"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Did Bart Blevin Have A Lover, Or Didn’t He? Truth Is Irrelevant When A Woman Is A Cleopatra

A week after Bart Blevin’s death his wife said she found correspondence which linked her husband to a Nicaraguan lover.  If the email trail was to be believed, Bart had had an affair with Lola Fernandez for over five years. It was all there in black and white,she told her closest friends – not one assignation but a series of them, tantamount to a serious love affair. 

Image result for images miss nicaragua

And yet those who knew Bart well were surprised.   Not our Bart, they all said, the staid, complaisant, and steady.  There was no way for this man of principle, rectitude, and honesty to have so abandoned his principles.  Yet, on the other hand, few men would have put up with the likes of Elvira – a demanding, insolent, and insistent woman who co-opted her husband’s time, his friends, and his feelings.  

While on the one hand  his colleagues could not imagine Bart straying given his seriousness and princely devotion to his wife; on the other hand, they admitted that if they had been in his shoes, they would have left her long before this.

Elvira was not a bad sort – no different from a thousand other wives who took their pound of flesh – but her whining insistence, scratchy wheedling, and petty demands were more than most men could take.  So Bart’s friends when they heard of his wife’s charges were torn.  

Yes, with a wife like Elvira, one would be tempted by a dalliance; but yet there was always Bart’s secure rectitude to consider.  One played the cards one was dealt, he always said, and the essence of morality was in those hands, not the hands of some other deck.

Yet Elvira had her peculiarities, her particular uneven bits that led Bart’s friends to believe that she may have made the whole thing up – a Sarah Bernhardt melodramatic exit,  an aggrieved, beautiful woman on the catafalque sighing her last.  However  Elvira was more than just a temperamental woman, all tears and flapdoodle at the right moments.  She was to be taken more seriously.  Her life was not the stuff of Brazilian and Chilean soap operas.  Her dramatic repose and her tearful, angry escapades were to be parsed rather than taken as is.

Image result for images sarah bernhardt

But to have made the whole thing up? Hardly possible.  She told her closest friends about Bart’s dying days, his trembling need to be held, cuddled, and loved – a simpering, unmanly death, but she was there for him.  He was a loving father and a dutiful husband, she said, but his dalliance with Miss Nicaragua undid everything.  He engineered ‘business’ trips to Nicaragua to see her, indulged his fantasies at taxpayers’ expense, and out of respect, never breathed a word of this to anyone.  She would suffer privately and alone.

It was all there in his emails for everyone to see – his treacly love letters, his breathless anticipation of seeing her at the Managua airport, his happiness after a weekend idyll with her on one of the isletas, and his impatient desire to see her again.  No sooner had he left their cabana and sped by launch to the mainland had he penned billet doux.

Bart’s friends could not believe Elvira’s story – not that there wasn’t enough inspiration from this Sunday harridan.  Just that he was too much of the faithful and dutiful husband, too moral for any of this to be true. Slipping off the edge once and a while with Laura from Accounting perhaps, but a Latin, passionate Eloise and Abelard love affair?  No, his friends, concluded, she must have made it all up. 

Yet the niggling and persistent question remained.  Why would she invent such a soap opera?  Why not just real surprise and forbearance?

Image result for images chilean soap opera

Her story did have its poignancy.  She and Bart had been married for thirty years, and had had children together.  She had invested time, resources, and love in the marriage.  She had given up her best years to follow a man of modest professional promise, tepid masculinity, but impeccable honesty.  For what?  To find out after his death that she had given it all for nothing?  His affair was proof that he was a liar, a cheat, an adulterer, and a brigand.  While she kept her beauty, charms, and allure behind purdah out of respect for and deference to him, he was out galivanting.

Married to a Washington bureaucrat of limited charms and intelligence who died sobbing in her arms was not the story she wanted told.  It had nothing to do with her spicy persona.  Better to confect a far more interesting story of infidelity, tropical trysts, and innocent duplicity than to admit the sorry truth.

Bart’s friends were equally divided on the subject – just as many said that his rectitude had been sullied by this latter-day Cleopatra who wanted only to invent a persona she had always admired but never had, as had said that he, like most men, was a philanderer, a sexual trickster, and an irrevocably immature husband.

Image result for images liz taylor as cleopatraM

Most men took no sides in the debate, but if they were pressed would have admitted to have always loved women like Elvira – Cleopatra, Christine Mannon, Sarah Bernhardt, and a thousand other impossibly melodramatic women who turned femininity into a theatrical charm.  What man would ever turn down the stage for the kitchen?  It never mattered whether or not Elvira was telling the truth.  Veracity was immaterial and inconsequential.  Men were bored to tears by Bart, but couldn’t keep their eyes off of Elvira.

The fact that she took a lover within months of Bart’s death, used his insurance money to buy a condo in St. Bart’s of all places, and spent her later years in luxury and sybaritic pleasure, suggested fiction.  There was no dearth of men who found her irresistible and who happily traded what was to be  the peace and quiet of the golden years for passion and grand guignol.

‘Poor Bart’, said those who believed he never strayed and whose memory would be forever sullied by Elvira’s histrionics and melodrama.  If they are right, and he was indeed a faithful, serious man guilty of no wrong, then indeed ‘poor Bart’; but if they were wrong – as most of his friends hoped – and he was indeed a lover, a canny, ingenious adulterer, and a macho man, so much the better.

I would like to remember Bart not as a hectored, henpecked husband; but a seducer, a romantic, and a man of passionate  tastes.   The truth is never more than annotated fiction anyway. 

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