April 27, 2007
Updated April 28, 2007
She opens the plastic pantry door, finds the box of Go Lean cereal, measures a portion into an orange measuring cup, and then transfers it into a blue and white bowl. Cameron must have just left for the office and the children must have just caught the bus for school. The house stands still in the same sort of silence that happens each morning after most of the family leaves. And of course they hadn’t cleaned up anything from their breakfasts. She can trace the exact trail of each person’s breakfast. A few kernels of Rice Krispies scatter the kitchen counter and a greasy pan sits emerged in the kitchen sink along with a bowl of half eaten Lucky Charms. She settles herself comfortably at the breakfast table as she pours a cup of hot coffee. She is still wearing her purple cotton morning robe and fluffy slippers, but starts thinking about what to wear today. Maybe her red turtleneck.
In another house a few blocks down, a woman pushes the snooze button on her alarm clock. She turns over to her husband, but, as usual, finds that he already left for the day. After feeling around the bed stand for her glasses, she wobbles downstairs to the kitchen. Her daughter, Taylor, sits cross legged on a high stool at the counter, taking big gulps of coffee. Between gulps, she runs her fingers through her hair and adjusts her shirt.
“Honey, I haven’t changed my mind ‘bout what I said last night.”
“What?” Taylor says without looking up and after a few seconds passed.
“Taylor you heard me. I just, it’s gonna be sewed up by the time you get back from school and I don’t want a fuss about it. Girls like you shouldn’t be wearing things like that.”
The girl swooshes her long dark blonde hair over her shoulder as she cockily rotates her body to face her mother.
“And what exactly is a girl like me supposed to wear?”
“Something nice. No. I’m not talking about this. You just don’t be surprised though. Girls like you should look like you were raised good, and well you were.”
Usually, Taylor would start lecturing back to her mother about how what you wear is a matter of style and self-expression, not upbringing or manners. Today she just turns back towards the counter and takes another big gulp of her coffee.
“And you’re too young to be drinking coffee!” The mother scolds as she stomps upstairs and quickly dresses in her favorite blue jeans and shirt. She pulls her hair up in a pony tail, grabs her purse, and drives away.
“Mooooomm!” She hears the words pierce through the shower water as it pounds down on her head.
“Whhhhatttt,” she yells back. The bathroom door creaks open and her daughters face peeks in.
“Can you take me to school? I missed the bus.”
“I can’t, I have a meeting.”
“Just ask your Dad. I have a meeting.” She stays in the shower for another 10 minutes, so she could be sure that her husband and daughter left. The water turns her body red as a lobster, but she doesn’t care. When she gets out of the shower, she looks at the flashing red time on her alarm clock.
“I’m late,” she says to herself in surprise. She is never late. Dressing quickly, she pulls on the first sweater she finds and rushes off for her appointment.
In another house, a lady with graying hair finishes her morning gardening and leaves the house still wearing her black garden clogs.
The last lady arrives first to the meeting. She left the house after insisting on a kiss from each of her children. The day started out fine, until her oldest daughter announced that she would be going home with her friend Sarah that evening before the school dance. The mother and daughter argued back and forth. They directly faced each other and both of their strong jaws open and shut, open and shut to spit out their argument.
Two square, wooden tables line the right side of the tan walled coffee shop. Five women sit in spindly brown chairs at one of the tables. The tan and white speckled floor spreads beneath the chairs, each positioned slightly towards the far right of the table. At the head, the spot that the chairs angle towards, sits a woman with brownish red hair cut into a soccer mom bob. Her red ribbed turtle neck peaks out and tightly holds up her neck, her black rain coat hides her body, and its yellow and white checker trim perks up on both side like the ears of an attentive dog. To her right sits a woman with blonde hair, cut in that same style. She wears black clogs and a brown jacket. Beside her, a slender woman with tight blue jeans, a cream, long sleeved t-shirt, and blonde hair piled in a messy bun on top of her head, throws her hands forward, side to side, and glances in with dark eyes towards the lady at the head of the table.
Their talk cracks as thickly as cawing geese, but between the cracks forms some English.
“He lives across the street from me, and when he was over seas this time, he had one going down his chin, and he was like well, you see doctors and lawyers or need to become one or you’re nothing. But the doctors and lawyers don have that. It’s this long, and he looks like a tool, you know! And just have to go over seas and this is what’s stopping him from going to Richmond at school. That’s what I told him. Yep.”
“Yeah, yeah,” reassuring voices say from the side, above, and below.
“Yeah, I mean even the way your bodies gonna change, and everything, and they’re going to fade in the midst of them,” the woman at the head of the table said to the other women. When she speaks, they all listen and stop their side chatter, looking up at her with hopeful expressions.
“Well my friend got one on the shoulder.”
“Not a pretty picture,” another lady with wispy strawberry blonde hair, short and framing her face in little chunks, half questions and half confirms the quality of the thing on the shoulder, shaking her head. Her hot pink t-shirt wrinkles up to her neck in horizontal lines when she leans back into the wooden chair.
“No it’s not!”
”And she said to me, well, I’ll just wear a t-shirt.”
“And you know how your style will change. One year one outfit will be your favorite and then it changes and you say how did I ever wear that?” says the main woman with the red turtle neck, the head goose. Then, “Well, it’s like at my sisters 50th. They asked, you know, how many piercing does your daughter have, and do you have a tattoo. And, of course, she does, or they wouldn’t ask. And, you know, she’s announcing it, and I’m like why did you get it and did mommy knowwww?” Everyone laughs loudly. “50 years old, and she got it years ago when she was 26. And I’m thinking why she even told me now. It was a secret the whole time. And I know that she told our other sister. She has a tattoo! You know, but no one else. My dad wasn’t shocked, but she’s 50 and it’s like what are you doing. And my mom was like that was a wild time in her life. She was probably drinking, you know.”
“I know. Just how many of them were drinking at that time, right?” says the lady sittin to the right of red turtleneck. Outside, the rain streams the window in thick lines.
“Yea, when I was growing up my friend wanted one, and I said I’ll drink the beer with you and I’ll go with you.”
“But that’s where I draw the line, right!” All the women laugh in unison. Their laughter starts small and grows loud and high real quick.
“Well, my son has one. It’s this wide, just huge black, but this is at least outlined dark and then it’s shaded. Well, I don’t know, the part that comes out from it is black and its an intricate design.”
“He’s got a lot of muscle on his back,” one says, managing to catch her breath through her red turtle neck peeping up out of her checkered coat collar.
“He said the only part that comes up, I think the shirt covers it, but the only part that comes up is on the shoulder and the neck.
“And what about the dresses? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“My daughter, she goes now ‘Mom let me pick my owwwwn dress’, I have to stitch it a little, because it was a little low. She said oh yeah, that she has a brooch on the side, there’s like a brooch holding it on the side. It’s only going to fit on one leg some day.” Laughter that clinks like dishes getting washed in the sink.
“When is their prom?”
“It’s next weekend, the 5th.”
“The week after that.”
“I’m sure it will be pretty. But it sure is something, that dress. It’s tiny.”
“Where does she go tanning?”
“This one up there over by rite aid?”
“Is it the one up by star bucks?”
“Yeah, yeah. Taylor carried it around in her purse though, in a can, and I asked her, how much is this? And it was thirty some dollars!”
“It’s like, what do you need that for. She goes to the bed and uses the can, what’s the purpose?” She cocks her head back and forth like a wobbling hen.
“Yeah, but still, 40 dollars for a lotion.”
“Well, she’s got to have a big can too cause she has to put it all over her body.”
“What’s that?” asks the one with the pony tail.
“A 36 dollar can of tanning lotion,” her friend proudly fills her in, stretching her torso up taller and nodding as she passes the information around the table.
“And what are they doing after the prom?”
“Well, she told me one groups going here, and one here, and she just might go with one first and the other one second.”
“Like what does that even meeeean?”
“They just expect that to be okay.”
“Mommmm, we’ll be fine, they say.”
“Oh there is no way, one boy will be driving a suburban, and she’ll come home smelling like cigars, and you’ll just know what happened.”
“It’s gonna be something, I cayn imagine.”
“I’ll take pictures.”
“Yeah, take pictures.”
“Bring the pictures next time.”
“Well they don’t even get dressed at their own house. Now they all go over in a group to one friend’s house and get ready there.”
“Well then how are you gonna get pictures?”
“Jessie said, I can’t do my hair. I need a salon. And I said no, get a friend.”
“And they get these wild hair styles up on their head, like something no one real wears.”
“And what do you do with that, how is that hard.”
“You just take a bunch of hair and put it on their head.”
“Well they want a little braid, and a little weave, and come on.”
“How much does that cost?”
“Oh come on, it’s like 40.”
“Oh, that’s just the coffee makin’ you chatter. It int that much.”
“I just don’t understand,” says the lady with the hot pink t-shirt, her bold jaw-line turned toward the woman to her right.
Tan, with buttons and a flat band that ties around the stomach, one woman’s coat relaxes on the chair as it waits for its owner, who wears a baby pink sweater that cuts low around the shoulders. Some extra padding covers her shoulders and her back, like she’s proving that, when she was young, her bones showed gracefully. Now they fought to show through the fat of the woman’s back. After she got in the car earlier that morning, she realized that the sweater she put on in such a rush belonged to her 18 year old daughter. Luckily, her daughter needed to loose some weight and the sweater fit them both perfectly.
“And you know what else, why do they all have braces now?”
“No one had braces before.”
“Well, if you want perfect teeth, like the stars, then you gotta get braces.”
“That’s true, that’s true. Because some of these girls have just fine teeth, but they’re not straight enough, not white enough, whatever.”
“My daughter gets the whitening strips and puts them on her teeth every night. And I wonder why she’s doing that. People supposed to have different colored teeth. Not everyone’s born with teeth as white as egg shell.”
“Egg shell isn’t even good enough now. They want glowing, like white light, or a white fence. You know?”
“That’s never good”
“Is Anna going to the dance today?”
“I dun know,” her shoulders shrug up out of her cut off pink shirt.
“Andy didn’t have a clue about it”
“Yea, Anne sed the only one goin is Ryan.”
“Ugh, to be sixteen.”
“And that’s so young, and they think they’re so old.”
“I though I was old then.”
“And all the boys do now is play the video games.”
“Last year, my son would stay in for the weekend. It was like someone was always there. And I miss my kids and the family time.”
“Cause now it’s like they’re all gone.”
“Even though they’re still there.”
“And in the summer we have to get used to it again, ‘cause now there’s family time.”
“And everyone needs to be apart still.”
“It is weird, you know it’s not like you walk around asking them to be with you, you know.”
“My daughter said last weekend, what Mom? You want me too?”
“Like she has too many people to please.”
“It’s not like we just disappear.”
“But they do.”
“They’re just gone all the time. Go to this friend’s house, then this one.”
“My daughter said to me, Mom, I could be away from home for months and months and I’d be fine. You might see me on holidays and I’ll be fine. And I said well I’d just die.”
“Does she want to go to Tech too? Well that’s a long time from now, let’s not talk about that.”
“It is a BIG deal.”
“It is a big deal.”
“Now has she had a boyfriend before? No, this is the first one for her too?”
“Uuugh”, one of them screeches forming her hands like she’s strangling her neck, “and when they fall, they fall hard.”
“Can you believe it?”
“Well, I think my husband is clueless, because I said something to him about our daughter having a boyfriend. And he said what? And she wants to go jogging with her boyfriend, and my husband says, no, with us. He is going to DIE when she graduates.”
“Yeah, I see, I see.”
“It’s almost like they’re cool, and we’re just the mother. And the guys like to talk to Cameron, but they don’t even know who I am. But that’s fine, I’m just the mother, you know.”
“Well it will change.”
“Does he know you?”
“I mean I’m sure he does, but he doesn’t say anything”, her hand push forward with straight fingers like she’s saying stop.
“What I think is so shocking is that everything is so up front, and poof its just gone, and it’s just that person.”
“Well you were really close to Dan, are you still?”
“Well, no. Well, not really. It’s like he’s still the same kid, he’s still sweet. But it’s just the time. He’s always off doing other things. And what do you do with that? I do all the talking. I have to go find him in his room, he doesn’t find me.”
“With my daughter, she’s on the go a lot. But she’s always on the move. And I have to pull her in and say you know this is our house, and you need to be here. She’s always out somewhere.”
“And there’s no reason.”
“What do you say, you know? They’re getting good grades, how do you stop them from leaving?”
“And she just says, you know, in college I’m gonna have more independence, you know. Especially in the summer, when they just keep going. And, last year the girls were on track together and they were just fine, and this year this is the first that the three of the girls aren’t going to be together.”
“Like Cameron, he’s the Dad, but you do the drop off, and you have to stay and watch them. You know they are our kids, but you don’t interact, you just do the drop off.”
“We went to Baltimore, because of the aquarium. I get a call at 8:10, and my son wasn’t feeling well and he had AP history, but I was kinda relieved because he was gonna have to get his sister on the bus and get her home, but now when he stays home there he’s fine. But anyways, he calls and says is there any other way to get in the house without a key.”
“And I said well, try grandma cause she’s got a key. He calls, he calls me back, she must be at the Y. Well, I say go to the Y. He said I can’t I’m in a T-shirt and boxers. So he calls Dad and Dad said I can’t come home I have a meeting in 10 minutes. But he ran home anyways. And he got the key and he was all right, but it’s just like you know, all this drama and I don’t need it.”
The coffee makes them talk.
“Ugh, but college. That Lauren girl got a full ride somewhere, ‘cause she was dating Dan. And Dan said he was going to try and maintain their long distance relationship. And they’re going to try to behave, you know.”
“Well Taylor’s boyfriend stayed at school back home, and they tried to maintain it again too. “
“This is the time to figure it out though.”
“This is the time, and you, you just have to figure it out, you know, and just try to find a relationship. I don’t know, I just told her to be careful. She just doesn’t worry about a thing.”
“Does she love him?”
“Well, that’s what she feels. But she’s in it, and she can’t see anything, and we can see everything.” “Well, that’s just learning the hard way. There’s just some things you have to do. You can’t pull them out of everything.”
The women throw their talk back in forth, leaning into the table, leaning out, opening their wide eyes and their mouths to talk. And making their words long to say that this really means something, and shortening their speech to show surprise. Their hands push forward in stop signs, and they shake their short hair back and forth, and they throw their chests in the air in surprise.
“These girls will just wear anything!’