Just Breathe

Not Veronica, but Betty.
Mary Ann not Ginger.

I was not fooled by the different last name, the changed hair style, or even the fuzziness of the Facebook picture. I recognized her immediately. And I smiled.

She hadn’t been beautiful or glamorous. She was pretty. She was cute. She was smart and she was ditzy. It was a combination that I have always found irresistible. But she was totally inaccessible. It would be years before I would date a non-Jewish girl and I knew nothing of conversions. So we became friends. I didn’t have an agenda or ulterior motives. I was completely safe. I listened to her and I could make her laugh.

There were days that I lived for that laugh.

And now, thirty plus years later, we were having lunch. Still incredibly cute, still smart, and somehow even ditzier, she was still inaccessible. The smile was unchanged, the laugh still endearing.

Back at my office she tried to recall a song she had heard earlier in the day. “Her name was Anna. Her last name had something to do with a hammer. Nail, nail something.”

I offered to look up Anna N. on Google.

“It was a great song. I couldn’t write it down. I was still on the turnpike. New song. Breathe.”

I had already walked to my desk and begun the search. “Breathe isn’t new, but it is a great song. This should be easy.” I clicked on a link. She leaned over my shoulder to read the lyrics.

I clicked on another link and a pretty young woman stared into the camera, and into us, as she began to sing. The words meant something to me. I’m certain they meant something to my friend. Not every silence is awkward, but this one was. I turned as she retreated to where we had been sitting.

It had been a moment of great intensity and intimacy. But we aren’t destined to share such moments. We weren’t in 1972 or ’73. We aren’t now. I returned to my seat and did what I did best.

I made her laugh.