By Barbara Guggenheim
What led me to think I could and should swear off gossip – at least for a while – started with something my friend Samantha told me over lunch.
“Did you hear?” she asked, leaning forward over her tuna tartare. “Lester and Jane are having an affair.” “Really?” I replied incredulously. Jane is wild and crazy. I thought, but she’s married to a man she loves desperately, and Lester’s an arrogant, high-profile bore. “Yeah, Lester and his wife were at a dinner party. It was hot, and the men took off their jackets. When Lester left, he forgot his,” Samantha continued, breathless, “After everyone left, the hostess looked in the jacket pockets for some identification and found a sex note to Lester from Jane. It was partially burned.” I nearly choked on my asparagus. I knew the genesis of this particular story, and alarmingly, it was traceable to me.
A year ago, I gave myself a birthday luncheon for 40 friends – all women, all married. It was raining, and everyone threw their wet raincoats on a bench in the corner. By the end of the party, the weather had changed. The sun was shining. The last woman to leave grabbed the only remaining coat, a classic Burberry. Holding it up, she turned to me. “This looks like my raincoat, Barbara, but it’s not.” She shook her head. “Mine has a lining.” “It’s stopped raining now,” I said. “Leave the coat. I’ll call around and find yours.”
When she’d gone, I checked the pockets of the coat and found only a folded note, written in a woman’s hand. “Lester, dear,” the note began, “I suppose you noticed that the sex wasn’t as good this time as in the past.” There was no signature, because the bottom half had been burned.
If I had to suspect any of my guests of infidelity, my first candidate would have been the woman who said her raincoat was missing. She’s young and beautiful; any guy would fall for her. But she clearly wasn’t the one. Finally, a nicely written thank-you note for my birthday luncheon gave me a clue. The writing was identical to that of the note. Now I knew. But will I tell you? Not on your life. But I’ll tell you this: It wasn’t Jane.
Loving gossip, I told the story many times, never revealing the names. But now my story had come back to me, distorted by multiple repetitions. Madame X’s raincoat had become Lester’s blazer. The note had actually been received by him, rather than held back. And it came from poor Jane, who, although blonde and sexy, was totally innocent.
The only one who knows the truth is the woman who left the coat. Each time I’ve seen her since the luncheon, she’s been icily polite. She knows I know.
*All names have been changed.