Tonight, after getting off the subway in Fort Greene, I checked my phone.
My mother had left me three messages. Each became increasingly urgent. And long. And I'd only been on the subway for twenty-five minutes.
At least it's only four messages, I thought. And at least, they're mostly coherent.
I waited until I'd ordered food at the restaurant I often eat dinner and dialed my mother.
"WHERE WERE YOU?" she exclaimed. "I called you FIVE times!"
"Three," I corrected. "I had a meeting after work."
"What kind of meeting?" she asked.
This kind of questioning was good. It meant she wasn't thinking about My Brother's Wedding, the day our family officially imploded.
"It was at a production company," I replied. "I'm going to try to go freelance in the fall."
"Will you still be making TV videos?" she asked. She really has no idea what I do.
"Yeah," I said. "You know, promos. But for different networks and stuff."
She was silent for a moment.
"Remember when you offered to make the wedding video?" she muttered bitterly. "And Trashbot turned you down? I mean, you are a top TV producer! In New York City! And she hires Vinnie's Video Shack of Greater Boston, for God's sake!"
I sleep under my desk at work, I wanted to tell her. And my obvious, almost hostile lack of enthusiasm for my profession has prompted at least three sit-downs with my bosses in the past two years.
Instead, I grunted and wondered if there was anything I could say that wouldn’t remind her of the Wedding.
"Where are you? she exclaimed. "It's so noisy!"
"I'm at a restaurant. Having dinner."
"Alone?" she asked incredulously.
"Because I’m hungry."
"Who are those people yelling in the background?"
"I don’t know. Just a bunch of people."
"And you're sitting near them alone?
My mother is part of a generation of women to whom “sitting alone in a restaurant” spells Barren, Busted, and Un-Boned.
"Yeah," I said irritably. "But don't worry. The waitress makes sure to tack up a sign that says 'Loser' on the wall right above my head. Just in case people weren’t thinking it."
"I’m just saying, there’s absolutely no reason for a girl like you to be eating alone. I mean, that’s just nonsense."
"Mom, it's a cafe in Brooklyn. It's full of people sitting alone."
"Oh," she said relieved. "Well, that's good."
The waitress arrived with my food. I picked up a fork and began eating.
My mother began counting down the various acts of ignominy that had been enacted upon her by Trashbot 2000, at the wedding . And I have to say, she was speaking the truth. Being dramatic, yes. But she was speaking the truth. Trashbot was a fucking cunt to my mother at the wedding. Which was why the phone was still pressed to my ear.
"...And at that point, I just thought to myself, 'Well, this is a fine kettle of fish your brother's gotten himself into.' Not only will the children be mentally retarded, Trashbot will probably take them to a shooting range as soon as they're big enough to hold shotguns."
"Maybe she's more modern than that," I said, my mouth full of lettuce. "Maybe she'll start them off with Glock 9mms."
"What are you eating?" my mother asked brightly.
My soul. I thought. My mental well-being. What’s left of my sanity. But goddammit, I'm a good daughter. Keep that in mind when I want to borrow that phantom bottle of Phenobarbital you've been threatening us with since I was a kid. Even though it's long-expired, if it does indeed exist.
"Thai chicken salad," I replied, instead.
"Is the dressing on the side?" she queried. "You know, they dump the dressing on in restaurants. Do you know how many calories that adds?"
Do you know how many years off my life these conversations take?
"I know," I said. "I always get the dressing on the side." Because if I were fat, you wouldn't love me. I know from the time I gained weight freshman year of college.
"Now, is there ginger in that?"
"Nope," I said.
There had been scallions in the salad at The Wedding.
"No," I lied.