerned, he was done with them. It was a solution each could live with. Unfortunately their mother was still residing in the bubble she helped create from the day their parents married. The boys accepted the fact that it would likely remain that way.
So now here she is, sipping her coffee in the silence of early morning, wondering when to leave and how to create some damage in the process. His arrogance would have to be his undoing. His genuine belief that he was infallible, that his words were all that mattered and his audience would remain as gullible as he counted on them to be. Without the blind stupidity of others her husband was nothing. How pathetic that thought struck Emily.
She hated being the wife that stood by him all the way to this. And hated more the thought of looking like those loutish politicians’ wives, medicated just enough to stand close through their husbands’ public apologies. No, Emily was not going to be any part of Jim’s attempt to salvage the image he had created. He’d be standing alone in that final attempt to manipulate an audience. But how to make that moment happen?
And then it struck her! She would write a book! A book that could be directed to the tastes of Jim’s audience. A confessional of sorts with the promise of redemption. Yes, that’s it! It would have to be a slow careful delivery of words to have it sink in. There could be no nuanced meaning, nothing open to interpretation, simple words telling a story of how a person can suffer under the influence and control of another. How easy it is to be the victim of one’s own desire to feel that they are a part of something.
Keeping it simple. Keeping it slow. With constant repetition of the salient points. The only difference in the delivery of her written message and Jim’s spoken words would be that she would give her audience the opportunity to pause, reflect, and read again….maybe even to a neighbor or family member.
And if it took the form of a confessional diary? Believers would follow. Diaries are secrets exposed. Diaries bear witness to truth. And diaries lend themselves to a slow paced-out delivery that creates anticipation in the growing followers. Yes, this would take him down and get her free.
A few weeks later Emily had confirmed with a lawyer that slander was unlikely if her writing took the form of serial fiction under a pseudonym. She could describe Jim in many ways but not use his name. And even if Jim might want to file suit after seeing himself in Emily’s writings, his ego would prevent him from taking an action that would most certainly identify him as the character in her fictional diaries.
So what was the best way to reach the public?
Considering what Jim’s audience was most likely to read besides the one liners on their cell phone feeds, Emily came to only one conclusion. It had to be a magazine that was right in front of them as they stood in line at the grocery store, a popular weekly magazine with a concentration on society news….what celebrities were up to in their private lives.
An appointment was made by Emily and her lawyer to discuss the proposal. The editors quickly agreed to the terms of anonymity and looked forward to Emily’s first installment of “Diary of a Broadcaster’s Wife”.
“………and our dinner must be perfect. The salmon cooked the way he likes it, sitting on a bed of romaine with mango chutney. A nicely chilled chardonnay. Everything the way he likes it, the way he expects it. I take a sip from my glass and wait for him to arrive, telling me again tonight how grateful he is that people no longer read but wait to be told…….”