Vince and Meredith were old close friends despite their chronological incompatibility. They both enjoyed the same things, enjoyed restaurant dinners and a movie out, or a trip to a symphony or the ballet or an art gallery. The chief problem with their friendship was their mutual inability to synchronize their moods. Vince always seemed to be in the mood to bar hop across the city until dawn whenever Meredith had had a particularly difficult, overscheduled day and wished for nothing more active than an evening sitting on her sofa in her bathrobe watching a favorite movie before she turned in early.
Meredith always bought a costly, alarmingly organized day planning guide at the end of each December, and by the end of the first week of January, she had at least penciled in her appointments through the end of April, and had cross-referenced them to the appointment schedule she kept on her iPhone. She disliked surprises, last minute changes or upheaval of any sort and particularly hated being kept waiting on account of other people’s disorganization or discourtesy.
Vince scribbled hasty notes on the backs of crumpled bar napkins or utility bill envelopes; despite this haphazard arrangement, he managed to make it to most of his professional obligations although he was habitually an hour or two late to all his social engagements. Time meant little to him, and promptness meant almost nothing unless it was absolutely critical for remaining employed. Meredith considered Vince disorganized and immature; Vince considered Meredith overscheduled and uptight, far too easily ruled by the clock and calendar.
“I’m not against spontaneity! I just want it scheduled!” Meredith had burst out during a phone fight when they’d each been frustrated by the other’s attitude and said so. The fight had ended thirty seconds later when they’d both cracked up.
Vince always knew when it was Meredith on the phone; especially at times when she was angry with him. All her frustration made the “brrrrriing!” of the phone sound especially imperious. He guiltily looked at his watch, then sprang for the phone, knowing he was in for it. He’d asked Meredith to take him over to the Citroën dealership at three pm. to pick up his car after servicing, but now it was four-thirty. The Citroen was an old, beloved, cranky vehicle that he'd inherited from his father. He could not bring himself to get rid of it despite the astronomical running costs, as no other car came close to having it's personality. Given that the dealership was the only one in town and they’d have to drive with the worst of the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic to get there, he knew Meredith was going to have some choice things to say.
“Where are you?” she growled into the phone, ignoring his cheery hello.
“I’m at home, writing thank you notes to my hosts in France,” Vince admitted.
“Writing thank you notes to France ?”
Vince winced; why had he chosen right now as a moment for truth telling?
“Those people you stayed with two years ago?”
“Vince, if you ask someone for a favor, it’s rude to then make them wait around for you for an hour and a half! I had things I needed to do today too, you know!”
“I know,” he tried to soothe her. “But after procrastinating about this for two years, I just wanted to get those thank you notes written—
“Right! So what’s another twenty-four hours after two years?” Meredith spat back. “Being abducted by aliens is an acceptable excuse for being late, Vince. Having that old wreck of a car leave you stranded on a bridge in the middle of rush hour is a decent excuse. Letter writing to people you haven’t seen in two years is not!”
“What if I had my long lost mother in my living room?” Vince doubted jokes would help right now, but the barely suppressed fury in Meredith’s voice made him nervous enough to babble any attempt to make her laugh and defuse the situation at least a little.
“I wouldn’t care if you had Queen Elizabeth II sipping tea on your sofa this second! Just get over to my place in twenty-minutes or I won’t be here in thirty!”
Vince hung up, and seized his jacket from the hook beside the door and bolted. The number 5 bus pulled up to the curb just as soon as he scurried out the lobby door of his apartment complex and he managed to board through the closing rear doors by a balletic leap. Heart pounding, he’d thanked the mercy that the bus had arrived right then that he’d make it to Meredith’s apartment within her twenty-minute window. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she would make good on her threat if he didn’t arrive on time. He’d pushed her just a bit too far, this time. He’d be without a car all weekend unless he walked, or found a more amenable friend to take him to the dealership tomorrow. The Citroen garage was not near any convenient bus stops at that end of town.
He didn’t even have time to knock on her front door; she’d seen him jog down the concrete path leading from the street to her door, and was waiting for him on the threshold, her purse over her right shoulder. As he had known she would be, she looked to be loaded for bear.
“Let’s go,” she barked, pulling her front door closed behind her, making sure it was locked.
Uneasily, Vince sat in the passenger seat of Meredith’s tidy silver Corolla. He tried to remember if he’d locked his front door. He was just thankful his electric kettle shut off automatically. The interior of Meredith’s car was immaculate, even the floor mats were vacuumed. It was reliable and clean, but Vince didn’t think Meredith’s car had any personality Not a food wrapper or elderly bit of mail to be found anywhere. They were hardly out of her driveway before she started her frustrated litany of the times he’d kept her waiting, and how she wouldn’t be able to pick up her dry cleaning, do her grocery shopping, or get to the home consignment store today because of the time she’d wasted waiting for him to get his shit together and arrive when he said he would, for once! Then they could have got to the Citroën garage before the afternoon traffic instead of creeping along Palisades Parkway at four in the afternoon which shaved off even more of the time she had to do her errands today. She managed to keep it going even as they inched their way along the Parkway with frustrating slowness, every traffic light turning yellow at their approach
Vince sat pinned in the passenger seat, and made contrite sounds whenever Meredith paused to breathe—which wasn’t often. He accepted the verbal artillery barrage of her frustration because she was doing him this favor, despite everything. He couldn’t honestly deny the truth of anything she said, either. It was his just penance for his lack of consideration. All the while, he worried about his possibly unlocked front door—odds were nothing would happen—not in a building that had rents that high, but it was a nagging worry. Especially if he’d left his wallet out on the diningroom table in plain sight .
In a panic, Vince shifted in the seat, his hand going to his right hip pocket, hoping against hope to feel the familiar bump that would tell him he had his debit card and cash—he’d paid the bus fare from his pocket change. And he felt nothing but gabardine under his questing fingers.
Oh, dear God.
Meredith sat in the driver’s seat, impatiently drumming her fingers while they waited for the driver in front of them to pluck up to make the tricky left turn against the traffic flow onto the narrow little industrial street where his garage was located. The she made her own left turn with perhaps five feet of clearance ahead of oncoming cross traffic, earning her a furious horn blare from an SUV.
“I don’t know why you keep driving that old wreck anyway,” Meredith grumbled pulling into the muddy gravel parking lot at Guy’s Citroën Workshop. “Seems like you have to repair something major every other week. Donate it to charity, and buy yourself something that runs reliably!”
Vince took a deep breath to gather courage for his confession. She was really going to go ballistic about this on top of everything else, today.
“Well come on, Vince. I need to get going before the Consignment store closes,” Meredith gave him a playful push. “Go get your car.”
“I can’t.” Vince’s voice was a guilty peep.
“What’s the matter now? You said you needed a ride to pick it up today!”
“I did, but we have to go back to my place,” Vince said in a rush. “I forgot my wallet.”