Under the track lighting of her family’s kitchen, I noticed Andrea’s hair was natural, undyed; a pleasant change from the majority of the people at the reunion, whose roots belied their true age, even in the dim lighting of the bar. I too was guilty of fabricating an external air of youth, upping my running regiment from non-existent to paltry in the four months prior, hoping to shed five pounds of flab from my love handles.
The Clarks had upgraded their cabinetry since I was last in their kitchen. Inlaid wood was replaced with muted veneers and matte metal handles. For some reason Andrea’s mother chose to keep the oppressive fluorescent fixture over the sink.
I caught my reflection in the glass door of the microwave. At least I still had good hair, thick and dark. I started greying in my beard, which was easily masked with a close shave.
“Raiding the parents’ alcohol.” Andrea emerged from the basement with a chilled Napa Pinot Gris.
The first time I touched a bare breast was in that basement, twenty years prior in our senior year.
“Is that nasty futon still down there?” I said.
She laughed, revealing crows-feet of inevitable aging in the corners of her green eyes.
“Come look,” she replied.
I found two wine glasses in the cabinet next to the fridge; the location hadn’t changed, and followed Andrea down the wooden stairs.
The windowless expanse had aged as well. What was once a teenage rumpus room had become an empty-nesters hideaway. In place of the bulky television stand and her brother’s Nintendo 64 was a stately work desk for her father, who specialized in pulmonary diseases. Andrea’s mother, who was a minor celebrity in the local art scene, had set up a potter’s wheel and an electric kiln in the opposite end where a ping-pong table once stood.
I peered into the kiln. “I remember when they installed her piece at the sculpture garden at Stanford,” I said.
“My mother the visionary artiste,” she said. “Zuckerberg’s wife commissioned her to do a fountain in their yard last year.”
“No shit?” I turned to face her.
Andrea moved to the futon, reupholstered with a rustic floral print. She removed her heels and sat with her legs crossed, leaning back. She uncorked the bottle and motioned for the glasses.
I sat beside her and patted the space between us. “Victor Chang puked right here.”
“You know he’s worth like multiple millions now?”
“He sold his company to Apple a few years ago. It was big news.”
I knew about Victor’s success. I knew about Andy as well, who was a partner at a distinguished VC on Sand Hill Road. I knew about Marissa, who was lead cellist with the Berlin Philharmonic. I knew about Kelly, who was a creative director at Donna Karan. And everybody knew about Teddy. Teddy was a fucking movie star.
She poured generously for both of us. I leaned my head back against the wall and savored the tingly chill of alcohol in my throat.
“Fuck, we’re old,” I said to the ceiling.
“Thirty-eight is not so old.”
“Please. I’ve been underemployed for a decade.”
“So what? I’m an HR manager. You know what it’s like to interview college grads for positions that pay more than mine?”
“You remember what that was like? After college? Everything was like this big opportunity. Every day was some moment you could latch on to.”
“There are still moments”, she said.
“I’m just too damn old to recognize them”.
But I wasn’t too old. I recognized the few sporadic moments and quashed them with profound skepticism built on years of tempering expectations with the reality of being, or attempting to be, a professional writer. It was an all-inclusive skepticism; inwardly directed at my repeated attempts at finding satisfaction, and outwardly directed at the success of others.
“At least we look good”, I said.
“I don’t” she looked into her glass.
“What are you talking about?” I said, “You look great. All the girls in our class are saggy and run down. You look like you’re twenty eight.”
“Exactly what a girl wants to hear at a reunion,” she smiled.
“Shannon looked fantastic, though.” I said
“Well, obviously. She was a bikini model in college. What do you expect?”
“Where were those photos when I was masturbating in my dorm room?”
She laughed and punched me playfully on the arm. “That’s disgusting.”
“Seriously, though,” I said, “You really do look gorgeous. I mean, I always thought you were, but now you have this sexy feminine aura thing.”
“That’s the corniest shit I have ever heard. But it’s nice to know you still think so.”
She moved closer, covering the spot where Victor Chang purged the five beers he drank at Andrea’s house party. She leaned toward me and put a hand on my cheek. “I always loved your eyes.”
We kissed, softly and slowly. It was different than I remembered last, which was sloppy and hormonal.
She pulled back abruptly. “My husband can’t know,” she said.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I glanced at the screen discretely. It was an image of the twins, in matching unisex Snoopy pajamas. They were seated on the couch, waving at the camera and making faces. “We miss daddy,” read the caption.
“I won’t tell.” I said as I slid my hand up her thigh.
Edward swung the motorcycle helmet at the head of the Vespa driver. The driver had removed his helmet to assess the damage, and Edward, with unprecedented raw instinct, snatched it out of his hand.
The helmet landed squarely above the ear with an audible thud. Edward surprised himself from the speed and severity. At five foot eight and doughy since middle school, agility and strength were never Edward’s strong points.
The driver of the Vespa collapsed on the concrete, maroon blood oozing out from his ear, dribbling down his cheek and pooling quickly around his neck, staining the collar of his polo.
Edward loomed over the driver, shaking with rage. Across the back of the polo, in bright red Helvetica, Edward read “Deliveree” – another one of those online delivery platforms that hired uninsured college kids for local courier services.
“Look what you did!” Edward screamed at the body.
But the driver was unresponsive, his eyes rolling back in their sockets as he strained to maintain consciousness.
“Look what you fucking did!” Edward screamed again and pointed.
“Get up and fucking look!” Edward sent a swift kick to the driver’s exposed flank. Then another kick.
A small crowd had gathered around them, paralyzed. Behind the onlookers the EMT team had arrived and began attending to the third body.
The lawsuit against Deliveree would be long and exhausting; Edward’s lawyer mentioned as much. The State was eager to make a scapegoat of these new companies who were skirting regulation through the use of freelancers. The lawsuit had ballooned to fifty million dollars, even though Deliveree had raised only eight million from venture capitalists. But the State wanted the investors to feel the repercussions of their negligent support for these types of companies.
But the second suit, the criminal one, was quick. From arrest to sentencing in less than four months. The Vespa driver suffered a few broken ribs, some lacerations on his face, and the complete loss of vision in his left eye. Edward was facing three years in prison, which was lenient according to his lawyer.
The courtroom was almost empty. Edward’s side included his lawyer, his wife, and his mother. The driver was only represented by a lawyer.
“How do you plea?” the judge said.
Edward stared at the wood flooring and mumbled, the words barely escaping his lips.
“Some college kid drove his bike on the sidewalk just so he could pass by some cars and increase his efficiency rating. And then he hit my son and killed him. So I wanted to kill him.”
“Mr. Baskin,” said the judge, “I understand the difficulty of this situation, but I cannot hear you. So I will ask again and please speak up.”
She waited for Edward to look up before continuing. “For the felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
Yoav Fisher is an economic consultant and occasional writer living in Tel Aviv. He has written for The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Tablet Magazine, and Hello Giggles.