When she returned to Maryland in July 1975, my wife was cool and distant. She acted as though the fall of Saigon and the end of her ideal life as Mrs. Chief (I had been head of the covert National Security Agency [NSA] operation in Vietnam) were my fault. She’d had an ideal existence filled with shopping and tennis and diplomatic teas and coffees. Now she would have to return to the life of a housewife and homemaker.
Her message to me was clear: my health and well-being and even my love for her were matters of no concern to her. At my time of greatest need, when my physical and spiritual illnesses were at their height, she turned her back on me. The marriage was over.
The divorce proceedings didn’t occur until several years later. Just as I took the witness stand to state my grievances against my wife, a neighbor of ours appeared in the courtroom with my daughter, Sarah. Their arrival was timed to coincide with my testimony. I clammed up. I wasn’t about to bear witness to my wife’s betrayals in front of one of her children. The end result was that I lost heavily. My wife was awarded sole ownership of the family house and a hefty monthly alimony.
The end of the marriage left me a poor man. I found a place to live in the attic of a mansion in northwest Washington, D.C. The house, which overlooked Rock Creek Park, was owned by a couple who rented out rooms to single men. I was one of six living there. At the time I was on assignment at the Intelligence Budget Staff located in the New Executive Office Building next to the White House, and I was able to get to work on the metro.
My time as an intelligence budgeteer and a tenant in a joint house form the basis for my latest novel, Secretocracy, but I set the story during the Trump administration because the fate of the protagonist—attacked by the president for refusing to fund an illegal operation—so closely matched what has actually happened since Trump became president. I’ll have more to say about that book and another one due to be published in July in future blog posts.