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Living Fiction - Chapter 41
Here's where Chapter 40 left you.
I heard the kitchen door open.
Maybe it was a murderer. Thank God! Maybe it was someone who was going to rob me and then kill me. Actually, I was hoping they were going to kill me and THEN rob me, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to stop them.
Maybe they would kill me quickly and then I’d be done suffering and the headlines would read, “Brave Woman Murdered…”
As I was fabricating the rest of the headline, I looked up. Sadly, there was no murderer ready to put me out of my misery in the doorway. There was only my daughter. In one hand she held a large brown paper sack and in the other hand was a tall, skinny bottle.
“Pick your poison, Mom. Tequila or beer? If the only way to get you to talk is to get you drunk then, hey, I’m along for the ride.”
My heart gave a little lurch.
AND NOW, CHAPTER 41 CONTINUES...
She went back to the kitchen and I could hear her rummaging through the cupboards. “Mom,” she shouted, “Do you have any shot glasses?”
“Shot glasses?” I shouted back.
“You know, those little ones that you and Dad always brought back from vacation?”
I thought for a moment, and then yelled, “They’re in the cupboard with the vases. I use them to put little flower bouquets in.”
I thought I heard her mumbling, but then she reappeared in the doorway with a tray. On it she had placed my Italian chef salt shaker, a bowl with something that looked like limes, and my little flower vases along with the bottle of tequila.
“Maybe I should just drink a beer,” I protested, “I rarely drink, Jessie. You don’t either, right? You hardly ever drink, right?”
She didn’t answer the drinking question. She did, however, say, “You know what, Mom? I’m not getting any younger here. The beer’s gonna take too long. Let’s just start on the tequila.” She held out the little glass filled to the brim with golden liquid.
I’m not going to lie here. I looked long and hard at that liquid courage. It glistened in the tiny, flower vase/shot glass like a pool of salvation.
Although I’d never been much of a drinker, I was still surprised how those beers with Millie had made me blab. Reluctantly, I shook my head at Jessie. I needed to be in control of what came out of my mouth. I needed to explain myself carefully. This was my daughter. I didn’t want to screw things up between us anymore than I already had.
“No?” Jessie raised her eyebrows in query.
“No,” I confirmed.
Jessie put the shot glass down on the coffee table and reached over to turn out the light.
‘Free’ conversations were always easiest in the dark.
She waited some more.
I waited some more.
Edgar came out and jumped on my lap.
Edgar ran down the couch and sat in her lap.
Darn! Darn, darn, darn. How was I supposed to do this? Was I just supposed to start talking? Where was I supposed to start?
The torture of my daughters silence just dripped away at me like Chinese water torture, until finally I blurted out, “Fine! I’ll talk!”
She remained stoicly soundless. Chinese water torture…drip, drip, drip…drip, drip, drip…
“So…ummm… so… well… gosh. Okay. I might have fabricated a few things that I’ve told you lately and … ummm… so… well…”
The silence intensified. Drip, drip, drip…drip, drip, drip… Arrrggh! Whose ridiculous idea was it to have ‘free’ conversations anyway?
“So…yeah…ummm… well… okay, it’s like this. I guess this all started when your Dad…died…okay, maybe it started before that, maybe it started when I got married to and … ummm…”
I jumped up. I couldn’t do this. “Jessie, you’re my daughter! I can’t do this! I can’t talk to you about this!”
Jessie leaned over and picked up the shot glass and handed it to me. “Here, Mom. It’s okay. This will help.”
I held the cute little flower vase in my hand. In the faint light coming only from the kitchen, I could just make out a black and white outline of Mount Rushmore. I remembered going to Mount Rushmore when the kids were small. We had played a game after we left about where we would each like to live on the rock edifice. My choice had been Theodore Roosevelt’s nostril. I liked how his mustache would make a little ledge for me to sit on. Plus, he was kind of hidden behind the other presidents, you know? I figured if I lived in Teddy’s nose, I wouldn’t have to lead anyone anywhere. I could just sort of watch their lives vicariously and support and encourage them from nose back.
“Jessie? You know how I wanted to live in President Roosevelt’s nostril at Mount Rushmore?” I asked her. I could see her turn toward me. Her eyes were shadowed, though, and I couldn’t read her face. I put the still full shot glass back on the table. “I always thought your Dad would be right there in front, sitting on George Washington’s nose…leading the way for us all. Your brother would be right behind him…you know? Underneath Jefferson’s chin…and then you, sweet girl, you and Abe, looking after your Dad and brother. But me, I think I always just liked being back a little bit. You know?”
I could see Jessie’s face turned toward me, but I still couldn’t read her expression. I just closed my eyes and thought a bit more.
“There I was. All comfortable and happy in my own little spot on Mount Rushmore, and then your Dad …died. And then…well, then, I wasn’t hidden away anymore. I had to come out of the shadows and take care of things. I had to look at things. I had to decide things I’d never, ever even thought of in my life. I had to take care of myself, Jessie. Something I had never done before. You know I never even had an apartment. I went from your Grandmother’s, God rest her soul, house to being married. And being married back in those days…well, I think things were different then. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t really know. I just know that I went from my parents making decisions for me and about me, to your Dad doing the same thing.”
I glanced at my daughter. She had leaned back but was still watching me.
“Jessie? I don’t want to do the ‘free’ conversation thing. I don’t want to do this. Can we stop now? Can I just apologize for my … ummm… not quite truths…and call it a day. I’m exhausted. I’m sure you are, too.”
“Mom,” she replied quietly, “Just talk when you’re ready, okay? I’m just here to listen.” Drip, drip, drip…drip, drip, drip…
She reached behind her and pulled a rag quilt over her and Edgar. She settled in. She definitely did not give me the imperssion she was going to let me wiggle out of this conversation.
I leaned back, too, closed my eyes. After a while the drip, drip, drip…drip, drip, drips…made me continue just to fill the uncomfortable silence.
“And then, well then your brother came along and then you… and we moved to this house and things were busy and I was happy. I’m sure I was happy. I was happy, right? I loved being a Mom. I loved having the house filled with laughter and toys all over the living room and…okay, well, since I’m being truthful I guess I didn’t really love the toys all over the living room part all that much…but, I was happy. I knew my place in the world. I knew where I belonged and what I was supposed to do.
I was supposed to make cupcakes for classroom parties and go on field trips and put bandaids on scraped knees. I was supposed to make dinner and hang out the laundry on the clothesline so we could all fall asleep to the fragrance of sunshine. I was supposed to go to business dinners and worry about babysitters and plan birthday parties and make too many pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.
My expectation of my life had seemed to come true. Things felt exactly right. Everything was steady and I knew who I was and what I was supposed to do. The point is, I was happy. And everything was okay and safe.
And then…well then. Things happened. You and your brother got older. And somehow your brother didn’t like the steady, regular life we lived. He wanted more. He pushed. He struggled. You know, well… you know. He struggled against the life we had. He fought it. He told us we were boring and that he would rather die than live a life like I had. Like we had.
But your Dad and I…well, we just tried to help, and figure things out, and to help him understand that life can be simple. And happy. Life doesn’t have to be about fast cars and… well, alchohol, drugs…you know. I’m not going to go into that. We’ve talked about this a hundred times before. I’m just trying to explain how I felt when I couldn’t live in Roosevelt’s nostril anymore. There was nobody in front of me to protect me. Everyone who had ever made me feel safe was gone. My Grandma, your Grandma and Grandpa … and then…your Dad. Everyone was gone. I couldn’t hide anymore.”
Wow. Okay. I was really getting into some deep stuff now. I sat back up to see how Jessie was taking all this. I peered through the dim lighting at her to read her reaction.
Her eyes were closed. Her breathing was soft and regular.
She had fallen asleep.
While I was revealing my soul to her, my daughter had fallen soundly asleep.
I got up from the couch quietly. I gently lifted her feet onto the couch cushion and tugged off her shoes.
Edgar wiggled around and opened one eye at me. “Go to sleep, Edgar,” I whispered.
I pulled the fuzzy quilt over them both.
And then I went upstairs to bed.
To be continued on Tuesday, June 28.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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