Manhattan vs Queens

In Queens, we tend to travel together. If you ride the 7 train, it is a regular thing to see clumps of friends squished on the cramped seats of the subway. Sometimes we are so tired, we are talking to each other with our eyes closed. In especially significant parts of a story, we will open them.
We carry each other’s bags, we lean on each other’s shoulder, we push pieces of food from what we have brought along into a friend’s hand.
It was odd that I was at the grocery store alone. Normally, my friend Mary and I take the train to Jackson Heights for the Patel Brothers. We grab one cart and then fight about whose is what at the check out. Then we break for bryani before we go to one more shop for $2 for 2 samosas with a green coconut chutney to take back home. But Mary is visiting her mom in the South of India. So I took the 7 the opposite direction to Times Square, because I would miss her too much to go Jackson Heights without her.
I changed for the 2 train and got off at 72nd for Fairway. It could have been the hour, about 3 pm. That time when old people rush out to do an errand before it gets dark at 8:24.
As soon I got in the door, I could hear two different, very loud, very personal conversations happening on the phone. Two women, one poking her way through the soft tomatoes, squeezing them and dropping them in search for something that wasn’t there and the other at the fresh peas. She had a wireless, which left both hands free to split and eat them. Loads of them. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at her over my glasses the way you do when you are trying to get people to regain control or at least decorum, but she looked right at me and could have cared less.
Another one came wheeling towards me. Tiniest bit of grey roots showing, but the rest of it was the exact jet black of the stripes in her jumpsuit.
She had glasses on too. “You would think,” she said, that someone could have this kind of conversation at home.”
I thought that maybe she had mistaken me for someone else. She definitely didn’t look familiar, but she came closer and it was me she was talking to, without a doubt. She demanded my attention, so I gave it to her. I nodded. I could see the mascara she had put on, possibly the night before. She took a pea, looking at the phone talker. “They should have banned those things,” she said. Not quietly, either. I smiled and put peas in a bag to try and break the tension, and encourage paying for the food. She was quiet for a minute, tried another pea, forgot about me, started to walk away, and then came back, hand in the air. As if I were a manager refusing to log a complaint or her daughter. “She has been on that thing since she got here; why do they think we want to hear what they have to say?” I lifted my eyebrows. I find a wordless response to be the most diplomatic sometimes.
She left me.
Another one shoved her cart in the six inches between me and the vegetables and stood in front me, groping the eggplant.
It was a whole different kind of shopping.
They were alone and stayed alone. They talked as if they were alone, stole as if they were alone, and tried to grab things from a top shelf when they stood no more than 5 feet in heels without even looking around to see if there were any tall people.
A twenty year old huffed at me for blocking the aisle.
I laughed and joked about my wide load and she rolled her eyes.
Then it happened to me. Walking along, adrift in the choice of chickens—it is not like that at Costco—I lifted a teeny, tiny bird. A one pounder and to be clear, a chicken. The label said chicken. Not squab. Not quail. Not even organic. Seventeen dollars and fifty six cents. I waved the chicken around. “Did you see this”? I said. To nobody. “It is seventeen dollars and fifty six cents! Look at it! Look at the size of it! Who is buying this?”
The eye roller pushed past with her irises in full swing. The butcher didn’t even look up. He is too used to it.
I collected myself and threw the chicken in my cart. I chalked the whole thing up to osmosis and carried my bags back to Queens.
At least my roots weren’t showing.

On the menu:

Mushroom bruschetta
Little Chicken al diavolo
meatballs in sauce
pickled shrimp
String beans with garlic and sea salt
Eggplant with something..haven’t figured it out

Just to be Clear

This is from my past, where I no longer live. I am no longer dating. It was like trying to have fun as a fish in the Sahara.

For example:
Waiting for Apu

I wasn’t convinced that he meant it. When the little pink circle lit up my inbox I thought for sure he wrote me back by mistake or obligation to his mother’s generation or I don’t know what. Curiosity maybe. Maybe curiosity.
He was only 49 and I am 55. Every other man had made it perfectly clear that if they were 49, the cut off for a woman was 33. God forbid a 49 year old man should make the stretch to date a 34 year old. Of child bearing age. A wrinkle free woman.
For 55 year old men, there is also typically no such permit for an over 40 year old woman.
I had expanded my search to men in their 70’s. Whom, all withered up and wheel chaired would reply from at least their Eazyboy, “you need to be loving and secure and have plenty of money and time to focus on me and enjoy cooking or cleaning up and downhill skiing with your slender athletic body. Drop me a line if you want to travel all over the world on my lap and then sit on my couch or on a stool at the bar and watch the game.”
Who are these men?
I would like to think, just a tiny representation of the male population, but the numbers won’t let me.

And then Apu showed up.

49 year old Apu, who was so handsome with his grey black hair slicked away from his face and his manly beard. I wrote him because I couldn’t help myself, not because I was expecting an answer back.
But he wrote back.
He said, “I am soon to be 50, so not that much of a stretch if you are 55.”
Well I’ll be.
When he asked me for my phone number so we could talk and text, I said, “Apu, I think it is best if we hold off on the number. That way if when you meet me you think, “ohhhhhh, noooooo”, we can just walk back out the door like nothing ever happened.
He said, “Fair enough.” And he gave me his email.
I didn’t hear from him.


I emailed to tell him I completely understood; no need to keep it going, and he emailed me right back, “Just busy. Was going to email!! you beat me to it! More later.”
I waited.
Old as I am.
As if the banking crisis hadn’t already happened. In particular to the old people.

But History has a shelf life.
Knowledge evaporates.
How do I not remember that?

It is Saturday and there is no Apu asking me to play ping pong. Tomorrow is Sunday, and there will be no Apu asking me to play ping pong.
Which apparently he is very good at.
I wouldn’t know.

Footnote: At that time I ate mostly cereal during the daylight hours and then late night mini hamburgers with hits off a milkshake to try and bulk up.