As evidenced by their names, the union of Danny and Franny was destined from the moment they met. Dan–as he was called back then–was on his way to a party when he stopped at a drug store to meet his friends. While Fran–as she was called back then–had been brought along by a mutual acquaintance. He was twenty, she was nineteen.
They both had come from desperate backgrounds. When Danny was ten years old, his father died from a heart attack, and it wasn’t until Franny was eighteen years old that she ate her first fresh vegetable. Danny, was the younger son of an Argentine immigrant and Franny, the elder daughter of a single mother. Despite their inverse birth order, both Danny and Franny had grown up faster than usual, each bearing the greatest share of family responsibilities. Out of necessity, they developed into dutiful, reserved, orderly individuals, who endured the deprivations and misgivings of their respective childhoods, believing, ” I will make a better life for myself.” The premature onset of this maturity left them longing for age to match mentality; they were waiting to be adults, looking forward to when they’d finally control their lives, and subsequently, shared a bitter resentment of those who could afford to be careless. It wasn’t just the fact of their misfortunes, but how they’d resolved to eventually shed their troubled pasts by sheer determination that negated appreciating anything they had not earned for themselves. Incomparable as they were, the tragedies of Danny and Franny’s upbringings would prove to define each other in a peculiarly complementary way.
True to Argentine culture, Dan’s home life was characterized by recurring social gatherings centered around food and drink. His house was constantly filled with family, friends, family friends, and friends who were considered family. Often resembling a hotel more than a home, it was an inviting place kept warm by those who came, went, and stayed as they pleased with their own set of keys. In stark contrast, was the austere confines of Fran’s house, whose walls remained enclosed, never bearing witness to a single visitor. The emptiness of its interior so vast that it was unable to contain heat, augmenting its inherent coldness. It was a vapid lifestyle challenged by its own vapidness. Both environments proved to be overbearing in diametrically opposing forms. Dan was overwhelmed and Fran was underwhelmed, but through each other they could experience what they’d been missing: an escape.
“If you want kids, I may not be the girl for you,” she’d warned him.
The literal absence of Danny’s father and the figurative absence of Franny’s mother meant neither had had a model of parenthood from which to conceive themselves. They’d developmentally reacted to the unique deficiencies of their early lives in such a way that mutually reinforced their aversion to bearing the responsibility of dependents. Danny and Franny cooperated as a team of two, each facilitating the pursuit of the other’s professional interests. They were partners in life, taking turns doing what they wanted for years at a time—she’d work so he could complete a master’s, and he’d sell his deli business to accommodate her job relocating—one serving as the accessory to the other’s next move. At present, Franny is an interior designer and Danny is an administrator of a psychiatric department. The polarity of their preoccupations’ concerns, hers external and his internal, is only natural as a continuation of the duality that persistently defines their relationship.
Thirty seven years later from the day they met, still even now, Franny wonders, uncertain of Danny’s choice as much as her own to remain exclusive of a child. She tells me, “every so often, I’ll check in with him, from time to time, just to ask.” Too afraid to be impolite, I never will understand why. By asking enough times, is she expecting to eventually hear regret confessed? This repetitious exercise to reaffirm their lifestyle mitigates the risk of realizing their lifes’ potential mistake. Its superficial comfort proves irresistible again and again.
Danny and Franny’s co-op apartment is manifestly intolerant of children— white couches anchored to a dark hardwood floor by white carpets, and surrounded by carnal red accents, onyx black accessories, and brushed aluminum fixtures—it exhibits a painstaking attention to immaculacy and symmetry. Franny carefully crafted this interior design, artfully fabricating a home built for two—two entrances, two sectionals, and two televisions—that allows for coincidental, rather than shared living. It is an absolute reflection of its occupants, fostering a resolute insularity, outwardly unfit for the inevitable messiness intrinsic to children. The most glaring aesthetic element of this design is that nearly every wall has a mirror. This ubiquity of looking glass sustains an illusion of presence by literally multiplying figures in the image of Danny and Franny. It would seem that maintaining appearances of self-fulfillment will prove to be their life’s work.