He looked about fifty, not because of a receding hair line or wrinkles
around his eyes or his body going to pot, but just for a certain beaten-down,
distracted expression he showed, as if he had to remember from decades
ago what to do on a date. He wore small, black, way-out-of-style (for
the mid-80s) Charles Colson glasses and a standard issue short-sleeved
white work shirt. He looked like an Eisenhower era government engineer.
All he needed was a miniature slide rule in his pocket and a clipped
on photo id. His haircut was bad, but he didnt look like he cared,
which after the dentist I counted as a plus. One thing that stood out
was his shoes: spanking new New Balance running shoes, bold red and
silver. Completely out of sync with the rest of his wardrobe. My eyes
kept drifting down.
I run twelve miles a day, he said, as if confessing to
Thats a lot of running.
He shrugged. His eyes went to the tablecloth.
Mostly I just run to the liquor store, I said.
He looked up, a smile stuck on.
Thats funny, he said, surprised.
I thought so.
We had just taken our table at the restaurant: Rorys Charhouse
in Watertown. His choice. He appreciated the steak and salad specials.
His hair was silt thin and technically blonde but seemed more gray than
yellow. When I looked carefully, though, I realized what I was seeing
wasnt gray but pale brown.
Where did you go to school? I said.
You mean college? he said, a skip in his voice. His eyes
Yes, college. I dont need to know who taught you fourth
A quick grimace. His cheeks went white. God god, I wanted to say,
its just a starter question. I dont really care.
I didnt go to college. Not quite.
One year at MIT. Almost.
Which year would that have been?
I smiled patiently. I mean which year of the century.
He looked perplexed. The century?
Oh. Sorry. 79.
My turn to be stunned. This guy had been a college freshman just seven
years before. He was younger than me, by a lot.
You didnt think 1879, did you?
No, of course not. My face was getting warm. Why
did you only stay a year?
I said, Almost a year.
All right. Why only almost a year?
I had an idea.
I looked at him. How does somebody have ideas about plastic?
He laughed: a strange sudden snort.
Just one idea.
Plastic that resists low level radiation. Based on a new polymer.
One that doesnt bleed carcinogens into food.
I shrugged. Okay.
That way you wouldnt need to use those heavy porcelain
bowls when you heat leftovers in a microwave.
I nodded at him. It made a dull kind of sense. Then I heard again
what he said.
Wait a minute. Are you saying you invented microwaveable plastic?
He raised one hand, palm skyward.
And you did this only a year into college?
Almost a year.
Did you get the patent on it?
Oh, I made sure of that. Believe me.
I was not so crass at to ask exactly how rich he was. Besides, there
was another, far more pressing question.
I dont understand, I said. How do you know
He smiled a second, then it went away.
Through the board.
My mothers not on the board of General Electric. Shes
not on any board.
I had a frightening vision of mom disguising herself in a fifty-dollar
haircut and a dark suit with big shoulder pads, sneaking into corporate
headquarters to hunt out husbands for her ugly daughter.
No, shes not, he said. But she cleans their
My hand went to my face. All the blood in my body settled around my
You met my mother while she was cleaning your office?
No, not my office. Board members dont exactly have offices.
I was in the board room one night after a meeting. I was going over
some figures. She came in to empty the trash can. She asked me about
I shook my head.
Then she asked my name. Then she asked if I was married. Then
she said she had the loveliest single daughter.
Oh my god.
She assured me you were a college graduate.
No thanks to her.
So my mother is your cleaning lady.
He considered the equation for a long, suspended moment. More
or less, he said.
I drank a glass of water in one gulp.
Okay. Im really sorry. Dont take this wrong, but
what is your name again?
He snorted a laugh. James Adamjewski.
Should I call you Jim?
Call me Adam.
Thats what everyone calls me.
I have no problem calling you Adam. As long as you dont
call me Rosa.
His smile disappeared. He looked at me darkly.
Why should I call you Rosa? Youre Eve.
My mouth opened.
Thats right, I said, astonished.
Its a great name, by the way.
At that instant, most of me was off, floating faint-headed in the
ether near the ceiling. There was only a single strand of Rosa left
behind to carry on the battle.
Why do you think that? I heard myself say.
Why do I think Eve is a great name?
He thought about it.
Its protean, he said.
Then I was the one who laughed: a crazy, delighted, heedless, stupid
giggle. I didnt care who heard me. I didnt care. Adam didnt
seem to care either. He just grinned full-eyed while Rosa floated up
to join the rest of me at the ceiling. Together we looked down on this
new couple at the table, about to take their first meal.