I tell my friend I am afraid of dying and she shrugs it off, says you will remember your forties as the salad days – when you were vital, strong, and young enough to wear cute shoes.
And smart enough, she says, to never wear anything with “JUICY” written across the ass.
I talk about age all the time. Throw numbers around to anyone who will listen. It seems like the only conversation I have. Like when I was in NY and the only thing anyone ever talked about was real estate, the buying and selling. On the playground, at dinner parties, in the narrow aisles of D’Agostino fussing over lemon biscuits: “Nearly two thousand square feet, but in the meatpacking district?”
Michael always threatened to build a log cabin off the grid: “For the price of a studio apartment on Third and 82nd, I could build a four-bedroom house in the Catskills.”
But this was in 1997 and who among us is still the same?
Buildings have come down and buildings have risen up and monuments and we all have adjusted our desires.
“I’ll take a no doorman building, as long as it’s pre-war.”
“I’ll go as far down as 32nd Street, but I’m not going further than that.”
Anyway, most of us are in Brooklyn now, pushing out into Red Hook.
Michael bought a condo in Harlem instead. “It was not that bad,” he says of the purchase price. “Nineteen hundred square feet, but don’t ask what I pay in taxes,” so I don’t.
Here, I bought you this pair of shoes!
Look, I got you this scarf, this vintage record player!
Here, I found this ukulele and it made me think of you!
Take this plate shaped like a cabbage leaf! This pillow shaped like a dog! This dog shaped like a dog!
The worst wedding gift we received was a china plate with glossy ceramic lemons molded on it. For a time, we gave it a place of honor, dubbed it Prince Lemon of Lemonia and later, when we exchanged it, it fetched us a handsome haul: a set of wine glasses, a tea service for six.
Anyway, my point was: I have never been above attempting to buy affection.
I keep my data in a little address book. Phone #s, birthdays, social security #s. All the passwords for all the accounts. I write down the account #s in one place (B for banking; S for shopping) and the passwords in another, to try to trick any potential robbers, but you can imagine how often I end up forgetting my own foolish logic.
My shorthand: “standard” for the six-character password I have committed to memory. “Standard plus” for that with an additional four characters that I can also remember. But there are some that I need to write out in their entirety – special characters like ! and @ and ^. Next to these, I have made notations, prompts to help me remember: “Not primary,” I have written. Or my mother’s maiden name, underlined twice. Or, I’ll have drawn an arrow pointing off the page.
We sit at the bar. Gina takes a survey on her phone. “You know how much I care about giving feedback,” she says. I drink a gin cocktail and wait, scowling.
“How often do I attend the opening of a new exhibit? Twice a month? Monthly? Every six months?”
The trouble with friends is that sometimes, you have to tell each other things that neither of you want to hear. Like that sweater is a little tight. Or you’re showing a bit of gray in your hair. Or you know that even if he goes through with this divorce, it does not mean that he will stay with you.
Thirty-nine, forty, forty-one.
Six. Sixteen (then, seventeen). Class of twenty fourteen.
Three-fifteen across the street from the school. Five forty-five at the playground. Seven fifty-five at the train station.
Eight-fifteen at the gym.
Four fifty-eight, before the alarm: Another morning, another set of hours in which to accumulate desires.
Later, we will let them fall to the floor as we shed our sweaters and we will leave them there, still buttoned, to approximate this fragile human form.