“Hi Andrew, are we on for this afternoon?”
Andrew frowned. It was Caroline, who, along with Rosendo, her husband, he considered his best friend, and he couldn’t remember—
“—Shit, it’s Wednesday?” Andrew looked at his watch. It was Wednesday.
“Yes dear. We’re to meet Charlene at one. She has three places for you to look at, all rentals, and not to guilt-trip you, but she doesn’t usually do rentals, she’s doing this for us. For you.”
“But if I’m no longer interested, then I’m wasting her time.”
“—Did you break up with Annie?”
“No, but she blasted my fantasy out of the water.”
“—Do you want to talk?”
“Good. We’ll have coffee, after you look at the apartments. Charlene is very low-key. You’ll be giving her feedback on what you like. This’ll be good for you Andrew, even if it’s just an exercise. Exercise is good.”
“Y ser cortes,” be polite.
In fact, one of the apartments had been rented, so they saw only two, and Charlene was low-key.
“OK, that was bearable, right?” Andrew and Caroline sat across from each other in the Village Den, the coffee shop where they knew all the waiters. Caroline sat with her back to the door and kept her fuchsia baseball cap on. In exchange for a $10, Juan put the coffee pot on the table.
“Charlene was fine, but who set the rents while I wasn’t looking?”
“The market.” Caroline poured coffee for them. “So, what happened?”
Andrew told her about Annie and her tubal ligation, some fifteen years earlier.
“Well,” said Caroline.
“What else,” said Andrew.
“Extreme, maybe. Extremely sensible. Proactive. Two girls in the company had their tubes tied, you know. If we were shocked, we were also envious.
“Abortions can be traumatic. Not to mention expensive.”
“I paid for Elena’s. It wasn’t expensive but extremely traumatic. For me. Less so for her.”
They sat still for a moment, alone within the languid afternoon activity around them.
“I’m sorry she hurt you,” said Caroline.
“I’m sorry I keep making you say that.”
Caroline shrugged. “I’ll keep saying it. But you have Warren for that. Let’s you and I move on. Or, do you want to back up? Start with the easy words of the language? When you met Annie on the plane, what did you like about her?”
Andrew brightened. “. . . Her hair. It’s still sort of blond and it’s curly, or is it wavy, anyway, it floats around her head. I hadn’t slept in Miami and then I dozed off on the plane. I woke up when this ‘sister golden-hair surprise’ asked if she could sit next to me.
“Then she put her cute little nose into her book and I pretended to read the Miami Herald, imagining how it would feel to have that hair brush against my cheek.
“ . . . She spoke to me first, while we were eating. She made me laugh. She was perfectly normal, not needy or crazy, except that she had read my book, which is not what the ordinary American does, and we had a connection, through Cucscútlan.
“And there was a sadness in her eyes, you know, about her non-husband dying in a car crash, and some other stuff about him, but let’s talk about her, this is fun . . .
“So we parted, because I was home and she had to catch a train, and I watched her go . . . striding through the crowd, perfectly OK without me . . . tall, not as tall as you but close . . . I had given her my card and told her to call me and I thought well, that was stupid, so I caught up with her and she looked like she wanted to disappear from this stalker but I asked her to have lunch, on her turf, and she said OK.
“In the cab I realized I could have just given her a ride to Penn Station, but we were both so used to being alone that I wasn’t thinking like a gentleman and she . . . it would have been like getting a gazelle into a cab, I would have spent the whole ride wanting to pat her, trying to get her to relax. This way I could just fantasize about her.”
“This is impressive, Andrew. Your memory is working fine.”
“I’m a reporter. I’m supposed to remember things. And I thought—think—about this a lot. Obsessively.”
“Speaking of which, what does Warren say?”
“Warren leaves it to me. I’m leaving it to you.”
“Does this have to be decided right away?”
Andrew winced hugely. “Why does everyone I know answer my questions with questions?”
“Because you do have to figure this out yourself. Here’s another question: Do you still want to go to Cape Cod with Annie?”
“I fought Warren for the extra week off. I have to go.”
“No, you don’t! If you’re not interested in Annie anymore, don’t go. There. I’ve made a decision for you.”
“Yes, I want to go. When I told Warren about this, I called her ‘the woman I love.’ We didn’t even talk about that. We just accepted it as a base line . . .
“But I do love kids.” Andrew looked away, then made himself look directly at Caroline, seeking her chocolate-brown eyes, shadowed by the brim of the cap.
“You’re a good tío to Luis,” she said. “And you know . . . they do mean years of full-time servitude.” Recalling this morning’s sneaker argument, Caroline thought of offering to loan Luis, but she didn’t. Luis wasn’t available, and this wasn’t a joke.
“In theory" she said, "Rosendo wanted four kids. In reality, one was enough. And, not incidentally, we were married. You’re just starting your relationship with Annie. Have you skipped the marriage part?”
“I was thinking about moving up there.”
“To the country?” Caroline, who never raised her voice, had elevated her voice.
“It’s not always the country. They have this sort of Needle Park at one end of Schuyler.”
“Wonderful. Just what you need.”
Andrew waved the thought away. “I enjoy its surreal nature. So does Annie. Totally Lake Wobegone on the surface, with this thoroughly dark underbelly.
“But to my point: Annie has a whole life there. Friends, her job, her church. Her friend is running for state Assembly.”
“You have friends here, and a job, and Warren is your church.”
“I thought of that. I’d keep the studio. But there’s a story there, Caroline.”
“So it’s not Annie.”
“Yes, it’s Annie. There’s a life.”
Copyright (c) 2014 Debby Mayer
Copyright (c) 2014 Debby Mayer