You shoot off a guy’s head with his pants down,
believe me, Texas ain’t the place you want to get caught.
“So were you Thelma or Louise?”
The bartender is asking Char about the road trip with her friend Betty, in which they piled into the Studebaker and drove across the country to Colorado and Wyoming and places people drove before Google Maps made it where you just drove without knowing where you were other than in a lake because you were looking at the phone map rather than the world.
Mo and I are playing the role of Betty (Char is calling one of us Betty and the other Boop, although it’s never clear to me which one I am) because the real Betty ended up in the hospital. Today is Char’s 90th birthday. We are celebrating.
It’s a swanky upscale Scottsdale sports bar at the Fancy Mall. I suppose all you would need to know about Char is that she’s 90 years old and drinking martinis in a sports bar while flirting with the bartender.
He asks again: “Who was Thelma and who was Louise?” Char isn’t sure. “Who drove?” he asks. Betty, Char answers. “So you were Thelma,” he says. She shrugs and slides an olive off her toothpick. I want to point out that this makes me Brad Pitt, but I don’t seem to be much involved in the conversation, and I think the remarkable resemblance speaks for itself.
“I can see why you like this bar,” Mo says as they both stare at the hunky bartender pouring drinks. Char smiles and nods. We seem to be in a Hallmark movie, and I’m the earnest token male sidekick who gets killed when the exploratory party is beamed onto the mysterious planet. Or I could be flipping back and forth between Hallmark and Star Trek.
Somewhere between the first and second martinis, Char sighs. “My 90th birthday,” she says like she still can’t believe it. She looks at us. “This isn’t my last one, is it?” she asks. “I want to live forever.”
It’s been a tough year for her. Cancer and a bad back and the usual stuff that comes with the senior discount. But I can honestly say I have never even entertained the notion.
“Let’s wait till you turn 100 and then we’ll talk, “I tell her. She brightens. Probably the martini.
We’ve known her for a couple of decades now, sort of a surrogate mom. It’s funny how life takes unexpected turns. She was our neighbor, and then she was a fixture in our lives. When we moved back to Phoenix, we got an apartment next to her in case she needed help, and I’m not sure how we could ever leave her at this point. She’s family.
We’re watching the Diamondbacks on the bar TV. I try to explain to her how the Cincinnati baseball team is the Reds and not the Cardinals and the Cardinals are St. Louis except the St. Louis football Cardinals moved to Arizona and then the Los Angeles Rams became the St. Louis Rams and the New York Giants are football and not baseball because the New York Giants baseball team is now in San Francisco and don’t get me started on the Utah Jazz and this is why we should just be focusing on the tennis match because there are no team names involved and anyhow Nadal is cute as a button and I have no idea whether it was Thelma or Louise who was behind the wheel so there.
We knock off the most incredible a la mode brownie ever for dessert. The bartender says dinner is on him. They pose for a shot together. We toast for the 100th time. “To my birthday!” she exclaims.
Friends are the family you choose, the old saying goes. But I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe sometimes life brings you together for a reason without you choosing at all. You don’t even have to know what that reason is. You just have to open up your heart. The rest is easy.
I suppose we’ll all get old together. It’s not a bad movie. Stomp the pedal to the floorboard and head off the side of the canyon in a leap of faith. It’s been a good drive. We’ll see where we land.
Best birthday ever, indeed. Still, I can’t wait for the celebration on her 100th.
I hope the bartender is buying.