Friendzo and I have been exchanging words via post lately — large ones for round ones, red ones for spiky ones, etc. The last time I saw him was September, down by the docks. He was walking bowlegged in a light sunshower, trademark golden spats gleaming like a Christmas bicycle. He asked me what the matter was.
- What’s the matter?
- Cow done gone.
- Rabbit stew for supper again. Cribbage at the pool hall.
- Did you hear the one about the lady preacher from Tennessee?
We walked together back toward the sighing city. Mama Cass came out of the drugstore and waved a handkerchief at us, but Frienzo kept walking.
- What was that about?
- She owes me twenty bucks.
- Maybe she was flagging you down so she could pay you back.
Friendzo looked at me, dumb as an ox.
- Don’t you call me an ox!
- Sorry. Let’s go see what she wants.
We retraced our steps but Mama Cass was nowhere to be seen. Then I spotted a note under a welcome mat.
I know we have had our differences in the past, and I know I haven’t been the most loyal friend to you. But I want you to know that you mean a lot to me. I will never forget the days we shared walking in Central Park, or the nights we spent butchering whole cattle at the meat wholesaler. Our relationship has been like the rabbit, fertile and eager but always in danger of being consumed by Hornblower. When we made love that surprising, delightful Tuesday afternoon, I was so surprised by your advance that I forgot to take off my merkin and it just fluttered against me like a mudflap on an 18-wheeler. But then you lent me $20 for my bone marrow transplant surgery and we never spoke again. You should know that I still care for you. But you have to choose between me and Hornblower. I’m also not crazy about those red pants. You can reach me at my old place, the flat above Irish Exit. I await your reply.
“Mama” Cass Elliot (from the Mamas and the Papas (the fat one (sorry)))
I looked at Friendzo, but he was still reading the letter. Dumbass hooked-on-phonics Friendzo. Come on. He finally finished reading and looked up at me. We were silent for a moment, until the guy whose doormat we were standing on came out of his apartment and told us to scram. As we hightailed it out of there I looked at Friendzo again, and he looked at me. Then he tripped on the curb. Goddamn clumsy Friendzo. We sat down on a bench outside the drugstore.
- There sure are a lot of drugstores this part of town.
- Mhm. So what’re you gonna do about Mama Cass?
Friendzo stood up.
- I have to go to her.
I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier. We’d been down this road before, when Mary Lou Retton told me I needed to stop seeing Friendzo so often. I stood up and shook his hand, slipped a stick of Juicy Fruit in his shirt pocket. Like old times. He walked away and I realized I was going the same way, so I hung around a bit and played count-the-rabbits. At sixteen I headed toward the subway station while all around me the city hummed and bustled, imperious and indifferent.