Monday, May 14, 2012
My luncheon with Phyllis
You've heard of the movie My Dinner with Andre?
Well now you're going to hear about My Luncheon with Phyllis.
Phyllis is a dear friend from high school. Phyllis was beautiful. Phyllis was funny and smart and went to a good college. Got a whiz bang job in TV. And then she married really well, to a man that she called "Daddy". They had a fun few years, she got pregnant and they had a daughter, and then he died. This was twenty-five years ago and Phyllis has never recovered. Did I mention that Phyllis' husband was SEVENTY FIVE when she married him? And that he was EIGHTY when he died?
She found Daddy, dead of natural causes in his chair in their den. In 1987!
And he left her everything. But she seldom leaves home. She's never gotten over Daddy's death.
And she's getting a bit squirrely.
So we meet for lunch every now and then when I can lure her out into the real world. She looks seventy and she's just turned fifty.
Phyllis is terrified that someone will notice her, so we meet way out in the burbs for lunch. She always has to pick the place. Why? "Phyllis has control issues," she'll tell you.
This is the most recent annoying tick that she has picked up - Phyllis talks about herself in the third person. Why? "Because people want to know what Phyllis is doing these days."
Well, there you go.
So we met at Panera today because "This is the last place that people would expect to see Phyllis," she explained as she looked around the room. "And Phyllis blends in at Panera," she says while wearing a turban and big sunglasses. Did I also mention that Phyllis was carrying a pet carrier that looks like a purse and had one of her cats in it?
"Peetey loves being with Phyllis," she explained.
I ask my usual questions: Is she getting out? No, the world is such a mess. Is she watching too much TV? Yes, but not those reality shows because they don't deal in reality. And what of her daughter, Mimi?
"Mimi? Mimi is fabulous and Phyllis couldn't be happier because Daddy would be so proud of how Phyllis has raised Mimi."
Mimi this. Mimi that. Mimi is working to save the starving in Africa. Blah, blah, blah Mimi.
I often wonder where Phyllis fell off the treadmill of life. She used to be so fun. Even after Daddy died she was fine for a while. Now she's so, well, odd. Not eccentric. Just odd. And I feel bad for her because I'm one of the few people that she'll interact with in public. Still, these encounters can leave me with a splitting headache.
Most of the time my end of the conversation was "Yeah, uh huh, really, I know, and seriously?"
We left after lunch, and she finished her third raspberry iced tea ("My, Phyllis finds this the most refreshing thing in the world!") I walked her to her car - a burnt orange 1977 Lincoln Mark V with an interior that looks like the inside of a womb. It used to be "Daddy's" when he was alive and it still looks show room new. She gave me kiss on the cheek and told me to let her know when the Class of '81 has our twentieth class reunion is because "Phyllis thinks it would be a hoot!"
And like that, she was off, driving hellzapopping toward her house in Bexley.
I stopped trying to tell her that the 20th reunion was 11 years ago. What's the point? I mean she knows who the President is. She knows that she needs to buy low and sell high. And Phyllis would give you the shirt off her back if you needed a leopard blouse. Sometimes she has moments of shear brilliance. And then she gets into one of these moods and she starts pining for Daddy.
"People used to point at Phyllis and Daddy and say things like 'It's nice you bought your daughter that mink.' It wasn't just a mink. It is an EMBA mink and Daddy did it because he really loved Phyllis. Those other people were just bitches" and then she gets distant and gets Misty (one of her cats that she claims sucks up her negative thoughts) and can of frosting and shuts down for a while.
Is she depressed? No. Just something, somewhere, along the way got broken and she just worked around it. Most of our old friend from school dropped her when she became exhausting. But I think about the old adage "if a tree isn't growing, its dying." I see Phyllis as a Bonsai. She's still living, just a little emotionally stunted. So I'm there for her when she wants to have a salad and chat. And that's what friends are for, right?
Thankfully she remembered to take her cat with her this time, because Cookie hates it when Cookie has to play pet taxi.
Really, Cookie does.