"Does anybody know anything about getting a gun in this state?" I inquired of the room at large.
"We're working on a series," said Larry the city editor -- a small, bearded, perplexed-looking man who took everything absolutely seriously. "But I think the laws are pretty lenient."
"There's a two-week waiting period," piped up one of the sports reporters.
"That's only if you're under twenty-five," added an assistant features editor.
"You're thinking of rental cars," said the sports guy scornfully.
"We'll get back to you, Cannie," said Larry. "Are you in a rush?"
"Kind of." I sat down, then stood back up again. "Pennsylvania has the death penalty, right?"
"We're working on a series," Larry said without smiling.
"Oh, never mind," I said, and sat back down and called Samantha again.
"You know what? I'm not going to kill him. Death's too good for him."
"Whatever you want," Samantha said loyally.
"Come with me tonight? We'll ambush him in his parking lot."
"And do what?"
"I'll figure that out between now and then," I said.
I had met Bruce Guberman at a party, in what felt like a scene from somebody else's life. I'd never met a guy at a social gathering who'd been so taken with me that he actually asked me for a date on the spot. My typical m.o. is to wear down their resistence with my wit, my charm, and usually a home-cooked dinner starring kosher chicken with garlic and rosemary. Bruce did not require a chicken. Bruce was easy.
I was stationed in the corner of the living room, where I had a good view of the room, plus easy access to the hot artichoke dip. I was doing my best imitation of my mother's life partner, Tanya, trying to eat an Alaskan king crab leg with her arm in a sling. So the first time I saw Bruce, I had one of my arms jammed against my chest, sling-style, and my mouth wide open, and my neck twisted at a particularly grotesque angle as I tried to suck the imaginary meat out of the imaginary claw. I was just getting to the part where I accidentally jammed the crab leg up my right nostril, and I think there might have been hot artichoke dip on my cheek, when Bruce walked up. He was tall, and tanned, with a goatee and a dirty-blond ponytail, and soft brown eyes.
"Um, excuse me," he said, "are you okay?"
I raised my eyebrows at him. "Fine."
"You just looked kind of..." His voice -- a nice voice, if a little high -- trailed off.
"I saw somebody having a stroke once," he told me. "It started off like that."
By now my friend Brianna had collected herself. Wiping her eyes, she grabbed his hand. "Bruce, this is Cannie," she said. "Cannie was just doing an imitation."
"Oh," said Bruce, and stood there, obviously feeling foolish.
"Not to worry," I said. "It's a good thing you stopped me. I was being unkind."
"Oh," said Bruce again.
I kept talking. "See, I'm trying to be nicer. It's my New Year's resolution."
"It's February," he pointed out.
"I'm a slow starter."
"Well," he said, "at least you're trying." He smiled at me, and walked away.
I spent the rest of the party getting the scoop. He'd come with a guy Brianna knew from graduate school. The good news: He was a graduate student, which meant reasonably smart, and Jewish, just like me. He was twenty-seven. I was twenty-five. It fit. "He's funny, too," said Brianna, before delivering the bad news: Bruce had been working on his dissertation for three years, possibly longer, and he lived in central New Jersey, more than an hour away from us, picking up freelance writing work and teaching the occasional bunch of freshmen, subsisting on stipends, a small scholarship, and, mostly, his parents' money.
Copyright © 2001 by Jennifer Weiner
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