Three or four days later, Frank walks towards Maureen’s apartment, determined to break it off with her. Frank feels up for the task. Similarly, he had felt himself up to the task of finishing the Speaking-of series that week and turning it in to Bart Pollock. Pollock told Frank that his new division was coming together, and he wanted to talk to Frank about salary. Frank had felt confident during the interaction, not thinking about what his father or April would think of his salary negotiation. Pollock gives him a $3,000 raise, which Frank thinks will cover his wife’s bills with a psychiatrist. Pollock tells Frank that the coming Monday they will have a conference with other members of the new division to discuss the upcoming work.
Frank is filled with a new confidence. He is (for the moment at least) able to set aside the emotional ties that caused him to feel insufficiently manly in the past. He feels his father would be proud of him and that he no longer needs to rebel against him by pretending to be exceptional. He feels April’s unhappiness is her problem and that he should be able to do as he pleases without regard to her. He feels he is fulfilling his responsibilities to her by promising to pay for her treatment, and even feels that he no longer needs the crutch of an affair with Maureen.
Now, Frank feels he needs to sort out his personal life. April has taken to sleeping on the couch again, saying she hasn’t been sleeping well. In earlier times, this would have filled Frank with anguish, but now he congratulates himself on not being upset by it at all. He feels that he and April have been through a great deal, and he can now see that their problems are separate. It makes sense to him that this would be hard on her. He anticipates bringing her to see a psychiatrist soon, imagining that the psychiatrist will be an academic Viennese man who confirms Frank’s opinion of April’s difficulties. Frank thinks about what he will say to Maureen, promising himself he won’t apologize to her for anything. Too much of his life, he feels, has been wasted apologizing.
Frank feels less and less responsible for April’s unhappiness, now that he has written it off as the result of a mental illness caused by her childhood. Frank’s idea of a psychiatrist is someone who reinforces his own ideas about how his wife should live. Part of his confidence in being blameless towards April carries over to how he feels about Maureen. He thinks that if he avoids apologizing, he will be able to retain the confidence in his own masculinity that the affair brought to his life.
As Frank approaches Maureen’s apartment, he is stopped by a woman carrying a suitcase. It is Norma, Maureen’s roommate, who is on her way out of town and asks to speak to Frank. Unwillingly, he follows her into a café, critiquing her appearance in his mind. Norma tells him that Maureen had planned to come on vacation with her, but backed out. Norma is annoyed, but also concerned. Maureen, she says, has been through a lot and needs guidance, not a pointless affair with a married man whom she thinks is in love with her. Norma asks Frank if he is in love with Maureen and Frank says that this is none of her business. Norma says she thinks Frank is probably a nice man with a nice wife and kids in the suburbs who probably made a mistake by starting an affair with Maureen. He denies this characterization, and says he thinks that Norma is a meddling pain in the ass and “possibly a latent lesbian.” He leaves the café quickly. He thinks he will guffaw, but instead he feels like he can’t breathe.
Frank has given little consideration to Maureen as a person, and instead used her for the way she makes him feel: like a man. He feels he doesn’t need her anymore, so he plans to dump her. Similarly, by considering Norma’s body and appearance, he is objectifying her and defending himself from what she might say by trying to think of her as less of a real person and more of a body meant to please him or not. However, Norma thrusts the reality of Maureen’s thoughts and feelings into Frank’s view. She also shows him all that he has led Maureen to believe about how he feels for her. He is particularly put off by being told about all this by a confident woman, because he himself has always been able to use Maureen’s lack of confidence to his advantage. He is also particularly stung by Norma’s characterization of himself as a nice, normal man from the suburbs, since he has always wanted to see himself as out-of-the-ordinary. When he lashes out at Norma by calling her a lesbian, he is suggesting that a woman standing up to a man for another woman is inherently abnormal. (During the 1950s, homosexuality was considered a mental illness.) But, as is obvious by his inability to laugh at his interaction with Norma, Frank feels shaken by their encounter. He no longer feels like a strong confident man as he goes into the interaction with Maureen.
Frank rings the bell and Maureen lets him in. She asks if he is alone, then emerges from her bedroom, naked and dancing. He struggles to escape her embrace, then finally says they need to talk. The rest of the conversation occurs in a haze for Frank. Maureen quickly puts on a robe, then asks how she is supposed to feel about the position he’s put her in. He apologizes over and over. On the train afterward, he continues to think about how to convince her not to be upset. Through Saturday and until Sunday Frank thinks about Maureen, when suddenly it comes to him: he can forget the entire incident and put it out of his head. He recalls the $3,000 raise and looks forward to the conference with Pollock the next day.
Maureen is trying to overcome her self-consciousness by forcing herself to do what she thinks a sexy, vivacious young woman having an affair would do. Frank dashes these hopes for her, but he also leaves the interaction feeling like he has lost the extra confidence in his masculinity that he gained from their affair. He returns to his newfound sense of indifference to women’s feelings, however. After thinking guiltily about his interaction with Maureen for a day, he decides to draw confidence from his upcoming new job and forget about Maureen’s feelings.
Feeling better, Frank decides he will also talk to April that night about why she has been sleeping on the sofa. He plans to say to her that it’s been a crazy summer, and he knows she may feel lonely and confused. Frank takes a long shower and spends a long time dressing and looking in the mirror. He goes to the kitchen, where he notices that April is wearing a maternity dress for the first time. He asks where the kids are, and she says they are at the Campbells’. Frank begins to launch into the speech he had been preparing, saying that it has been a crazy summer, but April cuts him off. She says that she doesn’t feel like talking about why she isn’t sleeping with him.
Frank talks down to April, as he would to an emotionally disturbed person. But April does not want to be condescended to by Frank. She does not tell him, but she may be sleeping on the couch after the unsettling emotional reaction she had to sleeping with Shep Campbell, and how little it offered her as an escape from her unhappiness with her life. Frank has forced her to have his child, but she is not willing to pretend to be happy to make him feel good.
Frank presses April to talk, and she says she is not sleeping in bed with him because she doesn’t love him. Frank refuses to take this seriously, saying he wonders if her behavior has something to do with the fact that she will start psychoanalysis soon. April says she doesn’t care how he justifies her behavior to himself. Frank says he has also acted neurotically lately. He tells April about Maureen, describing her as a girl he hardly knew with whom he had an affair after feeling his masculinity threatened by April’s desire to have an abortion. April asks if he told her about the affair because he thinks it will make her jealous or fall in love with him. She says that she figured out this week that she doesn’t love him and never has. Then she goes into the living room. Frank suddenly realizes that this Sunday the Givingses will be visiting. Realizing there is not much time before they arrive, he follows April into the living room, yelling that she loves him.
When April tells Frank she doesn’t love him, he tries several tactics to keep from believing she is serious. First, he tries to talk down to her as if she is emotionally disturbed and acting out. Second, he tries to make her jealous, by telling her about his affair with Maureen. He expects that she will feel possessive, but instead she is scornful of him for thinking the affair will upset her. April’s indifference to the news of Frank’s cheating shatters Frank’s new sense of detachment and independence. All at once, he feels a desperate need to get April to engage with him. The visit from the Givingses could not come at a worse moment.