The only thing she had ever wanted out of autumn was a suitable date for New Year's Eve. This might sound a little premature, a little petty - not to mention calculating - but it had always taken her a longer time than most to get things done.
The fact was, though, that she always had had a perfectly odious time on New Year's Eve. The fact was that every fall - just when it started getting bitter and depressing outside - she managed with unerring brilliance to rupture a wonderful relationship with the person who should have been her New Year's date.
She knew the results of this lack of foresight far too well. One Dec. 31 she had ended up with a new and strange man whose ex-wife had, in a fit of jealous pique, managed to steal his entire gun collection that very night.
This fall, she resolved, it would all be different.This fall, no matter what the provocation, she would acquire all the qualities that were distinctly foreign to her nature. She would be sweet. Undemanding. Relentlessly cheerful. Starting right after Labor Day.
"I'm sorry," the other half of the wonderful relationship told her in November, "I just can't accept ultimatums. I have to be with Poor Vivian on New Year's Eve. The poor thing has nobody but me in the world. Think about it."
She thought about it and (with infinitely greater longing) about the gun colllection he didn't have.
When the old year gasped its last, she found herself with a man who talked to his turtle.
Every autumn something terrible happens to one out of every three relationships.
Around the end of September you start getting the phone calls. Friends with lovers you were forced to admire unstintingly now reel off heinous charges against them you are forced to accept blindly.
The friends, once so anxious to fix you up with A Fantastic Person, have at last succeeded in pairing off their charge to someone with a degree in astrophysics and a knack for psychic healing.
It has to do with dead leaves.
"Falls is involutional in a sense," says Norman Tamarkin, a psychiatrist. "It's barren and more isolated. I have noticed it really is a time of introspection, when a lot of people are reevaluating relationships, and if they're not splitting up, they're modifying them."
You just don't have the diversions you had during the summer, says Tamarkin. The boating, the swimming, the tennis. "There's a real physical, geographic change in proximity. You know sitting together in front of the fire. You can't get away from each other. And you start thinking - 'Do I really want to be with this person"'
You may perhaps have noticed that when you were warm and happily involved, as they say, members of the opposite sex found you irresistable and thoroughly engaging at all times. "Don't tell me you're living with someone!" they would cry, every syllable a shriek of protest. "Is there anyone at home right now?"
You may, even, have been mulling over these heartening words at the precise moment of your rift. You should stop mulling.
All this attention immediately ceases when you break up.
Once upon a summer, a young woman who now lives here went to visit her boyfriend. We can figure she must have liked him a whole lot, because it was a 4 1/2 hour drive from where she was to where he was.
On the way there she got into a terrible car accident.
"My car was wrapped around a tree," she says brightly, because it is now many years later and she is quite all right. "I was in the hospital three months and underwent massive surgery. I had a tracheotomy and I was temporarily blind. And I had my whole face remade - I had lost all sensation on one side of my face.
"Well, my boyfriend came ot visit me at the hospital the first month. And for the other two months he called."
And the fall came. And he called again.
"My heart leapt," says the lady, "I was that excited.
"Hi,' he said, 'just called to tell you I'm getting married to this woman I know like from forever.
'And I wanted you to be the first to know.'
"I went out," says the lady, "I went out and gained 15 pounds right away."
Part of this message comes to you from Ovid. Who knew.
The way to get over severe heartbreak, said Ovid is to think about all the truly repulsive qualities of your ex-beloved. Mull them over in your mind, and then - whenever the dread name pops up - think of the faults instead of the loss.
The shameless fashion in which he stares at other woman on the street. The nasty tone in which she addresses your cat. That kind of thing.
The other part of this message comes to you from Liz and Dick, Napoleon and Josephine and Anne Boleyn and Henry the VIII:
You think you've got problems?
There is a learned gentleman living in this country who got separated from his wife one fall, but returned. Then he divorced her in another fall. But returned, and remarried her.
Then he divorced her again.
It is his view of the situation that that last and final split began when she left him in the spring.
It is her view (he says) that he left her in the fall.
It is his view that breaking up doesn't get any easier with repetition.
"The second divorce," he says, "was equally - or more difficult. It just tears you apart. Your work suffers terribly. Something like that comes along and you just become terrible."
This man is now remarried - to his ex-wife's sister.
"Bizarre," he says with gentle resignation, "bizarre is the word that's most frequently used by people who don't know the situation. It's kind of a bizarre situation."
There is one more thing this man feels he has to do to sever from his ex-wife. He wants to get an annulment.
Here is one classy way to break up.
There is a woman in New York who dissolved a certain relationship "six or seven times in one year."
This got to be, perhaps, redundant, but she managed to save it from boredom.
"Every single time we broke up," she says, " - rented a limousine and sent it over to his apartment to pick up my things. Gradually, Clyde, the driver, would just do it all by himself. He got to know my clothes and would just pack them up in my suitcase."
And the bill for this service?
"Oh, I probably sent it to my friend."
"I met him in the library my freshman year, but I didn't start dating him until the next year. He had just broken up with his girl friend of five years.
"September, October - everything was beautiful. Heaven. But between Thanksgiving and Christmas I didn't even hear from him."
We do not, of course, have to hear the rest of this to know its outcome. The only portion of this story that would set it apart from all other examples of autumnal bleak is that it has a very happy ending.
Because of this incident, the narrator landed herself the kind of psychiatrist we all wish we had.
"If I ever get my hands on that guy," her psychiatrist would mutter over the next two years, "I swear, I'm gonna kill him."
Here is the classiest way to break up when it's all over anyway, and there's nothing you can do about it:
A woman was seeing a very appealing Scandinavian (if that's not being redundant) who often came to this country on business trips.
Once back in the homeland, this person appealed to - and married - another lady.
When the appealing Scandinavian returned to these shores he received from his American friend a shiny white cardboard box filled with one dozen beautiful long-stmmed red roses.
Each blushing head was neatly severed from its stalk.