Mrs. Wertheimer gently replaces the receiver of the rotary phone in its cradle and remains standing at the antique marble-topped table in the foyer, motionless except for the thoughtful horizontal movement of her blue-grey eyes. No, she won’t do it. Today is Davis’s day off, and he’s spending it with his ailing, elderly mother in Larchmont. Even she’s not so heartless as to demand that he return to Manhattan to drive her to her afternoon appointment. Perhaps in the past she would have done so, but today Mrs. Wertheimer is feeling charitable. Very charitable, indeed.
Mrs. Wertheimer’s hand remains on the receiver long enough so that when she finally removes it, the mouthpiece is no longer warm. This is her custom. She can only make important decisions if she stands completely still. This way, the mayhem inside her head does not have to compete with the movement of her body. After all, that sort of madcap arrangement used to get her in quite a bit of trouble, back in the day.
Emancipated from cradling the phone, her right hand now cradles her chin, thus indicating that Mrs. Wertheimer is in the deepest sort of reverie.
Ten minutes pass. Mrs. Wertheimer’s face relaxes into what passes for a smile. Her right hand pats a non-existent stray strand of hair back into place on the side of her chignon. Her eyebrow arches (why is it arching? is she immune to the Botox injections?), thus signifying that the decision-making process has come to a close.
With a sigh more tremulous than empowered, Mrs. Wertheimer steps away from the telephone table, and peers at her reflection in the mirror above it. This is the last time she will see the face of a woman who’s never ridden the subway.
Mrs. Wertheimer gazes at her reflection. She regards a face that has, at various times, been called “luminous”, “stunning”, and “flawless”, and which, over the past few years, has been referred to as “handsome”. Although she does not appreciate this adjective, she supposes it is better than many of the unattractive alternatives that could have been used had she not been fortunate enough to receive Botox injections before anyone else in her circle ever even heard of the stuff.
She practices her smile for the subway excursion. After all, she doesn’t want to appear out of place among these people.
Mrs. Wertheimer has heard stories horror stories, actually about the subway. From what she’s gathered, it’s the public transportation of choice for all manner of hooligan, juvenile delinquent, gypsy, street person, drunkard, junkie, and working girl. A filthy coagulation of the city’s downtrodden, poor enough of pocket not to be able to afford a better way but poor enough of spirit not to be able to do anything about finding a way out. A shame, really, for these people.
Mrs. Wertheimer practices her “compassionate” face, removes her three-carat diamond ring, and replaces it with the one-carat. There. That’ll do it.
Stay tuned …