When I Grow Up I Want to be an Old Woman

The bus lumbered down Lexington. At 72nd, two slim old ladies boarded. They seemed at home on the Upper East Side. Their suits were pale peachy tweed, like Chanel; though I wondered why Chanel-wearing women would ride the M54.

I listened to their conversation. Grandchildren. The rain. And they talked about diets. What was the popular diet back then? Going breadless. A week before, at a restaurant in Brooklyn, I joined a girlfriend and her parents for dinner. The bread basket arrived, redolent with yeast , a white ramekin of olive oil between slices. My friend skipped the bread; eyeing it and sipping ice water. Her mom approved, marveled, noting her own weakness as she dipped a slice. I wanted to skip the basket but didn’t.

So that was the diet back then: breadless. The old ladies chatted down the avenue, wrinkled faces, fingernails buffed, thinned old-lady hair coiffed in buns. One complained about her thickened waist. The other agreed about her own. The diet of the day: they were on it. Elders, women in gold jewelry and old pearls; girlfriends gabbing; born in the 1930s; nearer to death than to any other season. Grand old dames, riding the bus, bodies vexing them until the end.

My stop came before theirs. I got off the bus and walked home.

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