I think Elise realized fairly early on in the evening -- and certainly earlier than I did -- that we weren't going anywhere because she started dropping hints that she wanted something sweet. When I lost patience with Peter and walked out, I knew all along I was just running to Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes for Elise and I.
The streets were full of police. At least five on each corner. Large, black armored vehicles blocked off entire intersections. Intermittently throughout the day, emergency vehicles released banshee-like howls -- not sirens, per se -- but a deep-throated, guttural hiccough of impending doom. It was a combination of the UN General Assembley and the terrorist bombing in Chelsea. It seemed at the same time like both a war zone and completely normal, and the New Yorkers took it completely in stride; I wondered if anything phased them. Or me. Because, though my cell phone bleated a push alert on the night of the bombing -- two, in fact. One when the first bomb went off and a second when the second bomb was successfully dismantled -- I was otherwise mostly unmoved. This is the day and age we live in where a bomb goes off in the middle of the night and my only complaint is that it interrupted my sleep. It alarms me to wonder what it will really take to shake the American psyche. Because even mass killings in suburban shopping malls are so common now that they don't even make headlines or register in a collective consciousness.
I weaved my way back through Rockefeller Center to Magnolia Bakery. As I was standing in the cupcake line I glanced at my phone. I'd received a text message from Elise," Return at will. Children are all asleep. I still love you."
Elise recently revealed in a post on her blog on her EHP website that she was close to walking away right before we left for India. We were in New York City, too, coincidentally at the time. I had meetings there before we boarded the plane at JFK for Chennai. You really should read it in her own words, but as we were watching the ice skaters at Bryant Park, she just walked away under the weight of it all. I knew she had left and needed space. I knew she had left but didn't realize at that time how close she was to not coming back. In my mind, I never doubted that she wouldn't come back, but in reading her account, I'm now not as sure. She went to Starbucks. I know on some level she would never walk away... Just as she knows on some level neither would I. But it was never in my character to even entertain the idea; I have no other being apart from all this.
On my way back to the hotel from the cupcake shop I stopped for a beer. I walked into Bill's Bar and Burgers, the same place we had dinner our first night in New York. I found a spot at the bar and ordered a beer. Unbeknownst to me, as I saddled up to the bar, I had taken the barstool of an officer from the NYPD.
I immediately offered to give it back, but he insisted I stay. I drank my beer quickly, guiltily. When I asked for the check, he questioned my early departure. "I have to get back," I told him.
It was the truth. All of it.