Tova is one of my closest and oldest friends but we often forget that we live ten minutes apart. I see her rarely. We have a mutual friend, Kyle, who we both keep in touch with better than each other, so whatever we don’t tell each other directly we assume gets passed on indirectly.
I go to her apartment for the first time last night, which she shares with her long-term boyfriend, Alex. She lives on “Gold Star Road,” which I love and makes me want to look up the origin of the name, but somehow not worth the Google. The apartment has carefully arranged furniture and an antique floor rug, and it feels very adult. I tell her so, before I remind myself that, not long ago, I had a live-in boyfriend, too, and my friends used to say the same thing.
We sit on the couch and she bundles me up in a maroon Snuggie she made for her boyfriend. I assess the living room, deciding that there are too many end tables and she should shift some to the other room. Tova is the kind of person who would welcome my interior critique.
“He’ll never go for it, he’s very attached to that table,” she says. Tova’s kicked out Alex for the evening. She knows how to do girl time. She has an extensive nail polish collection.
She and Kyle are the only two people I’ve stayed in touch with from high school, which means when we spend our nights talking about people we went to high school with, our voices become an octave higher than normal, our sentences interspersed with “likes.”
“I’m looking at rings,” she says sheepishly, holding out her phone. On the screen, there’s a curated Pinterest board of shiny things. “They’re conflict free,” she says, before I can respond.
I shriek and then wince, reminded of the time my least favorite cousin of my ex-boyfriend got engaged, and she had this abrasively large diamond on her finger which she was showing off to the family. “Is it conflict free?” I asked, just to be obnoxious, because I knew she wouldn’t know what the question meant and she couldn’t care less about the answer. And maybe I was envious, too, of her simple acceptance of the institution of marriage, without question. Or the fact that a man would spend three months of his salary on her, bringing half her family to the jewelry store for guidance.
Tova and I go through the pictures, assessing the beauty and cut and price of each one. I don’t know anything about jewelry but I do like pretty things.
“I mean, I’m going to wear it into the grave,” she says, which strikes me as sweet, because I would never think in these terms, nor do I plan to be buried.
Last week, when I was going through my list of social media accounts to delete, I found a Pinterest board of my own, labeled “Special Event.” It was a series of photos of rings and white dresses and decor and venues, but, my guess is, I didn’t want to be so presumptuous as to call it “Wedding,” or worse, “My Wedding.” The embarrassing truth that I had thought about the color palette of my make-believe wedding, before I even had a partner, seemed uncomfortably counter to my sense of self.
By one in the morning, we’ve looked through each ring, each dress—A frame would be best for her figure–and she’s sent a few screenshots of dresses that would look good on me too, to keep in mind for the future.
We’ve gone down the list of the usual suspects on Facebook, people we were never friends with to begin with, starting with the ones with babies, and then moving onto those recently married. We study each picture–the dresses, the flowers, the centerpieces, the baby toys—”She looks so happy,” I say, to a brown-haired girl I always thought was boring, even though I have no idea if she is happy, or ever has been. “Does she know she’s boring?” I ask Tova. This is a topic I wonder about often. “No,” Tova says, “Of course not.” I feel immense envy for this boring girl, for her swollen belly and her red cheeks and her mortgage. Last year, maybe, this seemed possible, but now it seems so far away.
We Facetime Kyle in Austin, to report the information we’ve found from our investigation. I inform her that her boyfriend from high school didn’t age well, though I’m sure she’s seen his profile.
“People with mean hearts never do,” she says simply, which makes me happy because it took her almost a decade to even admit he was an asshole. Her boyfriend, who she refuses to call her boyfriend, sits silently in the background, on his computer. I don’t know him at all, and it makes me uneasy that one of my best friends spends most of her time with someone I’ve barely met.
We briefly discuss the pros and cons of renting versus buying a house–a reminder that we’re not still in high school—before Tova gives her a shaky tour of her apartment, pointing out the wainscotting, while I hunt for more crackers.
Once Kyle’s phone dies, we call Zak, who Tova has met only once and objects to the spelling of his name. I want to show Tova the amusing way in which he answers the phone–like “Hello?” is a question, and he doesn’t know who is calling–but he picks up with a familar “Heyyy,”, so he agrees to hang up and let us call again just to prove my point. Earlier in the evening, I gave Tova the lengthy, somewhat boring story of how, exactly, Zak and I got together, and she gasped at every turn in the story as if she was watching a soap opera.
“You should just sleep over,” Tova says repeatedly, but I turn her down each time, citing my bad back and my night time meds, which I had forgotten to take in the morning. Sleepovers don’t feel the same now that there are boyfriends.
At two-thirty, Alex comes home, tired from hanging with college friends. Tova tries to engage him in the discussion, but the names of the girls who are pregnant or married or mothering mean nothing to him.