Sarah Wrote That

The Best Kind of Mistake

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photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images in The Atlantic

Our friendship was extremely convenient to major transportation, I said, and Vicky laughed, and immediately we had that, the line, and that we seemed to appreciate it equally, as a joke, and didn’t care that it was true. Her evening proofreading shift began at my preferred train’s departure time. So we had that, too, she said. Jostled between men in sweaty-backed shirts in a narrow bar on Forty-fourth Street, we’d hurriedly decided on an overly flowery white wine and were bent close over small glasses.

“The best kind of mistake,” she said. “Twenty minutes and it’s done.”

“How will that work, with the proofreading?” I asked.

“It’ll have to work, won’t it?” she said.

She had a new boyfriend to tell me about since we’d last seen each other, an architect, and I had to promise not tell that he was remodeling an apartment in the brand-new Robert A.M. Stern building. The owners were terrified Curbed would find out. I told her about the house my husband and I had bought, and admitted we doubted  deciding to leave the city every time we had to check a train timetable or leave a party before trains stopped for the night.

“But it’s brought you back to me,” she beamed. “Or me to you.”

It was true. We’d emailed that we had to get together, and repeated it apologetically at parties since being let go from the office where we’d met.

“I always feel I’m lying when I say I’m busy,” I said. “But it’s really true.”

“Now neither of us has an excuse,” she said.

We met the next week, and the week after that. She had a new guy to tell me about.

“Wait—not the architect?” I asked.

She didn’t want to talk about the architect. “I only have room in my head for so many people, you know? Better to save it for people I want to compliment.”

The new boyfriend was in ad sales, which really was exciting, she said. People like him were really the ones responsible for the Internet. Every click everyone made became data that someone like her boyfriend could then sell.

“Every click you make,” she sang.

One week maybe five months later, she said he was moving to L.A. He’d said she could come with him.

“Don’t you think he should say he wants me?” she said.

“How many months has it been?” I asked.

“That’s what I said,” she said.

We were the last to leave the bar that night. I nearly missed the last train. Then it was spring and I was the kids’ taxi service from Little League and to school play practice. In June Vicky emailed that we must meet: she had a photographer to tell me about. I would have to meet him, she said. I was pleased for her, of course. I’d decided she had one of the deepest capacities for loyalty of anyone I’d met, and such readiness to transfer it, and I wondered if with each new favorite she thought that here, at last, was the one, or if she didn’t hope to rest but continue until she’d made the acquaintance of all the world; and I wondered if her loyalty necessarily came with an early expiration date, or if the fault, if that’s what it was, had been with the men, not so many, really, that she had been with, during our acquaintance.

In July my husband and I were taking the kids to Sweden, to the town where my grandparents had been born.

"But in August," I said.

“Definitely!” Vicky hugged me goodbye, and seemed to me that we and everyone were flushed with the pleasure of all we were going to fit into the sunlight ahead, and with how much faster we moved than the golden light at the end of June.

I returned in August to ten thousand emails, and buyout rumors, and articles that assistants had flubbed in my absence. Vicky would email, I knew, when she wanted to meet up. Wilting to Grand Central, stopping gratefully for ice coffee in the coolly echoing concourse, I thought how unsatisfactory the bars we’d had tried were, all of them, really.

The Friday before Labor Day was the first night since June that I caught my usual train. As the East Hundreds slipped past I wondered if, like the architect, I’d made some misstep Vicky hadn’t had attention to confront me with, or if our acquaintance had filled a space that was no longer empty. In the window I saw her face, and mine, and then we were crossing the river, and even that early, lights were on in apartments, and I arrived home in the dusk.

Grand Central Terminal opened for service 100 years ago tonight.

  1. freefreeasabird said: this exert is beautiful. what book is it from?
  2. sarahwrotethat posted this