• 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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IT’s Better When SOmething Is Wrong

TOday on the subway platform, I saw an attractive couple, young, crisp in their white polo shirts. She was slightly aloof, he was trying very hard to make her smile. He would touch her arm to no effect. He’d peck her cheek. He’d peck again. She’d pull away. Then it became clear there was something wrong. I couldn’t hear what they were saying until he raised his voice and I heard him say, “I’ll try harder, I will.” She looked away. Oh, baby, don’t go there. He pulled her to him and kissed her head, then her neck, and again she shook him off. Then, she took out the heavy artillery and wiped a tear away.

I positioned myself to follow them into the same subway car when it came. We all got seats; I was caddy corner to them. Now, all of a sudden she’s smiling. What did I miss? He’s playing fingy wingy with her long, tan fingers. Somewhere along the way they clearly made up. Now, he is kissing her hand. Her hand! He holds it like a small, grey mouse. He looks happy. She’s talking and laughing. I feel much better.

What is wrong with me and do you understand?

34 Responses

  1. I understand completely. I saw two kids walking on Kingsway the other day, outside McDonald’s. It was windy and she was wearing short sleeves. He put and arm around her for just a second and I realized they were not a couple. Just friends. And I wanted to shout out the car window “He likes you as more than a friend! And he’s cute!”. Because love makes the world go around I guess.

  2. That girl’s a sellout. She coulda got him to clean her kitchen or something before allowing him forgiveness. Oh, wait, maybe something is wrong with me.

  3. Oh my god. I totally understand.

  4. You would sell your only child for a story. Okay, you wouldn’t, but that craving for story is there.

  5. Then, she took out the heavy artillery and wiped a tear away… love it.

    A corporate trainer picked me out of the audience and announced to everyone that I was the one to watch out for, that I had already noticed the piece of lint on her skirt, figured out what kind of coffee everyone drank, heard all the rumors, and had intuited the general direction of the group while everyone was saying hi. I was the one they wouldn’t see coming. She was so right about the observations, so wrong about the motive. I wasn’t looking for throats. I was looking for raw material.

  6. Tonight instead of walking the track like I usually do when I drop my boy off for soccer, I zoomed off to a wine bar several miles into one of those planned community suburb places with Disneyesque names and streetlamps.

    All I wanted was some innocuous people-watching. A nice pinot noir and a plate of cheese and crackers, but it was live music night, so along with my soccer mom snack, there was the bonus of two 50ish men with guitars and the whole early 70s repertoire. The Jim Croce, the CCR, the Neil Young. A couple Dylan tunes. Lionel Richie’s Stuck on You, for fuck’s sake.

    Right from the get-go, one of the musicians flirted openly with me. He dedicated “Hey There Little Red Riding Hood” to me while I was stuffing crackers and salami in my mouth at warp speed. It was quite disturbing. I’m the fucking voyeur! I’m not one of the characters! I didn’t want to be distracted from observing the egg-shaped woman who fell on her ass while twisting to “Bad Moon Rising” in flip flops, but there I was, trying to be polite. The frozen smile-nod and clap-clap-clap to “Norwegian Wood.”

    Yes. Yes, I do know what you mean. I crave the role of invisible story seeker. That’s who I am.

  7. Your fascination? Yes, I understand. What happened between them? No, I don’t, but so it goes with so many couples that I observe from afar.

  8. I had a similar experience over the course of several months — also on the subway, but in D.C. For months the young couple were in a bubble of bliss and happiness, then one day it was absolutely over. They walked together but there was no physical or emotional contact. (Eye avoidance.) Eventually I didn’t see them any more. This was years ago, but I still wonder what happened.

    Actually, there are many strangers I still wonder about. I’ve written fiction about some of them. Should I feel guilty? (ha ha, trick question!)

  9. They are everywhere: the little girl walking with the middle aged man, he’s holding her hand, she’s rigid, he’s on alert, she’s been abducted. The young couple, together in different worlds, she’s cheated, he plotting murder, of the other guy. The old woman, explaining to the old man, where they are, where they’re going; she smiles when he doesn’t understand, but cries in bed at night because the mind of the man she’s been married to for fifty years is gone.
    When I am a winter passenger and stare out the window, no leaves on the trees allows me to skirt the naked ground for dead bodies. Is that a body floating in the water? Is a dead baby in that garbage bag on the side of the road? Is that a fucking check in the mail? I understand.

  10. once i drove more than 20 minutes out of my way b/c he couple in the car in front of me were obviously fighting. arms were flailing like those blow-up statues in front of used car lots and the brake lights kept coming on when there was no need to stop.

    i wasn’t trying to watch a reality show; i wanted them to stop fighting.

    i blame my mom’s clinical depression and my need for her to, “…just be happy.”

  11. Conflict makes a story . . . but do we write to describe it or resolve it? Or both?

    And is it a choice or an unconscious coping mechanism?

  12. We are voyeuers and voyageurs, looking in every window, taking every trip, and on some days, they are our own.

  13. There is nothing wrong with you… the Wiki has a tidbit on this behavior with a reference directly to writers…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_watching

    We writers/authors and our sneaky observations of others in conflict are expected to do this apparently, more so than others.

  14. Do I understand? Yes, it is what I live for so, of course, there is nothing wrong with you! It is everything right about you and you’ve written a wonderful post for us to ponder and enjoy the thought of today. Perhaps this delicious snippet (I love “playing fingy wingy”) will find a place in some WIP of yours.

  15. My fourth grade hero, Harriet The Spy, did this all the time. It’s what we do…

  16. I don’t understand and yet I’ve done the same. Sometimes I get lost in a scenario in my head and I block out everything else. I just want to be alone with what I’m creating. It’s selfish and not conductive to good communication, but it’s something I can’t/won’t change.

  17. Others have said it above already but I’ll chime in in agreement: you are a writer. There is something creepy about us. So be it. We like to watch. Then we like to write about it.

    (Ooo, innocent bystander, do not touch! It’s a writer and it’s icky. You might get some on your mouse-like hand or your crisp white polo shirt and you will never get out the stain.)

  18. It’s not you. It’s the power of the subway.

  19. How touching. Such simpering fauning screams that he surrender his man card.
    She unloads the heavy artillery of crocodile tears. He responds with: I’ll try harder. Please. That relationship is doomed. She will ultimately have no respect for the man.

  20. I get it! You’re a compassionate, voyeuristic writer like the rest of us who can relate. The end!

  21. I grew up the classic ugly girl in the corner watching you, smugly believing I was getting the whole picture. Sure of myself. And then a smart-ass philosophy friend explained Heisenberg’s theory of uncertainty and I was all, oh no. Responsibility.

  22. Of course we get it. You got to see a lovely interpersonal mini-movie on the subway and that is a rare treat. For fun, let’s quickly summarize the rest of the movie, and to make it more interesting, let’s do it by country.

    American – The couple caught in the middle of a terrorist bombing. Disgraced alcoholic retired detective (Denzel) and Army specialist on leave (Jeremy Renner) team up to save them. Denzel and Renner come to their wedding once the terrorists are caught.
    English – Class keeps them apart as she is engaged to marry the Duke of Something, fulfilling her filial duties.
    French – An accordion player with a beret plays in the subway. Somewhere there is a croissant. One of them dies with such pathos.
    Italian – Black and white. No one understands this plot, but there is a clown, some balloons and a man with a waxed Dali mustache.
    Japanese – Animated, of course. A monkey plays a key role.
    Chinese – Fists of Fury come to take over subway. Flying Crouching Pandas save them with KungFu.

  23. I don’t know but I suffer from the same affliction. It’s having a knack for inhabiting the PsOV of others. Actually it’s more a pathology than a knack. You can’t help but inhabit the PsOV of others. Which is why house parties or spending big blocks of time in the company of a group makes me insane…all that incoming data. And you take it even further by carrying on this sort of internalized conversation with each of them…such that you feel panicked if the flow of information is disrupted and thwarted because you can’t offer your insights.

    By the way your description is super-cinematic – the screenwriting paying off.

  24. Nothing. And yes.

  25. I found a note in a phone booth on one of the nocturnal street hauntings of my youth. It was long and rambling, evocative but nonsensical. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, but one line stayed in my memory and probably will until my last breath: “I love you, Mary Shelley.” I still want to know what that was all about.

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