But her slip distracts me the rest of the day. Not declaring a spousal deduction on his W-4 actually has a fairly straightforward explanation; Murph could simply want more withheld from his taxes. I keep thinking about the HR forms I’d just completed, trying to remember any places where marital status was required or requested. Health and life insurance — you can decline those benefits if you demonstrate coverage on your spouse’s plan. Can’t recall any other, but I was half-way through the stack when I asked Lenora about Murph’s wife. Could have been a check box I selected without giving it much thought. But even if you don’t have to officially declare marital status, HR would still have reasons for wanting to know. Mailing list for those tacky cards the company sends in December, invitations to company picnics and dinners. In any event, Lenora’s guilty expression suggested she knew Murph was single.
I then try to square this accidental revelation with the conversations I had with Murph over the past half year, since I began playing chess with him. A summer weekend getaway with Steph; the following week he talked about their different tastes in wine. And in the fall, her parents had flown in to visit for a week. Maybe they weren’t married, just lived together. That might explain why he never mentioned kids, or even whether he and Steph wanted to be parents. Murph rarely provided any details about his personal life. Guarded — that was the word I’d been searching for in my talk with Lenora. Murph guarded his privacy like a chess piece he felt he couldn’t afford to lose.
Thinking through my conversations with Murph begins to get mentally draining, so when I see the deadline approaching for my report I enthusiastically dig into the project, like an ambitious graduate student. I submit the report two minutes before the review meeting, which of course gets rescheduled the moment I hit Send. Darci sends a text a little while later, saying she’ll be back for dinner tonight; I don’t give Murph any further thought that day.