A man and a woman, well-dressed, both who look to be in their late forties are seated beside one another at table at Renee Fiddleman’s oldest daughter’s wedding reception.
They have not yet been introduced or, if they have, neither one remembers the other’s name. They have already finished the arugula with sliced pears, kosher proscuitto, blue cheese, and candied pecans. Though she did not eat the prosciutto, being a vegetarian and he left the pecans on the edge of his plate, allergic to tree nuts.
Their table is far from where the bride and groom are seated, or who were seated, since they are now both dancing with relatives and friends who have been invited to the dance floor by the emcee, who sounds like he is calling the eighth race race at Pimlico.
“Is that your wife?” the woman asks.
“I’m sorry, who?”
“The woman who was sitting across the table from us who has a body like Anita Ekberg and who is now dancing with my husband.”
“That guy is your husband?”
“Yes. Well he was my husband, no, let me start over again. He is my husband but we are separated and getting a divorce if we can agree on who gets the house, and the kids, and the succulents.”
“The succulents? What succulents?”
“We both had a greenhouse collection. Before we got married. That’s how we met. We are botanists. Or, we were both botanists. I still am, but Shep was blackballed from the BSA for crossing an echeveria elegans with a hawworthia cooperi which is, as you can imagine, a genealogical total no-no.”
“The BSA? The Boys Scouts?”
“No. Where are you from, Cleveland? The Botanical Society of America.
“No, she’s not my wife.”
“Well you kept looking at her with that ‘husband’ look on your face.”
“I’m not her husband. I’m a dentist and I can tell she has an impacted wisdom tooth from the way she was chewing on just one side. And, what is the ‘husband look?’”
“Like how they look at us as if everything we do or say is stupid and then they make some sarcastic remark like, ‘You know if, you just packed a little more sensibly you might be able to get everything into one carry-on instead of three…’ Asshole! He would never think of just helping me with the suitcases and not parking in the cheap lot, a mile from the terminal to save fifty cents or five bucks on a skycap. But he buys a case of vodka he checks because he can’t just drink regular vodka and not Solszhenitsyn or whatever.
“Oh my God. You’re an asshole just like him. I should have known. You must be the creep orthodonitist.”
“Who are you?”
“Schwartzman? Sylvia Schwartzman? The Slippery Sylvia Schwartzman ”
“Oh god, where did you hear that? And yes, I’m Renee’s bridge partner. I can’t believe she would put us together.”
“I used to date Renee before she married Frank, and she didn’t.”
“She didn’t? What are you talking about, she didn’t? You’re sitting here next to me. What do they call that in New Jersey?”
“I meant she didn’t put us together. I switched the place cards so I wouldn’t have to sit with the mortician.”
“I got stuck next to him at the other daughter’s wedding and he kept a running commentary on the Dodger’s game from a transistor radio earplug, and he ordered the prime rib which he never should have done with the lousy dentures he wears and he kept clicking and spitting the chewed up meat into a napkin in his lap. And he keeps looking over here like he’s about to come over any second.”
“He might. And why don’t you just get up and just go brush you teeth or floss or something. Murray is a darling and you have big polished brass balls to talk about him like that.”
“Look, Sylvia, the guy is a mortician. What kind of a guy does that for a living?”
“Don’t ‘look Sylvia’ me. What kind of a guy sticks his fingers in people’s mouths and gropes them while they’re under the gas for a living?”
“Hey, Sylvia, I’m going to make believe you never said that.”
“Why don’t you just make believe you forgot to leave your split level in Mah Wah or Moon River or wherever you keep the Playboys in your underwear drawer, and say ‘goodnight Gracie’?’”
“Sylvia, you’re right, I am sure I am all you think of me and more. I get it. I had the good sense to never get married. Maybe I’m a misogynist, maybe not. I’m not a groper. I’m a good dentist. I like making money. I like where I live. I don’t mean to hurt anybody and I appreciate criticism but you know what? You don’t know me. You don’t want to know me. It’s easier to put me in the same box with your soon-to-be ex and the other men you think of as cancelled checks. But, if you ever need a cleaning we have half-price Thursdays for botanists with overbites.”
“Shep said he liked my overbite.”
“Ok. And with that I think I will give us both a break and take my place card and go sit by Murray. He might have the ballgame on and I can watch while he masticates his mashed potatoes and sirloin tips.”