I was returning from a trip to New York City and the short piece below came out.I shared it on Facebook and some writer friends have written two beautiful responses to it, picking up the story from other points of view. As I was reading and editing it, I was thinking of my recent post about what makes for good story telling when the truth seems to bleed into fiction.
I was also reflecting on a weekend dinner with my brother and two of my oldest friends. We were recalling stories and relying on each other to fill in the details. For some of the stories I had departed from the real at some point. Perhaps other details sounded better, perhaps I honestly forgot, perhaps some combination of both.
Anyway, the story–all of which, or nearly all of which, is true.
You could put me in Greenwich Village on a stormy evening. You could make the wind sweep rain up from my feet, soak through my pants in a minute. You could have me duck into the first restaurant.
Make it Russian. Drape it in deep velvet where people sit in wicker thrones at preposterously small tables. Shake my head at the chairs. Put me instead at the bar.
Make the bartender look like Ivanka Trump but put her in jeans and a Yankees t-shirt. Make her warm and attentive. Have her introduce herself as Cosma.
Have one of the waiters join me at the bar. Between deep groaning spasms of Tourette’s have him tell me, in perfectly accented English, to try the dumplings.
Have him start to tell me that they are perfect for “this shitty weather.” But then have Cosma shut him down. “You think this is shitty weather? Come to Serbia. I will show you shitty weather.”
Have some young guys show up and flirt with Cosma despite her engagement ring. Have them ask her name and have her tell them Natasha and point to me. “And him? That’s Boris.”
Have me hold up my drink, nod to them across the bar. Allow me a smile and give me a look that says I am in for a good night if I can hold my vodka.
You could tell that story and know that it’s almost true. You really could.