The Nancy Diaries: Part 22
Read: Part 21. Part 23.
Monday morning following our phone conversation wasn’t the most pleasant for me. Having told Nancy that I felt sexually harassed by her—and having refused to budge when she tried to minimize my complaints—I was trapped between empowerment and dread as I got ready. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Nancy’s condo.
My walk to work along the beach that morning, which normally took no more than 20 minutes, felt interminable. I ran over potential scenarios in my head. Would Nancy cry when I saw her? Would she yell? Would she want to talk about our conversation from the night before or pretend it never happened? Would she apologize? The suspense made origami out of my gut.
When I finally arrived at Nancy’s, I was surprised to find that she was not home. This hadn’t been one of the options I’d considered, but I was admittedly relieved. For even though I had rightfully asserted my boundaries the night before, Nancy still wielded a sort of power over me. She was, after all, the person who signed my checks, the reason for my move to California. I wasn’t sure I could maintain my resolve and dodge her manipulations when we were face to face.
I went to my office and found a note from her on my desk.
Thank you for addressing your concerns with me. I assure you the things we talked about will be handled and kept in confidence. I hope you are happy working here.
Today is a very hectic day for me. I’m going to be running around, so I probably won’t see you. Here is a list of things I need done before Vishna arrives tomorrow afternoon:
Sync my phone to my computer
Buy me four bikinis from Nordstrom for my photo shoots with Vishna—must be two pieces, and not cut too high or too low. No granny panties, but nothing Girls Gone Wild either. Tasteful.
Pick up Vitamin V prescription from CVS
Find out when the ARCs of my book will be ready at the publisher. Need these ASAP.
Make food for the girls to eat when they get back on Thursday.
Roast veggies for me
Make green juice for the next two weeks.
Edit the two columns I sent you for my blog.
And please, remember to smile today. I’m very glad and grateful for you.
Namaste, your friend,
It was a nice enough effort on her part, but I found myself judging her attempt at reconciliation. I read face-saving motives into her words, which perhaps were or were not intended, and realized that my time with Nancy had surpassed its expiration date. I didn’t trust her, and I couldn’t imagine working for her for another five days, let alone five months.
About an hour later, I heard Nancy come through the front door and walk into the kitchen. My stomach, which had settled, folded in on itself again. I poked my head out of the office and said, “Is that you Nancy?”
"Oh hi Tommy, I didn’t realize you were here. I just got in from a meeting. I’m drinking a quick glass of milk and then heading right back out again. Aaron is coming to pick me up any minute."
Aaron was coming to pick her up. The same Aaron from whom she’d asked me to collect her camera equipment twelve hours earlier. The same Aaron with whom she’d wanted to break up and never speak to again. Apparently they’d made up overnight, a dramatic reversal that brought me to the intersection of boredom and awe. Her behavior was, as ever, predictable and shocking.
"Did you get my note," Nancy asked me.
"Yup, looking at it now."
"Ok good, and you think you can get all that done before Vishna arrives from Prague?"
Vishna was the son of Nancy’s Czech friend Henni, whom she met when they were teenagers backpacking through India. Henni fell in love with an Indian man, got married, and had a kid. After her husband died, Henni moved back to the Czech Republic with then-teenaged Vishna.
Nancy flew Vishna in from Prague to take promotional pictures for her website. His ticket, which I’d arranged, cost nearly $3,000.
"He’s the only one who can really capture my spirit on camera," she’d told me repeatedly, seemingly justifying the expense to fly him across the ocean, although I knew that wasn’t the reason for his visit. She once also said, "To be honest, Vishna is kind of sexy. Not in a physical way, on a psychic level. We just get each other. Nothing could ever happen between us, though, can you even imagine? Henni would kill me!"
I imagined that Nancy regularly had imagined something happening between her and Vishna—who was my age, by the way—and it made me wonder if the guy knew what he was getting himself into. There’s no such thing as a free trip to Los Angeles.
While Nancy was annotating my to do list from the kitchen, Aaron arrived to pick her up. He honked his horn from out front, which normally would’ve irritated Nancy—what would her wealthy neighbor’s think—but she didn’t seem to mind. It broke up the awkward conversation between us.
"That’s my ride," she hollered from the foyer. "Thanks for getting everything done today. We’ll talk later."
She left as quickly as she’d arrived. We managed to have a full conversation without seeing each other. It was decidedly less stressful than it could’ve been, at least on my end. The fact that Nancy avoided being in a room with me suggested that she was feeling uncomfortable, perhaps even guilty. And the fact that she was back together with Aaron confirmed that she had, beyond a doubt, lost her damn mind.
I spent Monday checking off items from the list Nancy gave me. I left work at 5 p.m., after receiving a text from Nancy saying that she wouldn’t be home until late and that I should get going when I felt good about the progress I’d made.
Vishna’s plane was scheduled to land at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. All I had to do before picking him up was buy groceries and bikinis. So, first thing Tuesday morning, I headed to Whole Foods. While there, I got a text from Nancy that said she’d be working in her bedroom and didn’t want to be disturbed; she had a headache. When I got to her condo, however, Nancy came into the kitchen, where I was unpacking the bags.
“Hi Tommy,” she said, steely and solemn. It was the first time we’d seen each other since she dropped me off at my house on Saturday night. Her eyes were buggy and red. I wanted to vomit everywhere. Nerves.
“Hi Nancy, how are you?”
“I’m fine thanks, just feeling a bit run down from all I’ve been doing. And I need to be tip top when Vishna gets here, because it will be such a waste if he travels all this way and I don’t look my best in the photos.”
“That would be a nightmare, for sure.”
“I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but I realized we haven’t backed up my phone on my computer in a while, and I really need that to get done. I had a panic attack this morning thinking about losing everything I’ve got on here. That would be totally beyond the pale. Can you take care of that asap?”
“Of course, I can do it right now. Where’s your computer?”
“It’s on my bed,” she said, handing me her phone. “I’m going to make myself some tea and then nap for a few hours.”
“Of course, you should rest.”
I went down to her room. The phone she’d just given me was open to a text conversation with Aaron that read, “From now on, Tommy is not to know anything about my videos. I only want him to run errands. He’s out of everything else, I just can’t trust him.” I plugged it into her computer.
Nothing with Nancy ever felt coincidental. My immediate thought upon reading the text was, “Thank god.” I wanted out of the madhouse, and she was making it very easy for me. At the same time, it pissed me off, the passive aggression, the idea that she couldn’t trust me. She played everyone in her life, always portraying herself as the victim.
Here’s a true (if tangential) story. Nancy once coauthored a diet book that sold 750,000 (the only book of hers that ever sold more than a few hundred copies). The main writer—the person on whose research the book was based—was a well-known nutritionist M.D. After its publication, Nancy and the doctor stopped speaking. Years after their falling out, Nancy was giving a talk at a women’s conference, and she saw the doctor in the audience. She had security remove the doctor, because as she put it, “I didn’t know why she was there. Maybe she wanted to kill me. It was terrifying.” Later, when we were editing one of her books, Nancy confessed to citing the doctor’s research without attribution. “I changed some of the wording from our original book,” she told me. “But those are essentially my words. I’m the one who wrote them that way, she just provided the study. I don’t want to give her any more credit for my success than she’s already claimed.”
Anyway, that afternoon, after the phone debacle, I went to Nordstrom and bought four bikinis, as instructed. I sought out the most expensive sets I could find, in part because they were fabulous, and in part because I didn’t care to bargain hunt for someone with whom I knew my days were numbered.
When I showed Nancy the bathing suits, she squealed. She loved them, as she loved all of her gifts to herself. “You really have a knack for shopping for me, Tommy,” she enthused. “No one else has ever just gotten my style like you!”
Her praise fell on deaf ears. My contempt for her swelled, as the anxiety I once felt in her presence shifted irreversibly to disdain. I didn’t believe a word she said, and I knew, right then, that she didn’t either.
Nancy went into her room to try on the bathing suits. She smartly spared me a fashion show. She did, however, open the door three separate times to tell me how great she looked. I considered that she might be trying to taunt me, to test my limits and let me know who was boss in our relationship. Then I thought better of it and realized that she was just genuinely ignorant of other people’s boundaries.
I left shortly thereafter to pick up Vishna. It took him more than an hour to get through customs, and by the time we got back to Nancy’s, it was nearly 6 p.m.
“You can take the rest of the afternoon off, Tommy,” Nancy told me, ignorant of the hour. “Vishna and I need to catch up.”
I said my thanks and headed home. The following day—Wednesday—was a big day for me. It was to be my last day really working for the week. My boyfriend was flying in from New York in the evening. He and I planned to drive to Santa Barbara to pick up Nancy’s dogs on Thursday. She’d left them with her former housekeeper during our Seattle trip.
We never made it to Santa Barbara.
On Wednesday morning, I arrived at work at my usual time, 9 a.m. Nancy already was dressed and organizing things in the office. I worked from the dining room table, so that we weren’t crammed into the same room. At about 11 a.m., she went into the kitchen to grab a glass of milk. On her way back to the office, she casually mentioned, “By the way, Tommy, I need you to put in writing the exact date that you want to stop working for me. If you could do that now, I’d really appreciate it.”
A fire ignited in my stomach, and in an instant my entire body got warm. I could feel my face getting red. The sweat in my throat made it difficult to speak, but I managed.
“Ok. But you understand that I’m not quitting by choice. I told you I can’t work for you because of what we talked about.”
Vishna was in the other room, and I tried to be discreet. But Nancy kept the conversation going. I assumed she’d already provided him with a skewed account of the situation anyway.
“I know, Tommy,” she said, her tone taking a right turn toward agitation. “But I just need the date in writing and nothing else.”
“Why do you need that,” I asked, understanding that she was trying to get me to quit, but not knowing enough to comprehend what the legal impact would be.
“It’s just for my records.”
I called her bluff. “Ok then, I’ll write it. But I have to include the reason I’m quitting—that you have been sexually harassing me, and that I reported it to you on Sunday—in anything I write.”
If you ever want to see a narcissist explode, just back them into a corner with the truth. I couldn’t believe I said it to her, but as soon as I did, I finally saw the rage that I’d suspected lived beneath the plastic veneer. In that moment, Nancy went boom.
© 2013 Tommy Jordan O’Malley