Cheap Seats Ch. 01byohio©
"Hey, C.D., these seats are fantastic--you can practically see the stage from here! That's it down there, right? That thing about the size of a paperback book?"
C.D. grinned at me, unfazed by my teasing. "Fuck, off, Jake. At least you're here in Madison Square Garden, about to hear your favorite band, instead of sitting at home watching NASCAR on TV, or however the hell you rednecks typically spend a hot Friday night in August."
I grinned back at him. I was from Paterson, N. J., not exactly a redneck—but to C.D., born and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, anybody west or south of the George Washington Bridge was a hopeless rube: a redneck, an Okie, or some other sort of hick.
"Besides," he went on, "check out these binoculars. My latest toy. They're unbelievable—when the band comes out, you'll be able to count the zits on Anthony Kiedis's chin. Except he's too old to have zits, I guess."
We were sitting in the next-to-last row of the nosebleed section, the seats highest up in the Garden and nearest the ceiling. It was pretty damn far from the stage, but who cared? C.D. was right: I was going to spend the evening with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beth's and my favorite band for years. I just wished she could be there with us.
We had a couple of beers and half-listened to the opening act, a thoroughly mediocre jam band called Heroin Mattress or something like that. Then when the lights came up and the roadies started setting up for the Chili Peppers, he passed the binoculars to me.
"Here, take a look. Even from this distance you can tell the hot girls from the wannabes."
Taking the binoculars, I made a face of mock-surprise. "You mean you can actually tell the difference?"
I looked around—into the luxury boxes on the other side of the Garden, then at the best seats down on the floor. C.D. was right—the binoculars were incredible. You could see individual faces with clarity, even follow the play of people's expressions as they laughed and talked.
I returned the binoculars to him and went to get us a couple more beers. When I got back, he gestured to me.
"Check this out, Jake. In the VIP seats on the floor, fifth row, right on the center aisle. There's a blonde in a white dress, she looks just like Beth."
I put the glasses to my eyes, focused them and took a moment to locate the person he had in mind. Then my heart stopped.
I put the glasses down, took a moment for a deep breath, then looked again. It couldn't be her! But as I gazed downwards, I knew that it was.
Her hair was down, falling over the shoulders of one of her prettiest white dresses—one I remembered well from the last New Year's Eve party she'd worn it to. Her face was flushed with pleasure and excitement, and she was chattering away happily to a tall man in his 40s standing next to her.
It was Barton Huntington, that asshole, I thought to myself. As I continued to watch, my brain still disbelieving what I was seeing, he reached his arm around Beth's waist and pulled her to him affectionately. Far from moving away from him, she leaned into him and let her head fall momentarily against his shoulder. He slid his hand down to her ass and gave it a squeeze.
I turned and handed the glasses back to C.D.. I must have looked like death. "C.D.," I said, "that IS Beth."
He looked at me, puzzled. "But you said she was working late tonight?"
"I know," I said quietly. "That's what she told me."
The call had reached me around 4 pm at my office. Beth greeted me warmly and then said, with real regret in her voice, "I'm so sorry, baby. The bunch of us just HAVE to get this proposal out to Tokyo tonight—you know that 2 billion dollar deal I told you about? And it looks like Barton is going to have us all here until 11 at least."
I tried to keep the disappointment out of my voice as I told her that I understood, that I'd miss her, that I'd see her at home later. The disappointment was understandable—I loved being with my wife, and wished we could start the weekend together. But she loved her work, and it was certainly not unreasonable that she had to stay late once in a while.
Not more than twenty minutes later, as I wondered what to do with myself tonight, C.D. called and said he'd scored two Chili Peppers tickets from a friend in the Sales Department at Bloomingdale's, where he worked as a buyer.
"Are you free tonight, or have you got plans with the ball-and-chain?"
I laughed. I knew C.D. was crazy about Beth, but that didn't prevent him from teasing me about being a henpecked husband—which I wasn't. He just liked rubbing it in my face what a happy, unattached New York gay man he was, and how many great-looking guys he dated.
"Actually, Beth is stuck at the office tonight, and I'd love to go." We made plans to meet at the Garden and I got off the phone. I was too excited even to tease him about not being able to get himself a date to take to the concert.
So now it was 9:30 pm and I was wondering exactly what the fuck Beth was doing at the Chili Peppers concert, wearing her beautiful white dress, being felt up by that cocksucker Huntington, when she told me they'd be working late?
I pulled out my cell phone to call her, but couldn't get a signal inside the Garden.
"Waldo, I've gotta go downstairs and see her. This is bullshit, her with her boss—he's even got his fucking hands all over her!"
In my anger and shock I called C.D. by the nickname he hated. His full name was Charles Darwin Emerson—imagine having parents who would do that to you? He was distantly related to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a bunch of us at Wharton, where we'd met, used to tease him with the name Waldo from time to time. But he hated it, so I'd tried to stop. Now it just slipped out.
"Okay, Jake—call me from down there when you know what's going on." C.D. looked like he had more to say, but he stopped himself, and I took off for the stairs.
Getting downstairs was easy; getting onto the Garden floor was impossible, with all the Security guys in their bright day-glo green shirts, none of them smaller than 6'4", 225 lbs. I bought two large beers so my hands would be full, in case they asked to see my ticket, and I strode confidently up the center aisle towards where Beth and Huntington were.
Before I'd gotten ten steps my path was blocked by a guy who had to be Shaq's first cousin. "Ticket, sir?"
I gestured with my beer-laden hands. "It's in my pocket."
He moved closer. "Sorry, sir, I'll have to see it."
I thought for a moment. Why not try honesty?
"Listen—I'm actually sitting upstairs, and I just saw my wife with her boss in the fifth row. He had his fucking hands on her ass—I've just GOT to get down there!"
He regarded me coolly, no doubt wondering whether there was any truth to this.
"Sucks to be you," he said, not unkindly, but the bastard wouldn't let me through. I retreated and tried two other approaches but got no closer than about 50 feet. Ditching the beers, I found an empty chair to stand on and managed to get a few quick pictures on my cell-phone. They weren't great, but they showed Beth with Huntington, and in a couple they were clearly being a bit too friendly. A moment later the lights dimmed and the noise level went through the roof as the Chili Peppers came out for their show.
I was too shocked and too pissed-off to go back upstairs to C.D., so I just stood at the back of the Garden floor for the next hour and a half. Never in my life had I had a better vantage-point for a rock concert, and never had I actually heard so little of the music. My mind only had room for Beth and Huntington—for her betrayal, her lie to me, and my hurt and fury.
When the last encore was finally over, I watched to see which exit they headed for. Then I ran down the stairs ahead of them and planted myself in the lobby. I was going to get right in Beth's face with a few choice words, before I went home and packed my stuff. I was angry and devastated, but determined to put on a cool, collected face in front of her.
But my plans went totally to hell. A bunch of teenage girls spotted Madonna and her husband in the hallway, and started screaming and running towards her. In no time there was a stampede, and 200 excited, shouting fans were blocking me from where Beth and Huntington were headed out the door.
I frantically shouted, "Beth! Beth, it's me!" as loud as I could, but they never heard me. In desperation, I shoved through the mob towards the street. They were at the curb, about to get into the open door of a big white limo, beyond hearing range.
Once again I pulled out my phone and managed four pictures of him helping her into the limousine, his hand familiarly on her arm and then caressing her butt. Before I could get close, the limo pulled out into traffic.
Standing panting on the sidewalk, I speed-dialed Beth's phone. After three rings I heard her voice. "Hi, baby!" She sounded excited, and a little strange. Drunk, maybe?
"Beth, it's me!" I shouted. "I'm outside the Garden. What the hell are you doing with..." Somewhere in the middle of my question I heard the sound of the line going dead.
Furious, I called again. The phone rang five times and went to voice-mail. Cursing, I hung up, waited 30 seconds and tried a third time. This time the phone went immediately to voice-mail: she'd fucking turned it off!
I stood on the sidewalk as thousands of people swirled out of the Garden around me, headed their thousands of different places. I was shaking with rage. I didn't have the least shred of a notion why Beth had taken up with that asshole, or even that there was the slightest problem in our marriage. Seeing her with him was the most unpleasant shock I'd ever had in my life.
I realized I owed C.D. a call, so I reluctantly called his number. I got voice-mail, so I just said, "it's me. I tried to confront them after the concert, but I couldn't get through the crowd. I saw them drive off in his limo, that prick. I'm headed home to get some things and move out. I'll call you tomorrow."
I hung up, realizing belatedly that I hadn't ever thanked him for the ticket. I guessed he'd understand.
Too steamed to take the subway or sit in a cab, I walked all the way to our apartment, on 77th between Lexington and Third. It's a small one-bedroom but in a terrific part of the Upper East Side, and between my salary as an accountant with Chaney Magnuson and Beth's more impressive one at her fancy-ass international investment firm, we could afford it—with enough left over for some nice restaurant dinners and an occasional vacation.
The whole way home I tortured myself, trying to figure out why Beth would allow herself to be seduced by her dipshit boss. It HAD to have been a seduction, didn't it? How could she be attracted to that smooth-talking, polished, hypocritical New York old-money piece of shit?
But even if it was Huntington's doing, what the hell was she doing falling for it? Didn't she love me? Didn't we have a terrific marriage? I had certainly thought so. And I knew one other thing: there was no...fucking...way I was putting up with this bullshit from her!
When I got home I found Beth's outfit, the one she'd worn to work that day, tossed hurriedly on the bed. She must have come home, jumped into her white dress, and gone flying out the door with Huntington.
I spent about twenty minutes packing a suitcase with a week's worth of clothes for work, plus my shaving kit and a couple of framed photos of my family. The ones of Beth and me—at our wedding, with friends in Central Park, with her family at Christmas—I left sitting on the bookcase, though it took all my will-power not to just hurl them to the floor.
I checked the machine—no calls from Beth, or from anyone else. Then I called the Vanderbilt YMCA on East 47th St. and reserved a room for a week. I'd stayed there once before, when I'd come up from Philly for a couple of days of job interviews, and I knew it was clean, and about the cheapest I could find in the city. I told them I'd be arriving very late, and they gave me the phone number for the night porter.
Then I uploaded my cell-phone photos to our computer and had a look. Several of the ten were too distant or too blurry to show much, but six of them were pretty incriminating.
Two were from inside the Garden and four as they entered the limo. And each one showed a degree of intimacy that was totally wrong for a happily-married woman and her boss, who happened to be engaged to an internationally-known fashion model. The worst was a picture of him clearly cupping her ass with one hand, while she smiled back at him over her shoulder.
I printed out two copies of each of the six photos, putting one set in my suitcase and spreading the others out on the oak table in our kitchen. Choke on those, you bitch!
There was one final touch: the answering machine. I erased the greeting and recorded one that said, "This is Beth Davenport's apartment; please leave a message after the tone. Jake Carvalho doesn't live here anymore; you can reach him on his cell-phone" and I left my number. Then I headed out the door.
When I reached the street I checked my phone for the time: 12:40. I'd planned just to take off downtown towards the "Y", but it was a warm night. Without planning it, I went across the street and sat on the steps of a brownstone that had a good view of our building. I didn't know how long I'd sit there, but I was curious to see when Beth would come home. Would she actually stay out all NIGHT with that son of a bitch?
As my fury calmed down a little, I started to reflect on Beth and me. I thought and thought, but there was nothing I could come up with to explain this, no sign that I could see of trouble between us or any attraction to her boss.
Beth and I had been living in New York for three years—the happiest years of my life. We married the summer after I graduated from the Wharton School at Penn. Beth had graduated a year earlier but stayed a fifth year to do a Master's in International Banking and to be with me.
We were a pretty unlikely couple, everyone said, though it didn't feel like that to us. Beth was from Philadelphia aristocracy—Elizabeth Marshall Davenport, from the Davenports of Lower Merion, on the stuffy Main Line. Her family used to joke that their ancestors had traveled up to Massachusetts to greet the Pilgrims when they landed there in 1620. Beth was an official Daughter of the American Revolution, like her mother and both of her grandmothers. Her father Walter was the Chief Operating Officer for Mellon Bank, and the family had about as much money as the GDP of Costa Rica.
I was Joaquim Francisco Carvalho, the eldest son of a first-generation immigrant Portuguese couple. My mother and father raised me in Paterson, N.J., where he was a shoe-repairman and she worked in a dry-cleaner's. Our family had about enough money to own a small two-bedroom house (I shared a room with my brother Jaime) and a beat-up Ford Taurus with about 220,000 miles on it.
I was a year older than Beth, but we started Wharton at the same time. Even with the scholarship they'd offered me, I had to take a year off after high school to earn some money. I helped my uncle doing carpentry for a home-building company during the days, and delivered pizzas all over Hawthorne and Fair Lawn in the evenings. After that year I couldn't even LOOK at a pizza for a while, let alone eat one, but I piled up more than $35,000 to pay for school.
Beth was not only beautiful, smart, and funny, she was the most independent woman I had ever met. I found that out the first time I ever saw her, too. We were both headed for Huntsman Hall, which has two sets of entrance doors. I saw a really good-looking girl walking a few feet in front of me, and I ran ahead to hold the door open for her.
"Thanks," she said, giving me a kind of knowing smile. As pretty as she is, I guess she was used to that sort of thing. Then she moved quickly to the inner door and held it open for me!
All I could do was laugh, and say "thanks" in return as I passed through ahead of her. Before I could say another word, she'd turned away, still smiling, and headed down the hall.
Two weeks later, she came running in just as our big Finance lecture class was about to start, and the only empty seat was right next to mine. This time I had a whole class period to think of what to say, and I didn't waste even a moment's time listening to the lecture.
When the professor finished and we were gathering up our notebooks, I smiled at her and said, "if you hold the door for me, I'll buy you a cup of coffee".
For a moment she just gazed at me, poker-faced, and I thought I'd blown it. Then she grinned and said, "it's a deal. But I buy the muffin—and you can hold the door for me when we're done."
We dated the rest of freshman year, and by May I knew it was serious, at least for me. I'd had a couple of high school girlfriends, and even thought I was in love with one of them, but what I felt for Beth was far beyond anything I'd felt in those relationships. I treasured everything about her. Making love with her was wonderful, as I discovered after we'd gone out for a couple of months.
But so was holding her hand and walking down Spruce Street, or sitting at a table listening to her tell me about Robinson Crusoe, her family's Labrador retriever who almost caught a squirrel once. Or studying side-by-side in Van Pelt Library, watching stealthily over my book as she frowned and bit her lip in concentration.
I had to take another year off to go back to Paterson and make some more money for school, and I feared it might be the end of the relationship. Beth and I had a long talk and I said I didn't think it was fair to ask her to remain committed to me. To my surprise she started to cry.
"It's too late for that, Jake. If you wanted to get rid of me, you waited too long. I love you!"
That led to a reassuring hug, and to kisses, and to a lengthy session in bed in my dorm room. (Blessedly my roommate had a girlfriend of his own—and as she had a single room, he spent most of his nights there.)
And while I was home doing construction and delivering pizzas, we talked on the phone constantly, and saw each other every couple of months, and managed somehow to get through a very hard year.
After that Beth and I were always together. Her senior year we shared an apartment on South 42nd Street—not without raising some eyebrows among the parents on both sides—and we knew we were going to get married after college.
The wedding was quite something! Beth's parents did it up big-time, just to make sure all their Main Line neighbors were suitably impressed. There were 250 guests, unbelievably fancy food, eight bridesmaids and groomsmen, a chamber group from the Philadelphia Orchestra--you get the idea. Plus a whole weekend of rehearsal dinners, picnics, pool parties....
For my parents, who had only been outside New Jersey about three times in their lives, it was pretty intimidating. But they'd already had several chances to spend time with Beth, and they loved her. Even better, she really adored both of them, and I was never so proud of her in all my life as when I watched her throughout the wedding weekend going out of her way to make my mom and dad feel comfortable.
She introduced them to all her favorite aunts and uncles, talked about them proudly to everyone, and just made them feel as important as she could. I'd never felt so sure that I was marrying the perfect woman!
I had further proofs of Beth's independence when we moved to New York. She'd landed a job with Ferris & Roberts, an enormous investment firm with offices all over the world. On her resumé and in all her interviews, she completely concealed that she was the daughter of Walter Davenport of Mellon Bank.