Initiator: Connie Millholland – Suspicious


Initiator Artist: Connie Millholland
Artwork Title: Suspicious
Size: 20 x 20″
Medium: Oil on canvas
Price: $869

Responder Author: JoAnn Lieberman
Writing Title: The Vanishing Act
Price: NFS

If I’d known it was the last time I’d see him, I’d have looked back a second time or maybe even a third. I’d have watched him walking away, disappearing into the New York crowd, his coffee in one hand, his briefcase in the other.

He was wearing his grey suit, the one that matched his eyes. We’d shopped for it in Marshal-Fields when he’d accepted the brokerage internship in Manhattan his father arranged. Of course, I agreed to move, too. I was 22 and more in love with Brian than with the city where we’d met, my childhood friends or even my family.

Brian was a superstar in our town. He played football and baseball, dated cheerleaders and came from money. I’d never met my father. Mom reared three of us on her salary from the factory in Quincy. He shopped Marshal-Fields; we shopped thrift stores.

He wooed me, picking me up in his father’s convertible, taking me to restaurants. Real restaurants with tablecloths, waiters and baskets of warm bread brought to our table the moment we sat down.

Mother warned me not to date him. He moves with a different crowd, she told me. They’re fast. Reckless. He’ll use you and cast you aside. But it was too late. I was already in over my head.

He was my first boyfriend. I was in love but also bewildered, off-balance. Why’d Brian chosen me – an awkward, plain-looking geek who preferred reading to parties and nursed a beer for hours while he and his jock friends drained six-packs? Maybe Mom was right. Maybe they needed a designated driver.

Brian was my first lover. I’d have followed him to Siberia if he’d asked. But Manhattan was a no-brainer. New York, the city of art galleries, museums, bookstores, theater.

We rented an apartment in Brooklyn. I took a job at Bookman’s. Brian earned only a stipend and my salary wasn’t much more but we managed. The first months were everything I’d hoped for. Evening walks, take-out dinners on the fire escape we called our terrace, weekend picnics in Prospect Park.

But by October, something changed. Brian was no longer satisfied with choices within our budget. That’s when I learned that Manhattanization doesn’t just happen to architecture, it happens to people, too.

He wanted nicer suits, a gym membership. Even his thermos needed an upgrade. Our credit card was maxed out by his long lunches, weekly shave and haircut in Midtown, taxi fares when the subway would have done.

Brian called these the cost of doing business but from my Midwest perspective, they were airs we couldn’t afford.

I should have recognized Brian was pulling away but ignored the clues. The office parties I wasn’t invited to, the meetings that lasted well into the night, the phone calls taken in the bedroom behind closed doors. I tried to be more charming, more sophisticated. I cut my hair, bought clothes from high couture outlets in SoHo. But none of that mattered. Brian had moved on while I stood waving good-bye on the platform.

It was drizzling when I got home that evening. There were no lights in our apartment, no music on the MP3. I’d learned to expect the silence but I didn’t anticipate an emptied apartment.

All traces of Brian were gone – his clothes and toiletries, our sofa, chair, coffee table and kitchen table. My books lay scattered on the carpet – the asshole had even taken the bookcase. On the bed (thankfully, he’d left that) was our latest credit card bill with a note – please pay immediately.

© 2023 JoAnn Lieberman