Friendship by Eric Lande


Cecilia and I have been close friends for as long as I can remember...which, at my age—and I refuse to divulge that to anyone—memory is a little like playing with a yo-yo. When younger, Cecilia had been not simply beautiful, but glamorous. She had been a fashion model. And, as a fashion model she felt the part, meaning she was narcissistic, egotistical, self-absorbed, and overly generous to her friends. On many occasions, she handed me down gowns I had admired—without any thought of envy on my part—simply because I had admired them.

Cecilia’s jewelry was outrageously obvious, meaning expensive. Over the years, Cecilia has had a slew of lovers, all of whom have gifted her fabulous jewels. I once asked her what was her secret, as, since I had divorced Silas—the cheapskate—I had only managed to garner a handful of lovers—and none of them had ever gifted me more than dinner at a modest restaurant.

“Rachel, my dear, the men in my life and I have always formed a mutual attraction....”

“What might that be?” I asked, wanting to know, in case I could learn from her example.

“They have been attracted to my beauty, my body, and more than anything else, to my personality and intelligence...and I have always been attracted to their bank accounts.”

Cecilia married once, and that was a short-lived affair, for, “Marriage is an incumbrance which can only get in the way,” she told me. “I married once, and learned my lesson—never to repeat the mistake.”

Now Cecilia was in a long-term relationship with Barney. At her age, which she, like myself, would never reveal to anyone. But, given that I have known her for over fifty years and at the time we met Cecilia was at the end of her very successful modeling career, she had to over eighty.

I, too, was in what could be described as a long-term relationship, with Guiseppe. Hers was sexual; mine was cerebral, but at our age, did it matter?

We were accustomed to call one another at least once a week, just to catch up.

“I had a very busy day, yesterday,” I told Cecilia when we spoke a week ago. “Guiseppe needed me to take him to the ophthalmologist....”

“I take Barney to his ophthalmologist every six weeks. You know, Rachel, that he has a very severe condition....”

“Guiseppe didn’t know what was wrong, but I suspected that he had either developed cataracts or....”

“Barney wasn’t seeing properly. This began about a year ago. He was driving home when he hit a lamp post....”

“As Guiseppe is an artist, not being able to see well is....”

“I told Barney he must book an appointment with my....”

“Cecilia, would you please allow me to tell you about Guiseppe?” my voice beginning to show a slight amount of annoyance.

“Well, Rachel, all I was doing was telling you about Barney. So, allow me to continue.”

This conversation was typical of many I’ve had with Cecilia over the years. Just last month, I was telling her about my dog Zo√ę’s diarrhea.

“If you think that’s a problem, my cat Zanzibar climbed a tree in Central Park and I had to call the Department of Recreation to help me get her down.”

And then there was the time I called Cecilia for sympathy as my assistant, Anne, had made an appointment for me to meet with the Commissioner of Public Works when she knew I had a standing appointment with Maxamilien to have my hair streaked at the very same time.

“I can tell you, Rachel, that when I went for the fitting for the dress I had ordered to wear to the museum ball....”

The limit to this behavior was when I invited Cecilia to join me and my other guests—including my children and grandchildren—for the Passover seder. As meals on the first night of Passover are eaten early, I told her to come for 5:30. When she hadn’t shown up by 6:30 and we were about to sit down to start the meal, I called her.

“Rachel, I’m not dressed. I won’t be coming.”

“Don’t you think it would have been polite had you called to let me know?” I said to her.

“Why? You have so many around your table, one less wouldn’t make any difference.”

“Cecilia, you’re rude....”

“Rachel, you’re a spoiled brat,” and she hung up.

I was furious, but returned to my family and other guests, trying not to show my displeasure. The next day, I called my brother Aaron, as I had to tell someone. As I told him my story, and the history of other conversations I’d had with Cecilia in the past, Aaron said, “Rachel, Cecilia is playing the game of one-upmanship,” and for some reason I have yet to fathom, he couldn’t control his laughter.

“If I were you,” he continued after his hilarity had subsided, “I would call Cecilia and tell her you forgive her rudeness—say it with your own words. You’ve been friends a lifetime. You know her personality. Despite her one-upmanship, you’ve remained friends. So, call her and make up.”

I waited, as I wasn’t about to give Cecilia the satisfaction of my calling her, when, to me, she should be calling me, to apologize.

Four days after speaking to my brother, I called Cecilia.

“Cecilia, we’ve been friends for many years....”

“You needn’t quantify our friendship, Rachel.”

“And, we’ve been through a lot....”

“In that respect, what you’ve been through is nothing...I say what I’ve been through in my lifetime.”

“Can’t we simply forget our little disagreement...?”

“To you it might have been little, but I like to think in big terms.”

“I would like us to remain good friends.”

“All right. I agree...but I still say you’re a spoiled brat.”


About Eric: I was born in Montreal, but have lived most of my life in the south of France and in Vermont, where I now live with my partner on a 500-acre farm. Previously, I taught at l’Universit√© d’Ottawa where I served as Vice-Dean of my faculty, and I have owned and managed country inns and free-standing restaurants. My stories have recently appeared in Bewildering Stories, Literally Stories, StoryHouse, The Pine Cove Review, and in 10 by 10.


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