The phone call came out of the blue. Not an email or a message on Facebook, but rather her voice on the other line. Just a simple hi. Recognizing Nadine’s voice, Lotte’s stomach tightened. Could be it was just this week’s episode of The Walking Dead that was particularly tense. They made vague arrangements to meet up at a coffee place in Soho and catch up.
All she could remember from that time was a vague unease and restlessness, a constantly shifting landscape of boyfriends, intrigue and shitty jobs. Surely there were details that would help illuminate who she was before she screwed her head on straight and went to law school. But her rambling journals from that time were of little help.
Neither ordered coffee, it was too late in the day. The parts of Nadine that were no longer there; youth, glibness, an untethered la-de-dah caught Lotte off guard. In the intervening years, Nadine had lost a sister, a mother and any real chance at tenure apparently, though that was a convoluted tale she promised to share at some future date. As the day turned chilly, the old friends returned to Nadine’s apartment in the West Village that she still rented even though her non-tenured teaching job in Vermont kept her away most of the year.
Lotte imagined that the apartment would be dark, empty, clogged with dust bunnies. Instead, it was jumping. Lotte counted six or seven street types moving about the place with a sense of ownership and ease, all homeless save for Nadine’s intervention. Nadine cracked open a bottle of bourbon, their beverage of choice from back then, and whispered the stories of the folks who wandered in and out of the kitchen; the young Mom who was kicked out by an abusive boyfriend, the college kid who dropped math to become a junkie and so on. Lotte couldn’t help but wonder if this was an illegal landlord/tenant arrangement, a creepy way to squeeze money from people down on their luck? Clearly not, there was love there.
Later that night, right before they said goodbye, promising to see each other more frequently, Lotte wanted to apologize for underestimating her friend all these years, but held her tongue. No one changes that radically. Somehow, Lotte never saw the depth of Nadine’s compassion. While brushing her teeth, she couldn’t help but wonder what else had she missed.