Outdated, Chapter Twenty-Seven, by Nathan Wolff
Joe did, in fact, want to call Sharon when he reached his house, but didn’t feel right waking her if she had been asleep. After his conversation with Rabbi Tzvi, he was more receptive to the subtle undertones in Sharon’s voice and thought that there was something suspicious about the way she was speaking to him, especially when she mentioned Andy. He seemed like a nice guy, but Joe wouldn’t put it behind him to have hurt her, if that’s what she had been insinuating. Was that what he detected in her voice? Why was he so sensitive to it?
Gershon’s suggestion that they stop in Monsey appealed to Chana and so at 10:30 they turned off the highway and drove through what looked like just another suburban town until they reached a very crowded pizza shop filled with very Jewish-looking clientele. Even though they ate their pizza in the car, they still got stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and Joe only got home around 12:30. When his alarm started blaring at 6:40 the next morning, he rolled out of bed unfulfilled. He was going to have to find some way to stay on his best behavior for an entire day despite his lack of an adequate night’s sleep. He davened at his normal 7 AM minyan and returned home, hoping that a shower and some strong coffee would help him stay alert. As he was walking out the door to go to the train, he got a call from Mrs. Rosenzweig.
“Good morning Joseph how are you?” she said in one breath. “Penina Rosenzweig.”
“Good morning,” he said as he inserted the key into the lock.“I’m sorry to call you like this, but Rachel just told me that she wasn’t able to get back to the city after Shabbos. Would you like to meet her in Riverdale?”
He thrust the key into the hole with force. “Riverdale?” he repeated.
“Where is that?”
“It’s in the Bronx,” she explained, “just north of the city. You can catch a train from Grand Central and she’ll meet you at the train station.”
“You think this is OK?” Joe asked.
“You’re meant to spend the day with her. She says there’s what to do up there so you might as well.”
So about an hour later, Joe found himself sitting in the back car of a Metro-North train, drinking coffee and eating a black-and-white cookie he bought from the bakery in Brooklyn as he rushed to get to Grand Central. As he waited for it to depart, he thought over Gershon’s advice from the night before:
What do I want to find out about her? I don’t know anything about her! – I’m not supposed to, though. We have a whole life to build together – Do I really believe that? Or am I just saying over what I heard from Rabbi Tzvi? – I certainly am not used to thinking about dating in this way, but where did that get me? – That doesn’t mean that I should go commit to a marriage out of default – But I’m really enjoying the time we spend together, and she seems to enjoy our time, too – Sure, a few hours on a date isn’t that hard – So I’ll wait and see how we relate after a whole day…
Just as he felt a slight jerk and the train slowly left the station, he got a call from Mrs. Rosenzweig.
“Hello Joseph what’s going on?” she asked immediately upon answering the phone.
Since she wasted no time with formalities, he followed suit. “I’m at Grand Central on a train bound for Riverdale.”
“Great. When will you be arriving?”
“That’s a good question,” he admitted.
“So go find out and call me back,” she said before hanging up.
He stood up and saw a conductor slowly punching tickets at the end of his car. He returned to his seat, finished his ad-hoc breakfast and waited for the conductor before calling back Mrs. Rosenzweig with the arrival time.
“Great,” she answered. “Where should she meet you?” she then asked.
“How should I know? I’ve never been to Riverdale.”
“So go to the very front and I’ll tell her to meet you on the platform.”
Joe had already settled into his seat and was ready to rest his head on a discarded Sunday edition of the Daily News. “Why don’t you give me her phone number and I won’t have to bother you,” Joe offered.
“That’s nice of you to offer, but I really don’t mind.”
“It’ll be better that I have it, in the event that something doesn’t work out.”
“I prefer,” she said, somewhat coldly, “that my clients not exchange numbers until absolutely necessary.”
“Why, if I may ask?”
“Having each other’s number allows the disappointed to badger the other or to put unfair pressure.”
She sighed. “Unfortunately, it happens, but psychologically it’s still comforting. Don’t worry. You’ll get it when you need it.”
The train left on the hour and arrived exactly as scheduled. Just as Joe was beginning to enjoy the view of the river from the train the conductor announced their approach to Riverdale and Joe went to stand by the doors. He took a deep breath and felt a smile grow on his face as he pictured her excited face as it would greet him. He was the only one to depart from his car when it stopped, and as he stepped onto the platform he looked in both directions of the platform but found no one waiting. Beyond the railing of the platform he saw a long parking lot dotted with cars and a thick forest of tall trees as its backdrop, but no Rachel.
A bell chimed and within ten seconds of its arrival the train was already continuing on its way northward. He walked with it, heading towards where he saw the few other people who disembarked from the train with him descending stairs that led to the parking lot. When he reached those stairs he waited, seeing as how other passengers had found their rides waiting for them at the base of the stairs; perhaps this was where he was to wait for Rachel. After the electric noise of the train dissipated with its passing, he was alone in a strange place.
For a while he sat on a metal bench and watched other passengers meet their rides. When the last car drove off, he turned his gaze across the tracks to see the calm expanse of the Hudson River rippling lightly from the wind. Beyond the river on the New Jersey side was a steep cliff of reddish-brownish rock all along the bank of the river as far north and south as he could see. As he looked south he noticed that further down the platform were stairs leading to the overpass to the inbound side, and smack in the middle of the overpass was a solitary waving figure. It was Rachel!
“Welcome to Riverdale!” she cried cheerfully as he reached the top step.
“Thank you,” he said breathlessly.
“It’s so nice of you to come all this way. Were you waiting long?”
“No,” he said honestly.
“I see that you found your way here pretty easily.”
“Yeah,” he huffed. He was catching his breath and bent over a bit. From his angle he ascertained that she was dressed less formally than she had been on their previous dates, judging by the stylish, but nonetheless sporty walking shoes on her feet. “What brings us here anyway?”
“Shabbos ended so late,” she explained, “that by the time I was ready to leave it was after 11 PM. My aunt said that since we’re going out for the day anyway we might as well go somewhere here.”
“And what if I couldn’t make it?” Joe asked.
She smiled. “I would have met you wherever.”
He quickly looked away, overtaken by a warm feeling coursing through his whole body. “Well,” he started, but couldn’t continue. “Well, all I know is this parking lot and a large expanse of river. So unless we’re going canoeing, I’m in your hands.”
She laughed. “How’d you guess? Come.”
For five minutes Rachel led them uphill along a thin but well-paved road through the woods Joe had noticed behind the parking lot. It appeared to be a residential neighborhood, but the houses were spread out with large lawns and much property between them.
On the left was a very large school that Rachel indicated was a Jewish day school. It was a quiet Sunday. Only the sound of their footsteps, cicadas buzzing, and a distant leaf blower broke the summer morning calm. Rachel was carrying what looked like a lunch bag over her shoulder, which Joe offered to carry.
“Whew, what’s in here?” he asked as she passed it to him.
“Just some water and fruit.”
“Maybe. I figured that you’ve eaten already.”
“So then we’ll eat something more substantial later. There are a few kosher places in town.”
He squinted in the sun. “Where are we going, anyway? Does this residential jungle ever end?”
“You’ll see,” was all Rachel said.
They walked for a few moments, the rhythm of their footsteps falling in line with each other.
“Had I known that we would’ve been walking this much,” Joe then said, “I would have also worn walking shoes.”
“But then you wouldn’t wear a suit and I wouldn’t get to see this orange tie again,” she replied.
“I ran out of the house,” he admitted bashfully. “This was the first one I grabbed.”
“Don’t worry. It suits you very well.” He looked over to see if her pun was intended and caught her smirking. “And besides, this was the best I could find from my cousin’s closet. All I had for Shabbos were my flats that give me blisters.”
After a few minutes they turned onto a street that was flanked by big mansions enveloped by the thick woods. Joe wondered if anybody else ever walked along this road; there were crosswalks painted on the street, but no sidewalks.
“I hope that you aren’t trying to hint to me what type of house you expect to live in,” he joked.
“Not at first,” she joked back.
They crossed a street and along one side of it was a high wall. Eventually the wall broke, revealing a parking lot, the sign on the side reading “Wave Hill,” with admission hours and parking fees.
“Too bad we didn’t come on Tuesday,” Joe said sorrowfully. “Parking would be free.”
“We aren’t parking, anyway,” she pointed out. “I think that admission is also free on Tuesday.”
“This is where we’re going?” Joe asked. Rachel nodded. “What is this place?”
“My aunt told me that it was once the estate of some very rich man who either gave it away or lost it to the government—she wasn’t sure. But it was converted into a park and opened to the public.”
“Have you ever been here before?”
“When I was a little girl, or so says my aunt. I probably won’t remember a thing.”
“So we’ll get a map.”
There was no map, so they sauntered around, happening upon the flower gardens where Rachel surprised Joe with her knowledge of horticulture and botany. The greenhouses were divided by climates and Rachel was explaining the reason why certain plants could handle extreme temperatures. Had Joe not been as tired as he was, he would’ve appreciated the information much more; instead he simply enjoyed getting a glimpse of an interest of hers. After the greenhouses they walked around the frog ponds where little children were kneeling dangerously close to the water in hopes of spotting unique wildlife. When they reached a bench set off from the path, Joe requested to sit down.
“Is everything all right?” she asked worriedly.
“Yeah. Let’s just…enjoy where we are. We aren’t in any rush to see the whole estate, are we?”
“Of course not.”
Joe dropped down onto the bench. “I imagine that the owner of this place also came here to unwind. What else could he use this many shallow pools for?”
She sat at the opposite end of the bench, motioning for the lunch bag. As Joe extended his arm towards her he made a strained sound, returning to his corner of the bench with a yawn. He could sense her concern and felt he should come clean.
“I’m really fine,” he said. “I just didn’t get much sleep last night. I got back late despite my best efforts.”
“You went away for Shabbos?” she asked.
Joe nodded. “My rabbi invited me to his bungalow colony.”
She gaped open her mouth. “You went all the way to the mountains and came back last night? When did you leave?”
“We left right after Shabbos ended, but we took an unexpected detour for pizza around 10:30.”
“Who drove you down?” she asked as she took out a Tupperware container from the lunch bag.
“This engaged couple who needed to get back to Brooklyn for wedding stuff today. Nice people.”
She was taking out a red plastic fork from the bag and halted it in mid-air. “I’m so sorry. Had I known I wouldn’t have dragged you all the way here.”
“No, I’m glad you did. This place is very nice. I just want to sit for a bit.”
“Would you like some fruit?”
Joe watched her hands as they opened the lid of the Tupperware. She stabbed a large ring of melon with the fork and placed it onto a similarly red plastic plate. With a wave of her hand she passed the plate to him, followed by a small bottle of water. He thanked her and made a berachah before tasting one of the sweetest melons he’d ever eaten.
He even told her, “This is one of the sweetest melons I’ve ever eaten.”
She blushed. “I wish I could say I grew it myself. I didn’t even pick it; I just nicked it from my aunt’s house before I left this morning.”
“You’re taking my job in providing the refreshments for our date.”
“Well, after your last successful choice of restaurant, I felt that I would give you a break. But if my spread isn’t enough, there is a café in the mansion. I figured that a posh place like this only serves gourmet tea and watercress sandwiches.”
“No, this is fine. We can save our appetite for lunch. Are the restaurants far from here?”
“Yeah,” she said regretfully. “But we’ll call my aunt, and someone will get us.”
“They offered this service?” She nodded. “And you agreed?” Again, she nodded. “I see you’re comfortable enough to let your family meet me.”
Joe suddenly felt heavy in his chest after his last statement. With a few short words he had verbalized the silent backdrop to all of their meetings, something which hadn’t even been alluded to up until then. Except for a general statement of “I had a good time” or “I had a nice time” that had concluded their previous dates, they had never directly discussed their personal feelings with each other. It wasn’t as if Joe had gone so far to insinuate marriage, but he nonetheless had inadvertently, though not entirely, broken some sort of wall.
“Sure I do,” she replied after a moment, looking straight into his eyes. Joe admired her response; it seemed to accept the invitation into the next level of their relationship—however without any heaviness. After a prolonged stare, she added, “Just hope that the whole family doesn’t come.”
The day continued pleasantly as they casually perused the mansion and its lawns. For a while they sat at the café under the protection of a table umbrella, talking about their childhoods while gazing at the river and the Jersey cliffs beyond it. Eventually they were shooed away to make room for paying customers and after a short trip to the smaller mansion their hunger caught up with them and they phoned Rachel’s aunt.
“Do you like the suburbs?” she asked him as they waited at the entrance for their ride, sitting on the sidewalk with their backs against the stone wall. “Or do you feel more like a city person after living in New York?”
He thought about it. “I don’t know,” he replied eventually. “I enjoy being able to easily get to minyanim and kosher food, but I don’t love the crowds.”
“What about where you live now?”
He huffed. “Where I’m living now is a fluke. I’m in a well-designed basement on a street lined with mansions—not like these mansions, but still sizeable. Besides the Brooklyn College students looking for parking, it’s pretty much quiet.”
“Where would you like to live, if you had the option?”
He picked at some strands of grass growing between the sidewalk lines. “It’s hard to say. I really don’t know the needs of a couple.”
She picked a blade of grass and threw it into his lap. “So what would you choose if you were making the decision?”
He was taken aback by her directness, but he still answered. “I guess that I like Brooklyn.”
“The people or the place?”
“Both. I feel more at home there, though I need more time to really feel that I can call myself one of them. I also like the availability of things…and the flatness. It makes riding my bike easier.”
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “I didn’t know that you rode.”
“Not that much. Just here and there. I rode to work for the first time ever last week.”
“What prompted that?”
He shrugged. “It was Monday morning, after our Sunday date.”
“You were so wired you couldn’t sleep?”
“The opposite. I collapsed at home and woke up too early the next morning.”
“Well, that’s still nice.” She paused as she watched a car pass. “I thought it was them,” she explained.
“What about you?” Joe then asked. “Where would you like to live?”
“I guess somewhere where I wouldn’t have to take a car everywhere I went. I got used to buses and trains from living in Manhattan and Yerushalayim.”
“Would you want to live in Israel?”
She thought about it. “It would certainly be amazing. But I don’t know how I would handle being so far from my family.”
“You told me once that you didn’t need to live in St. Louis—”
“Yeah, but Israel is a whole world away.”
Just then a very clean black Toyota Camry slowed down and pulled up next to them. As it came to a stop, a teenage girl jumped out of the passenger seat, glanced quickly at Joe before looking straight at the ground as she opened the door to the back seat.
“Meira!” cried Rachel in a scolding manner. “What happened to cleaning-for-your-party all day?”
“I can’t take a break for twenty minutes?” the girl asked before plunging into the car and sitting behind the driver.
Rachel then stood up and motioned to Joe. “I guess that means you should take the front.”
Joe stood up, brushed off the back of his pants and walked towards the car. As he bent into the front seat, he was immediately addressed by an extended hand from the driver, a youngish-looking middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper beard and hair and a warm smile.
“Shalom,” the driver said. “I’m Ya’akov Shwartz, Rachel’s uncle. And you are?”
“Joseph Charnoff,” Joe answered.
“Joseph,” he repeated, nodding his head as if Joe’s name was a very interesting piece of information. The back door closed and the car started moving. “Is that what your friends call you?”
The question sounded strange to Joe. “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just rare to hear someone by the name of Joseph.”
There was audible but hushed conversation in the back. Joe hoped that Rachel wasn’t listening. “I’ve had the nickname ‘Joe’ ever since I was in grade school, and I can’t seem to get away from it.”
“That isn’t too bad, unless there’s a story connected.”
The car turned out of the residential maze onto a road that ran alongside a highway. “It isn’t much of a story,” Joe said after a few seconds of debating whether he should say anything. “When I was little I had a Snoopy hat and my camp counselors would call me ‘Joe Cool.’”
Rachel’s uncle found this very funny, so much so that Joe found himself laughing as well. “Yeah, there’s something about summer camp. One counselor of mine used to call me ‘Black Jack,’ if you can believe it.”
“What?” a voice from the back exclaimed. “I never knew that, Abba.”
“You never asked.”
“And Joseph asked?” Rachel chimed in.
“We’re chatting. So, what do you do, Joe?”
He cringed; for sure Rachel heard her uncle call him ‘Joe’. “Uh, I intern with a Wall Street research firm while I finish my Master’s.”
He started nodding again. “Sounds interesting.”
They were crossing over the highway and passing what looked like some sort of monument tower in the middle of a traffic circle.
“What do you do?” Joe asked to fill in the quiet.
“I have a private dentistry practice.”
“Here in Riverdale?”
“No, in Mamaroneck.” Not knowing where that was, Joe simply nodded. “Did you two have a nice time?”
Joe didn’t know whether the question was addressed to him or not. Rachel answered for them. “Very nice. Thank you for the recommendation.”
“Can you imagine living on an estate like that?” Black Jack asked. “What a way to live!”
“I think Joseph would enjoy the view of the Hudson more than the huge house.”
“Isn’t it amazing?” Black Jack asked. “I never get tired of seeing it.”
“What are those mountains across the river?” Joe inquired.
“Those are the Palisades. One of the Rockefellers bought all that land so that he wouldn’t have his view disturbed. I guess we’re the beneficiaries. So where are we bringing you two?”
“We want to eat,” Rachel said.
“Well, we don’t have anything too fancy in this town.”
“Do you think I need fancy, Uncle Ya’akov?”
“No, but I didn’t know what Joe here had in mind.” He turned to Joe. “There’s the café, the bakery, the deli, and pizza.”
Maybe we’ll walk around first,” Joe suggested. “Rachel will show me the town.”
“There’s nothing to see,” Meira scoffed. “All the stores are on two streets.”
“We’ll drop you off on the corner,” Black Jack suggested. They had reached an intersection where the continuation of the street was lined with small storefronts on both sides. “Here we are.”
“Thank you very much, Uncle Ya’akov.”
“It was nice to meet you,” Joe said, offering his hand.
“Likewise, Joe. Will you be coming back afterwards, Rachel?”
“Uh, I was thinking of taking the train with Joseph later.”
“You’re leaving?” Meira said, disappointment in her voice.
“I’ll be back for your party, don’t worry,” she assured her cousin. “Can you pack my things for me?”
“What things? You’re so neat everything’s already in your bag.”
“Put whatever I left in your bathroom into my travel case, you know, the hard plastic one. I think that’s all I left out.”
“Can I call you if I see anything else?”
“Sure.” They hugged. “See you later.”
Joe stepped out of the car and saw the overhang of an al fresco café. Rachel waved to the passing car as it drove out of sight and then turned to Joe. “Shall we eat here?” she asked Joe.
“This place is kosher?” he inquired.
“It used to be. I guess it closed.”
“So I guess it’s the deli. I figure we should go fancier than pizza, what do you say?”
Rachel’s countenance was visibly lifted by his suggestion. “Lead the way.”
“Me? I don’t know even know if we’re still in New York City.”
They started walking down the street, passing a restaurant that wasn’t kosher and a bank. The next store in had advertisements for kosher meat, but inside only looked like a small market.
“Is this the deli?” Joe asked.
“I don’t think my uncle would suggest this place.”
A woman with a kerchief covering her hair exited the store in question with shopping bags. “Excuse me,” Rachel asked her, “Is there a deli somewhere around here? Like, a sit-down restaurant?”
The woman looked at Rachel and then at Joe, particularly at his tie. “Yes, there was,” she said gingerly. “It was a few doors down, but it closed.”
Rachel frowned. “How long have I been out of the loop? Is there anywhere kosher to eat in this town?”
“There is a café,” she said. Rachel and Joe shared a glance and smirked to each other. The woman then pointed them in the right direction and they started walking.
“I guess it’ll have to do,” he conceded.
“What do you mean? A café is great. Simple foods, choices of
“I think I heard that jingle before.”
They reached the place—a thin storefront with brick siding on the walls and two rows of black tables with wooden seats. There was a counter in front with elaborate desserts on display and various espresso machines lined against a mirror on the wall. A short Mexican waiter offered them their choice of seats and Rachel opted for a booth just behind the counter. Joe removed his suit jacket and sat opposite her.
“I don’t need a menu,” she told Joe after the waiter walked away. “I kind of liked the way they did it in that last restaurant we went to. It takes away the pressure of having the cost decide what you get.”
Joe took the menu and opened it up. “And what if you were paying?”
She shrugged and picked up the other menu. “I hear.”
He reached out and grabbed her menu lightly. “I didn’t mean to suggest—”
“I know,” she reassured him.
“How often do you come here?” he asked.
“To this restaurant? I’ve never been.”
“No, to your cousins?”
“More often since I finished college, but even then, I only came once a month. It’s just one subway from the Heights.”
“So why did I pay $5 to take Metro-North?” Joe demanded to know.
“Because you’d be on the train for two hours if you came all the way from Brooklyn,” she explained calmly. “Besides, the subway ends just outside Riverdale; someone has to pick me up whenever I come.”
“Well, I need a minute to decide what to order.”
“Go ahead. I’ll be right back. If the waiter comes, order for me…” she looked quizzically into the menu before abruptly slamming it shut. “An avocado salad.”
She got up and walked towards what Joe assumed was the bathroom. Once she was out of sight, he covered his face with the menu and sighed, but something felt different. He didn’t feel a relaxation with his exhalation, but instead felt a warm pulsation under his ribs and a deep inner struggle somewhere near his stomach. He wanted to start laughing into the menu, as if his presence in the restaurant was indicative of something very significant that was all becoming very clear right then. The fact that Rachel was going to return from the bathroom in however long didn’t scare him; on the contrary, he was awaiting her return with eager anticipation. Soon they would eat and bentch and perhaps find a shul where he could daven mincha and then take the subway together and it all made sense. There was no apprehension, no need to calculate the direction of the conversation or how to behave. He didn’t mind anymore if she knew that his name was Joe or Joseph or Yosef. It all felt right.
She did return and she did order an avocado salad with vinaigrette dressing and a cherry soda. He ordered a cup of soup and a sandwich. They ate slowly and afterwards, on Rachel’s suggestion, walked back to where they were dropped off and had cookies from the bakery they saw and shared a huge sprinkle cookie the size of Joe’s hand for dessert. Black Jack picked them up from the pharmacy where Rachel wanted to buy a few things and brought Joe to a shul where they davened mincha and afterwards brought them to the subway station on Broadway. When Rachel had to get off the train, Joe stood up with her.
“Thank you for a wonderful day,” he said. “Riverdale was a good choice.”
“I had a very nice time,” she said. “Get home safely.”
“You too.” He wanted to tell her more, but he held back. It was, after all, still a shidduch. She stepped off the train and turned, waving goodbye one more time. The doors closed and through the glass he waved back, reluctantly letting the slow acceleration of the train take him away from her. He sat down and tried to calculate how many stops until he was home. He gave up counting after thirty.
However tired he was, he couldn’t sleep. The day had been a complete success—if the purpose was to convince him that he really liked her. He couldn’t think of a single moment in which he felt that something was odd. Granted, he noticed a few times that she behaved a bit more casually than she had on their previous dates, but he didn’t think of them pejoratively, but as a facet of her character. Or perhaps it was just an indication of how natural they were with each other. He still couldn’t get over that she felt enough at ease with him to have her uncle meet him. His mind was so preoccupied that he didn’t even feel the length of the trip until the train approached 96th. He had to switch to the 2 anyway, so he rushed to the other track, but found no sign of headlights down the tunnel. When the local train on the other side left the station, he heard a voice calling him.
“Joe! What are you doing here?”
He turned to see Avi Glass and his roommate Steven Broder, both dressed in solid polos and dark khakis, walking towards him.
“Woah, how stylish!” Steven said, turning over Joe’s tie to check the label. “Did Sharon tell you to buy this?”
“Maybe,” Joe said quickly. “What’s going on?”
Avi answered, “Not much. Shabbat was quiet without you.”
“Yeah, what are you doing up here?” Steven asked. “We didn’t see you over Shabbat.”
“I’m coming from further uptown. I just switched from the 1 train.”
Avi looked down the tunnel of the 2 train. “Train’s coming.”
“So you’re coming to Jessica’s goodbye party?”
“Jessica Farkas. She’s making aliyah and they wanted to make a party before the Three Weeks.”
“Farkas…” Joe repeated. The name didn’t collate.
“Nati and Jessica,” Avi added as he watched the train approach.
Joe saw Avi’s eyes fluctuating back and forth as the train decelerated and came to a stop just in front of them.
“Oh, right.” Then he remembered his last conversation with Nati. “You think Nati’ll be there?”
Avi and Steven exchanged a glance. “For sure,” Steven said as they got onto the train. There was a line of empty seats and the three of them sat down. “He’s been friends with her forever.”
“It must be hard for him,” Joe said. “Losing a friend like that.”
Avi snorted, which made Steven shoot him a look. “I guess so.”
Joe eyed them suspiciously. He tested his assumption. “If I was in Nati’s shoes, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle a goodbye party for a best friend.”
“Best friend?” Steven repeated. “I wouldn’t call her his ‘best friend’…”
She certainly wouldn’t,” Avi commented. Steven nudged him.
So I’m not the only one who knows, Joe thought.
“So why don’t you come,” Steven offered Joe. “It’s starting now at Abigail’s.”
Joe shook his head violently. “Oh no. I’m beat.”
“Come on. Come have a drink and wish her a mazal tov.”
He tried to show his lack of interest by stretching elaborately. “Nah, I was up very early this morning, and this is my last ride on my card—”
But Steven didn’t get the hint. “It’s not even 8:00.” He smacked Joe’s leg. “So come. I’m surprised that you didn’t get the message. Sharon texted us.”
My phone is off,” Joe said, reaching into his pocket and turning it on. “I forgot.”
They all watched Joe’s phone load up, waiting to see if he had gotten the text message. The train stopped at 72nd Street and with the movement of people getting on and off they suspended their vigil. Avi then said, “You’re not going to get any reception down here.”
“I’ve gotten text messages in the strangest places,” Steven countered. “It’s like a double surprise.”
“Like where?” Avi demanded to know.
“Like at 96th, on the platform.”
Avi dismissed his answer. “That’s because the platform is just below the street, not like two or three levels underground like most stops.”
“Yeah, have you ever been to the 4-5 stop at 57th Street? The escalator is, like, three flights high and even at the top you’re still not at the street.”
“I don’t know how you get texts at 96th. It’s still underground.”
“So what? You get phone calls in buildings?”
Avi shook his head and looked away. “That isn’t the same as underground.”
“Yeah, but the subway isn’t really underground. It’s under a thin layer of paved street.”
“It can’t be just a thin layer of street. With all those cars and trucks driving over, it must be at least twenty feet down.”
Joe listened to their banter with mild amusement. For some reason he didn’t feel included in their absorption in nonsense. He was still reveling in the absolute calm that had settled over him as his day with Rachel neared its close and that made him feel aloof and distant from them. He hoped that they would continue long enough for him to extricate himself at the last minute.
What about an elevator?” Avi was asking Steven. “Do you get texts in an elevator?”
“What does it matter? I simply said that I can get texts in weird places, one of which you don’t understand how. So you don’t understand. I don’t understand either. Can we drop it?”
“Fine,” Avi acquiesced, disappointment in his voice.
The train was passing by a station that only the local stops at. Joe felt inner relief that he had switched. “Do you guys also feel a satisfying feeling when you switch trains and pass the local stops?”
“Sometimes,” Steven said. “I usually take whatever comes first and enjoy the air conditioning.”
“We’re getting close,” Avi interjected. “You coming, Joe?”
Joe made a face, but before he could say anything, they pressured him again.
“Come. It’ll mean a lot to Nati.”
“Just one drink and you can be on your way.”
“You’ll be home by 10 PM.”
“She needs encouragement after making such a big step.”
Only when they both grabbed Joe’s arms and hoisted him to his feet did he willingly accompany them. “OK, but ten minutes and I’m out,” he informed them as they got off the train at Times Square.
Only five more chapters to go! If you can’t stand the suspense, go order your copy of Outdated NOW from www.nathanwolff.com or buy from Nathan on Amazon! Also available for Kindle!