Friday, August 30, 2013
I had a dream last night we were taking a bath together.
Curious way to start an e-mail, he thought, especially from a casual acquaintance. They had met at a writer's workshop in New York and wound up spending time together. Nothing serious; drinks, dinner a few nights. One night they had gone to The Bronx to see the Yankees. The specter of no strings attached sex had floated around them during a particularly intense drinking session, where they had taken turns making up opening lines of stories. She probably would have gone back to his room with him that night, if he had asked, but decorum and an old fashioned sense of propriety had made him escort her back to her room with nothing more than a good night kiss and some gentle grinding at her door. The next morning they said their goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, which they had with the occasional e-mail or comment on each other's writing. He certainly had no reason to anticipate this type of message. He studied it a moment, trying to decide how to respond. He took a sip of coffee, the serene morning suddenly less tranquil.
Was it fun?
He went back to his writing, wondering how she would reply. He tried to keep his mind on his work, but felt himself starting to tense up waiting for her to answer. He jumped when the computer 'dinged' her response in his mailbox.
It was comfortable, like we were an old married couple and we'd been doing it for years. You were smoking a cigar. :(
He chuckled. The only thing she had complained about was his love of a good cigar. It wasn't a problem out here on the prairie, but it had proved problematic in Manhattan. He tried to stay down wind of her when they were out on the street, but that often conflicted with his need to be a gentleman and walk near the curb. Thankfully, she was almost a foot shorter than him, so he was able to keep most of the smoke away from her face. He smiled at the memory.
No body's perfect. What happened next?
As soon as he hit SEND he thought maybe he'd pushed it too far. Did he want to know what happened next? She was a master at the art of erotic fiction, fearless in her ability to write about sex without blushing or flinching. What if her dream had proceeded in a pornographic episode, or worse, a moment of mortifying embarrassment for his inability to perform? He got up from his desk and called for his dog, thinking it was time to go for a walk. He was just about to close the front door when he heard the computer 'ding' again. He hesitated and looked longingly at his lap top. He could always access his account via his phone. His dog pulled at her leash, pleading with him to hurry up. He closed the door behind him and let her lead him away from her answer.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
"Do you remember that Thanksgiving dinner when you left the turkey on the table and the dog jumped up and ran away with it? And Scott just told us to get dressed and he took us to get a Chinese dinner?"
"Yes, Mom, I remember."
"Scott was so handsome, he had so many girlfriends in high school. I mean he was so popular, class president and head of the student council. You were so lucky, Jenna to be married to a man like that."
"Yes, Mom, I know."
"I miss him so much. It's so unfair for a parent to have to bury her child. At least I have you, to help me remember him. It's almost like he's still here, a little bit. Of course, a daughter-in-law isn't the same as a child, but you're a good girl to come visit me like this."
"I'm glad it makes you happy Mom. It's getting late, I have to be going now."
"Will you come back tomorrow? And bring Scott with you."
"Scott can't come, Mom, you know that."
The old woman's face went blank, as if she was trying to remember something, then sullen as the words sank in. Jenna kissed her good bye, and started to walk out of her room. The distinct smell of death and disinfectant wafted through the hallways of the assisted living facility. Jenna heard the old woman call out after her, followed by sobbing.
"You got your girl. I hope you're happy!"
Jenna let out a sigh and shook her head, doing her best to dislodge the accusation. As she waited for the elevator another woman appeared next to her, offering a sympathetic smile.
"It's not easy, is it?"
"No, not easy at all."
"You're good to visit. So many of the residents don't have any one. I'm sure your mother-in-law appreciates it in her own way."
Jenna laughed. She didn't think her mother did. She fiddled with her purse.
"Were you married long? It's so hard losing a spouse."
Jenna shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"My husband is still alive. That woman isn't my mother-in-law, she's my mother."
The other woman looked confused.
"I'm sorry, I thought she said you were her daughter-in-law."
Jenna started to shake her head back and forth. What was the point of explaining all this to a to a total stranger?
"I'm my mother's first born. She wanted a boy first, but her mother-in-law wanted a girl. She gave my mother a beautiful pink layette set for Christmas, and my mother refused to take it home. When I was born in February my grandmother went to visit my mother in the hospital, and when she peeked her head into my mother's room, my mother screamed, 'You got your girl, I hope you're happy' and then burst into tears."
The other woman was still trying to wrap her brain around such irrational thinking.
"But who's Scott?"
The elevator door slid open. Jenna walked in and pressed the down button.
"Scott was supposed to be my name if I was a boy. My mother thinks he's dead. I finally bring her some joy because I remind her of someone who never existed."
The elevator door slid close. The sound of sobs still echoed down the hallway.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
He reached for the phone, his eyes squinting to read the clock. 12:45. AM. He made a quick mental note of all the people who might call at this hour; his mom about his dad, his dad about his mom. His brother about their parents. He pulled the phone to his ear, prepared for the worst.
"Hi. I'm sorry to call so late."
His eyes opened wide as he heard her voice. She was the last person he expected to be on the other end. He sat up slightly, clearing his throat of sleep.
"No it's OK. Are you all right?"
He heard her voice catch a little, which made him sit up even more. She was a woman who wouldn't even let him buy her coffee at work in the morning. She was always polite about it, saying she didn't like coffee, but it always made him feel annoyed. It was just a cup of coffee. Her rejection was habitual And hurtful.
"Um, no. I was coming back from work and I got hit by another car. I'm sitting in the emergency room."
He heard her struggle to maintain her composure and fail. He could tell she was distraught, heard her try to regulate her breathing. He turned on the light and got out of bed, grabbing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt from the dresser, trying to balance the phone between his ear and shoulder as he pulled on socks and shoes. He picked up his keys and was all ready out the door by the time she was able to speak again.
"I'm banged up a bit, nothing's broken, but my car is totaled, and I need a ride home, so I was wondering if you could come pick me up?"
He was behind the wheel of his car, putting his blue tooth into his ear and turning on the engine before she had finished her sentence.
"Princeton-Plainsboro. It's on Route 1; they moved it, it's no longer in Princeton."
"I know where it is. I'll be there in 20 minutes. Are you going to be OK?"
Again her heard her voice catch as she took in a deep breath. She sounded so young and vulnerable.
"Yea, I'll be fine. Thank you, I really appreciate this."
He smiled. It felt good be needed. He turned the radio on as he pulled onto the street.
"Sit tight. I'm on my way."
"Thanks. I guess I owe you a cup of coffee."
The call ended. He turned the radio up, and sang all the way to the hospital.