Easy Out

July 26, 2008

“I had an easy out, but I didn’t take it,” I said. My daughter was lying in her bed reading an anthropology textbook. She looked up at me. “I guess it was my own fault,” I said.

“Don’t say that, Mom.”

“It’s true,” I said.

She closed the textbook, carefully marking the page with a photograph of the Bastille, her makeshift bookmark. My daughter does everything carefully.

“Don’t take it so personally,” she said. “He’s just like that.”

She was referring to my husband. Her father.

“’Just like that’?” I said. “You mean he’s an asshole.”

She thought for a moment. “Well, yeah.”

Talking to my daughter is the only thing keeping me from finishing the bottle of Bacardi hidden at the bottom of my hamper tonight. My husband had come home twenty minutes earlier. He had told me we’d been invited to play Bunco at Susie’s house at eight o’clock. Susie was our next-door neighbor. She had lost thirty pounds in the last year and, though she had recently turned forty-eight years old, had been wearing midriff-revealing tops to showcase her accomplishment all summer. She was tacky and I did not feel like playing Bunco tonight, even if I do win every time.

My husband had said, “Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t want to talk to anyone,” I had said. “I’m not up to it.”

“Relax,” he had said.

Relax. The one thing I could not do. He knew it and he still told me to relax.

“Mom, he told me the same thing when I saw him,” my daughter said. “He says that to everyone.”

“Why?” I said. “He’s not relaxed. He’s the most uptight person I’ve ever met.” He wasn’t always, I wanted to say, but didn’t because I wanted my daughter on my side.

“I know,” she said, sighing. She ran her fingers across the cover of her book. I was interrupting her, but I didn’t care. I would leave in a few minutes and then she could study all night.

“Did I make a mistake?” I asked. I suddenly felt foolish. What could my twenty-one-year-old daughter know that I didn’t? How could she possibly have experienced anything in her life that granted her the knowledge to answer my question? I thought these things, but I still held my breath waiting for her response.

She closed her eyes. I did the same and listened.

She didn’t answer for a minute or two. I was afraid she was ignoring me.

Finally she said, “I think you think you made a mistake.”

I reached for her hand, turned it over in mine. I created that hand.

“Thank you,” I said.

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