Fiction, 270 pages, $14.95 cover price
($10 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
Love. Nothing frightens me more. And not just in life, but perhaps even more in writing. I have seen the best writers fall prey to the trap of writing about love, that word so empty of anything yet signifying everything.
Maybe you know Robert Boisvert from his work as a news anchor. And maybe it’s his professional experience of meeting and listening to the newsworthy that allows him to see so deeply into the lives of his characters, whether the aging matriarch or the lycanthrope’s spouse.
So many stories today have the technique down, the right words in the right order but say nothing. Boisvert has both the well-crafted style and a substance beneath. Here is the rare writer with both skill and subject. As the trilogy of “Love Upon Reflection” stories, where we see a love triangle through all the players’ eyes, shows us a writer of great empathy.
Boisvert’s vision is aching and razor-sharp, a fresh view of that cursed four-letter word. These stories take us to the highs and lows of society to a Spanish city and the house next door. These stories make us rethink the relationships between man and woman, husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, friend and friend. And Boisvert’s voice is so powerful it drowns out the world beyond his stories—here is the vivid and continuous dream of fiction.
Here most of all we have absorbing and entertaining stories not of the sappy or the sentimental but of the beast that keeps us awake at night, that drives our actions, and that lays waste to our dreams.
Dear reader read these stories. Read and love.
—S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.
The men in Boisvert’s stories are vulnerable, human, real. Reading this is like taking a delicious sneak peek at the other team’s playbook.
Author and Co-Host
of Nationally Syndicated Morning Radio’s Bob & Sheri
…Boisvert’s characters largely dwell in a purgatory of the heart, a warped world of painful personal decay en route to a new romantic reality. His tales start in mid-hurdle and end on a thump.
The Charlotte Observer
This is Boisvert’s debut novel, containing a trilogy of short stories titled “Love Upon Reflection.” The tales chronicle the passion, loathing and heartbreak of a love triangle through the eyes of the people involved.
The Adult Thing To Do
Pete sat in his car in the parking of the Airport Marriot worrying again over the video camera, wondering which setting would best allow him to capture his wife and her lover. He’d been there a little over two hours after first driving around the lot and locating their cars, then choosing the best space and pulling in and abandoning three already that would give him a clear view of the cars without being discovered himself. Luckily, their cars were parked next to each other under a streetlamp, which helped with the resolution of the video. But as the night grew darker, he worried that the resolution would be too grainy and the images indistinct and wouldn’t reveal whatever it was they decided to do once their company conference ended.
Silver-colored and small, not much bigger than a Big Mac container, the camera had been given to them by his father-in-law two Christmases ago. To date, he’d used it maybe three times and was as frustrated with it as much now as then, running to get it whenever their three-year-old son Timothy was doing something cute, only to find the battery had died or he couldn’t figure out how to use the built-in light, or that only twenty seconds worth of unrecorded tape remained on the mini cassette. He handled the thing with his long, soft hands whose fingernails needed clipping. On the side was a small LCD screen which pulled out and tilted. That he figured out. And he knew how to use the zoom. That too was simple enough. A small toggle just to the right of the lens. The record button was positioned at the rear of the handhold to be activated with the thumb. But what the array of multicolored buttons on the top of the thing and the side with the LCD screen did he had no idea.
Some obviously had something to do with the light. Those he left alone, since it wouldn’t do any good at seventy-five yards distance, and he didn’t want to give himself away. And those that said timer, whatever they did, he ignored. At first, when he zoomed into their cars, he saw only black and wondered if he left the lens cap on. Eventually, though, after experimenting with something called backlight, then adjusting the darkness and brightness of the resolution with a button marked with a sort of half moon, he found a setting that satisfied him, despite the mottled graininess of the image. And he settled back and waited, staring out of an opened window that let in the first cold breezes of autumn on which he could smell the dampness of fallen leaves wafting from a stand of second growth and scrub between a Chili’s restaurant and gas station across the highway.
Right now he was smoking a cigarette and wishing he brought with him a bottle of water instead of coffee, since coffee generally left him feeling thirsty and he knew it would make him need to pee in another forty minutes or so. He’d given up smoking three years ago, when Tim was born, except the occasional cigarette when he drank, but started again the night after the night she told him to leave. He didn’t enjoy smoking, didn’t like how it caused him to feel more anxious than he already felt, and how it caused his heart to flutter with the strange dry feeling of butterfly wings flapping in his throat, and how it made him want to leap from his car and run into the hotel and shout to all their coworkers what he already knew, describing in detail the ugliness of their affair. But right now he couldn’t imagine not smoking and knew as soon as this cigarette was finished he would light another from the two packs he’d bought along with the coffee in preparation of a long evening.
For what seemed the hundredth time, he checked his watch. Every few minutes or so another car pulled into the parking lot, rentals mostly, nondescript Dodges and Fords driven by passengers recently disembarked from the steady stream of jets flying overhead. All of the new arrivals looked weary, tugging on suitcases as if they were bolted to the trunks of the cars, many of the people looking grumpy as well, almost militant, as if they were itching for a fight. Probably, he guessed, they were angry about having to spend the weekend away from family and friends, a feeling he knew well, since he traveled a good deal on business for his job as a salesman for a paper company. Hours earlier, even the babysitter, a teenaged girl with large breasts he tried not to stare at from the neighborhood he’d pleaded with to work for him at double the normal rate once he’d wheedled from his wife the fact she and her co-managers, and probably Hank, would be attending a dinner conference this evening was grumpy and only reluctantly gave in to him after running out of excuses not to.
At 8:20 he lit another cigarette and punched the buttons on the radio, at first changing from a sad song by the Eagles, then returning to it, liking how the thing wrung pain from his heart like water from a towel. What she said to him that first night was simple: I want you to leave. Meaning move out of the house. Just that. But he’d paid it little mind. She was drunk, as usual. And he was mad at her for being drunk. Sure, it was a momentous thing to say, a thing they’d never ever mentioned through all of their many fights, and he knew it even then, felt then as if he was climbing out of a window onto a not very wide ledge, knew that some words immediately became things and sometimes living things, that most words were ideas to be waved away like smoke, but that a select few when used in the right combination were concrete or corporeal and filled up space or prowled like hungry wolves and could never be moved or scared off. There they remained, longer even than the people who said them.
Even so, she surprised him the next morning when she awoke and said nothing to him, walking around that Saturday with her back as arched as a bow and a look on her face that said, stay away. That night, though, after Tim was put to bed and he spent an hour or two drinking in the TV room and she drank in the living room, he couldn’t stand it any longer and asked, “You didn’t really mean what you said, did you?”
He stood in the doorway to the living room a good ten seconds before she glanced over at him with hooded eyes. She was sitting on the couch with her legs crossed and a book on her lap. When she spoke, her lips barely moved. “Yes, I meant it.”
Later, he cried and knelt at her feet, begging her, saying, “You can’t mean it. Not after all these years,” and, “I love you,” and, “This doesn’t make any sense. We can fix this. We can go away and talk. We can talk to somebody. We can talk to a counselor. I know we can fix this.” To which she said, eyeing him as if she were sizing him for a coffin, “There is nothing you can say or do that will change my mind. I want you to move out.”
And that was it. That was all she would say to him about it. Ten minutes later, he drove to a convenience store and bought a pack of cigarettes, lighting one even before he fell back into his car.
He hadn’t given up on her, of course. He told himself that wasn’t his style. For a couple of days after that second night, he let her be, hoping she hadn’t really truly meant what she said. It was a difficult time. He stared after her whenever she walked by, like a child who’d been spanked and awaited forgiveness. And it was all he could do not to say anything. But when he finally did speak to her and came close to crying again, even without being drunk, it became clear she hadn’t changed her mind, and wouldn’t. And the hurt of it burned into him like a piece of red hot metal that sank through skin and flesh and blackened his bones that couldn’t be picked out no matter how much he concentrated or clawed at it.
For weeks afterwards, after having moved into a spare bedroom on the second floor of their house, he could not sleep and lost weight. He told his mother the news, who cried and couldn’t offer more than consolation. And he told a good friend he played video games with on his days off. And another good friend he played basketball with at the YMCA on Thursday nights and sometimes Tuesdays, although the best they could offer was, “Why? Why is she doing this?” It was the same question he asked himself. He could not figure the reason for it. As he told them, he felt as if he were receiving the death penalty for a parking ticket. He’d been given no warnings, she never mentioned being discontented. Never did she say, “I’m unhappy,” or, “I don’t love you,” or, “We’re in danger of ruining our marriage.” Just, “I want you out of here,” as if she’d been brainwashed and the thought had been implanted in her skull.
Yes, they’d had their disagreements. What couple hadn’t? But nothing terrible. He never screamed at her, berated her. Never laid a hand on her. In fact, they probably fought less than other couples. Which, truthfully, had always been a problem for him, considering he didn’t like her drinking and how she changed into someone he didn’t recognize when she did, someone more frenetic and giddier, and that she spent more and more time with her former college roommate across town, guzzling champagne as they hatched plans to conquer the world. Each time when he tried to argue the point with her, saying she was a mother now, not a girl, that her life should revolve around their family, him and her son and her, and not hers, she refused to go along with him, at most saying, “Why can’t you just join us instead of fuming and wanting to fight? I’m not going to fight with you. I don’t like fighting with you.”
His friends were diplomatic. It wasn’t the first thought out of their mouths, even though it was probably first on their minds, since it would have been first on his if the situations were reversed. But eventually they asked, “Do you think there’s someone else?” At first, Pete dismissed the idea, saying it was ridiculous. His wife simply wasn’t that type of woman. She was gracious. That was the word he used to describe her to his mother when they first dated. She was gracious and elegant, almost always smiling, always making people feel special and welcome in her company. And instead he concentrated on the why of things, feeling guilty over what happened, as if he’d taken a life and could not figure out the why of that either. The best she could offer was, “We’re just bad for each other. We make each other unhappy.”
Sitting in the car now, he remembered how he felt the first time she said to him, “We make each other unhappy.” Sipping the coffee, cold now and tasting too sweet from the sugar settled in the bottom of the cup, he was stung again by the humiliation and inadequacy overt in the judgment, made worse still by all else he later discovered. It was a strange feeling, like a midget was making himself at home inside his torso, elbowing aside intestines, liver, gall bladder and stomach, pushing up all his blood and guts into his shoulders, neck and cheeks, causing Pete to want to get out of the car and run a few laps around the parking lot to set everything right again. He knew he couldn’t, of course, since he couldn’t risk being seen by his wife. And so as 9:00 passed, then 9:02, he gripped the steering wheel instead, tugging on it with all his might, trying to force that odd feeling from himself, as well as the edginess he also felt, as if he might squeeze them through his pores so they might evaporate on the breeze.