I don’t remember how we met, through a business function? Aside from the fact that we were both short and female, we had nothing in common. And yet we became good friends. Phyllis was older, divorced, with large breasts and grown kids. Oh, she was Jewish, almost forgot. I was an Italian, Catholic young woman, married to a not so nice husband. My kids were little, my knowledge of English limited and my chest flat.
Phyllis dragged me to a Bar Mitzvah, after my divorce introduced me to my first date, and even convinced me to try my first piece of cheese cake. Here I am twenty some years later and every time I take a bite of cheese cake I think of Phyllis.
At some point she decided it was time for her to move back home to Chicago. And assured me it would be a good idea for me to visit her often and get to know the city. It became an inside joke because my ex-spouse was actually from Chicago, but I needed a friend to finally get me there.
She bought herself a studio apartment in a rather old high rise by the Water Tower. Being from Phoenix where everything was built yesterday, those tall buildings around Michigan Avenue reminded me of Rome’s ancient ruins. I didn’t care that the doorman wore a fancy red jacket with tassels and golden buttons and carried a whistle to get us a taxi, but I was impressed when I found out that Michael Jordan’s girlfriend lived in the building, and it wasn’t unusual to bump into him in the elevator. Although I never did.
When she told me the price of her place I nearly fainted, mamma mia, it sure didn’t look worth the money to me. Of course I didn’t know a thing about real estate especially in Chicago and I didn’t understand the importance of a lake view. We were discussing all that late in the evening, in our pajamas, drinking champagne. So Phyllis went on and on explaining about the virtues of this building and at some point she decided to give me a tour of the rooftop amenities.
“Let’s get into the service elevator,” she said. “It’s not used at night and I’ll show you the swimming pool and ramada and all that, plus we get a terrific view of Chicago at night.” I need to add this was in the month of January, not exactly pool season. We threw our heavy wool coats over our night attire and in slippers, our faces covered with some pinkish night crème Phyllis swore worked miracles, we headed down the long, narrow corridor to the service elevator. She pushed the button and we waited, chatting and giggling about what if we bump into someone? They’ll have a heart attack, we looked like aliens…
The door of the service elevator finally opened to showcase about a dozen of people in ‘real’ evening attire looking at us without flinching, and politely asking, “Are you headed to the Smith’s reception? The regular elevator is out of service.”
Ah, Phyllis, my unforgettable friend. RIP.