Place: Atlanta, GA
I met Joyce at a Jewish Singles party. She was a compact woman with a helmet of hair. I imagined that when she was in high school, she was the saucy girl who looked cool wearing glasses. When I met her, the sauciness had been replaced with bossiness and the glasses had been replaced with contacts.
I didn’t approach her, she zeroed in on me. I’d always been passive at mingling parties, so I was easy prey for aggressive women. After a couple of drinks, I found out all about Joyce. She was older than me. How much older she wouldn’t say. She was divorced. She had two sons. The oldest was less than ten years younger than me. The younger son had some kind of medical problem that kept him in the hospital for weeks at a time. I will call them Tyler and Jefferson.
Joyce wasn’t Jewish and I figured it was just my luck that I would hook up with the one Gentile at a Jewish Singles party. Joyce’s best friend was Jewish and she had tagged along to the party with her.
Sex with Joyce was okay. I definitely did the lion’s share of the work in bed. She acted as if it were my job to please her. She never let on whether she enjoyed our couplings or not, but she did insist that I keep coming back for more.
When I went to hang out at her apartment, I felt like I was going to visit somebody’s aunt where you weren't allowed to relax and enjoy yourself. She never played music in the apartment. She kept the TV on CNN all the time. Tyler and I discussed bands like U2 and the Talking Heads, bands Joyce had never heard of and had no interest in listening to them.
Once when I came over, Jefferson, the frail son, was there. He was a cheerful fellow, though he was pale and had a vague feeling of sickness about him. Joyce fussed over him like he was a Ming vase.
When Joyce and I were alone, her favorite topic of conversation was her ex-husband Irving. She complained and complained about Irving. It was like being stuck in a bad sit-com. Irving this and Irving that. I couldn’t get her to change the subject.
The main lesson she learned from her painful divorce was that she learned who her real friends were. They were the ones who stuck by her after Irving baled. Those were her real friends. The people you could count on.
When she said this, I thought how I wasn’t one of her real friends. I didn’t see myself as a friend at all. I was her gigolo. I don’t think we even liked each other that much.
The breaking point in our relationship was when I stayed over on a Sunday night and got up to go to work Monday morning. I was used to a light breakfast and wanted to leave so I could have time to pick up what I wanted at a grocery store. But Joyce badgered me into letting her make breakfast for me. She prepared some kind of sweet pastry that came out of a box in the freezer and was warmed up in a microwave. She gave me milk to drink and wouldn’t share her coffee with me. I realized she was treating me like I was another son.
As I drove to work afterwards, I thought about the time I had spend with Joyce and decided I didn’t feel like spending any more time with her. I was supposed to call her the next day, but I didn’t, and I never called her again.
At least a year later, maybe more, I came home to my apartment and my roommate told me that he had answered a call from a woman named Joyce. She was looking for me and would he take a message to give me. The message was that Jefferson had died, but not to worry about her. Her real friends had been there to comfort her.
My roommate gave me a disappointed stare, as if to say how dare me for being such a shitty friend. I filled my roommate in on my background with Joyce and said that though I was sorry to hear about Jefferson, I had never been Joyce’s friend, real or otherwise.