We’ve just sat down at the Frisch’s on Glenway Avenue, and already I can feel my head start to hurt.
“You’re skinny, mister,” Andrea says. “You need to get some meat on those bones.”
“I’d rather be thin than heavy,” I say.
“Are you saying I’m fat?”
“No, Andrea, I’m just saying...”
“I’m going to get you a piece of cheesecake,” Andrea says, putting on her glasses to read the menu. “That will help fatten you up.”
Why she’s looking at the menu, I don’t know. She always gets the same thing: a Big Boy along with French fries and onion rings.
I’ve written about her here before, shortly after the presidential election in 2008. We worked together more than three decades ago at a machine tool company. Old habits die hard. That’s why we’re still friends.
“You got a girlfriend?” Andrea asks after we order our food.
“I’m not interested in a girlfriend right now,” I say.
“Well, it’s gonna be hard to get one with that cane you’re walking with. Look at me. I’m in my seventies now. I don’t need no cane.”
“Oh, I get it,” I say. “You’re trying to cheer me up and boost my self-esteem.”
“You’re funny,” Andrea says while taking out her cell phone. “Hey, I want to take a picture of you.”
“Can’t we just sit here and...”
I hear Andrea’s cell phone click. I guess my picture has already been taken.
As we wait for our food to arrive, I decide — just for fun — to bring up a sore subject.
“So, how do you think Obama is doing?”
“You know the answer to that, mister,” Andrea says as our waitress brings us our drinks. “He’s taking our country away from us.”
“Shit, he wasn’t even born here.”
“So you buy into that?”
“I don’t have to buy into anything,” Andrea says.
“It’s a fact.”
“How many times does he have to produce a birth certificate? How many times do you need to see it before you believe it’s real?”
“Anybody can put together a phony birth certificate,” she replies.
“That’s bullshit, Andrea,” I reply with a smile on my face.
“Watch your language, mister.”
“You said shit just a little...”
“I think I could take you pretty easily,” Andrea says, “unless you hit me on top of the head with your cane.”
Hitting her with my cane sounds appealing, but I laugh instead. It’s a fake laugh, and I feel like getting under her skin just a little more. She likes to push my buttons, so I’ll press some of hers.
“Well, I think Obama is doing a pretty decent job,” I say.
“You would,” she replies, looking at her cell phone and, I guess, looking at the picture she took of me. “Sometimes I think you’re a Communist like he is.”
Ignoring her remark, I go in another direction.
“I’m surprised you didn’t take part in that Teabagger stuff going on here in April,” I say. “That seems right up your alley.”
“Oh, I could never take part in something like that,” Andrea says while sucking on her straw and drinking some of her Mountain Dew.
“Well, good,” I say, feeling a bit surprised. “I’m glad to see your commonsense remains intact.”
“That’s too much walking and too much standing,” she says. “I just give them some money to show my support.”
“But you don’t have any money. You work at this telemarketing...”
“Don’t you think our food should have been here by now?” Andrea says, once again interrupting me. “I think we got ourselves a bad waitress.”
“It hasn’t been that long.”
“I’m hungry,” she says, finally putting away her cell phone.
I take a sip of my Diet Coke. Andrea says to me, “You still write for City … whatever you call it?”
“If you mean CityBeat, yes,” I say.
“You need to get on at a real newspaper,” she says. “Ain’t The Enquirer hiring?”
I look at Andrea and smile. I also begin to think our waitress is being slow, or maybe I’m thinking I just want to hammer my food down and get the hell out of Frisch’s.
“So, what do you think of this oil spill business?” I ask.
“It’s horrible, it’s absolutely horrible,” Andrea says, shaking her head.
“Well, we’re in total agreement on that,” I say.
“I mean, I have to buy all my gas at BP now.”
“Yeah, it’s costing them a fortune to clean that mess up,” Andrea says. “I gotta do my part to help them out.”
My mouth is hanging open now, but the good news is that our food has finally arrived.
“Can I get a piece of cheesecake to go?” Andrea asks the waitress. “It’s for my skinny-ass friend here. I want to fatten him up!”
When she says the word “friend,” I realize that we are friends — actually very old friends. With friendships, you have to take the good with the bad. But after Andrea orders that piece of cheesecake it occurs to me that when it arrives I should rub it in her damn face.
For the record, I didn’t.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org