Narcissus Down

Painting by Caravaggio (1594-96)

As always, her demeanor shows barely a ripple. The turmoil bubbling beneath is invisible, but it hovers there, churning just below the calm. If he cared enough to really look, he might see it. But he never does, his attention captured by his own reflection mirrored in the pool of her aquamarine eyes.

It’s all about him. His career, his hobbies, his friends.  So many times during the past few years, she’s tried to talk to him, to tell him how unhappy she is. She’d hoped that deep inside, he harbored some vestige of the loving man she married. At this point, she no longer believes that man ever existed. 

She’s recently discovered that his “extracurricular activities” include more than golf and tennis. Years ago, she would have been devastated. Today, not so much.

It seems obvious to her now that he married her for all the wrong reasons, her father’s money not the least of them. He denies it, of course. He has mastered quite the fancy two-step of turning the blame for his inattentiveness back on her.

No, she’s not young anymore, but neither is he. That doesn’t stop him from berating her, telling her that she’s become – what was his word? – frumpy. Yes, frumpy. He’d actually accused her of being an embarrassment to him, telling her that he needed a wife he could be proud of.

Oh, yes, it has always been all about him. Until today. Starting today it’s going all about her. His dancing days are over, as far as she’s concerned.    


Linda Sawyer looks up as her husband of nearly twenty years walks into the sunny kitchen. As usual, he looks like he stepped from an ad in The Robb Report.  She glances down at her shapeless t-shirt and worn jeans. It’s more than she can say for herself.

He’s still a good looking man, she thinks, and he damn well knows it.
Vince Sawyer carries the Trib to the breakfast table, takes his seat without a word, and snaps open the paper to the Op/Ed page, just as he has every morning for the last 7,190 days. Not that anyone’s counting.

She’s sure that today’s breakfast will be no more pleasant than their breakfasts together have been for months, but this morning, she doesn’t care. She smiles to herself as she thinks, Today, I do not give a royal flying fuck, feeling inordinately pleased with herself for her uncharacteristic profanity, even if it was unspoken.

She looks over at the man sitting at the table.

“And good morning to you too.” She’s unable to hide the sarcasm the coating her words.  It doesn’t matter anyway, she knows, because for him to hear her tone, he’d have to be listening. 

She scoops the eggs she’s scrambled to just the right firmness onto a plate, adds two slices of turkey bacon (crisp, of course), and a slice of dry whole wheat toast. She sets the plate on the table in front of him and then fills two mugs with coffee. She carries them to the table and sits across from him, waiting.

It doesn’t take long.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Linda. Is it too much to ask that you cook the damned eggs properly?”

So it was to be the eggs today. She’d actually expected him to grouse about the coffee. When she went to buy beans yesterday, The Beanery had been sold out of the pricey Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee Vince insisted on. No, wrong words. They weren’t sold out of it, because at those prices, they didn’t sell much of it at all. But apparently their regular delivery hadn’t come in. Odd that he doesn’t notic…

“What the fuck is this swill?” 

Ah, he does notice.

As the mug hits the table top, it shatters from the force, splashing coffee all over the table and the front of her shirt. The only thing that saves Vince’s bespoke Egyptian cotton dress shirt is the open Tribune in front of him. 

Huh. Damned shame, that.

He angrily folds the paper, making sure every fold is precise, and stands, glancing at his Rolex. With a stormy look at his wife, he tucks the paper under his arm and heads to the hall. He takes his suit coat and leather briefcase from the coat tree by the door to the garage, where his precious Mercedes SL65 awaits.

“I’m going to the office. At least we have decent coffee there.” 

He pulls open the door and pauses. “And get my tux from the cleaners. I need it for the bar association dinner tomorrow night.”

She braces herself for a slam, but of course, it doesn’t come. Vince Sawyer doesn’t slam doors. The door closes quietly, and the next thing she hears is the powerful engine of his car as he pulls out of the garage and heads away from the house.


After cleaning up the mess Vince had made with his little hissy fit, Linda dumps the breakfast dishes in the sink.

Just let the maid get them, she thinks.  Oops, that’s right, the maid quit. Sorry, Mr. Sawyer. You’re on your own.

Self-centered bastard.

Yes, it’s her turn, beginning today. Screw his damn tux. She has other plans.

She showers and runs a comb through her blond hair, frowning at the gray hair she sees gleaming under the light over the vanity.  

No worries, Ian will take care of that, she thinks. And if I don’t step on it, I’m going to be late.

She goes to the closet and pulls on black pants and a sweater. Normally, she would have agonized over her choices, trying to pick something Vince would like. She rarely selects something he doesn’t find fault with. She can just hear what he’d say were he here now.

“Really, Linda? Don’t you think you’ve gotten a little chunky for those pants?” 

Today, she doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Ha, so to speak.

She slips her feet into sandals and grabs the garment bag hanging in the back. There’s a shoe bag hanging from the neck of the hangar.

Downstairs, she puts her purse over her shoulder, and leaves.

She steers her Camry toward Wellesley Center, and says to the car, "it’s been fun, but you’ve come to the end of the road too."

As she drives, she entertains a moment of self-doubt about what she is doing. But only a moment. This has been a long time coming.


The woman who emerges through the etched glass doors of the Élégance Day Spa bears little resemblance to the one entered who four hours earlier. She wears her hair cropped close to her head in a tussled dark chestnut cap of waves, and her make-up is perfectly applied. Dressed simply in a flowered sundress and heeled sandals, Linda is stunning. 

She pauses on the sidewalk to put on oversized sunglasses – she thinks of them as her Audrey Hepburn glasses – and turns toward the Saks store on the corner. As she walks, she smiles broadly at several men on their way to lunch who are… well, frankly, they’re staring.  The admiration in their eyes is unmistakable.

Now, that’s more like it, she thinks. Wow, it feels good. It’s been so long since a man looked at her like that.

It doesn’t take long to tell the clerk at Saks to have the clothes she bought earlier in the week delivered to the house that afternoon. From there, she heads to the bank, where she has an appointment with one of the vice-presidents. Harvey Shumaker was a classmate, and she’s called ahead to tell him what she wants.

She pushes through the little gate separating the customer service reps from the teller area and heads toward the small office in the corner, where she sees Harvey at his desk. He looks up as the dark-haired woman approaches and she can see that he doesn’t recognize her. He walks around his desk to greet her, and as she reaches the door, she pulls the sunglasses from her face.

“Oh my God! Linda?”

Linda feels a flush of pride as she greets him.“Hello, Harvey.”

“Linda, I’m floored. You look amazing. I mean, I’ve always thought you were an attractive woman but, wow, you look incredible.” 

“Thank you, Harvey. I thought I needed a little change.” She smiles at her astonished old friend. “Actually, I thought I needed a big change. A lot of big changes, in fact.”

He realizes he’s gaping at her, and pulls himself together.

“Yes, yes. Well, have a seat.”

Linda takes one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Are we all set?”

The banker pushes his glasses up, and replies, “Yes, but, Linda, are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ve never been more sure of anything, Harvey.”

Linda tucks the envelope of cash he hands her into her purse, and then signs the papers he’s put on the desk in front of her.

“That’s that, I guess.”

“Good luck to you, Linda.”

He stands to shake her hand. 

“It’s been great seeing you. And did I tell you that you look fabulous?”

“You did, indeed. Thank you for that, and for everything you’ve done for me.” She waves her hand in the direction of his desk where the stack of signed documents sit. “I appreciate it.”

She makes another stop in town, and then walks back to the spa and gets her car from the parking lot.

As she pulls into traffic, she glances at the big clock rotating on its arm in front of Harvey’s bank.

Three-thirty. Not a bad day’s work so far, she thinks. Just one more thing.


The cab pulls up in front of Linda’s colonial just as the delivery truck from Saks is heading down the tree-lined street. She pays the cab driver and unlocks the front door. 

In a few moments, the Saks driver is at the door, weighted down with several shopping bags and hanging garment bags. She has him put his load on the couch in the living room, thanks him with a generous tip, and then closes the door behind him.

She looks at her watch, and sees that she has about two hours before Vince gets home. She quickly gathers everything from the couch and heads upstairs.


When Linda hears the garage door opening, she fills the two martini glasses she’s had chilling in a bucket of ice on the bar, and drops two olives in each. By the time Vince comes through the door, she’s seated comfortably on the couch, a glass in her hand.

“Linda, where the hell is your car?” her husband demands as he puts his briefcase on the floor beside the coat tree. As he does, he sees the four suitcases sitting there. He arranges his suit coat on the hangar waiting on the coat tree, and turns to face her.

“And what are these suitcases…” When he sees her, he stops in mid-sentence, his face frozen in shock.

“Linda! What…?” Vince begins to walk toward her. “You look… I…”

She smiles and says, “At a loss for words. Well, that’s a first.” 

She indicates the glass on the coffee table, and says, “Have a drink, Vince. I think you’re going to need it. Better sit down. I’ve got something to tell you.”


As she settles into the plush seat in the back of the limo taking her to Logan airport, Linda thinks to herself, Well, that went better than I expected.

She’d given him a minute to drink a bit of his martini, and then started slow, beginning with the Jaguar she’d ordered. By the time she got to the part about the bank accounts, his martini was gone, and he was on the second one.  

Just as well, she thinks now. He’d needed a little fortification when he heard that she’d had his name taken off any accounts holding her inheritance. Oh, she’d left a little in their joint accounts, but Daddy’s money was now secured in a trust fund in her name only.

When he sputtered, she’d reminded him that he had a pretty good income. 

“You’ll be fine, Vince. After all, you’re a fucking successful attorney. Isn’t that what you always tell me?”

She’d just put the icing on the cake with the news that he could expect to be served with divorce papers the next day when the doorbell rang.

She’d drained her drink and moved to open the door. While the limo driver gathered up her bags, she’d turned to Vince who was standing behind her, white as a sheet.

“I’ll be out of town for a couple of months, Vince. I expect you to be out of this house when I return.” 

“Linda, you can’t…” he began.

“Oh, yes. I can. Daddy gave the house to me, but it’s still in his name, remember?”

She took one last look at him, thinking, “God, he looks so old,” then picked up her purse from the console table by the front door, and headed out.

As she started down the porch steps, Vince stood in the doorway, and said. “Wait, where are you going?”

She walked to open limo door. Turning to look back at her soon-to-be ex-husband, she smiled at him.

“Paris. Oh, and get your own damn tux.” 

Then she got in the limo and the driver shut the door.

Now, she looks out the limo window at the passing scenery and takes a sip of the glass of champagne the limo driver has poured for her.

Oh, yes, it’s all about me.


Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


  1. Is it a bad thing that I just did a massive fist-pump and hollered "WOOT" loud enough to scare a full-size dog?

    This is pure awesomeness, Patti. On every possible level.

  2. Hooray! I love your "he had it coming" tales. This one made me smile.

  3. you know i just cant feel bad for this guy at all...smiles...haha...i am glad she has her freedom now...and maybe a big grin on her face...

  4. Oh this was an intensely satisfying read, Ms Patti:) Enjoyed every word.

  5. Have I read this before? At least that opening section... had a crazy case of deja vu.

    I must state that while it's technically well-written (as usual around here), the rest of my comment wouldn't be very gushing.

  6. It's an age old tale but masterfully told.

  7. I came to read your cooler coaster but my eye caught this and I couldn't stop. Looooved it!

  8. Interesting painting choice. Not so much the painting, but the artist.

  9. i guess he's a chump. but what took her so long? Too busy eating cheetos and watching the soaps?

    wish i had a sugar mama

  10. Yes yes YES. Love it. More power to her. Once again, excellent characterisation and narrative. YEEEHAAAAA!!!


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.