I sigh as I key into my apartment, setting my purse down on the console table in our entry and calling out for Nat. There's no answer; not a surprise since she spends most nights at her boyfriend's in Williamsburg. I usually don't mind being home alone, though I wouldn't mind having someone to commiserate with right about now.
As I brush my teeth in our shared bathroom, I peer into Natalia's dark, empty bedroom, the pit in my stomach growing larger when I think about how close she is to getting engaged—and how I'll be forced to find yet another new roommate, my fourth in five years. It's become a running joke in our friend group: "Want your boyfriend to pop the question? Just move in with Cassidy! You'll be engaged in no time." I laugh right along with them, even if I'm crying inside. Don't get me wrong, most of the time I'm happily single and embrace my independence, but even the most confident among us would be unnerved by pulling bridesmaid duty six times in three years. It's not a great feeling to watch everyone around you stairstep into the next phase of life while you seem to be running in place.
Though my bed and Instagram feed are calling my name, I plop into my desk chair and open my laptop instead, forcing myself to tap out some thoughts before the memory of that Brett confrontation fades. While I don't much feel like wallowing in my disappointment, it's true what they say: Everything is copy (and by "they," I mean the queen herself, Nora Ephron). Emotional turmoil fuels creativity, and when the Muse knocks, one must answer. I close my eyes and channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw: I thought I'd picked a winner, but when a man values football over family, I can't help but wonder—in the game of love, will I always come out the loser?
Something Brett said niggles at my brain, so I open a new tab and google "Sacred Saturdays"—then groan out loud.
* * *
"Boy, I'd give my eyeteeth to have seen the look on your face."
"Right? I don't see how I could have reacted any differently."
"I might've added a smack for good measure. You'd be surprised how quickly a well-timed slap can knock some sense into a man." There's a mischievous glint in Gran's eye as she slices a hand through the air to demonstrate. "Besides, who would pass up the chance to meet me? I'm delightful."
I snort. "Obviously."
It's early Saturday evening and my grandmother's party's just ended, the last of my extended family members trickling out in a flurry of Tupperware, overstimulated toddlers, and goodbye hugs. I stayed late to chat and catch up—and rehash all the fresh family gossip, of course.
My grandmother and I have had a unique bond from the time I was young, perhaps because like recognizes like and she sees herself in my quiet bookishness. Growing up I often felt out of place among my extroverted sister Christine and my natural athlete brother Colin, but Gran always paid me special attention, never letting me fade into the background or feel like the introverted nerd I surely was.
While my dad loved to regale us with childhood tales of her exacting nature and authoritarian brand of discipline, we rarely saw that side of her. With us, she was gregarious and fun-loving and lenient, perpetually spoiling us and slyly encouraging our mischief (as all the best grandparents do). To me she always seemed glamorous and impossibly chic, from the collection of Chanel scarves she'd style a thousand different ways to the extravagant doll clothes she'd sew for our Barbies: faux fur coats with pearl buttons and evening gowns made of gold chain mail or luxe velvet. She was a stickler for things like manners and etiquette, but also cool, like when she'd teach us how to origami-fold our cloth napkins into bikinis or pour us glasses of wine when we turned eighteen and practically dare our parents to chide her for it.
I lean my hip against the countertop as she putters around the kitchen making tea. I'd offer to help, but I know better—she'd accuse me of treating her like an invalid, maybe even mock me by calling me Thomas (the name of her worrywart second-born son, otherwise known as my dad). She spent the entire day today assuring anyone who would listen that she's a "young ninety."
"Where are you even finding these boys, anyway?" she asks, then stops bustling long enough to hold up a finger. "Wait, let me guess. An app." She makes a face like she's just licked a lemon. "Why your generation entrusts their romantic futures to a machine is beyond me. If you think a computer can accurately predict chemistry, I've got some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you." The kettle starts whistling and she moves to take it off the burner.
"It's how things are done now, Gran. I don't exactly have men lining up to fill my dance card at the sock hop."
She swats me with a tea towel. "Some might consider your ageist jokes elder abuse, you know."