ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 320: Ernie in a Tux
Perhaps in anticipation of ending this writing and needing something to read, I reserve a dozen books at the library, and they all came in yesterday.
Two are by Wendy Lesser, founding editor of The Threepenny Review.
In her book Nothing Remains the Same, subtitled Rereading and Remembering, Wendy Lesser writes of re-reading an essay she wrote while attending Cambridge University. Her professor returned the essay to her with a note, still paper-clipped to the essay all these years later. You seem to me to avert your eyes from things which you yourself notice.
One night about four years ago, Ernie and I stepped out to hear his old friend Diane sing. For her cabaret-style performance, Diane wore a long red gown. For the occasion, Ernie wore a tux. He loved tuxes. He said tuxes made any man look good.
Diane had invited many of her old friends to the performance so the restaurant/theater space was crowded, and Ernie and I could only find seats apart from each other. In the middle of one of Diane’s songs I looked over at him, a table away. So fragile he looked. He didn’t seem able to support even the weight of the tux. That night he told his ex-wife Janey, also there for Diane: “I’m okay in the head but not in the body.”
Ernie had said the same thing to me, and to certain old friends, many times before. But that night, seeing him in his tux and trying so hard to hide what was becoming so clear to him, I averted my eyes. I didn’t want to see what I knew was there.