Do You Remember Me? by Nancy Ludmerer

By Amanda Saint 3 months ago19 Comments
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Do You Remember Me?

Nancy Ludmerer

 

‘You really remember me?’  he asked on the phone.  ‘After 25 years?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘From Honors Lit.’

He was between jobs, suggested lunch, wanted to discuss the law.

At the restaurant, he lied and said I hadn’t changed. I lied too and mouthed the same words about him. He had changed, from a cute sandy-haired kid with a never-ending supply of pot to a jowly sad-eyed fellow in pinstripes. Over salads, we discussed how we both took up law because there was no living in poetry. We spoke about his girl and my boy, both twenty, both named Jamie – how crazy was that? I commiserated because, unlike me, he’d not remarried after divorce and was still brooding about it.

In my purse I had the business card of a friend who placed temp lawyers and another card for someone who hired out-of-work attorneys as paralegals – but I wasn’t sure that’s what he meant by I’ll take anything right now.

‘You really remember me?” he asked again.

I said I remembered we both loved Delmore Schwartz (which made sense for a Jewish girl from Queens but less so for a prep-school Irish-Scots blue-blood). I remembered when six Honors Lit majors got high and played charades. He acted “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.” I solved it.’

He remembered my kindness.

Then his tone changed. ‘Here’s the truth. I spent three years in rehab. My daughter doesn’t speak to me since I stopped paying Skidmore tuition. I can’t even get an interview with a firm – you’re the only person who agreed to meet me. Will I ever work as a lawyer again?’

I said I didn’t know.

We sipped coffee. His hand shook and his spoon clattered against a silver dish of vanilla, his nails bitten to the bone.

I grabbed the check, opened my purse, saw the two business cards nestled there. Undisturbed.

I closed my purse.  Paid the bill.

‘Funny,’ he said. “About the charades. I’d forgotten that.’

Only after we said goodbye and good luck did I confront myself in a storefront window.

Unrecognizable.

 

About the author: Nancy Ludmerer’s short stories and flash fiction appear in Litro, Fish Anthology 2015, Bath Flash Fiction Vols. I and II, Brighton Prize Anthology, Green Mountains Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Vestal Review, and New Orleans Review, among other fine journals. Her flash fiction has won prizes from Grain, Night Train, Blue Monday Review and River Styx and is reprinted in Best Small Fictions 2016. She lives in New York City with her husband, Malcolm, and cat Sandy, a brave survivor of Superstorm Sandy.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this story, please let the author know in the comments below.

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About

 Amanda Saint

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Amanda is a novelist, short story writer and features journalist who started Retreat West in 2012.

19 Comments

  • Kit Irwin says:

    So moving for such a short story. It left me thinking about the characters, people from my past, and redemption.
    Beautiful writing also.

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Thanks so much for reading, Kit, and for your thoughtful comment.

  • Eileen Heinlein Ludmerer says:

    Enjoyed story very much. Looking for more but it ended in a flash!!

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    I guess that’s why they call it flash fiction . . . Thanks so much for reading, Eileen, and for your comment. Really appreciated!

  • Ruth Pomerantz says:

    Your ability to convey human pathos and fear, yet with levity, in such a powerful, succinct manner is remarkable.

  • Ruth Pomerantz says:

    Your ability to grasp and convey pathos and fear, yet with a modicum of levity, in such a powerful succinct manner is remarkable.

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Thank you Ruth and Steve for your thoughtful comments and kind words.

  • Lester Shane says:

    What a great story to read on Slichot eve thinking about the past and thinking about who each of us really is. Lovely. As always.

  • Sandra Ceslowitz says:

    It’s amazing how in such a short piece you convey the changes in the characters’ lives. He is admirable in being so open and the reader hopes for his welfare.

  • Andrea Hessel says:

    I agree with all the previous comments. I suspect that many of us have had moments in our lives where the innocent perceptions of our youth clash with the reality of the present, taking us by surprise. Thanks for verbalizing these moments in time for us so poignantly.

  • Just so remarkable how much power Ms. Ludmerer is able to convey in such a short piece. The conclusion is both moving and disturbing. Great piece!

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Dear Lester, Sandy, Andrea, and Jack: Thanks so much for the kind words. It
    took me several years of working on this piece (yes, years!) until I got to that ending. Thanks again to all of you.

  • Paul Perkus says:

    A fine flash, a little Cheeveresque in its fall from grace pathos, and hard in the narrator’s unwillingness, finally, to help.

  • Cathy Jarcho says:

    Beautiful writing, Nancy. So compelling. Your piece made me think of so many things, especially friends from college. I wonder how many of us are unrecognizable as we have lived our lives.

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Thanks for reading, Cathy and Paul . . . both your comments are so insightful. Thanks again.

  • Bonnie Headington, Ph.D. says:

    Interesting writing. What hit me the most was how she changed from a friend in school to someone who would not help this man. Unrecognizable. Nice work..

  • Nancy Ludmerer says:

    Thanks for reading, Bonnie, and for your perceptive comment, which captures the essence of the story. And thanks also for your kind words.

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