Years ago, I confessed to my friend Naomi that I wanted a husband more than a career. She rolled her eyes and said, “Pablo Picasso says there are only two types of women—goddesses and doormats. Don’t be a doormat.”
Naomi let me choose from the guys she didn’t want. Back then, my now husband, struck out. “He wears polka dot socks with sandals,” she whispered in my ear. “He’s corny.” Naomi excused herself, and Rob and I started to talk. I thought Rob was handsome, he had big brown eyes and the slight beginning of a beer belly. He told me he wanted to go into teaching, and live a simple, drama-free life. I told him I wanted to live in a Colonial with a bright yellow door. He told me he could make that happen if I would be the one to drive the minivan. “I guess you can find treasure in another woman’s trash,” Naomi sneered.
Naomi had been competing with women her whole life. I spent my college years listening to her brag about how she could take any woman’s man, even if she didn’t want him. During college, Naomi dated ‘Money Bags,’ a married man. After college, he finally divorced—and married some other woman.
There was a silent divide between us, our bundle of choices—good and bad. As the shower water ran, I thought about the trajectory of our lives. I got married to Rob. Naomi adopted a cat from a shelter. We had our first baby. Naomi got a promotion. Our new family weathered hurricane Sandy while I was pregnant with another baby. Naomi moved from Philly to Connecticut, then back again. Despite the differences, Naomi and I kept in touch, although a little less frequently as time went on. Sometimes I was jealous as she spoke of a freedom I would never have again—going out, traveling, and meeting new people.
The bathroom door opened and steam floated into the bedroom. I watched from the door as she took some objects out of her make-up bag: a tube of ‘Confidence’—her go-to gold lipstick and black mascara.
As I sat there running my fingers over her duvet, I told myself that I stayed connected to her because she was the last of my friends who knew what I was like when I was fun. While I was at home picking up Legos, changing diapers, and cooking dinners, she was gallivanting with people who drove cars I could never afford.
“Alright, let’s go.” Naomi stood in the bathroom doorway and smoothed her hand over her hair. I took my sunglasses out of my bag and put them on as we walked outside. The air hung heavy with humidity and the quick walk down the street seemed grueling.
We ordered from a turquoise-colored food truck selling iced treats and sat on park benches. Naomi faced me, her eyes squinted, and the corners of her mouth curled.
“I could have had Rob, you know.” She ran her tongue lengthwise over her butter pecan ice cream. I stared across the street.
“Yeah, but you said he was corny, and to take him off your hands.” I shoveled water ice in my mouth.
Naomi glanced down at her manicured hands. “Things would have been different,” Naomi said pausing to take another long deliberate lick of ice cream. “If he was with me.”
I looked at her through my shades, she was no longer in competition with me and she knew it. I took one last spoonful of cherry ice and tossed the cup in the trash.
“You would have ended up the same,” I said. She opened her mouth to say more, but I put my hand in the air—the conversation was over. There was no medal for staying in a friendship that had outlived itself. I stood up from the bench and walked away, letting the gauze of my skirt flow with the wind.
Pietra Dunmore writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Her writing has appeared in The Intersection, Hippocampus Magazine, The Journal of New Jersey Poets, Rigorous, Phati’tude Literary Magazine, and Human Parts. Her work can be found on pietradunmore.net
Image: “Exterior Interior” by Sarah Sampson