An old teaching consultant and an old hack strolled into a chichi French cafe awash with sunlight and tourists. The old teacher held forth on the benefits of four-hour sleep patterns, cholesterol, and the kingdom of Catalonia, while the old hack tried unsuccessfully to get the attention of the waiters who were playing a kind of bumper cars game—looking like they were coming at you but avoiding our table at the last second.
I catch no glimpses of the person the teaching consultant first met in that fish market of a canteen in senior high school; no longer the awkward teenager, I now brandish my knowledge of social chatter like a pink umbrella in the rain, and I maintain eye contact as if the shameful skeletons in the teenager’s closet have long gone.
Back in that grimy school canteen, the consultant, who comes from a line of pedigreed educators, already knew he wanted to teach. But I, the girl who later was to become a hack at the local fashion press, was just a messed up kid with a collection of glass and porcelain unicorns on her dresser.
She managed to get the waiters to bring the glasses of water, the briochette, the rosti and mushrooms, the carpaccio beef salad, and coffee. But after a few attempts, she gave up asking for the lemon tart, the berry tart, and the bill.
A quarter of a century has passed and, remarkably, still in our prime, the old teacher and I trade bon mots Woody-Allenesque in style and texture; self-conscious descriptions (mine), obsessions (his), the threads of dialogue embellished with ripostes and parries.
Even though his back was to the waiters, the old teacher managed to get their attention every time.
“How do you do it?” the old hack asked.
The old teacher replied sagely, “When you signal them, you have to look like you’re falling off the chair.”
Age is just a number, and time is an illusion. There’s a saying in the fashion world that fashion never gets old, it just gets re-created. The present is the past, simply re-tailored for the time. That’s why Scott Fitzgerald wrote that we “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Old friends never go out of fashion.