One Last Night

I was drunk, definitely.  I could feel the woozy warmth as my friend Annette poured me another margarita fresh from her blender.

“I think you made the right choice,” she said, her tone just slurred enough to tell me that she too was feeling the effect of the tequila she had liberally poured into the drinks.  “Just think, Connecticut is so rich, so posh, there are universities everywhere.” She nodded over the rim of her glass and took a sip.

“But actually that’s exactly what I am afraid of.  I mean, what if I don’t fit in there?  People have nannies in Connecticut.  They live in half a million dollar homes.  They drive fancy cars.  Do you think they’ll stop my Chevy minivan at the border?” I laughed, but I was telling the truth.  I felt inadequate on a good day, but at least where I lived now I felt like I’d found a place where I fit.  Our neighborhood was full of youngish couples just like us, working hard to live the life they did.  I’d met Annette and a few other mothers at Gymboree and preschool.  They weren’t close friends like my high school friend Dawn or my good friend Barb, who knew everything about me and my history.  But they were still comfortable friends that we could share meals with and call with gossip and ask for advice on marriage or babysitters or life in general.

“I thought you told me that the house you ended up with cost half a million dollars. Hate to break it to you there, sister, but you are one of those people, whether you believe it or not. ”

“That’s true,” I laughed, gulping the frothy frozen mess in my glass.  “But still, when you buy a half million dollar house, you expect it is going to be some sort of palace.  It’s smaller than the house we have now.”

“But nicer, you said, inside,” Annette said with a tinge of jealousy she was too drunk to hide.  It was true.  The house we’d finally ended up with, after much deliberation and back and forth with the small inventory in the area, was a total compromise.  We had to take our wish list and segregate it into must haves and nice to haves.  On the must have list were air conditioning (we had been surprised at how few houses in the Northeast had it), gas heat (as opposed to oil, which was creepily stored in large tanks in the basements of houses out there…how did it make sense to have hundreds of gallons of combustible fuel inside your house?), four bedrooms mostly move in ready, in one of our target school districts.  We ended up discarding our dreams of finished basements, newer construction, cul de sac streets and larger square footage; the houses with all of the things we really wanted were in the $700,000 price range, and we simply couldn’t afford them.  We ended up putting an offer on a recently rehabbed 1970s colonial on a busy street, with an ugly chain link fence and even uglier cedar “shake” siding.   The sacrifices on the outside allowed us to have central air, granite counters and stainless appliances and a jacuzzi tub.   It was OK, not perfect, but certainly expensive for what we were getting.  It was the only house that we could even remotely afford that didn’t feel like a trash heap.

“Yeah, it is nice on the inside.  And the schools are good, which was the biggest thing.”

“And that’s something that just is spotty in Los Angeles.  The Northeast is known for their great schools.  You’ll be fine.  Great even.  In a few years you’ll be driving around in a fancy car yourself, giving your ripped jeans to Goodwill and throwing dinner parties just like the rest of them.”

I couldn’t imagine it.  “You think?” I said, draining the glass.  A warm sleepiness was coming over me.  When I looked back at Annette, it took a few seconds to register her red face and the tears streaming down it.

“I do,” she choked out.  “And you’ll forget all about us back here in the Midwest.”

I reached over and hugged her.  We weren’t that close, but we were both drunk, and it was my last night here.  The last time I would walk over to her house and we’d talk and share stories and drinks.  Of anyone in the area, she was the closest thing I had to a best friend.  “Not possible,” I whispered, the emotion coming over me now too, fueled by the contents of the empty glass.  “I’ll never forget where I came from.”

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