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Who Is Su

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“ ’Cause I won’t speak up for myself,” said Su.

Kassidy was addressing her mother. “I mean, I understand that you don’t know anything else, but I also—like, a lot of people right out of college don’t know how to pay their own cell-phone bill or what to do with insurance—”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t know the first thing about it,” Su said. “How do you have your own health insurance?” She paused. “I’m saying this out loud, and I’m like, Wow, Su, you could really learn to do that.”

“Also, again,” Kassidy continued, “this is not meaning to be mean to you, Mommy, but there is a certain amount of comfort in every day, not necessarily when he hurts you or yells at you, but comfort in the fact that you will have health insurance—”

“Right,” said Su.

“—And you don’t have to go into the day worrying you won’t have this.”

“No, it’s true,” Su agreed. “It’s harder on those days. Bad days.”

“Yeah,” Kassidy said, looking down again. “Of course it is.”

Earlier, in the context of discussing her pregnancy with Kassidy, Su told me, “I basically did what I was told, and when I was asked ‘Was that good?,’ you just said yes.” In her book, she described being “baffled” and uncomfortable by sex. I felt awkward broaching this in front of her children, but I told her I’d found it troubling.

“It is,” she replied evenly. “It is. And I know that.”

After the Post article was published, many traumatic-brain-injury sufferers contacted her to relay their experiences. A lot of them wrote to say Jim was a saint to have stayed with her. “Nobody’s a saint,” Su told me. Through Facebook she’d become friends with a woman from Minnesota who’d suffered a brain injury in a car crash and whose marriage fell apart because of it. “I don’t know how you’ve done it,” she told Su.

“Well, I haven’t done it well,” Su told me. “I haven’t done it.” She has empathy for Jim. “You don’t expect when you marry someone that you’re going to have to teach them how to read. There’s no good guy and bad guy in this.”

“Not to defend his actions,” Benjamin added, “but he’s said that when you had your head injury, the woman he fell in love with—”

“She died,” Su said.

“—She died,” Benjamin said.

Recently, I connected with Jim Meck. He was speaking on the phone from the studio cottage connected to the back of their house, where he telecommutes as a systems engineer for a Boston-based nonprofit, advising various government agencies on cybersecurity. The job is a departure from the software writing and sales he was once involved in. Despite a pay cut, he no longer travels much; he called the situation “fairly awesome.” Over three long conversations, he came across as cheerful, intelligent, surprisingly open, and, occasionally, contradictory.

He was born and raised in Akron; like Su, he was the son of an engineer father and stay-at-home mother. Until midway through his college career, he had wanted to become a Methodist minister. His goal had always been “the suburban dream.”

At college, he and Su had much in common: Both were Achievement Scholars, both were in the symphonic ensemble, and, when they met, both were already in relationships. Very late one night after a party at Jim’s fraternity house, not long after their first kiss, Su eagerly followed him upstairs and then climbed immediately into his loft bed ahead of him. “In my mind, it had never worked so well,” he recalled. Years later, Jim found out that until that night Su had only had sex with her longtime boyfriend, and a friend had demanded of her, in the form of a bet, that she sleep with at least one other person her first semester. “She was this Main Line Philadelphia wild child,” he told me, “and I was this two-generation-removed cow farmer with a flannel shirt and jeans. I thought I was walking off the football field with the head cheerleader.”

The Su Jim described falling in love with was as unrecognizable as an alien. In high school, on a dare, she’d torn off her principal’s toupee. She’d spent time in “kiddie prison” for drugs, he said. She’d sustained a laceration on her stomach during an attempted stabbing under a boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, lying to her mother that it had been caused by a shell. In college, Jim was working late one night, alone in a lab, when she abruptly showed up “coked out of her mind,” then “tossed me on the ground and we fucked like crazed weasels.” She was, he said, “way the blank out there, my friend.”


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