Susan: Kathryn walks through the door of the restaurant, just like the first time we met. Her arms akimbo, reeling off her story. Why she's late. Why she's angry at someone I don't know. What her son has to write for English class. Why her other son's social studies teacher doesn't understand him. Her husband. Her cousin. Her brother. Her audition. Her life writ large. In the telling. As large as her holiday dinners, her novel, her unfinished lists, her outrage at the world's ills, her embrace, her laugh at her own expense. She's invited me to lunch to celebrate my Guggenheim fellowship, but 15 minutes in she has not stopped talking. Finally, I must speak. "Who would you be without your narrative?" I wonder. It stops her cold. Possessed, she gets up without a word. Walks out of the restaurant, comes back in, and starts over. This time she raises her coffee cup. "To you!" she says. And turns it over—the morning, the reason we're here, the dialogue. We change direction and revise. Why are we friends? This is why.

I am sitting in Starbucks. I can't write. I take my coffee and walk the streets. I call Kathryn. Her cell phone picks up but she doesn't hear it. She doesn't hear me shouting, "I can't write! Where are you?" I hear her and the conversation she's having with someone else, not me. And there is no way to leave a message. I call her home phone and tell her how frustrated I am. She calls me back. She has no idea I've called. She's standing in line at Verizon. I find her there and we walk up Broadway and she says, "Tell me where you're stuck."

"Kathryn, you're stuck," I tell her the day before we walk up Broadway. She's just called me. "What should I do about my life?" she says. I say, "Write it down. Write down the things you want, the things you need. Keep it in your pocket. Memorize it. Say it out loud. Or. Or don't need anything. Don't want anything. Stay stuck. Watch the shooting star that is you. Watch it vanish burn up stay behind." Kathryn says, "Read what you've written." I tell her, "Act what you know."

Classic Us

Susan: Do you ever talk about me in therapy?

Kathryn: Absolutely.

Susan: Me, too. Should we leave it at that?

Kathryn and Susan: Let's leave it at that.

Susan: Suffice it to say my therapist is on familiar terms with your name.

Kathryn: What haven't we done together?

Susan: Never gone to a spa.

Kathryn: Do you like spas?

Susan: Not particularly.

Kathryn: Me neither.

Susan: We don't go horseback riding. Or mountain climbing.

Kathryn: Do we hike?

Susan: We walk. [There follows a spitting mocking sound from Kathryn indicating my idea of a hike is not her idea of a hike.]

Kathryn: We've never exchanged recipes.

Susan: I'm going to give you one today. My brownies or black miso cod?

Kathryn: Oh, definitely the brownies.

Susan: Have you ever seen me cook?

Kathryn: Actually, no.

Susan: I've made you a sandwich.

Kathryn: You put out fixings.

Susan: I make you coffee.

Kathryn: And I love you making it for me.

Susan: I am a mother. I did once have to cook something. Didn't I?

Kathryn: I believe you. We never slept in a tent together.

Susan: And never will.

Kathryn: We might end up having to flee with our houses on our back.

Susan: You mean, the way things are in the world.

Kathryn: And we might be happy to have a tent while we're escaping.

Susan: Stop.

Kathryn: If I have to run, you have to run with me because I can't imagine escaping without you. Maybe that's why I want you to work on your aerobics.

Susan: What have you done with other people that you haven't done with me?

Kathryn: Uh-oh.

Susan: You've gone rafting. That makes me want to think of what I've done that's dangerous and reckless and thrilling that you would never do.

Kathryn: You write.

Susan: May I remind you that so, now, do you.


Next Story