At a restaurant, Frank orders drink after drink, then calls Maureen’s boss and tells her that he will need Maureen’s help for the rest of the afternoon. Maureen tells him about herself. She is twenty-two, from a small town upstate, and was briefly married when she was eighteen. She lives with a roommate named Norma. Frank gets the sense that Maureen copies many of her mannerisms from Norma, who is older and twice-divorced. He thinks that she probably sees Norma as her mentor in how to live a fun, sexy life in New York City. Maureen gets drunk, and Frank orders some food. Then, while Maureen eats, Frank delivers a charming and eloquent speech about himself, portraying himself as “decent but disillusioned” and “sadly and bravely at war with his environment.” He can tell that Maureen is captivated.
Unlike April, Maureen seems to try to fit into a specific mold that society has envisioned for women. She tries hard to cultivate herself as a sexy, young, independent woman in the city and models herself on her roommate. Frank sees that he can easily take advantage of Maureen’s desire to be desired and her lack of a clear sense of who she is. Frank gives Maureen the sense that he is much more confident about his own identity and place in the world: he portrays himself as an exceptional man trapped in an unexceptional life.
After lunch, Frank and Maureen walk through the streets. Frank worries he will see one of April’s old friends, but before he knows it, Maureen has invited him up for a drink in her apartment. They have sex, and Frank feels an overwhelming sense that he is getting exactly what he needs. Afterwards, neither of them can think of what to say. Maureen cannot decide whether to put her clothes back on, and wonders what Norma will think. Frank cannot decide what to say to Maureen, but finally only says “you were swell” and kisses her goodnight. Frank feels jubilant. Leaving Maureen’s apartment and making his way to the train station, he breaks into a run. On the train he stands between the cars, smoking and feeling like a man.
For Frank, the ease with which he has seduced Maureen is an intoxicating boost to his ego. He feels that this proves that he is attractive, strong, and interesting. At the same time, Maureen is also trying to prove something to herself about herself through her affair with Frank. When she hesitates about whether to put her clothes back on, it is clear that she is not acting spontaneously or passionately, but self-consciously cultivating her image.
As Frank pulls his car up to this house that evening, April comes outside dressed in a cocktail dress. She grabs hold of his arm and apologizes, saying how much she missed him all day. Frank is stunned. He is overwhelmed by his emotions, but he notices that there is something false about the way April is speaking that reminds him of Maureen Grube’s affect. April has prepared a beautiful birthday dinner, and his children sing Happy Birthday to him.
Frank feels suspicious that April is feigning this total change of heart, since she seems to be acting more like the stereotype of a woman than she usually does—particularly in cooking the elaborate meal for him, dressing beautifully, and in the solicitous way she speaks to him. Frank feels so guilty for having cheated on April, though, that he can hardly process what her change of attitude means.