“Hi babe. It’s me.”

Tilda. Smug as ever, even after four long months of silence. The satisfaction of announcing herself is coupled as always with the assurance that Jane is happy to hear from her. And Jane is. Halfway out the door to an early-morning appointment with a gallery owner in Sausalito, Jane cradles her phone and can’t help smiling. She hears Tilda inhale on one of her terrible Camels and sees her old friend clearly: the mane of faded hair, the double chin, the merry brown eyes, the freckled wrist flapping the smoke away. “Breakfast!” Tilda announces.

“Yes. Okay. Breakfast.”

They won’t have long to talk, to “cackle,” as Jane’s ex-husband called it, with a full day of work before each of them. But Jane has missed Tilda too much to care. They choose a café set midway between Jane’s apartment and Tilda’s houseboat and agree to meet at eleven, after Jane’s appointment.

Or, as Jane has learned to call these things, dis-appointment. The gallery owner tells her that her slides are “lovely” but “perhaps too lovely for today’s market,” and she leaves with no more than a suggestion she try again in a few months. She stops to buy a local newspaper at the corner stand—Tilda will probably be late, as always, and outraged about something that just happened, as always, and Jane wants to be prepared. She drives to the café hoping Tilda won’t obsess too long on the day’s injustices. There are so many things she wants to tell her—her worries about her teenage son, her worries about her job at the architects’ office, her worries about her painting, her loneliness. She has a small solid mess of troubles she longs to upchuck as neatly as a cat coughing up a hairball, even though she knows what will happen: Tilda will listen, and then, helping herself to Jane’s toast, she will take the son’s/gallery owner’s/architect’s side. Brushing crumbs off her chest, Tilda will tell Jane to stop asking so much from other people, to stop acting so entitled, and to stop feeling sorry for herself, and Jane will leave feeling stung and somehow strangely comforted.

She finds a parking place and arrives at the café on time. Tilda isn’t there yet. If she were, she would be in the largest booth with her laptop and an already emptied creamer. She would be wearing a stained silk shirt in a beautiful color, sage or amber, a full skirt over leggings, scuffed slouched suede boots, drugstore glasses low on her nose. No bra. No underpants. She would be on her phone talking to a client and she would make Jane wait until she had finished her call to say hello. But Tilda isn’t here, and after twenty minutes Jane realizes she isn’t going to show. This is the third time in three years that Tilda has stood her up. Jane empties her coffee cup, dumps the newspaper on an empty chair, and leaves the waitress a stingy tip—Tilda was a waitress for years before she became a therapist—and drives to work, furious.

“Sorry.” Tilda’s voice on the phone that night does not sound sorry. She chuckles. “I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Me either.” Jane sets her briefcase down and looks around the empty apartment. Jess isn’t home; he didn’t leave a note, he didn’t take the garbage out; he didn’t clean the sink or sort his laundry; he left the stove on.

“It’s just,” Tilda chuckles again, “Ito woke up with a hard-on for the first time in months this morning and we sort of had to take advantage. It’s this blood pressure medication he’s on. It’s really screwed up our sex life. Are you mad?”


“Well, you probably needed the time alone. Listen, come to Emile’s birthday next Sunday? He’s going to be ninety. Emile’s been asking me about you. ‘Where’s that tall drink of water?’ You were always his favorite, you know. Oh, and bring Jess. I’ve missed him. And wine, red.”

People on couch
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