“How dare you use us as characters in your mordidly self-regarding ‘fiction’?!” she said, glaring just the slightest bit.
“And I’m not glaring, you sick, judgmental weasel, I know how you twist everything. I’m simply looking at someone who’s acting with despicable arrogance and responding appropriately,” she said, drawing a clear line between herself and someone like him.
“As you wish,” he said, turning away and making another notation on his pad.
“Yeah,” she said, “that’s right, write down everything I say. It’s all just your distorted perspective anyway, it’s no truer than anyone else’s perspective and certainly not as true as my perspective, having known you for fifty years and having humiliating secrets I could reveal, if you force me to with your passive aggressiveness.”
“Fifty years of humiliating details,” he said, nodding and making another note.
“I wish you would stop with the goddamned notes,” she said, “it’s annoying, distracting and, frankly, very aggressive.”
“As you wish,” he said with a smile, closing the cover of his pad and laying the pen on top of it.
“Now you expect me to start the conversation,” she said.
“Not at all,” he said. “I was thinking what a great idea it was at that wedding in Ohio to seat everyone next to someone the hosts thought you’d hit it off with. You recall, I wound up drawing the high card that night, that guy seated next to me was a mechaya, as my father would have said of such a person, like a cool drink on a mercilessly hot day. He was funny, smart, deep thinking, ironic, comfortable in his skin, down to earth, agreeable but opinionated. A great idea, to seat people among other people they can meet and enjoy.”
“And your point?” she asked.
“We should have assigned seating like that for our divorce party,” he said.
“Our divorce party, you said?”
“Well, we’d have done it at our wedding, if we’d been wise enough, although nobody is that wise at that age. Now we have a perfect second chance to do it right. Invite all these wonderful people we love to our divorce party and assign them seats next to someone else we think they’d get a kick out of. How about Al and Nancy? Would they not hit it off?”
“Our divorce party?” she said.
“Al and Nancy, come on, Barbara, would they not hit it off and become fast friends? They’re practically the same person,” he said.
“Al and Nancy on a blind date at our divorce party?” she said.
“OK, you just want to keep focusing on the occasion, I’m talking about the beauty of introducing people who are sympatico, souls who’d really appreciate each other. You realize that guy I sat next to at the wedding would have been one of my favorite colleagues in a different world. At one point I described one of the best books about atrocity and politics ever written, a very short, brilliantly compressed, beautifully written account of the media attention, and long term political fallout, from a certain pogrom that became instantly front page news everywhere only because a member of the Zionist movement hopped the first train out and telegraphed from a nearby town while the two day kill-fest was going on in a remote part of the Russian empire. It turned out a friend of his wrote the book, which he hadn’t read but intended to get a copy of now. He’s going to tell Steven Zipperstein that his Pogrom is a masterpiece.”
“You really are an asshole,” she said.
“So you keep telling me,” he said, opening his drawing book again and drawing a graphic, three dimensional vulva.
“You think you can just write down whatever comes into your twisted head and then put it on the internet for some random lonely kid in India to read and that makes you a writer. Writers have editors, agents, publicists, get paid to write. I have no idea why you think just writing things down has any value except as a means of expressing your endless frustrations and dressing them up with the occasional ‘insight’ you get from somebody else’s writing,” she said.
“I don’t,” he said, turning to a blank page and scrawling a note to himself.