At the age of thirty-seven
She realized she’d never ride
Through Paris in a sports car
With the warm wind in her hair
-From The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Marianne Faithful
I – Thirty-seven
Trapped. Slowly, inevitably the understanding creeps in: I will never be able to afford a house in this city; this crappy job is the one I’ll probably be doing for the rest of my life; I will never find the lover who will give me time and respect, who will listen to my fears; I’m too old to change. Better not to fight it and just accept.
In her mind’s eye she arranges and rearranges the images of her failures and disappointments, like photographs on a table. The failed, angry marriage. The stillbirth. The repossessed car, estranged children, failed college courses, broken promises, betrayals, accidents, pills, booze, weakness. At least there are Seinfeld reruns on television, and enough money for a bottle of white wine or a new pair of shoes to dull the ache.
II – Forty-one
Too little, too late. No point, really. So long out of school, probably won’t even be able to finish it. Just another thing to add to the list of half-completed projects, unread books, well-begun but abandoned stories. Still, the night school course looks interesting. She can imagine the smell of furniture polish in the library, the young fresh faces of her fellow students sitting in rows. But God – four, five, six years to get a degree. And then what? Forty-seven years old. No real direction in mind. Children almost out of their teens. Still, what will I be doing in six years from now if I don’t try? At least it’ll broaden my horizons, maybe be a chance to meet somebody new.
Slowly, inevitably the four-year-old granddaughter makes her way up from the tideline clutching an orange plastic bucket filled with wet sand. She dumps it at her grandmother’s feet. Today is a p.d. day at the school the grandmother teaches at, so they’re at Spanish Banks discovering the magical anemones, lifting up rocks looking for crabs and tiny squirming eels. Later on, they’ll take the bus to Broadway and buy an ice cream cone and maybe see what’s playing at the Hollywood. She should really be at home working on the paper for her Master’s course. But time enough for that. After you get enough life under your belt, you realize that everything that you are meant to accomplish in this life will eventually get done, even if it’s ever so slowly.