She wore a jacket with fake fur at cuffs and hem and hood, and polyester trousers, and carried a gleaming white fake crocodile-skin bag with gilt chain handles. She’s Jewish, she speaks three languages (English, French and Hebrew – that’s how I know she’s Jewish). She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a condo which she bought with the money which was her half of the settlement in the divorce after her marital home was sold, but the condo is in her brother’s name for legal reasons. She was in New York for a cousin’s wedding; there were 624 people there, and the food was very good, and she danced all night – and there were some 400 people at her own wedding – and she was married for 12 years before she got the divorce. And she has a 19-year-old son who is “still a baby”, but who left home at 17 to go to college and shares a flat at a University in a town which his mother does not live in with another young man because, well, young men will be young men and he can “have girlfriends there and do whatever he wants” without his parents knowing. He doesn’t like talking on the phone and he never calls his mother so she doesn’t telephone him either because he doesn’t like talking to her and he NEVER calls and so she emails him instead and asks him how he is and he's like, "Okay" (which seems to be just as bad as the phone situation but I guess at least it's in writing...)Oh yes, his name is Alexander and she always calls him that but he doesn’t like that either and likes to go by Alex. And he was named for his great-grandfather, his mother’s grandfather. Who is dead. And she likes to go to singles dances in Toronto because she was trained as a dancer, she used to dance on point shoes and “perform in front of an audience” so she likes dancing and she used to teach dancing at an old folks home (old folks on point shoes? the mind boggles...) and she actually met her husband – her ex, that is – at a dance when they were both twenty years old and at college but even though they knew two months into the relationship that it was “Serious” they didn’t get engaged until she was twenty five. And she likes “going to school” so she just gets any diploma or certificate that’s going, and she hangs them all on the wall in her condo, and the “other” wall (don’t ask me…) has her son’s awards and achievements and certificates, and she has “more than fifty” pictures of her son in the apartment, on walls and on shelves, and here, she had some pictures with her, this is her son right there, isn’t he handsome, he is so tall, he’s six foot – his father was six foot two so that’s probably where he gets the height because she herself is only five foot three although that’s quite tall, you know, but some women are taller than her and others are shorter and her own father was a six-footer so maybe that’s where she gets her own height (such as it is) from and her father was from Montreal but she lives in Toronto now and her divorce was pretty awful because her lawyer was a crook who charged her for all sorts of stuff he didn’t actually do but then she got her cousin to be her lawyer and he sorted everything out – he’s an HONEST lawyer, not like the crook, and she wrote a letter by golly, and the Canadian Lawyers Association ("or whatever they are called, you know") can actually PULL THE LICENCES of lawyers like that so she wrote the letter because she felt they ought to know. And she won a crossword lottery something or other – entry fee $1, prize $10000 – and her sister-in-law didn’t believe her until she showed her the receipt from the lottery people and now she has the crossword and that receipt framed because it really WAS a one in a million chance and she used the money to pay off bills and for her son’s education so it went to a “GOOD CAUSE” and now she likes to go and gamble because she always wins something, she just has to think that something is lucky and it turns out to be lucky (human rabbit’s foot, that one…) And where was the bus driver from? Did he have children? Here are some tips about how to raise them when he DID get some (he didn’t own to any actual progeny at this moment in his life, but hey, advice is always useful, eh). And she’s renovating the condo so she had to really think about this trip even with all the lucky lottery winnings so she found a cheaper way to get from Toronto to New York which is you get a bus to Buffalo (“you’ve all heard of Buffalo?...”) and flying to New York and it’s really only half an hour in the air because the rest of the time you’re going up or coming down, and really, did anyone know about Buffalo? It snows a lot there, but not as much as in Toronto, or perhaps more…
I deliberately did not paragraph that screed.
This woman was another passenger in the shuttle that took me from my Rye hotel to JFK. We shared the van for some forty minutes – she, I, the driver and another hapless passenger who happened to sit next to her – and honestly, she did not SHUT UP for the entire trip. She was still talking to the driver as he was coming back into the van after he had dropped her off at La Guardia, in order to take me the rest of the way into JFK. I know it’s mean and catty but I really do have a glimmer of understanding as to why her marriage ended in divorce. The poor man probably left in order to hear himself think. I was in her company for forty minutes and I was already ready to run screaming; that martyr of a husband endured this for twelve years. Or maybe she built up to it, I don’t know. But HOOOOOOOOLY COW she couldn’t stand the sound of silence. Or she was in love with her own voice.
Or maybe she was just lonely and going back to her empty condo in Toronto, and was clinging desperately to an opportunity to hear herself talk and know that other human ears were listening.
I don’t know. But one of the saddest things that can happen to you as a person is to have the only feeling in others of your species as you leave them be one of profound relief.
She still had a wait at the gate, and then that flight, and then the bus ride from Buffalo to Toronto. I wonder if she simply re-wound and started again with a fresh audience.
ANYWAY, I have to point out that I am posting this blog on the plane. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have on-board WiFi. This is… pretty nifty. (Especially since I get to check mail, and if everything goes like it went on the outward leg I could not seem to connect to the San Francisco airport wireless network at all, at all – so this is my fix for the day. From the blue skies above America, I send you greetings…