the life of richie

EN BRETAGNE, AGAIN; OR NOT

Posted in is by Rich on May 23, 2010

A former student from many years ago posts to his Facebook feed, “en Bretagne,” and because he is one who never posts anything, it is a mild shock, the return of one once familiar in an unfamiliar setting. (I will call him Andrew Bretagne here.) Hours later, I think I see him sitting outside Express Pizza, talking to two police officers. Could it be him? and it seems plausible; this was the kid who over spring break the year he was in my class (he was a junior in high school) left train schedules for Boston in his bedroom for his parents to find, when really he had stolen aboard a bus bound for Chicago. Police eventually were sent to find him and return him to Bergen County, NJ. But still, you see why I wouldn’t put it past him. “Andrew est en Bretagne,” when really he is sitting with a girl outside a closed pizza shop on an island off the coast of South Jersey. And with the police: it is a rerun of spring break his junior year –– that year we took off for Amsterdam to see the tulips and Anne Frank’s house, my friend. While we were touring the annex, Andrew was aboard a Chi-town bus, running away, only to be found by the secret police and taken back to the Garden State.

There is no place like unheimlich.

At breakfast, there seem to be too many babies (I feel claustrophobic –– like their screaming is eating up all the air), and I wonder why must there be so many children in the world (and before 9 A.M.) and want to post to Facebook, “Rich thinks there should be a tax on babies in restaurants,” but know it will perturb friends who’ve gone to seed (in his feed). So I decide, instead, to later blog about it: because none of the breeders have time to read this (and if you are reading it, well done, you, still finding time for yourself, what with the child/ren, and when you do steal a moment, what do you do with it but read this blog: I am touched but unmolested). The homefries at the Beach Club are delightful, but need some ketchup; the Florentine and rye toast exquisite. A woman with a baby cranky about its hotcakes being too hot, pushes her chair up against mine and complains, “I don’t have enough room!” –– but I was here first, and so refuse to press in tighter. Besides, how will any of us ever have enough room again with all your spawn, woman? The nerve.

Unheimlich is where you hang your pointed hat.

I did a travel project about Brittany (Fr. Bretagne) when I was a junior in high school. (Brittany’s birthday is tomorrow; I must remember to return her e-mail.) I remember –– (I did not run away from home on a bus, but) standing in front of the class –– gesturing to a map –– Mme. Rinck smiling with approbation as I tried to articulate, in an awkward tongue, the walled cities like Saint-Malo, tous les châteaux, and with England just across the Channel, what more could you want from vos vacances? Were we, my class partner and I, both wearing pointed hats for some reason? (I seem to recall.) I seem to remember that –– Andrew Bretagne, when he was in class, always looked so detached from us all, but would sometimes offer something to our discussion, being pulled from his inner abyss a moment , and once he used the word behoove when speaking. And it behooved everyone to smile when he did, for he was much admired by everyone.

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MY FRIEND, SHE SAYS

Posted in is by Rich on May 10, 2010

My friend, she made her money in hedge funds and retired at 30. She talks of going back, at least for the health benefits. We go to the diner for coffee and pie; been going to the diner since high school, when we were both just theories of people and not much of anything yet in practice. Before decisions were made; before revisions and more decisions rendered.

My friend, she broke her arm, and now has to wear this ridiculous hot pink cast for another two weeks, as punishment or prevention: she will not go back to work in hedge funds until it’s off. Her hand, what once made rich financial transactions, itches with freckling skin, hungers for the saw. “Gross,” we agree, and receive our coffees and creamers.

My friend, she vituperates Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore, and I just sit and smile, because it’s like watching a live version of Fox News sometimes. We speak of less toxic subjects, like the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. She mentions going to Norway with her dad, to visit relatives, and I say I’ve always wanted to go to Norway. She says, “Really?” she says; she has no desire, except to provide company for her dad. “Why would you want to go?” Suddenly, I feel rather stupid for wanting to go to Norway, but later will dream of fjords if only one could afford to see them. I think of all that oil hemorrhaging into the sea and want to scream [cannot be articulated]. “Those Scandinavian countries fascinate me.”

I tell my friend, my sister has started working for the census, and she sneers that it [the census] seems like such a waste of money. “Do you know how much it costs for each household? $1000,” she says. I ask if that means for paper and to pay the enumerators [census workers who go door to door] and desk clerks like my sister; she supposes. She argues with her phone, which seems to be frozen or dead. “How is the pie?” She seems changed, my friend, like too much leisure has left her retired from life. Later, when I am dreaming of fjords and greasy seagulls, I wonder what she believes in above all else. Her new nephew. New York City. I think she does me, but maybe only sometimes. In New York City, she is sheltered from all of this, and rarely leaves, like an old recluse who’s shut herself off from the world and doesn’t answer the knock when the enumerators come to call. She shows me a picture of her nephew on her phone when I slip into talking about grading research papers.

When I drive her home through the dark, sleepy suburban streets, my friend, she says, “I don’t know how you can live here.” I think it scares her, my friend, these people out here, outside of the city with its glittering illusions, out here in the suburbs, where there are only hedges but no funds. We embrace, and she slips from my arms out the car, blurring into the darkness and the storm. It is an oft-repeated dance, and all the other times we have hugged when I’ve dropped her off at her parents’ are painted underneath this most recent print; but those earlier prints become fainter each time.