• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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How I Wish, How I Wish You Were Here

Grand Central Station. 8:20 p.m. Downstairs where commuters grab a quick bite. A woman in her sixties or so has Parkinson’s or a similar disease. Her hands and body are shaking uncontrollably. It’s painful to see. The man beside her, her husband I’m guessing, holds a bottle of juice to her mouth and she drinks. More? Yes, and again he holds the bottle to her mouth. When she is finished, he holds her hand and for a time the shaking eases. Then it starts up again and their hands shake together as one.

Does it matter what I’m thinking? How incredibly lonely I feel tonight. The train carries all of us into our small towns and cities, into regret-filled nights, into our unmade beds, and restless sleep. The lights are all on. The world is on fire. A small worm turns in the bottom of my coffee cup. I think of them, the man and the woman. Imagine them young, on honeymoon, on a train to Atlantic City or Philadelphia. He lights her cigarette and she takes a long, satisfied pull. She walks ahead of him and he admires her small waist, the way her hips stir her skirt. He is gentle; she is abrupt. He is careful. She takes off her shoes. Am I staring? Am I lost?

Tell me what you saw today, one thing.

46 Responses

  1. I saw a boy hustling to his car for me so he could pull out and leave the spot for me. He didn’t know I spent half an hour last week looking for a spot and that it made me late for class. It made me think: so, humanity might have some kindness left after all.

  2. I was driving to the library in the rain. As I neared it, I noticed the guy who owns the old, primer gray and blue VW bug that’s always parked across the street. He was washing the car, using the rain to rinse it.

  3. today I was pulling my 2-year old son onto the bench where I was sitting and heaved him a little too hard. he hit his nose which started a nose bleed that ran across his upper lip, soaked his teeth, and stained his shirt.

    his eyes filled with tears and he looked at me as if i were mad. as if i had meant to give him a bloody nose. he looked at me with a face that i suddenly recognized as my very own. i steadied myself on one knee, doing my best to stop the blood all the while trying to hold onto this moment looking at him and seeing myself at an age before the world was full things that I will never understand.

    my son is named after my father who drowned when i was three. i look like my dad. my son looks like me. today, when i looked at my son and saw myself, i wondered if my dad had ever looked at me and thought the same.

  4. Three wild turkeys walking in the woods and rootling for fallen nuts, up the hill behind the house where we buried Lester, who was a very good dog.

  5. Every morning she walks past his office on her way to the coffee machine and everytime she cringes right before, her heart skipping a beat. One day before lunch, she overheard the sales guy telling him: “Do you ever see what they eat, every single day, these large bags from Wendy’s, i mean what are they thinking? Melissa’s a good kid who got a raw deal”. He did not answer or even acknowledge the remark.  If only he could not see or look at her butt as she passes but only her face, her translucent blue eyes, so easy to get lost into. What is it anyway with men and asses?
    He is always so nice to her, jokes around, flirts almost, makes her laugh and forget all about her weight and then she feels so light, floating almost. She looks at his eyes as he’s making small talk and right then and there she so wants to be held, swept away in an embrace. 

  6. My nine year old daughter’s ponytail bounces in a slick black line. She dances into the building wearing a Frida Kahlo screen tee over a knife pleated cheerleader skirt. Unadulterated cool.

  7. Fight with the bipolar husband over whether there’s such a thing as “right” or “wrong”. He wants to know if it would be okay to find a girl to invite back to our place for “fun.”

    What kind of girl would come back to a married man’s pad for this sort of “fun”, I ask. “The kind who’s come back with me before,” he says. And then I discover that it wasn’t just one who came back that time he cheated on me, but two. Tipsy and flirty and full of all sorts of fun. “How is it wrong if it makes me happy?” he wants to know, which is a hard question, really, if you can’t answer “Because God says so.” After all, isn’t life about being happy? So we fight, and eventually he says, “Now, if it makes YOU unhappy, THEN I’ll forgo this kind of happiness.” So I tell him yes, it does.

    Am I wrong to be angry still? Am I a prude for denying it? Is it a bipolar thing, just men, just my man, or bipolar men? Do I care what it is if I already know it is?

    • Bipolar is not an excuse for that kind of behaviour.

    • You’re not wrong to be angry. You’re not prude for asking your husband to be faithful (emotionally, physically, in every way). It is not a bipolar thing. It is way, way out of line, for sure.

    • He’s being a jerk. It’s wrong to be a jerk. We’re all us of jerks from time to time, and when we realize or have it pointed out to us that we’ve done something jerky, we apologize and endeavor not to do it again. At least that’s what adults do. And we don’t go around making excuses for it.

      Life’s hard. Everybody knows this. No point in making it harder by being a fool. When that fellow you married signed on to be your husband, he entered into a contractual relationship to behave in certain ways and treat you in certain ways. Husband isn’t just a noun, it’s also a verb. A verb of considerate care and foresight.

      It’s easy to spew advice early in the morning from afar. But I wrecked every relationship I was in, through shortsighted careless inconsideration, before I was lucky enough to get into the one I’m in now, and sensible enough to cherish it. What crop does your husband expect to reap from the seeds he’s sowing now? How alone does he want to be when he’s an old man and will have no one to blame but himself?

    • No, it ain’t okay what he proposed. It ain’t yours to put up with. The man needs his meds adjusted…or adjust your man out the door. Let him fool around as someone else’s problem. Life’s too short.

  8. It was drizzling and overcast when I got up this morning. I opened the window of my upstairs bedroom and looked down to the patch of trees along the fence. There was a little rabbit making his way through the bramble, totally oblivious to the fact that I was watching him from above. I couldn’t help but smile at this sweet little creature as he hopped along.

  9. My sixteen-year-old drew curlicues at the corners of her eyes this morning. She wore a striped sock on one arm and a fishnet glove on the other.

    I caught her as she was leaving for school and gave her a huge snuggle. The warmth and weight of her is so satisfying. But it was time for her to go, so I snuffled in the downy hair behind her ear until she tucked her shoulder up and ran away. She waved at me from the street.

  10. An envelope from Arkansas and in it a glossy black and white photo, clearly a cheap drugstore print. Portrait of a laughing dark haired chubby girl in a party dress. A happy girl of four. “This is how I want to remember her,” my aunt wrote.

    All I could do was say my sister’s name aloud in my living room miserable and blaming and angry at her carelessness. She’s dead. Overdosed on grifted emergency room opiates in a motel room outside Tulsa with some bad ass drinking buddy and I’m in LA with one less reason to trust anybody.

    He saw her die and I’ve got some pictures.

    • I’m so, so sorry CJ. Hope you have some good friends out there to take care of you.

      • Happened several years ago but I am just now getting the facts and some pictures from my fractured remain gin family. And I do have good friends. Thank you.

      • Happened several years ago but I am just now getting the facts and some pictures from my fractured family. And I do have good friends. Thank you.

  11. Waiting in line for financial aid, witnessed a joke between a signing student and deaf student. Rapid signing I couldn’t follow commenced, and the two laughed, the deaf student too loud for the impatient students.

    During the long wait, witnessed the uncomfortable line stop glaring at the pair for the laughter as they witnessed the emphatic hand motions. Watching people let go of their stereotypes and form their own opinions is always uplifting.

    I have no idea what they were saying, but it made my day, all the same.

  12. I saw the most miserable thing in the mirror.

  13. I’m not even going to try. Not after that post. The world is on fire, indeed.

  14. Trains sound louder in the fog.

  15. “Tell me what you saw today, one thing.”

    It’s still early where I’m at, and your post was dated yesterday, so I will tell you one thing I saw yesterday.

    I spent most of the day in bed, recovering from a head cold. My bedroom has two south-facing transom windows. When the sun was at a certain point in the sky about the middle of the day, I realized that the three good-sized smudges on the right-hand window were the marks from where pigeons had smacked into the glass. One smudge included a clearly-defined wing pattern (right wing). A second included the leading edges of both wings and the profile of the head, including the beak. The third was less clearly defined, but like the other two, it included one big smudge from where the body had hit.

  16. I clutched my chest in awe after reading this. Then I had to read it aloud. This is what I love about being a writer: capturing a moment, cherishing it, turning it, bringing it to life. Wow, I loved that.

  17. I was painting stripes in the hallway of a friend’s house, then stenciling a griffin on the wall of her son’s room, covering the wings with gold leaf, the excess foil floating down to his carpet in glittery nuggets. I was hoping to see the ghost. My friend has a ghost who has touched her husband’s back and who turns the lights on and off. I looked casually in mirrors thinking I’d see some weird shadow play or some unexplained motion. I looked behind me suddenly, trying to startle it. I conjured the ghost in my thoughts and even spoke aloud to it, telling it that they weren’t moving; they were staying, so don’t get all agitated about the renovations.

    But the only thing I saw all day was paint.

  18. I’m in the kitchen getting my coffee before I leave for work, it’s early, gloomy outside, rainy, my wife comes downstairs to get breakfast ready. She looks tired, worn, sleepy. I fell in love the first time I saw her when we were thirteen. Now we’re forty nine, her hair is not the gentle blonde it used to be, we’re both a little heavier, a few more wrinkles, lines, spots. I take her in my arms and hug her tight, smell her hair, we hang on for a long time, not saying anything, Our fourteen year old son ambles into the kitchen, walks right by us to get some juice. Another kid thunders down the stairs, while another asks where her socks are. Then it’s time to go.

  19. knees scissoring. the bicyclists whizz through the morning haze, in fluorescent jackets of green and blue, their headlights jerking and flashing with effort. beneath a broken blue sky.

  20. I see my husband 2000 miles in Los Angeles on SKYPE from my vantage point in Birmingham. We have switched weathers. For the last seven weeks it has been in the 90s and 100s and it has broken my spirit. I want a trowel to shovel out the sadness in my head cooked up by sizzling humidity and distance. But it’s cool here now with even a touch of fall in the air. I live here with our daughter, age 11, and he is there in LA with our son, a new college graduate who is trying to find his way in the film world and doing well. Our other child loves her college in New York. My husband is a teacher in LA and has been for 23 years, and we’re trying not to wreck his retirement. I took this tenure track job at a university teaching creative writing to fend off college debt of our kids (ha!) and I find myself buying heavy things to anchor myself here. A used piano for our youngest daughter who is a pianist, a washer and dryer because I can no longer bear the laundromat wedged between the Mexican buffet style restaurant and the Starz Karaoke Lounge on Valley Blvd. I did the laundromat for a year – I was here myself last year, and now I’m here with my daughter. She’s pure love and laziness in the morning. She moved 2000 miles away and is embracing this new adventure and loving her teachers and new friends. I look at my husband’s kind and loving face on SKYPE, telling me we can do this – it will all work out – and I wonder how long I can bear it. I look at the too tall flowers in the vase and Gee’s Bend quilt on the wall, the Turkish rug on the floor, the inherited wingbacked chairs from another poet/professor who has left for another job, the red table I bought and painted red from ‘Mission Possible’ for ten dollars. Now matter what I do I don’t know how to make it home here…

  21. I saw a blog post that made me realize I’d spent most of the day walking around not looking.

    Awesome writing.

  22. Took my little buddy, an eleven year old Bichon Frise, for his daily walk at our usual time just after five a.m. The weather finally broke yesterday and the air was crisp and free of the summer’s humidity that would hit me like a wet towel in the face each morning. Sauna hot. So that by the end of the walk twenty some odd minutes later my tee is soaked with sweat. But this morning I slipped on a sweat shirt over my tee. Still in shorts and sandals, though, we walked. Made the circuit around the neighborhood with the lights of the odd car leaving for work spiking the darkness and passing me by. This day, at the end of a block, bright lights and the hum of a truck’s engine idling at the curb. I know what it is–an HL&P truck putting up an out of commission electrical transformer. Two nights before, following a rowdy thunderstorm, our transformer bit the dust, the workers laboring in the early morning hours just the same way, their truck at our curb as I left to walk the dog. Your turn tonight, I say to the block and finish my walk.

  23. What a gorgeous post.

    I saw way too much of my iPhone screen, but I recall looking up yesterday from my book and lunch at a counter in Chelsea Market as it struck me suddenly that I shouldn’t sit in a room where I had no idea what my surroundings were because I was so so absorbed in my page or my screen. So I saw wooden crates, antique or antiqued, stacked up under the ceiling, and my fellow lunchers, all male business guys earnestly discussing something and talking loudly over one another, and enlarged photographs of not-very-appetizing-looking egg dishes on the back wall, and the hesitant way that thin young women approach the counter, as if they need permission to place a lunch order.

  24. I know you are in love with the screen, but once again: Please write a novel. Please.

  25. Rain that sounded like wind against the window.

  26. Her: Pulling her hair up, letting it down. Up, then down. Again and again. Small eyes, heavy blue eyeliner, fleece vest. Cutting those small eyes at the man next to her, then back out the window. Him: Green sweatshirt, hood half up, both hands in the big front pocket. Smudges of facial hair. Eyes down, around — never at her.

    They decided to come to the court-required class for divorcing parents together. Their anger was the brightest thing in the whole room.

  27. I saw a man at the bus stop. He kept trying to talk to me, to ask me about my netbook, but he seemed to have a speech impediment or a deep slur. He became very frustrated that I couldn’t understand his questions. I thought about a colleague on a construction site, who recently had the back of his neck sliced open by a transient with a box cutter; so I’m freshly nervous and slightly racist for examining the man beside me out of the corner of my eye. He was old, but cleanly dressed. We both had stuff with us: my lunches for the work week and my backup running over, his plastic bags of assorted items. As I sipped my coffee and folded up my netbook, he screwed open an airline-sized bottle of Jim Bean and gulped it down. He threw the bottle over his shoulder as the bus pulled up. We got on the bus together. I let him go first so I could sit at the back. I went back to editing while he sat near the driver, singing a song I didn’t know and tapping his foot to the tune in his head.

  28. (last night technically)

    A man holding the elevator door for me who I thought for a split second was a handsome stranger before I looked up and realized that he was the person I’d come there to meet. The meeting was planned but seeing him in the elevator unexpectedly like that still felt strangely serendipitous.

  29. It was a solitary day. My fingers rested on the keyboard, waiting for the rush that never came. I closed my eyes and watched the bits of matter exploding, dancing across the inside of my eye lids. Darkness interrupted by azure blue, here, there. Fascinating nothingness. But still no rush for my fingertips. Maybe tomorrow.

  30. I saw my step-daughter-in-law, who is older than I am, unburdening an apple tree of its once-in-a-decade harvest. She did it for me, because I cannot.

  31. I saw one word on a sign and realized it was a better word than something I’d just written, so when I got home I used that word.

  32. Didn’t really see it, but heard a mouse in the closet near my side of the bed at 3AM. I banged on the wall, got up, shuffled clothes around, let the flashlight beam search around and went back to bed. Couldn’t sleep. What I saw inside my head: Every night at 3AM the mice came and nibbled on my child’s face. There were hundreds of them and the floor looked like waves of gray mouse and I finally got fed up and blasted a bunch of them with a shotgun. Scared them away, but also blew a hole in ther floor and all the mice fell into the apartment below, which made the cats who lived there very happy. The old woman who lived there set up a tower of furniture so she could climb up and peer into our bedroom from time to time.
    I had a hard time falling asleep with all that I “saw” and I think it came from watching “Lady and the Tramp” with my four year old before her bedtime.

    • Could you get an actual cat? I have a few, and as well-fed as they are, they still love to catch mice. Sometimes they even eat them.

      Other times, they only eat part of them….

  33. Sunlight slanting through golden falling leaves.

    Brilliant blue skies that light my eyes.

    Sweet breezes tantalizing the cool, damp air of autumn.

    And I sigh, glad to be alive.

  34. I saw a site by a woman named Betsy Lerner–and rejoiced! Thank you!

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