Thanksgiving week of 1997 I was a couple weeks short of thirty-three, technically unemployed, eleven months sober and had been recently served with divorce papers.
I had finally made it out of my week-to-week furnished studio hovel and into a two-bedroom apartment. Each morning I sat in my bay window with a view of the State House in the distance, watching the sunrise over Boston. On Friday nights, my three-year-old daughter, Grace, and one-year-old son, James, came over. James always ended up in bed with me, his head nuzzled into my neck, while his sister slept in the bunk beds across the hall.
While still in my twenties, I had tasted the fast lane. I managed to sneak my way into a senior job at a major media company by wearing impeccable blue suits, white shirts and black polished shoes, by speaking only when spoken to, and by keeping cool under the pressure of large and vexing financial transactions. I took the company public after decades of near-obsessive privacy, only to play a pivotal role in selling it for billions of dollars ninety days later. I went ahead despite the cries of outrage by the community, who saw the initial public offering (IPO) and quick sale as the abandonment of a public trust. My crowning achievement, being quoted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, was crushed a few days later.
It was a Saturday, and I was hungover from our closing dinner—barely able to open my eyes as I tried in vain to watch the kids. I fell back asleep on the couch in our family room. My wife Erin was tired of my shit. The sale of my company had finally been announced; I may have been king of the financial world, but to her it was time for me to start acting like a father. She flew upstairs and rifled through my bag from my overnight stay after the dinner. Finding a package of contraceptives inside, she came downstairs to confront me.
"I know you're having an affair. Why don't you just admit it?"