Bill Manville: Leaving a Wife


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

November 4, 1959, Vol. V, No. 2

Saloon Society

By Bill Manville

I’d been up all night, and early in the morning met the poet, Jim Palm. He had the red-eyed look, too, and we laughed when we saw each other; we waited together for the saloons to open.

Early-morning drinking is like playing poker behind drawn black shades on a beautiful June afternoon…like cutting the center inch out of a filet mignon at the Chambord and throwing the rest away. It is (may the League of Women Voters forgive me!) as gloriously, luxuriantly rotten as you can get; we were high immediately.

Jim told me his marriage had just broken up for good. “What kills me, I thought we were going to make it back together again,” he said. “She calls me yesterday and asks me to meet her in the zoo to have a talk. It’s a little chilly yesterday, and she’s wearing a crazy little yellow coat and a yellow flower in her lapel. And a string of pearls I give her a long time before.

“You never met my wife? She’s got chestnut hair, and here and there it glints red and gold like it’s burned by the sun. Her nose turns up a little, her mouth is too big, generous, and her eyes are solemn and brown like my own. She kills me, the way she looks…

“I took her hand and we walked around a little. I think we looked at the bears and the lions and then we come back to the seals again. The sunlight is a little white, a little brittle, but it’s warm on our backs. I was very happy…Later we sat under one of the green-and-white-striped umbrellas on the terrace…

“‘Why didn’t you love me?’ she asks me…”‘Please Jim, don’t be mad at me.’ And she looks at me with those brown eyes, and I think for one crazy second, maybe there is a God, a God who’ll stop me from getting mad at her and yelling, but there is no God, and I yell: ‘You’re right, I never loved you, I couldn’t fool you. You’re right!’ And she says: ‘Jim – what are you saying?’

“And I say: ‘I never loved you. It’s simple. You finally realized it, and you became frigid. That’s why it happened, you know. I knew you had finally realized it. I wasn’t able to fool you!’

“I stopped: she’s looking at me like I’ve got a knife and I’m going to kill her. ‘How could I fool you?’ I yell. ‘I couldn’t fool myself!’

“And I get up and go. But I turn to her one last time. ‘Why couldn’t you believe me?’ I shout. ‘Why couldn’t you believe I loved you? If you could have believed it, I could have believed it myself!’

“And then I walked through the pigeons and out of that goddamn park.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]