Perhaps it was seeing those books, to have had that tiny portion of her life revealed, that caused the “domestic visit” to suddenly take on an air of narrative intensity.
It brought you right back to that senior-citizen center in Gravesend, to that gruesome scene when Weiner announced his resignation a little more than two years ago. For anyone who cared even a little for Anthony Weiner and human decency in general, it was a break that Huma wasn’t standing beside him when that lunatic from The Howard Stern Show started screaming, “Senator Weiner! The people demand to know: Were you fully erect?” At the time, Huma and Weiner had been married for a year, but they’d never spent more than two weeks together at any stretch. She was pregnant with his child but couldn’t have known his secrets, not all of them.
Weiner says he wouldn’t have entered the mayor’s race unless it was okay with Huma. As it turned out, he said gleefully, “She sometimes seems more into it than me.” Scheduled to host “a ladies’ tea fund-raiser,” Huma nonetheless tried to downplay her role in the campaign. Even deciding to participate in the confessional Times Magazine story that signaled the comeback’s start had been difficult for her, she said. But then again, she added, a quick whiff of Realpolitik entering the conversation, “Well, we didn’t have much choice with that, did we?”
If it was a mystery why Huma Abedin decided Anthony Weiner was the man for her, there were clear practical reasons to stay with him. It was far more than the fact that she worked for Hillary, learned the haute Tammy Wynette drill from the best. Weiner was, after all, the father of her child. If the candidate didn’t want Jordan to grow up hearing how the naughty pictures had ended his father’s political career, why should his mother feel any differently? Then again, they could just love each other.
Across the room, checking his BlackBerry, probably thinking about whether he was going to play hockey that night, Anthony Weiner began to take on the aspect of a very lucky man. How insane, how self-destructive, must he have been to have risked losing a life with this woman? Only someone who felt down deep that he didn’t deserve such good fortune would have pulled something so twisted and dumb. But what marvelous relief it must have been to stare into Huma’s eyes and feel forgiven. You could get drunk on such forgiveness. For all the endless talk of Weiner’s narcissism, it was easy to see the mayor’s race a whole other way: He was doing it for her. If Huma was willing to forgive him, what choice would the voters have but to do likewise? The entire Anthony Weiner–for–mayor project might turn out to be a winner or a loser; it might be nothing more than a mutually-agreed-upon delusion, but the two of them were in it together. If there really was a reason to vote for Weiner, this seemed to be it.
With the campaign rolling around, the candidate was saying now that the electorate was “prepared to give me a second chance. I’ve got to prove myself.” His only misgiving was that, with the time demands of the mayoral race, he would miss the quiet days of his exile, chilling with Jordan, feeling connected to the procreative chain of being.
Weiner pondered the idea for a moment, then he shouted, “Huma? Hey, honey? Huma! Was I happy before I started running for mayor?”
There was no answer. Huma was in another room, out of earshot. Weiner repeated the question. “Huma? Honey?”
When Huma came back into the living room, she said, “Oh, God, yes. You were happy.”
“Would you say I’m less happy now that I’m running for mayor? You know, much less happy or slightly less happy?”
Huma looked at Weiner with bemusement. It was quite possible that she was the most cosmopolitan human being on Earth. Compared to her, he was an outer-borough schmoe, the guy who ran for student government at SUNY-Plattsburgh with the slogan “Weiner’s on a Roll!” The other day, to dramatize No. 12 through No. 16 of his “Keys to the City” idea book, which dealt with “hunger,” he decided to go on a “food-stamp diet,” attempting to get by on $1.48 per meal. Except Weiner had no clue how a food-stamp recipient might spend his meager funds. He led a trail of reporters to an upscale supermarket and stood in the middle of an aisle with a red plastic basket looking nonplussed. “Potatoes! They’re cheap,” he finally said and scurried off to secure a five-pound bag.