'Managed Expectations': The Bitter End, The Final Chapter

Managed ExpectationsThis summer’s serial novel by Marisa Meltzer has followed our heroine Nicole from the wilds of Park Slope-well, let’s be honest, Prospect Heights-to the terrors of Portland, Oregon, from yoga to therapy, from the grasping arms of men on bad first dates to a terrible two-timer to, whoops!, the bed of her now-engaged ex-lover Jared. It culminates in the sudden wedding of her best friend. All this, during the short, not-so-hot and totally wedding-full summer of 2009, complete with major pregnancy scare. (Like your summer was any less dramatic or terrible?) And now, as they say on T.V., the stunning conclusion…

The unofficial theme to Darshan’s wedding was Bollywood meets Bolinas. Luckily the ne plus ultra of hippie weddings was to have a Hindu ceremony, so the two themes coexisted fairly peacefully: sitars, garlands of marigolds, and chapattis were equally beloved by Brooklyn vegans and bankers from Mumbai.

As a bridesmaid, Nicole wore a sari made of tie-dyed silk with a wreath made of moss and wildflowers that made her forehead itch. The ceremony was long and she tuned out soon after the priest, of some unspecified weird lesser non-religion, and who addressed the crowd as “fellow beings,” beseeched everyone to “come reaffirm with us our belief that in life, it’s the journey that counts, not the goal.”

Since everyone was seated, it was hard to pick out anyone she knew in the crowd. She heard from Darshan that both Jared and Elias had sent in RSVPs, but she couldn’t make them out. After 15 minutes of chanting in Sanskrit, the vows and bows were completed and everyone could begin drinking.


And Nicole drank: one glass of Puligny-Montrachet for the groom’s parents’ toast, a second for their yoga guru’s toast, a third when Darshan got up to thank everyone and make an announcement about her intention to become certified as a barefoot hiking instructor, and a fourth for when the girls from Darsh’s consciousness-raising group did a toast that quoted heavily from both Sappho and Valerie Solanas.

By the time Darsh’s former nanny stood up to talk about her charge’s open heart and capacity for love, Nicole was well on her way to trashed belligerence.

Through much of the speech-making, Nicole stayed busy texting with Miranda, who was seated a few tables away. They were giving odds that Darshan’s marriage would last more than ten years-it was 87-1, they decided-when the evil Eva made her way to the microphone. Ugh, Nicole thought, experiencing a fresh, alcohol-enhanced ripple of anger over Eva’s clumsy blackmail job, after Eva had spotted Nicole buying a home pregnancy test.

“I just want to say how proud I am of Darshan for pursuing her interest in barefoot hiking,” she said. “I just wish it had been midwifery.”

People were still talking at their tables. “Do you have something to tell us?” someone shouted from the back.

“No,” Eva said. “But I hear the maid of honor might.” She was staring at Nicole, a sick smile plastered across her face.

Nicole put down her phone and stood up suddenly, rattling the table and knocking over her nearly empty wine glass. She took a deep breath, unsure what she was going to watch herself do next. Now the room got quiet.

It turned out that Nicole realized that she was extremely pissed off, and also that her ability to self-censor was severely impaired. “You fucking bitch!” Nicole screamed. “I’m going to kill you!”

She ripped off her wreath and threw it, frisbee-style, at Eva. Nicole had always had a poor aim; the wreath whizzed by Eva and bounced sadly off the wall.

Eva smirked at Nicole. “I think our girl here has had a pretty busy summer-both with Elias and my fiancé.”

The priest, seated nearby, was already en route. He snatched the mic from Eva. “Ladies, please! This is a sacred event.”

But it was too late. Nicole found her iPhone and flung it across the room at Eva’s head, this time connecting with her brow. Jared bolted from his table and ran to her, shouting for ice. He made a pathetic attempt at treating the wound with a napkin, even though the phone hadn’t even left a mark.

A few people were laughing; most were staring at their plates in silence. Jared and Eva hugged and kissed and hugged again. “I’m so glad you’re safe,” he whispered.

Why had she even considered putting up with him again? “Jared, joint dog custody is so over,” Nicole said. And with that, she turned on her heel and made her way, with as much determination as her drunken self could, out through the room.

She passed Elias, who was sitting near the back with a willowy blonde. “I am so glad they have a videographer here, Nicole, because I am so putting a video of this on my Tumblr,” he said. He tried to give her a high five but Nicole flipped him off and kept walking.

Outside it was cool, suddenly autumnal. She got as far as Grand Army Plaza when Darshan, leaving behind her own wedding, caught up with her. “Dude,” she said, all out of breath. “What the fuck was that?”

Nicole’s stopped walking, and her lower lip started to tremble. “I’m sorry I sort of ruined your wedding,” she said. They sat down on the pavement under the arch. She grabbed Darshan’s hand. “Do you hate me?”

“My parents probably hate you, but I think they always have,” she said. “But you know ‘The Graduate’ is my favorite movie, so I’m going to think of it as an homage.”

They sat in silence for thirty seconds. Nicole sighed. “You know, the biggest regret of my summer was-”

“Having an affair with your ex? Trying to kill his fiancée before I cut the cake?”

“I wasn’t trying to kill her, just maybe harm her a little,” Nicole bit her lip and looked at her friend from the corner of her eye. Darshan smiled. “I was going to say it was that I never got the address of the dumpster pool near the Gowanus Canal.”

“Oh God, you’re right. I hope they have one next summer.”

“Yeah, but I might leave Brooklyn by then.”

“Really?” Darshan asked. “But who could live anywhere else? I went to this stoop sale last weekend for these old college friends and there were copies of books that aren’t even coming out until 2010, plus they were selling brown faux rice krispie treats and had made a limited-edition conceptual zine around the theme of sales to be sold exclusively at the sale. Like, how could you leave that?”

Nicole rested her head on her left hand. “I need to live somewhere out of my comfort zone, away from Elias and Jared and Flatbush Avenue. I need to have some time to figure out what I want, like, from life.”

“Babe, I’m going to miss you.” She hugged Nicole. “So where are you going to move?”

Nicole sat up, folded her hands in her lap, and smiled. “Manhattan,” she said.

Marisa Meltzer lives in Brooklyn. Her next book, “Girl Power,” will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February.