Roberta Allen

Suppose you were sixty-one, had bought a car, had taken twenty lessons from the only certified instructor in the county (a guy you called "The Thug," who loved talking about local gang shootings and his Brooklyn days boozing in bars), after which you still went through red lights and stop signs, endangering strangers and so-called friends, like the one who said, "Maybe you're too uncoordinated to drive," or the disabled woman who said, "Something is definitely wrong with you," or the one who blurted out, "Sell the car!" Suppose that, in desperation, having failed three driving tests, you hired a lesbian ex-social worker to help you drive, still smarting from the injustice of being fired for breaking professional rules by taking into her home a Libyan client, who then betrayed her to her boss, depriving her not only of income for herself, her adopted black baby and her mother, but of the possibility to ever work again in her field, and forced you, while driving, to listen to her complain nonstop in the worst New York accent, not only about her job loss, but about her last lover who left her, her failure to make friends since her move from the Bronx, her mother's dependency, and, at forty-five, her many attempts at in vitro fertilization, using sperm from her Indian husband who lived in another state and had married her to get a green card. Suppose that when you complained about her habitual lateness, she accused you of being unprofessional and confusing business with friendship (though you had only confided to her your one-night stand with a musician and your unfortunate affair with an impotent man in Memphis), would you still hesitate to fire her, after trying out, without her knowing, a former ambulance driver with waist-long hair who gave massages to dogs for a living and who refused to drive with you again because he claimed his back was acting up, and a terrified chauffeur who shrieked when you nearly backed into a trash can, and who made you see a mechanic because the sound of your engine convinced him that your poor old Cabriolet convertible was ready to explode?

Every Man's Nightmare

After listening to her obsess for an hour on my speaker phone, my ex-boyfriend called her "every man's nightmare." I don't remember exactly what she said, only her hysterical voice as she spoke about the man she'd gone out with the evening before, a man she liked who, in the moment of trying to kiss her goodnight, unleashed every demon she normally drowned in red wine, but, evidently, she hadn't had enough red wine to drink, or maybe there wasn't enough red wine in all the liquor stores combined in Ulster County to drown the fear his attempted kiss let loose, which made her tell him, probably with the same breathless rush of words I was hearing on the phone that another woman they both knew was much better suited to him than she would ever be, and that she'd be happy to give him her number since she was incapable of having an intimate relationship or, for that matter, a casual relationship with him or anyone else, so sure was she that she'd wind up ruining everything, which is exactly what she did, without even having, what could have been for someone else, the sweetness of a kiss.  

The Right Side of the River

"You live on the wrong side of the river," the retired gallerist said, when he could still see well enough to drive (which would not be for long) and to curate an exhibition in Chelsea of Upstate artists who lived in a county on the right side of the river, where he, of course, lived, but that would not be for long either. He was beginning to curl like a shrimp, which some old men tend to do. When I asked about the floor installation of small, framed, seemingly abstract, black and white images lined up in neat rows, he told me, smiling his gap-toothed smile, that they were images of cunts, enjoying the sound of the word, as he said it, looking for a moment young.