Around the same time Joe was on the train, Sharon was picking out her outfit before her pre-Shabbat shower while yelling at her mother over the phone, finding little success at either task. “I don’t care. They agreed to let me watch the place while savta isn’t around, and so it’s my place. Tough luck if I’m not home.”
“I’m sorry it had to happen,” her mother said quickly. “Your Uncle Simon had a few hours before spending Shabbat down with savta and he decided to check out the apartment and when nobody answered he used his key. Had you been home I know you certainly would have let him in.”
She was standing in front of her grandmother’s bureau, shaking her head at the constraint her clothing had to share with her grandmother’s, most of it still in plastic coverings from the dry cleaners. “Tamar had just come out of the shower and he scared her half to death.”
“Yes, he told me. He didn’t seem so happy to hear that she lived there…”
“You told me it was all right to bring in a roommate.”
“I did mention it to them, but they can change their minds.”
“If you even asked,” Sharon muttered under her breath.
Her mother was still speaking. “I know you’re upset but listen. When your grandmother had her first attack and had to be checked in, your uncles agreed that you could move in while she was recovering. We all thought that she would only need a few months there at most, but then…” She sighed. “What happened today got me thinking and…”
After a few seconds of silence, Sharon checked her phone to make sure they hadn’t lost the connection. When the silence persisted, she threw the shirt she was trying to extract from its hanger onto the bed and tossed her head to the ceiling in exasperation.
“And I think that you should bring some of your things here, in case the situation gets more unsettled. I don’t want you in the middle.”
She dropped onto her bed and stared up at the paint-drip motif on the ceiling. Sharon wasn’t picking up and moving back home because of her mother’s unfounded worrying, but her uncles were another story. She let out a dramatic sigh, and then realized she was still on the line. “I’m with you Ima.”
Only then she heard her mother crying. “The doctors don’t know what to do.”
Suddenly, the computer chimed, “You’ve got mail!” at full volume. Sharon jumped up and started randomly pressing keys in a vain attempt to recover the moment.
She asked, “How long?”
Her mother was slow in responding, answering brokenly, “They don’t know.” She continued more composed. “That’s why Uncle Simon came in. Mendy is coming next week; maybe the week after that.”
Sharon shook her head. “But we just saw her—what was it, last week? She seemed fine.”
“I know. I don’t understand either.”
Sharon listened intently to her mother’s heavy breathing before asking, “How are you holding together?”
“I’m all right.” There was a pause. “I have to go dress your sister. Think about what I said.”
When her mother hung up, she held the phone in her hand and stared at it. Even when the screen blacked automatically, she continue to stare. She couldn’t recall ever seeing her mother so vulnerable. Heavily, she gathered her clothing for her shower and peeked into the living room to find Erica leaning back on the couch, reading. Just behind Erica’s head was the picture of her grandmother and her mother at the Kotel, and for a moment Sharon stared at it, unable to move.
“Everything all right?” Erica asked when she detected Sharon staring.
Sharon blinked rapidly and forced a smile. “Yeah. I’m showering,” she announced.
Erica turned back to the book. “Great.”
While she dressed in her room afterwards, she heard Erica call out “It’s open!” and the creak of the front door. Sharon was too busy watching the photo screensaver on her computer displaying
captured memories of her last eight years of life at random to think anything amiss about Erica admitting someone into her grandmother’s apartment without her consent. There was a shot of her braiding her sister’s hair, followed by her and Elisheva Ashkenazi in front of the fountain in the middle of Washington Square Park, followed by Joe modeling $10 sunglasses he bought from a newsstand on Fifth Avenue. The thrill of not knowing what would pop up next glued her eyes to the screen, so much so that she didn’t notice how long Erica was talking to the unknown deep voice in the other room. Only when she heard Erica exclaim, “What a small world!” did she surmise that Joe had arrived and so she quickly finished getting dressed.
Already from the hallway she could see him rigidly leaning on the bookshelf, a duffel bag still on his shoulder and a shopping bag from Dagostino in his hand. He was staring in the direction of the couch with his mouth slightly open.
“Hello Joey,” she said as she came closer, startling him. He turned to Sharon with frightened eyes, as if he had seen a ghost.
She pointed towards the couch. “You remember Erica.”
He turned back to Erica and blinked rapidly. “Erica…Warren.”
“Right,” Erica said with a smile. Turning to Sharon, “We’ve been getting reacquainted.”
“Very nice. Erica just got back from two years in LA.”
“She told me,” he said with a shaky smile. He dropped his bags with a strained moan. “Is anybody upstairs?”
Sharon walked over and picked up the Dag Bag. “What’d you bring me, Joey?”
“Uh, bring…” He tried to grasp the bag, but Sharon was already pulling something out.
“You got me Snapple?” she cried. “How sweet!”
Joe shook his head. “Yeah, for you, right…”
Sharon turned to Erica, “Joey’s very thoughtful.”
“I see,” Erica said with a smile.
Joe quickly smiled. “I couldn’t think of anything else,” he asserted as he grabbed the Snapple and brought it into the kitchen. “I’ll go put it in the fridge.”
Sharon gave a puzzled glance at Erica before following Joe into the kitchen.
“Everything all right?” Sharon asked him from behind. “What was that about?”
With strained eyes, Joe whispered, “I didn’t recognize her.”
“Isn’t she gorgeous?” Sharon beamed. “I ran into her last week and I invited her to the aufruf.”
“What?” he exclaimed. “She’s here the whole Shabbos?”
Sharon nodded rapidly. “She’s eating here tonight, so be on your best behavior. She just arrived from LA and you get first dibs. Thank me later.”
“No, I will not thank you. I’m not…” he trailed off, pouting like a spoiled child. Gravely, he added, “I don’t like surprises, Sharon.”
“So I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “But don’t ruin your chance.”
She went to take the Snapple bottle from him, but Joe snatched it away. “Sharon!” he hissed.
“What’s gotten into you?” she demanded. He didn’t answer, instead glaring at her with piercing eyes and pursed lips that were quivering from him grinding his teeth. “I have no idea what’s the big deal.” He opened his mouth to speak but quickly shut it when they heard skipping footsteps from the living room. “Lighten up, OK? I did this for you.”
“For me?” he asked incredulously, but before he could continue, Erica walked in.
“I guess you can’t sit still,” Sharon said to her.
“No,” she replied cheerfully. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I have all the help I need,” Sharon said, motioning towards Joe. “He’s the most helpful guy I’ve ever met.” With Joe’s guard down, she snatched the Snapple from his hands and displayed the bottle as if it were a trophy. “And he knows my favorite flavor! Thank you, Joey!”
“Wow,” Erica marveled. Joe turned red and mustered a smile.
“Is anybody upstairs now?” he asked again.
What’s your favorite Snapple flavor? Do you even drink soft drinks? Do you even drink? Tell Nathan all at www.nathanwolff.com and while you’re there pick up your copy of Outdated TODAY and spoil the ending for yourself! Available in hardcopy and ebook!