It was an unexpected complication for Andy Kelp when it turned out Anne Marie wanted to come along. “Don’t tell me you know Las Vegas, too,” he said.
“Never been there in my life,” she assured him. “Politics was all the gambling we ever did in my family.”
This conversation was taking place in a cab headed uptown, late Wednesday afternoon. They’d had lunch with Gus and Gus’s friend Tillie, and then they’d taken in a movie down in the Village, and now they were on their way back uptown to what until recently had been Kelp’s apartment but which was now rapidly becoming “their” apartment, and here it turned out Anne Marie wanted to come along on the caper in Vegas. This was enough to cause Kelp to undergo a major reappraisal of the relationship right here in the taxi, with bright-eyed Anne Marie studying his profile the whole time.
Over the years, Andy Kelp had had a number of relationships with persons of the opposite sex, some of them solemnized by the authorities in various rites and rituals, others not. He didn’t divide these relationships by the degree of their solemnity, however, but by their length, and in his experience there tended to be two kinds of interpersonal intergender relationships: (1) short and sweet, and (2) long and bitter.
Kelp knew this wasn’t everybody’s experience. John and May, for instance, and others he could think of. But for himself, up until now, it had always been true that every new pairing started off on a happy high, which gradually ebbed, like the tide. Short relationships, therefore, tended to leave a residue of nostalgia, a semihappy glow in which the rough spots were gauzed over and the highlights highlighted, while longer relationships tended to come to a close with bitterness and recrimination, bruised egos and unresolvable disputes, so that only the wens and warts remained outstanding in the memory.
So the question he had to ask himself, Kelp thought, riding there in the taxi beside the expectant Anne Marie, was how did he want to remember her. Did he want to remember her warmly and sweetly, or coldly and bitterly? If she was important enough to him so that he would want the memory of her to be golden—and she was, she definitely was—then wasn’t it about time to let memory begin its useful work, by saying good-bye, Anne Marie, good-bye?
On the other hand, he had to admit, he was somehow finding it difficult to think about life after saying good-bye to Anne Marie. He enjoyed her, and he knew she enjoyed him. And in one significant way, she was different from every other woman he’d ever met, and a very pleasant significant difference it was. In essence, she just didn’t seem to give a damn about the future.
And that, so far as Kelp was concerned, was unique. Every other woman he’d ever met, when she wasn’t being worried about her appearance, was being worried about what was going to happen next. They were all of them fixated on the future, they all wanted assurance and reassurance and something in writing and a plan. For Kelp, who lived his life with the philosophy that every day was another opportunity to triumph over the unexpected—or at least not get steamrollered by the unexpected—this urgency to nail down tomorrow was completely inexplicable. His reaction was: Say, you know, it isn’t even that easy to nail down today.
(Of course, that this very philosophy might be the cause of the nervousness in his woman friends that made them fret more than they otherwise might about events to come, had not as yet occurred to him. However, since all his days were brand new, since he wasn’t stuck to a predetermined pattern, it was a thought that could still occur; nothing is precluded.)
Still, the point was, Anne Marie was different. She took the unexpected in stride and didn’t seem to worry much about anything, and particularly not about whatever might be coming down the pike. This made her very easy for a guy like Andy Kelp to hang out with, and maybe it’s also what made it easy for her to hang around with him. Here today, and who knows about tomorrow, right? Right.
The cab was approaching their apartment. Anne Marie waited, a little half-smile on her lips, a bright look in her eye. She isn’t worried about what’s gonna happen next, Kelp realized, so why should I? I don’t want to break up with her today, I know that much.
“If you came along,” he said, knowing that even to start a sentence with the word if was an acknowledgment that she was going to get her way, “if you did, what would you do with yourself?”
She beamed. “I’ll think of something,” she said. “We’ll think of something together.”