One of the nice things about using an iPhone is the Photo Stream. I take pics with my phone, and bam, without any further intervention from me, they’re in my computer. I sometimes don’t even remember taking them.
I didn’t take the photo above — that’s Ingrid Bergman, in the 1944 film Gaslight, about which I’ll have more to say in a moment.
But I did take the photo at right the other night, and I didn’t remember doing it until this morning. I was returning from the restroom to the lobby bar at The Ace Hotel in New York City. This bar was the last stop of the evening and I was somewhat intoxicated. I was charmed by this inspirational phrase on the stair riser, in fact, at that moment, I was comforted.
It had been a fun night with friends, but I’d strained my psyche earlier by deciding to “reclaim” the restaurant where I knew for a fact that my then-husband had wined and dined his girlfriend, prior to announcing our divorce. The restaurant, Txikito, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, had long been one of our favorites, where we’d enjoyed many an arraultza and glasses of txakoli together.
He’d told me that he’d dined there when I was traveling on what would prove to be the last business trip of our marriage, although of course he did not mention his dining companion. And since he spent about two weeks after he left our home vehemently and totally denying the existence of this woman — there isn’t anyone else and that’s why you’re having trouble understanding why this divorce is all your fault — one of the first pieces of evidence that I had of this other woman was the size of the credit card bill from his supposedly solo dinner.
Me, staying at my grandparent’s place, less than one week into our separation: Wow, Txikito got really expensive.
Him, staying at the home of the non-existent girlfriend, and without missing a beat: I ordered a really expensive bottle of wine.
Later, he admitted to a mutual friend that of course he hadn’t dined alone that night. In fact, he claimed that that had been their first date. But he also told this friend that the girlfriend was really nothing to him, a port in the storm, and that he expected to find someone else shortly.
I have sympathy for his plight: It is very hard to keep your story straight when you’re lying constantly. Although I do wonder if he mentioned all that to her when he proposed marriage but a few months later.
Gaslighting: a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.
Anyway, I’ve been avoiding the entire stretch of Chelsea ever since I learned what happened there, and I wanted to stop doing that. So I proposed the dinner at Txikito, I made the reservation for four. And the food was as good as I remembered, and so the place has been reclaimed for the forces of good and light and I can now once again walk on all of Ninth Avenue with impunity.
Still, for the rest of the night, it was hard for my mind not to conjure up the plottings that went on in that restaurant, less than a year ago, over a plate of blistered hot peppers, perhaps.
And those imaginings probably contributed to my willingness to drink a few martinis too many at the bars we visited after dinner.
And in turn, to feeling comforted by the inspirational message on the stair riser later on, and snapping a drunken photo, to be discovered in my Photo Stream this morning.
Alison J. Stein
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