Drives Like A Dream

Overview

Shining with heart and humor, Porter Shreve?s second novel is a witty, wry tale about a modern-day mother who finds herself at a personal crossroads at age sixty-one. In the wake of her ex-husband?s wedding to a younger woman, Lydia is eager to shake the feeling of being replaced by a newer model and sets to rebuild a sense of family with her three grown children. The trouble is, they?ve all moved about as far as they could get from the Midwest, and Lydia?s only daughter blames ...

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Drives Like a Dream: A Novel

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Overview

Shining with heart and humor, Porter Shreve’s second novel is a witty, wry tale about a modern-day mother who finds herself at a personal crossroads at age sixty-one. In the wake of her ex-husband’s wedding to a younger woman, Lydia is eager to shake the feeling of being replaced by a newer model and sets to rebuild a sense of family with her three grown children. The trouble is, they’ve all moved about as far as they could get from the Midwest, and Lydia’s only daughter blames her for the divorce.
Undaunted, Lydia devises a complicated scheme to lure her children back to Detroit.

As Shreve’s charming characters navigate the twists and turns of family loyalties, this warm, funny, and affecting novel offers entertaining comment on modern relationships. Drives Like a Dream is a perfect novel for any mother who has struggled with the empty nest, and any daughter whose mother has driven her just a little bit crazy.

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Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Drives Like a Dream is a beautiful novel, carefully put together, full of charming secondary characters, charitable to all, even -- or especially -- Cy and his prissy new wife. The tone here is comic, even genial, but the theme is sad. Everything we have, we lose. Life, despite America's feverish materialism, is ephemera. Everyone we knew or know, up to and including ourselves, will all too soon be obsolete, whether we plan for it or not.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
After his well-received, quirky 2000 debut, The Obituary Writer, Shreve succumbs to the sophomore slump with a dull and far-fetched follow-up. Cars are in Lydia Modine's blood: her father had worked for Ford, Tucker and GM, she's an expert on his former boss, Preston Tucker, and she still lives right outside a tarnished and crumbling Detroit. Now divorced after 33 years of marriage, Lydia, a "social historian of the automobile," sees too many parallels between herself and the subject of her fifth book: "`planned obsolescence.' Out with the old, in with the new." In the wake of her ex-husband Cy's wedding to a younger woman, 61-year-old Lydia is desperate to escape her sense of loss and restore a sense of family with her three grown children. Shreve's considerable historical research is obvious and admirable, but unless the reader is fascinated by the car industry, it will seem like overkill. Leads that could have been interesting remain unpursued, while an unlikely relationship between Lydia and Cy's new in-laws is developed. Also unlikely is Lydia's scheme to lure her children back home, which borders on the slapstick. Shreve shows promise with some strong character writing, but erratic storytelling, a hasty conclusion and a surfeit of auto lore stall the tale. Agent, Timothy Seldes. 9-city author tour. (Mar. 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Author of the well-received The Obituary Writer, Shreve here offers a lively story about 61-year-old Lydia Modine, a respected automobile industry historian who fears that her relationship with her three-grown children will unravel when her ex-husband remarries. With these children now living far from their Detroit suburban family home, Lydia, a deeply caring parent, begins to concoct a series of misguided fabrications about her life and relationships to lure them back. While caught up in creating a family drama, Lydia is also pursuing a new research project that begins to focus on the role of her own talented designer father in the production of mid-century American automobiles. Her research creates a mystery even as it stirs up memories of her parents' lives. Peppered with an assortment of memorable characters, this entertaining novel effectively combines a tale of loss and letting go with an examination of a large industry's past. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/04.]-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Divorced elder of a Detroit car family pulls some desperate punches on the wedding of her ex. The daughter of a famous GM designer (now dead) and the ex-wife of a car dealer, Lydia Modine, at 61, has found her livelihood as a social historian of the automobile, with four books to her name. But on the wedding day of her ex, Cy, to a woman half his age, and with her three grown children traipsing off blithely to the affair without her, Lydia feels abandoned and aims, without admitting it to herself, to get even. During research for her new book, which begins to focus on the early design team at GM and its role in "planned obsolescence," she meets aging hippie academic and green activist Norm Crawford. Although their Internet courtship leads to a disastrous lunch (he's hectoring, loud, and insulting), Lydia nonetheless fabricates around him a whole tale of romance and elopement that serves to alarm her scattered children into returning home and paying attention to her. It's a bizarre ploy hinting at Alzheimer's, and one complicated by bland Cy's request that from time to time Lydia check his new wife's eccentric elderly parents, M.J. and Casper. Having also worked in the car industry, they feed Lydia a shadowy theory of treachery about her father at GM. Second-novelist Shreve (The Obituary Writer, 2000) endows Lydia with a touching naivete in the midst of frightening modern dating rituals, while her children, especially daughter Jessica, are well fleshed and real. Lydia's true love, however, is the absent father, and Shreve devotes a good deal of time to him and his historic design work. In the end, Detroit is the main character here, Lydia its defender, and her bringing her family togethera way of preserving the status quo amid troubling modern changes. Clever and biting fiction that also serves as an amiable account of the Detroit car industry. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618711925
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 282
  • Sales rank: 1,461,957
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Porter Shreve was born during the Lyndon Johnson administration, grew up in Washington, D.C., and has attended three presidential inaugurations: Carter '77, Clinton '93, and Clinton '97. In the 1970s his family started an alternative school called Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House, and some of When the White House Was Ours is loosely based on that experience. Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, was a New York Times Notable Book, and his second, Drives Like a Dream, was a Chicago Tribune Book of the Year. He lives with his wife, the writer Bich Minh Nguyen, in Chicago and West Lafayette, Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Purdue University.

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Read an Excerpt

1

On the morning of her ex-husband’s wedding, Lydia Modine set the table for four. She had always made sure that her family ate breakfast together—orange juice, granola and milk, strawberry yogurt topped with wheat germ. "How many kids eat wheat germ?” the children used to complain.
"Only the ones who live forever,” Lydia would say.
Now they were grown, and a year and a half had passed since Lydia had seen them together in the Detroit suburb she called home. Despite the circumstances, she planned to enjoy this time. She sliced a loaf of zucchini bread that she’d baked yesterday and laid out batik napkins and earthenware bowls on the kitchen table. It was almost eight, about an hour before she’d have to wake up the kids and hurry them downstairs.
She had once assumed, then later hoped they would all live in the same place, even the same neighborhood. But with Ivan in D.C., Jessica in Oregon, and Davy in Chicago, this had become more of a dream. The Empire of Lydia, Jessica had said on her last trip home—Jessica, who had moved so far away for reasons she had yet to explain—Welcome to Historic Lydiaville. But Lydia wanted no such thing. Just the company of her family. Was that really so much to ask?
Waking before dawn this morning, she had pulled her knees to her chest, burrowed into the slide of pillows, tossed about on the king-size bed that Cy had bought for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. The bed had only put more room between them, and sleeping alone these days on this great raft, Lydia stayed close to the edge. When she couldn’t keep her eyes shut any longer she got up and went downstairs, still in her nightgown. She had heard the kids come in late last night from the rehearsal dinner; they’d left cheese and cracker crumbs and an empty jar of olives on the kitchen island. Lydia rinsed the dirty plates and dropped the jar in the recycling bin, wondering if Cy and his bride-to-be had run out of food for their guests. She hoped there had not been enough food. She hoped the toasts had been embarrassing, that the whole evening had gone badly.
But she would not allow herself to think about that now. Her children had come home and here she was, up and about and for some reason excited, as if today were her day, too.
The morning sunlight filtered through the kitchen’s sliding glass doors and spread over the table. Lydia unloaded the dishwasher and arranged the clean glasses in the cupboards, tall in the back, small up front. She wiped the countertop, swept the floor, ran a cloth over the tops of the picture frames that hung in the kitchen and along the hallway. She took a bottle of Windex to the mirror in the foyer and to the same glass doors that she’d already made sparkle yesterday. She cleaned the pictures in the living room—the fences and haystacks that her father had painted in high school, the architect’s drawing of the Mackinac Bridge, which linked lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula. She dusted the clock and the miniature pushcart on the mantel, and as a finishing touch straightened the cloth dolls that sat on the living room sofa. "One for me, one for Ivan, and one for Davy,” Jessica liked to say. "What better way to keep an eye on us? Go on, Mom. Give my arm a twist.” Lydia went along with the joke, but it made her self-conscious about the dolls, these floppy-limbed harlequins in doublets and checkered skirts. To Lydia they were whimsical, with their orange, blue, and purple yarn hair, their bright expressions of knowing and surprise. When the children were young, people had marveled at the way Lydia could do so much at once—write books, help support a family, hold the household together, all with a seemingly absent-minded ease. She was more fluid then, with no time to worry over the details. But now she had too much time, and Jessica in particular no longer seemed awed by her mother. To Lydia the dolls brought a little life to the room; she thought they might cheer her back to the person she once was.
She did a final check of the downstairs, and, seeing that all was in order, she went out to the back patio. It was a beautiful day for a wedding, she realized with a mix of anticipation and regret. A clear sky, warmer than usual for mid-May. She breathed in the scent of lilacs. Last week solid rain had brought up the tulips in front of the house, and the magnolia bloomed magnificently beside the garage. She looked forward to getting on with the day, vaguely imagining the bride or groom panicking and calling off the whole thing. Such lovely weather seemed almost too auspicious for something not to go wrong.
Lydia remembered her own wedding day, in the height of summer 1965. The forecast had called for rain, and all morninng the sky had threatened. As she got into her dress she kept looking out her bedroom window, her mother calling the wedding coordinator at the Book-Cadillac Hotel every fifteen minutes. In the afternoon it grew dark, the temperature dropping below 70. So the reception had been moved from the rooftop, with its view of the Detroit River and the lights of Belle Isle, to a ballroom on the first floor. Everyone seemed to have a good time, but Lydia couldn’t help feeling disappointed, especially since, after so much trouble, it didn’t rain after all.
Now she checked the patio chairs and table that she had spray- painted forest green earlier in the week. The chairs needed touching up, but no one would notice, certainly not today. She crossed the flagstones and admired her tidy patch of perennials and herbs, freshly weeded, bordering the patio. From the garage she got a pair of scissors and cut a bunch of day lilies. Licks of flame to brighten up the kitchen.
The sounds of animals from the Detroit Zoo drifted over the trees. It was the one exotic aspect of her quiet suburban neighborhood. As a social historian of the automobile, with four books to her name, she had always eyed the suburbs with suspicion, the way they leeched off cities, drawing all the benefits without paying the costs. And yet here she’d lived for more than twenty years, albeit just outside Detroit off the main thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue. Cy had won the battle over where to settle down, appealing to Lydia’s sense of protectiveness. He had promised her that Huntington Woods had better schools, cleaner streets and parks than the ones in midtown Detroit, where they’d lived for the first years of their marriage. And while she’d felt compromised at the time, she had grown to love her house, this simple American foursquare with its roomy interiors and wide front porch.
Back in the kitchen she put the lilies in a vase, set them on the table, and went upstairs to shower and dress. The three doors at the top of the stairs remained closed. Lydia took a quick shower, careful to save hot water, then stood in front of the bathroom mirror in her towel and checked for gray hairs.
People always assumed that she dyed her hair, but at sixty-one she was still a glossy auburn. She pulled her hair back into a bun and pursed her lips, thinking they could use some color. She hadn’t worn lipstick since before the divorce, three years ago, but searching the medicine cabinet she found a single abandoned tube. It smelled like a box of old crayons. The color was more orange than she’d remembered ever wearing, a matte persimmon hue that she blotted with a Kleenex. She added a touch of mascara, just enough to darken her eyes, then rifled through the bathroom drawers for the bottle of Eternity that Cy had given her for her fifty-sixth birthday. At the time she had resented him for not knowing that she didn’t wear perfume, but today Lydia dabbed some on her neck and clavicle.
In her bedroom, she stared at the clothes in her closet. This morning, all of her suits and dresses looked pilly and worn, but she finally settled on a red tunic—Cy used to say that red flattered her—and a gray linen skirt. Standing at the bureau mirror, she put on her favorite silver bead necklace. She looked pulled together, even attractive, she thought, on a day when everyone would expect her to be a wreck.
Before heading downstairs she knocked on each of the bedroom doors. "Morning!” she called. She could hear a slight rustling on the other side.
In the kitchen, she poured herself a cup of coffee and listened to the sounds of her children as they gradually got out of bed. Ivan, always the first, walked in short, regimented strides. Not long after that, Davy’s softer steps followed. Lydia could feel an energy returning to the house that seemed to move through every room, right into her own skin.
But she quickly checked herself. This energy was not intended for her. She had kept in constant motion for weeks preparing for her family’s return. Now she realized she had nothing left to do but wait for the kids to get ready. Who was she kidding? She was not the story. All the preparation in the world couldn’t change the reasons why her children were here.
She had to face the fact that this weekend would be a swindle.
Four winters ago her husband of thirty-three years had asked for a trial separation, citing the usual: they had drifted apart. Six months later, at his new job selling wireless accounts for Michitel, he fell for a woman he met at a trade show. Lydia had never seen Ellen, whose name was not easy to scorn, but she pictured the much younger woman with big trusting eyes, her head crowned with a hands-free phone set. This afternoon, at precisely one o’clock, Cy and Ellen were getting married. Till death do them part, they would be the hyphenated union of Mr. and Mrs. Spivey-Modine.
So the kids had returned to see the transition made official. They’d stopped what they were doing for their carefree, distractible dad. And today Lydia was expected to disappear. Jessica had said as much before leaving last night for the rehearsal dinner: Lydia’s presence would be unnerving as they prepared for their father’s second marriage. A groom at sixty. There was something unseemly about that.
She knew that Cy had always needed someone to take care of him. His mother had died when he was fifteen, and after high school he had drifted from one job to another. Lydia had spent years comforting him when he was out of work, encouraging his hobbies and meandering dreams. She had filled the role with an eagerness that only began to fade late in the marriage, when the house had finally emptied of all but the two of them.
After Davy left for college six years ago, Lydia poured herself into her research. She published a social history of the Interstate and began a new project, one she was still working on, about the General Motors design team that had put into practice on a grand scale the philosophy of "planned obsolescence.” Out with the old, in with the new. Widen the fins, lower the chassis. Make this year’s model just different enough so that last year’s seems shabby and dull. Keep the wheels ever rolling.
Lydia had little patience for that old comparison between cars and women, and yet she couldn’t help thinking, with increasing irritation, that her latest book mirrored her own life in uncanny ways. No wonder she was having trouble getting back to work.
She could hear the shower running and the heavy tread of Jessica walking down the hall above her. It was a familiar sound, something to take comfort in. How many times had Jess been the last to get up, late for school? She’d come downstairs unshowered, in sweatpants and a pullover, her hair in a ponytail. She knew this drove her mother a bit crazy. "Cut her some slack,” Cy would say when Lydia couldn’t resist making a comment. "She always looks great.” As a teenager, Jessica had been expert at playing her parents off each other. She and Lydia had always been close, even through the storm of adolescence. They shared a similar character, the same pragmatic point of view, and, as the two women in the house, they had been virtually inseparable. But when Lydia and Cy had their occasional spats, Jessica would invariably take her father’s position, assuming the role of daddy’s little girl. She played both sides, almost as if to spark a charge into her parents’ languishing marriage, forcing them to pay attention to her—and, by extension perhaps, to each other.
Lydia wondered sometimes if Cy would have left had she been more present, kept up with her personal ministry to him. Hadn’t she buried herself in her work those last years, all the while ignoring the obvious signs that her marriage was coming apart? She took such pleasure in her research that living with an acquaintance who happened to be her husband had seemed not the worst circumstance. Men like Harley Earl, the legendary car designer who had been her father’s boss at GM, had become more real, more attractive to her than Cy.
It was true that Cy had tried at times. Toward the end, he bought a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, one of the classic GM family cars, and began a restoration project in the garage. It was a sentimental gesture. Lydia’s workaholic father had helped design the original wagon. Inspired by the early Corvettes, it was one of the first cars of its kind to combine sportiness with the usual practical features. For a while Cy’s devotion to the project gave Lydia hope that they could restore their marriage too, and she would join him in the garage to discuss the next phase for the car. But eventually, like the Nomad itself, the project failed. As with all of Cy’s dreams, he grew frustrated and gave up.
Now Lydia filled the bowls with granola and took out grapefruit and English muffins from the refrigerator. She loosened the grapefruit sections with a paring knife, sliced the muffins, and stacked them on plates by the toaster. She filled a pitcher with cold milk, put glasses of orange juice at each setting, and took out the marionberry jam that Jessica had brought from Oregon. Then, checking her lipstick in the hallway mirror, she went upstairs, determined to appear, for her children’s sake, as if this day were like any other.

Jessica sat on the edge of her canopy bed putting on a black choker. She wore a flowered dress and chunky-heeled shoes.
"Good morning,” Lydia said, sitting down next to her. "Is that what you’re wearing to the wedding?” Instantly she worried that she sounded too critical.
"Well, it’s what I brought.” Jessica got up from the bed and half twirled in front of the closet door mirror. "What do you think?” "Nice,” Lydia said, hearing the hesitation in her voice. In spite of herself, she still hoped to please Cy. She knew he would want the kids to look their best today.
"I wasn’t about to buy an expensive dress. Even if I could afford it, what would be the point?” Jessica asked. "Maybe when you get remarried I’ll go all out. Hoop skirt and crinolines. But I don’t think Dad really cares.” Oh, he cared, Lydia knew. He didn’t talk about Ellen per se, but he did call Lydia every couple of weeks, and once in a while they met for lunch to discuss the children. How are their jobs? Any news on their love lives? Can you believe that Ivan turned thirty? Cy would even talk about the upcoming wedding: Will the kids arrive in time for the rehearsal? Can’t they come in on Thursday instead? You’re sure you don’t mind all the trips to the airport?
Which was why she had an impulse now to fetch a brush, sit Jessica down on the bed, and comb her mass of black hair until it fell long and straight. Jessica had always been a beauty, with her thick hair and wide- set brown eyes. At five foot nine, she was taller than Lydia, but she still had an adolescent slouch. From an early age, Jessica had never paid much attention to how she looked. A standout basketball player, sweats and running shoes had been her high school uniform.
"I think maybe your father cares more than you think he does.” Jessica pulled back her hair and turned to check her profile. She had shaved her underarms—a welcome development since yesterday, Lydia noted.
"If Dad has a problem with the dress I’m sure he’ll let me know. We’re going out for brunch before the wedding.” "But I’ve made breakfast downstairs.” Lydia felt her perfectly planned morning slipping away. Cy had said nothing about brunch.
"Well, we’re eating in less than an hour. But thanks, anyway.” Ivan, in a black suit and silver tie, came into the room and kissed his mother good morning. His hair had been clipper-cut so short that he looked like a Secret Service agent. Lydia wished he would grow it long and curly again, as it had been when he was young, to soften his strong features.
"You look nice, honey.” She stood up and smoothed his lapel.
"I am the best man in my father’s wedding. Tell me if that’s not every boy’s dream.” Ivan stood behind his sister at the mirror and adjusted his tie.
"Where’s Davy?” Jessica asked.
"Sewing a button on one of my old blazers. He didn’t exactly come prepared.” "So, how was the rehearsal dinner?” Lydia tried to sound nonchalant, though she’d been waiting all morning for a full report. Last night she’d even offered to drive the kids to the restaurant, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ellen. Instead, Jessica had asked to borrow her car.
"My speech was brilliant. There were tears—” Ivan began, before Jessica clapped her hand over his mouth.
"It was fine,” she said.
Lydia wondered how she could have such different children. From temperament to interests to where they had chosen to live, they had spun off in all directions. Out in Oregon, Jessica had discovered radical politics, and her phone calls home had become increasingly tense. She talked down to Lydia now, as if speaking to the unenlightened. Ivan, on the other hand, worked for the International Trade Administration; he was a government man, but Jessica never turned her hostility on him.
"Did Dad tell you he’s shaving his beard?” Jessica asked her brother.
"For the wedding?” "Yeah, this morning. It’s probably headed down the drain as we speak.” Lydia realized that this news was meant for her. Cy had always worn a beard. For as long as they’d been married, he had groomed it every day with an electric razor that he kept at the same low setting. She hadn’t seen him with a clean-shaven face since well before they were a couple. As he had aged—his hair and beard going from brown to grizzled to fully gray—he looked increasingly distinguished. People had often said they made a handsome couple. She favored long skirts and crisp blouses; he had worn his wire-rimmed glasses and the clothes that Lydia picked out for him. "The Mennonites step out on the town,” Jessica used to joke. But during the separation Lydia realized how two people could put a lot of extra miles on a marriage if they looked as if they belonged together.
"Don’t tell me he’s going to dye his hair, too,” Ivan said.
"No, he’s been reading some men’s movement book. It told him that the beard was a mask.” "Ah, yes. Of course.” Ivan always responded badly to his father’s soul-searching. Nothing infuriated him more than Cy’s earnest talk about spontaneous healing, the God within, and random acts of kindness. And though Lydia would later laugh about this too—much later, after the tightly wound spring of her would at last uncoil—Cy’s shaving his beard stood for something final.
"I should let you two finish getting ready. I’ll be outside with the camera,” she said quickly and headed back downstairs.
During one of his incarnations Cy had been an amateur photographer, and though he soon tired of lighthouses and freighters, he had continued to take pictures of the children. The result was a series hanging on the kitchen walls: of the kids on the front steps, a chronicle of their shifting hairstyles and demeanors, from the time Davy was five to just a few years ago. Lydia had decided this week to keep the tradition going. She’d bought film for the camera yesterday, and now she went outside to load it and wait on the porch swing.
She remembered when Jessica had sat here with her brooding friends or when the children had lined up with their duffel bags before leaving on trips: Davy to music camp at Interlochen, Ivan to college in D.C.—the only one in the family not to go to the University of Michigan.
All three kids came out at once, crisply dressed. Ivan sat on the third step down, Jessica in the middle, Davy on the top step.
Lydia knelt on the front walk and tilted the camera. "Look at these matinee idols!” she called out, and caught Jessica rolling her eyes.
After Lydia snapped a few frames Davy stood up. "Can we get you in here, Mom? Let me take over.” "That’s okay.” She waved him off.
He sat back down, cleaning his glasses with his teardrop- patterned tie.
"The groom will be here any second, you know,” Jessica said impatiently.
"Just a couple more shots, then. How about some smiles?” Jessica sighed.
"C’mon Jess,” Davy said. "It’s Mom’s weekend too. She made us a nice breakfast and everything.” Thank you, Lydia wanted to say. It was about time someone noticed. Nobody had said so much as "The place looks great” or "Don’t you look nice this morning.” She did look nice, as a matter of fact. And it was her weekend, too.
She had clicked off half the roll, her hands shaking a little, by the time Cy pulled up in front of the house. The kids stood up, looking almost solemn as their father got out of his car.
Cy’s cheeks were pink, his small chin newly revealed, a hint of the face Lydia remembered from long ago. She should have known that without the beard, behind the so-called mask, he would resemble an overgrown boy: bright-eyed like Davy, ruddy like Ivan.
"Sorry I’m late. Got caught up with the endless details. So you took some pictures?” "I did,” Lydia said emphatically, though she wasn’t sure why.
He leaned forward to kiss her chastely on the cheek, and as she felt for the first time, after more than thirty years of marriage, his shaven face touching her skin, flesh to flesh, a peculiar regret washed over her: she wished that she had been the one to shave him.
When Lydia was a girl, her father used to send her on errands to a tailor in Hamtramck. He was an ancient rheumy-eyed Polish immigrant, and often when she walked into the shop early, before school, the tailor would be sitting on a stool by the cash register with a towel around his neck. His face would be covered in shaving cream, and hovering over him, a bone-handled straight razor in her fist, would be his wife. She would shave him with quick, adept strokes, slapping the spent lather against a towel in her hand, lifting his skin and drawing the razor down. The tailor would sit there, waiting out the daily ritual until his face was smooth and clean. Then he would rise to his feet and gather Lydia’s father’s suits. His wife would put the razor away, neatly fold the towels. Then she would ring up the sale. And as Lydia turned to wave goodbye, the tailor would say, "Remember, young lady. Don’t fall in love.” That was marriage, Lydia thought—every morning a straight razor shave, routine and precarious at the same time. The domestic trinity of care, trust, and repetition all contained in that simple tableau. How long had the tailor and his wife been married? Fifty years? A hundred and fifty? Lydia half believed that if she were to drive across town to Hamtramck right now, she would find the two of them still holding down the shop. "Don’t fall in love,” he would say. And Lydia would answer, "Maybe I never did.” Or, "I never will again.” She stood on the front porch as the kids piled into their father’s new Infiniti sedan.
"Well, bye,” she yelled out. "Have a wonderful time.” And, as the doors closed, "Congratulations.” But Cy must not have heard her because he didn’t look back, just gave a quick wave. They drove off and Lydia stood staring down the street as the car turned the corner. "Well,” she said, then realized that no one was around to hear her. "Well.” She went back into the house and looked at the uneaten breakfast. Granola, grapefruit, zucchini bread, English muffins, even the jam that Jessica had brought—all of it went into the trash. Lydia poured the coffee, milk, and juice into the sink, put the dishes in the cupboard, wiped down the table, and turned off the light.
Then she climbed the stairs to her office and gathered her manuscript papers and laptop for the library. "Back when I am,” she wrote on a white note card.
She put the note on the kitchen table, then locked the front door behind her.

Copyright © 2005 by Porter Shreve. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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