A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
When the waitress delivers the check, fifteen minutes later, the conversation between Evelyn and her son is nowhere closer to being deep or profound. And Evelyn no longer cares. Patrick is Patrick. And she is glad to have had lunch with him.
He quickly grabs the check and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket.
“Honey!” Evelyn protests. “I’m the one who made this date. Let me pay!”
“It’s on me. Don’t worry about it.”
Patrick leaves a twenty and five ones with the check.
“Let’s go,” he says, standing. “I got a root canal upstairs.”
Though she’s not yet ready to end the meal, Evelyn doesn’t protest. She grabs her jacket and purse, and they leave the café together.
“So, is your practice going well?” Evelyn asks her son, walking with him to the elevator banks.
“I guess,” he replies, sounding unconvinced. “I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my touch.”
An elevator dings. Going up?
“But, Patrick!” (Evelyn hates ending the lack of conversation on this note.) “What do you mean?” she asks.
Patrick enters the elevator, pushes the “4” button, and stands facing Evelyn. “I miss Dad,” he says.
“I do, too,” Evelyn says, as the doors close between them.
That night, when Evelyn enters Patrick’s former bedroom, she brings with her an armload of project-specific materials—a cushion for the wooden chair, a bowl, a pen, and a pad of paper.
Once she has settled herself into the now-cushioned chair, she picks up the pad of paper, tears off a sheet and rips it, quite methodically, into relatively small squares. Then, one square at a time, she begins writing down the box titles. Evelyn’s exercise is a result of a decision she made that day while grocery shopping. She decided that she couldn’t possibly confront this quilting project unless she had a random approach to the boxes. And so what she will do from this night forward is simply draw from the bowl of folded-up pieces of paper. One at a time. If it says ADAM, AGE 3-6, then that is the box she will open. If it says JOY, AGE 11-14, then that will be the box. Once she has gone through all the squares, she will return them all to the bowl and begin the process again. She figures she will have to go through the bowl at least four times, and she is okay with that. She likes this project. It feels simultaneously relaxing and productive.
As Evelyn sits there, recording box titles onto small squares of paper, she is reminded of their family’s nights of playing charades. And she remembers a particular night that makes her smile. Davy, having been teamed-up with Joy and Patrick, drew from the titles and phrases that she, Marilyn, and Adam had come up with. When he opened the folded-up paper, he saw the name of a song, and so he presented to his teammates the appropriate charades mime—the microphone-in-hand, mouth-opened-to-sing sign that says “this is a song.”
Immediately, Patrick yelled out: What Kind of Fool Am I?
They all laughed hysterically.
Because that was twenty years ago.
* * *
to be continued on October 23rd.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.