“What about Bruce and Emily?” he asks. “You didn’t hear?” she says. “Hear what?” “Kaput.” “Divorced?” “Dead.” “What are you talking about?” he says. “Car accident upstate.” “When?” “Three weeks ago. How could you not know?” “No one told me,” he says. “Who was driving?” “Only you would want to know that.” “It seems natural.” “No one was driving. The car was on autopilot and didn’t see the deer leaping across the road. Three deer, the car hit them all like dominos.”
“BLACK FLIES. BLOODSUCKING TICKS! I WANTED AN APARTMENT IN PARIS. IS THAT SO BAD? I’M NOT A PERSON WHO DOES WELL IN NATURE. I THRIVE IN A CITY. I NEED CARBON MONOXIDE IN ORDER TO FEEL LIKE MYSELF.”
sometimes even snacks right there next to me.” He makes a face. “I can hear it right now—the crinkling, little packages of oyster crackers.” “Sometimes I spend hours in bed, just reading and eating. I make a cheese plate for myself.” “All the crumbs,” he says, “like little sharp pebbles.” “Olives. Cornichon fig paste.” “And rodents,” he says. “Rodents could come into the bed looking for leftovers.” “A nice cold glass of Grüner, a good book,” she says. “And then if I doze off, it’s still all right there—next to me, it doesn’t move. Sometimes when I’m only half awake, I think it’s you.” “I’m a tray in the bed?” “A cheese board, solid, unmoving. You always slept so soundly. I never understood how such a fundamentally dis- turbed person could sleep so well.” “Whatever is on my mind, I let out during the day, like off-gassing.” “Venting is what they call it.” “I am well vented,” he says. “You’re toxic,” she says. “Your venting spills into the air, and whoever is nearby is a secondhand smoker taking it on.” A long silence passes. “We used to have more in common,” he says. “There was al- ways something suspect about you—a little too Upper East Side; when Russ and Daughters came uptown it rekindled my hope, but life is not a knish,” he says. “We went to couples’ therapy, but whether it was upstate, North Fork, or God forbid a weekend in the Hamptons, noth- ing was right for you,” she says. “Black flies. Bloodsucking ticks! I wanted an apartment in Paris. Is that so bad? I’m not a person who does well in nature. I thrive in a city. I need carbon monoxide in order to feel like myself.” A woman walking by overhears him and laughs. “What else?” he says. “Bruce and Emily,” she says. Bruce and Emily, the couple who also had no children. At a certain point it came down to that, people without children don’t spend time with people with children—the landscape changes.
“Were there any survivors?” “The cat. He was in the back seat in his carrier. The carrier was in the rear wheel well, so Bruce took the brunt of the impact.” “What happens to the cat now?” “He’s gone to live with her sister.” “The lesbian?” “Yes.” “I bet she already . . .” “Yes,” she says, anticipating what he’s going to say—cats. He shrugs. “You can’t make it up.” “You don’t have to,” she says. A pause; she reaches into her bag. “Before I forget . . .” He immediately starts making moves on the sidewalk, bob- bing and weaving, trying to dance away. “What are you doing?” she asks. It’s like he’s playing a weird game, like he’s one of those in- flatable things outside a car wash, where the arms blow this way and that. “Seriously? What are you doing? That’s the question to be asking here? Are you serving me with papers, suing me for all I haven’t got?” She looks at him as if to ask, Are you out of your mind? “You got mail,” she says. “It’s from your college alumni association.” “They’re always the last to know,” he says. “I think it’s a copy of the talk you gave in January. The copy you asked for; you like a copy of everything you say. After all,” she says, “you are the man who starts every day by writing his own obituary.” “It’s not my obituary, it’s my biography,” he says. “That’s what you say now, but you used to call it something else.” “I like to keep it fresh,” he says. “It’s all about the road not taken.” “I don’t follow.” He pauses. “Well, for example, I went with you and not that other woman.” “Joan?” she asks. “I met you both on the same day.” “Joan had a prosthetic leg.”
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