FEATURE

Seven Years: A Short Story

What happens when the girl next door decides to move away?

by Herbert Gold ’46CC, ’49GSAS Published Spring 2010
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Illustration by Patti MollicaThe beautiful woman next door was moving across the continent from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco to Tribeca in Manhattan. “Can’t pass up the opportunity, Dan,” she said. “It’s time, isn’t it?”

This California creature must have been a huntress in her past life. In her present life, Jenny had a passion to work her body — bike, ski, swim, tennis — and largish perfect teeth for biting or smiling and a girlish huskiness of laugh or gossip, which had nothing to do with tempting any prey she had in mind. She gave Dan clearly to understand that she liked him very much, he was fun to talk with, she wasn’t interested. Such had been the sum of the case for seven years now.

When she moved into his building on Alta, he had proceeded slowly. Anyway, she didn’t frighten. She turned out to be, although seriously too young for him, intelligent. That was the last straw. (The phrase made him think of her straw-blonde hair.)

Sure she would have coffee with him. Over the years they had coffee, gallons of cappuccino.

Sure men were always hitting on her. Often there was no one important in her life. But with their first cappuccino, she said, “Chemistry. I should tell you I started out as a chem major although I turned into a computer person. But from my major in chemistry — ”

“Where?”

“ — Stanford — I learned that the chemistry between people is not just terrifically important, it’s all important.”

“I understand. I’m too old. And you learned that in chemistry?”

Her smile blazed with that conquering California brightness. She would let him believe it was just his age. She wasn’t the sort to talk about karmic destiny. But for Dan it seemed part of God’s plan to bring injustice into the world that the chemistry could be right for him and for Jenny it didn’t matter worth a duck’s ass.

My, how irate this situation made him. He even brought God into it.

“Do you realize,” Dan said, “that in a hundred years, when you’re an old lady of a hundred and twenty-three, I’ll be a well-set-up middle-aged gentleman of a hundred and forty-five?”

“How many times have you practiced that line?”

“A few.”

She was laughing. Actually, she appreciated it. “You do it so well, though. Like a terrific stand-up at the Holy City Zoo. And it’s basically a good point, time passing for everybody and all, seize the day and all.” She was grinning into his eyes, shaking her head, her champion hair flying.

“Doesn’t change chemistry though, does it? How about letting me buy you a sandwich?”

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