1 – My Last Visit to Brigid

Brigid’s door always stood slightly ajar. This gesture expressed either her bohemian nonchalance or the fact that, if it closed, the door would seal with such powerful molecular adhesion that to gain entry would require firemen with crowbars and possibly acetylene. I pushed and it gave way a little, smacking into something soft. I tucked my head in and saw a woman sitting on the floor wrapped in green fabric. She looked up at me. “I’m so sorry,” I mumbled and squeezed by.

At the distant end of a dim series of chambers, a television cast wan shadows. I approached. Brigid reclined upon her bed, a tatty odalisque in faded leopard print pajamas and a housecoat the lurid sheen of motor oil on a puddle. Her gray hair, clinging desperately to an ancient blond tint, was in pin curls. “How’re you feeling?” I asked.

“How the fuck do ya think I’m feeling?”

“There was an impediment in the corridor.”

“She’s Muslim.”

“Of course.”

She raised the remote, muted the TV, and fixed her fierce, black eyes on me.

“So. Did you bring the money?” she said.

“One of these days, Bridge, I expect a freebie.”

“Fuck you, V.”

“But look! I brought chocolate and nylons.”

I handed her an envelope with eight twenties, then took a license-plate-sized Hershey’s chocolate bar and a couple bottles of San Pellegrino from my bag and carried them to the kitchen. Her refrigerator had only two shelves, both full. In the time it took me to find space for the water, she’d misplaced the money. After much whooping and digging and rolling from side to side, the bills were found.

“So, you keep all your money under the mattress?”

“Oh, go fuck yourself. I knew where it was.”

This was mid-winter 2009 and I’d come to pick up a recommendation for graduate school. The document was ready, so I had been summoned. As an afterthought, Brigid had asked me to bring some cash. “Ya know, just some ‘walking around’ money, V.” Ever since she emigrated to the Village as a teenager from ‘the Holy Land of the Bronx’, she had had an extremely relaxed relationship with personal finance and now that she was more or less confined to her Bleecker Street apartment, she had become dependent on the kindness of friends.

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