“That So-and-So is a lazyass waste of skin,” he says to his wife who is sitting across from him in the booth, right before requesting she get up and fetch the ketchup from another table for him.
A good visit with a good friend. Is that all it takes to set a woman back on track?
It appears so. Clementine left for home this morning, and Blondi has been whistling at her work ever since, feeling like her old self again.
They’d sipped wine and talked late into the evenings. They’d walked to the lake and talked in the mornings. They’d caught up on details and talked about their hopes and plans for the future. And they’d promised each other not to let years go by again without getting together regularly to recharge their friendship batteries.
Blondi’s face is sore from laughing, but it’s the kind of sore that, like an energetic hour at the gym, leaves you with a sense that all is well with your world.
How to Drag Yourself Out of the Doldrums, Lesson One: Spend some time with a dear friend.
It’s exactly what she needs! and it has given her such a lift. Until now, until Clementine showed up out of the blue and decided to stay a few days, Blondi has been lonely and she didn’t even know it. She didn’t know that she needed a friend to have a daily cup of coffee with. She didn’t notice that a shared attitude toward food, health, life and people in general was lacking in her life, or that it could feel so good to talk with someone who doesn’t need further explanation, who “gets” you and doesn’t raise an eyebrow when you speak. She didn’t know that even grown-up ladies miss having a “best friend” around, someone who shares your approach to living and who sees things in a similar way, and who wouldn’t think twice about “dropping in” without calling ahead, even after you haven’t spoken in years, after you’ve drifted apart and gone your own ways, instead being absolutely certain that you would welcome her with open arms.
And so they have been talking and laughing non-stop, even with customers coming and going, even with Rueben around. It’s like those years without contact never happened. It’s like they were meant to be — Blondi and Clem were in different places, raising their children, phoning each other for long conversations only every couple of years — and that never felt wrong, but having Clementine here now feels absolutely right.
She’s putzing away in the kitchen, pouring and stirring and occasionally tasting, when in walks an old friend Blondi hasn’t seen in years. And Clementine looks fabulous; she’s let her wavy hair go completely grey and it suits her, she’s wearing it chin-length, her skin is clear and glowing, she’s fit and she’s happy … and she’s just made Blondi’s day.
Rueben takes the reins and Blondi makes a pot of tea and ushers Clementine into the reading room, where they can sit down and chat without interruptions. There is catching up to do and Blondi wants to give Clementine her full attention. Today, now, nothing else matters. Customers? To hell with ’em. Business? Who cares.
There are moments in any person’s life that we are reminded we are mortal and that not even one more day is guaranteed, and it’s times like these that Blondi sees herself on a path from past to present to future and remembers that she is the only one who can steer herself along the weeks, months and years as they unfold. We don’t control everything, of course, and have to play the hands we’re dealt, but surely we can try to make strategic use of our cards.
Is she making good use of the choices she has? Is she doing what she really wants to do, and living the life she really wants? Is she happy or at least content much of the time? Is she having any fun at all? Does her life contain enough of the pleasures she would like it to? And if it isn’t, is she doing anything about it?
Lately she is taking a step back from certain active involvements and taking a good long look at where she is. Does she want to be here in five years, or not? What about 10 years? Is there anything else she wants to do before she dies? She’s never had a “bucket list” that she could strike things off of as she experienced them. She has no urge to travel, to see farflung places, experience more/other/different cultures, foods, flora and fauna. These curiosities do not satisfy deeper longings; for her, they are only distractions from her real work in this life, which has to do with the spirit rather than worldly occupations. The answers are not “out there.” They are “in here.”
So what is it that she does want when it comes to the everyday? What gets her up in the morning?
She always used to think, when she heard a business owner being cranky to a customer, that it was surprising that person was still in business, and that it was pure stupidity to treat customers rudely, and why didn’t the boss just hire someone to manage the place and go do something else himself?
Now she understands why the owner might be cranky: he or she is probably stuck there, struggling to keep things going and pay the bills and make a living. Maybe they can’t afford, as she can, to stay in the back while paying someone to run the show out front.
And in the back she is, definitely, for now. Her patience for bullshit is at an all-time low; she would as soon throw hot coffee in someone’s face as listen to one more unwarranted complaint or arrogant suggestion or condescending remark.
Blondi is in a bad place, and she knows it. The best thing to do is stay out of sight until whatever this is runs its course. She hopes it will.
The older she gets, the less willing she is to put up with the foibles of others. Instead of becoming more tolerant, she’s becoming more demanding. Instead of becoming more patient, she’s less so. The company of others is less appealing; so is discussion and the exchange of ideas. Is this what they mean when they say your world shrinks as you age? You become the supreme commander of your own little world, and keep a closer eye on its borders?
It’s the opposite of what Blondi has always expected. She would become more easygoing, more laissez-faire, more laidback as she became an old woman. Nothing would faze her; nothing could knock her off balance. That’s what she thought. And now she observes friends her own age and fears that if she is anything like them, then she is getting fussy and nitpicky. They don’t see it in themselves, and maybe she doesn’t see it in herself either; it frightens her to realize how blind and intransigent humans can be, and how thoughtlessly they swing the hammer of accusation at nails of personal projections.
People can be as endlessly disappointing as they are endlessly surprising. Perhaps, she posits, a little bit more space between herself and them won’t hurt. And so she puts on some headphones and loses herself in the world of talk radio, where there is always something new to learn, while tuning out the conversations on the other side of the counter as she measures flour and chops vegetables.