Sarah and I met in grad school. Never really had much in common back then. She was the typical overachiever, the one everyone resented. Talented, beautiful, smart, and from what I can remember, a total snob.
I on the other hand was barely making it through, working two jobs, pissing off half the school faculty.
“Ethan, if you don’t think this is interesting enough to actually stay awake, why don’t you go home?”
I bumped into Sarah a few years later. After a short chat, she pulled out her business card.
“We should get together sometime, catch up.”
I looked at the card. “New York Times Reporter.” Can’t say I was shocked. Even among Ivy-Leaguers she stood out, a demigod in a room full of mortals.
I gave her my number in return, suspicious, like a driver exchanging insurance information after a car accident. Two days later, a call. Would I like to go out for dinner?
We met at a West Village café at 8:00 pm, by 8:15 we had nothing to say. I think we both realized there were no sparks, no magic, no chemistry, just simple physics.
“Should we get the check?” I finally asked. I could tell she was thinking the same thing.
As I walked her home, not an unusual question.
“So do you keep in touch with anyone?”
I mentioned a few people, a blank look on her face.
“You?” I ask back.
Not one name I recognized.
“We didn’t hang out in the same circles, did we?” She says.
“Why is that?”
“Because you were kind of a bitch.”
She stops, dead in her tracks.
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
I couldn’t believe it either. One of those moments in life you wish you had more control over the synapses between your brain and your tongue. I was expecting a well-deserved slap in the face, but instead, amusement in her eyes. Magic, ignited.
This weekend, I was invited to her wedding party. Great guy. Nice, smart, successful, handsome. A man. Sarah, a glowing bride. A Fifth Ave. apartment, an upper-crust toast, industrial-size diamonds, Degas' ballerinas stretching on the wall. The white of pearls, the smell of old money, a foreign land, Sarah’s world.
“How are you?” She asked as she made her way through the crowd.
“Uncomfortable, but happy to see you happy.”
“I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Oh, and your husband, hot.”
She laughs. By now she’s used to my thoughts shooting out of my mouth. She knows I mean well.
“Tell her what you just said to me,” she says pointing at a lovely woman standing next to her, gray hair, kind face, living under her eyes.
“If he weren’t straight,” I say, “I’d be all over him, like a cheap suit.”
The lady smiles.
“He is handsome isn’t he?”
“How do you know Sarah?”
“We went to school together.”
“What’s your relation?”
“I’m her mother in-law.”
I look at Sarah. She’s laughing so hard, holding her stomach. I’d say something but the lovely lady is still in hearing range. So I mouth it instead.