Do Widzenia

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The Keeper

First he refused treatment. Then he checked himself out of hospice. I waited under his building’s blue awning and when a tattooed blond and a buff Israeli bumped him over the curb I followed them, into the lobby with its artificial evergreen and empty wrapped boxes. We boarded the elevator. “I’m his mistress,” I said. The guys looked at me, deeply doubting, then at my dapper, sleeping father. My corduroys had seen better days. So had my thrift store army coat and my hair, now a punkish magenta. I flashed the apartment key. “His daughter,” I said. “He wouldn’t date me if he could.” more »

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The Ambassador’s Daughter

For years, whenever Tessa heard the mention of Iran or anything Iranian, whether in the context of a name, a new restaurant, or the situation in the Middle East, she remembered a time when she went to school across from Gracie Mansion, when a man with no nose frequented the bus stops of 86th Street, and when a gang headed by a pair of redhead twins roamed the Upper East Side. Mostly, she remembered the three months she lived alone with her father over the winter of her fifteenth year. Tessa hated her father then, so she spent as much time as possible out of the apartment, clambering over the banks of dirty snow around the curbs in the grungier downtown neighborhoods, listening to the Psychedelic Furs on her Walkman on the subway, eating vegetable soup in Greek coffee shops with her friends on cold winter afternoons. more »

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Land of Enchantment

In March, Sean took Annie’s car, an Audi station wagon that used to belong to father, for a check-up and an oil change. Annie hopped up and down on the sidewalk, hugging herself against the cold, and they threw all her stuff and Sean’s skis into the back of the car. They stopped for gas and coffee and turkey sandwiches. They ate some fruit and cookies she’d packed in a paper bag, and Annie snapped pictures of Sean’s profile while he drove. After a few hours in the car, Annie lit up a cigarette and cracked open the window. Sean was driving west with her so that she wouldn’t have to drive alone, he said, but they both knew she was leaving him. more »

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At the Drake

After Sam’s mother got back from the opera tour, she started dating Donald, a lawyer who’d been one of very few eligible bachelors in her group. Sam’s mother’s travel agent had told her he was signing her up for a tour with lots of single men, but it turned out to be mostly married couples. During the intermission of Cosi fan tutte, Donald spotted Sam’s mother standing alone at the La Scala bar. He came over and they started talking and he confessed to Sam’s mother that he didn’t really like opera, that he’d taken the tour hoping to meet someone, as he was recently divorced. more »

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Lilacs in January

Almost every day now, before walking all the way east to the hospital where my best friend is dying, I stop at Olympia Florist on the corner of 81st and Lex. Gus, the owner, comes forward with his hands clasped when he hears the bell on the door. “How can I help today, Miss Tessa?”
“Some lilies today, Gus,” I say. Lilies are expensive, but my mother has a charge. “Some daisies. Baby’s breath. How about lilacs, do you have any?” more »

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Ortolans

Hunting season my father hung pheasants out the library window to dry, all in a row and upside down over Fifth Avenue. He claimed that to bury a turkey overnight improved the taste, so the last Wednesday in November found him hacking at my mother’s planter as our bird waited beside him in a burlap bag. My brothers watched through the terrace doors but I stood beside him, clutching a flashlight, which lent nothing to the city’s vesperal glow. more »

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High Line

When my father needed something he came by the Fifth Avenue penthouse he’d bought with my mother in 1970 and rummaged through his old things, calling out to her about a book, a favorite tie, his prescription sinus medicine. He still had a key and the doormen still knew him, as Mr. Thayer from 13c. He was living at his club by then and once as I watched him disappear upstairs into what used it be his home, it occurred to me that he was lonely. Often it turned out he’d already taken the item he was looking for, that what he wanted from us was something else, something we hadn’t been able to give him and still couldn’t. more »

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The Best Days

Her brother had promised to meet them in the Doubletree lobby at seven-thirty, but it was eight already and the revolving doors released only strangers. Cassie’s feet hurt and her arms flagged around Ella. She gave the baby—freshly bathed, smelling of aloe and almond—to Scott and used her cell phone to try Ben. The machine answered, the now-familiar tones of a hoarse-voiced kid, dance music playing in the background. She hung up without leaving a message. She pitched the phone into her black canvas diaper bag then dropkicked the bag across the snappy checkerboard floor. more »

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Anniversary

The secretary who alerted us to Walter’s disappearance said he worked late Friday then went out for drinks with the other young lawyers. Nine thirty-six Saturday morning he made an ATM withdrawal, his last official interaction with the world. He bought—what? Coffee, maybe, a beignet, the paper. When my father and my youngest brother and I flew to New Orleans to spend a day with the police, we found Walter’s wallet on his bureau, complete with driver’s license, credit cards, and a remaining one hundred and ninety-five bucks. more »

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