I wish I could be one of those ladies who drinks gin from a jam jar in the afternoon. Neat, two shots.
You know her — she wears caftans and coral and it works, she has a deep voice and when she moves she sweeps. She is a regal ship of a woman.
She worked in international publishing for decades and when she’s pensive she sits on her bloom-choked slate patio with her jam jar and fingers the smooth black stone she brought from Ibiza all those years ago.
Her name is Annick or Clothilde, because of the French mother that cannot be mentioned. She used to smoke but gave it up for the kids. They really should visit.
There was money.
Her short chic hair is gray now, more like silver, more like elegance. She barks at the maid and doesn’t suffer fools, but she’s oh so tender with the tiny dog in her lap.
She speaks Italian, Spanish and Portugese, but not French. Never French.
The girls at the bakery hate her. They see her coming, towering above the rest, and they man the tanks. She selects her pastries, 3 pockets of sweet ooze, pointing with her talons, scowling and complaining.
Then she sweeps back to her patio to sit with her jam jar and her stone, her pastries and her tiny dog. She thinks of the French mother that must not be mentioned.
I wish I could be one of those ladies who sips a single malt in crystal each evening by the fire.
You’ve seen her, she’s the tiny one in the tweed with the dark eyes, striding around in tall riding boots and tight tan pants.
She rides steeplechase, or she did before that spill in Butler. Now her spine won’t allow her to roar across the countryside atop her bay anymore, so she tends him and dresses for the course. Her winnings wink at her from the mantel.
Her name is Patricia or Margaret, after her distant and chilly grandmother, mother to her own cool mother. Never Patty or Madge, no nicknames please.
There was money.
Her dark bob is colored by the girls at the Chop Shop who notice the dark circles, the desperate whiff of loneliness. They pity her. She misses the girls from her school days, all those years ago. They don’t return her calls, not since the spill.
She hobbles home with her perfect hair, slips off the boots, settles into the big chair with the orthopedic pillow and sucks on a tawny single malt.
Alone. Always alone.
I wish I could be one of those ladies who starts the day with a cold Bellini. 10 sharp, each morning, one tall flute of Prosecco and peach, one dose of perfect sunny happiness.
You’ve seen her at the theatre, always laughing, still slim after all these years. Tossing her peroxide head, trailing a crowd, a bit louder than the rest, but happy, so happy.
Her years in the Broadway background are behind her now, far enough that the world needs to be reminded. So she wears diaphonous scarves and tatty furs, marching up and down on sharp heels, drawing attention.
Her name is Miranda or Scarlett, traded for the dull Jane of Duluth all those years ago. She’d like a cat but they don’t like her.
There was money.
She sings showtunes at parties and dances late in the street, the talk of the evening. If you look close, there is a hint of leather, a tracing of history, a whiff of manic sadness. When she lands, late, she purges and weeps and scrubs, prepares for her next act.
In the morning she will slowly affix the mask and down the day’s sunshine, the sweet dose of liquid courage to keep the show going.
The kids at the coffee shop don’t notice her, ignore her dark bug glasses and her faint tremor.
I wish I could be one of those ladies who drinks a spicy Bloody Mary everyday for lunch, red and rich in a wide heavy glass with a stiff sprig of homegrown celery.
She’s the one with the long gray braid that swings a bit, trying to keep up with her. She spends all morning, every morning, in her massive, perfectly ordered, fenced garden and can never quite get the dirt out of her nails or off of her sensible clothes.
Her bright medical career was derailed ages ago by one mistake, one tiny mistake that erased decades of training. So much promise, so much waste. Now she turns her surgical skills to the garden and the kitchen.
Her name is Kinney or Talbot for no discernible reason, probably a gift from a distant ancestor no one bothered to tell her about. She hates it and calls herself Polly.
There was money.
She coaxes miracles out of the dirt and her knees and wrists ache. She serves grand, gorgeous meals on the wide screen porch for her tribe of cantankerous friends and family. The grandchildren are afraid of her because of that time she smacked little Anna on Christmas morning and the way she sometimes cries in the garden.
She soaks late and long in a hot bath with a joint.
She is a woman for whom nothing is ever good enough, says her Danish daughter-in-law.
And so she drinks her lunch alone every day at the hand-hewn table on the wide screen porch, perusing seed catalogs and medical journals. She’s earned it, she tells herself, she’s got this, she tells herself.
Never mind. I do not wish to be any of those storied ladies with their glasses half full of regret. I will contentedly remain this lady, with my weak tea and my worried liver, and sip on my own story.
I love gin but if I drank a jam jar you wouldn’t see me for awhile. I would resurface shabbily, filled with a very specific regret. I worry my own smooth black stone.
I love horses, but am appropriately afraid of most of them after a few well-placed childhood spills.
I love to be in the audience and enjoy my invisibility in coffee shops.
I love gardens and kitchens, but kill most of the green stuff I try to grow. I would never, ever slap little Anna.
There was enough money, sometimes barely.
There’s a story in my family about my great grandmother, a strong, stoic, hardworking woman. She would, at the end of each day, pour a thimble of sherry into a tiny glass, shuffle to her bed, sit on the edge, down the sherry and fall back on the bed. She would close her eyes and let this dropperful of sin course through her veins as she drifted off.
Her name was Velma.
This is my stock. I like to think that I’ve improved the line with my cocktail fascination and my wine with dinner, but in the end I’m a one-drink-Willy, a very cheap date.
And as for regret, I like today and it’s built on yesterday so why worry away the past? We’re all just getting through it, one tiny, potentially regrettable, choice at a time.