ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Joshua and I are in my living room, a room he doesn’t like to be in. I’ve finished the work on his tax return, and he’s signed it. It’s ready to be mailed.

“You will put an extra stamp on that before you mail it, right?” he says. His voice is flat and grim, hostile.

I stand up as he continues to sit. I stare at him. I hurl words at him. “No, of course I won’t put an extra stamp on it. I’ll mail all six pages with only one stamp so it comes back to me branded with insufficient postage.

We head to the post office, find a parking space. I storm out of the car gripping the envelope with its two stamps — Joshua affixed the second one. I turn to him, holding up the envelope. “I will mail this. It will be picked up at three p.m. Okay? Okay?” I’m screaming. It’s snowing. A stiff wind tosses the flakes about. My hat flies off. My hair comes undone; it’s in my eyes. People pass. They must think I’m crazy. Just now I am crazy, knowing I’m acting out but unable to stop myself.

Joshua gets out of the car, his fist in the air, screaming too. Oh, Ernie, we are two children. We are lost without you. We are fucking up. If you were here, none of this would be happening. We probably wouldn’t even have the Charles Street house. You would’ve said: “It’s too expensive. We can’t go that high. That’s too big a push.”

Joshua doesn’t trust me. With good reason. I’ve threatened to kill myself. “I hate myself. I hate my life,” I’ve told him. I’ve put him through mental torture. Anytime he phones me, he must wonder: Will she answer? If I don’t answer, he must wonder: Is she okay?

Ernie often said to me: “No one else could live with you.” I realize now this is true. I don’t even want to live with myself. I have no definite purpose in life. I allow others to fill my emptiness with their needs, then turn resentful.

Yesterday I paced the rooms at Charles Street, lamenting all the work yet to be done and wondering aloud whether Joshua could do it.

“If I didn’t think I could, I would’ve sold this place to Cindi,” he says.

“Maybe it’s an unrealistic expectation.”

“You don’t think I can do it, do you? You don’t think I’m up to the task.”

“I couldn’t do it. But this is your house. It’s not my responsibility.”

But it is, partly. I was in on this from the very beginning, looking at the house with Cindi when Joshua was still in L. A. I sold the last of Ernie’s stock to help Joshua win the bidding war. I abhor responsibility — I run from it — yet I feel obligated to help out. This is what sets up my passive-aggressive behavior, my bitchiness.

I don’t know if I can change, become a person I can live with. If I don’t, I’ll condemn myself to solitary confinement . . . or worse.

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Ernestina

Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.