I hate elevators. I’m afraid they’ll go up and never stop. I blow into my paper bag when I’m in an elevator. Mostly I walk the stairs, and only choose doctors who are on the first or second floor.
But it’s almost the New Year — time to let go of my fears of height, Salmonella, falling, crossing the street, and choking to death. I vow to stop writing about the men I date. Maybe then I’ll have a real romance. Anything can happen if you think positive.
“I want to fix you up with Benny Bachman,” Maxine Bernstein says on the phone. “He’s an 81-year-old insurance zillionaire who owns two houses and runs marathons.”
“So what’s wrong with him?”
“See? Right away you’re negative. That’s why you don’t have a partner. All you do is write about these men. Time for romance. Benny will call. Go.”
He calls. We agree to meet at Perry’s for lunch that day.
So I poof up, making sure there’s no shmutz on my H&M black sweater. I slip on my ankle boots, grab my crossover purse and walk to Union Street.
In gleeful anticipation of romance I arrive at Perry’s. I’m a bit early. I’m always early. I’m an anxious person. I get a table by the window. I munch on a breadstick, making sure I don’t bite too hard and break my bridge.
A man thin as Gumby, his arms out straight, as if balancing on a high wire, approaches me. He’s wearing black baggy jeans and a Styrofoam neck brace.
He extends a limp hand. He points to his neck brace. “A joker reared-ended my Tesla.” He sits next to me and rants that he’s going to take the kid who banged up his Tesla to court. Then he announces that he’s on a salt-free diet.
Without asking what I want to eat, he orders a salad, giving the poor waiter instructions to remove the seeds from the tomatoes. “Diverticulitis,” he explains.
I order a burger and fries. He frowns and continues to lecture about salt. “A killer,” he rants. “Meat is bad. Shame on you.”
“Uh huh. I eat it rarely,” I say.
Then he complains that the food chain is tainted and that we’ll all die from salmonella. When he talks the corners of his mouth turn down, and his too-white veneers make clicking sounds. We shoot the breeze about the election. He’s a Republican. I bite my tongue, telling myself not to start in on my rants about Trump.
“Hydrate?” he asks after a long moment.
“Hydrate! Drink water!” he says impatiently. “Most women your age aren’t hydrated. That’s why they have strokes and dry skin.”
“I carry my own water bottle,” I say, trying to sound cheerful.
“The water is poisoned! Get a water filter machine.”
A bell goes off on his huge Apple watch. He reaches into his pocket and removes one of those days-of-the-week pillboxes. He opens “Tuesday” and removes three tiny white pills. He places them in a neat row on the table. “Antidepressants,” he informs me. “I had a crazy second wife. She was my assistant, a gorgeous 22-year-old gold-digger! When I wouldn’t sign a new will, she banged her head on the wall and then sued me for divorce. In court under oath she said I beat her up. I had to give her millions. The girl made Honey Boo Boo look smart.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t be with women so young.”
“Women over 60 have widow’s humps, arthritis and want a shmuck like me to take care of them.”
“But that’s ageist,” I protest.
“Age shmage,” he shrugs. “I have frozen eggs in every country. These women want my genes and money.”
“Shame,” I say, enjoying my burger.
He looks reflective. “People compare me to a Jewish Trump. You write about those jerks. Write about a man who runs marathons, who has a zest for life!”
The check comes. He studies it as if it’s a treaty, then complains loudly to the waitress that the kale in his salad was wilted and that he has cramps. He demands to be comped. The waitress argues that he ate the salad and they can’t comp him.
“No problem,” I say. “I’ll pay the bill.”
So the jerk let me pay. But I keep my nasty thoughts to myself
I stand, excuse myself and walk home, even though it’s raining. I’m eager to see what the New Year will bring. Anything can happen at any age and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
The roses are blooming early and the rain is beautiful. When I get to my apartment building, I take the elevator upstairs.