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).
Evelyn, fully dressed for public viewing, enters the kitchen at 11:00 the following morning.
“Well, good morning!” Claudia says, clearly surprised by Evelyn’s attire. “Got a hot date or something?”
“What is it with you and my alleged ‘hot dates?’”
“You’re all dressed up! And you haven’t even had a cup of coffee yet.”
“Go figure,” Evelyn replies easily, as she makes a beeline for the coffeemaker and fills the largest mug known to the Eastern seaboard.
“So how was our concoction?” Claudia asks, amused by Evelyn’s mood.
“That fabulous casserole we made yesterday? Was it good?”
“Oh my God!” Evelyn exclaims. “I’m glad you mentioned that—it was delicious! And, there’s leftovers, so please, you and Davy have that for lunch.”
“You’re not joining us?”
“No,” Evelyn says, smiling. “I’m meeting Patrick. I have a twelve-thirty appointment.”
“What, you have a toothache?”
“No!” Evelyn says emphatically, amused by Claudia’s playfulness.
Evelyn’s expression quickly changes from the look one might see in a peer to the glance one receives from an employer, and Claudia knows to shut up. But Evelyn isn’t mad at Claudia, and Claudia knows that, too. The dialogue, as it was playing out, has simply come to an end. And so they both move on.
“So,” Evelyn offers. “I might as well go to the grocery store while I’m out. Do we have a list?”
Claudia responds by retrieving the notes she has recorded on a pad on the refrigerator door. She hands them to Evelyn.
“Great,” Evelyn says, perusing the list. “Looks good. I won’t be leaving for an hour. Let me know if there’s anything else.”
Evelyn then heads for the family room to read the Times, and Claudia continues cleaning the kitchen and planning the rest of her day.
Evelyn arrives at Oak Central Café, the medical building’s lobby-level coffee shop, several minutes before 12:30. And as she waits for a hostess, she takes in the surroundings. She studies the parties at the tables and booths. She watches their conversations (or lack thereof). One woman is speaking with such passion, Evelyn wonders about the content. Is she extremely happy? Ridiculously angry? And what about that piece of chicken at the end of her fork? Will it ever make it to her mouth? Or will it fly across the room, bringing some sort of finality to her visceral monologue?
When something touches Evelyn’s shoulder, it makes her jump. And when she recovers herself and turns around, she sees her son Patrick. “Patrick!” she exclaims, embracing him. “Sorry to jump! I thought you might be a piece of chicken!”
Unprepared for her salutation, Patrick suggests they get a table.
“So, Mom? What’s up?” Patrick asks, several minutes after the waitress has taken their order.
“Nothing particular. I just wanted to see you.”
“Well,” Patrick responds, opening his arms slightly, “here I am!”
“You look good.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Patrick then takes the straw in his iced tea and begins to stir the beverage.
“It was good to see Judy on Sunday!” Evelyn throws in, hoping to elicit some life from her son.
“Oh, yeah. Yeah. She said she had a good time, too.”
“And, I heard Zoe lost a tooth!”
“Yes, well, they’re supposed to do that—at that age, of course.”
“I had a good time talking with her on the phone. She’s such a darling.”
“She is. She is a darling.”
“Tuna melt?” the waitress interjects.
“That’s me,” says Patrick.
“The Cobb Salad,” Evelyn nods, accepting the bowl and hoping that her completion of the sentence is not a foreboding of her epitaph. (Evelyn: she was the Cobb Salad.)
“Thank you,” Evelyn says to the waitress.
As Evelyn begins to stab at her salad, she feels the familiar silence that always seems to enshroud her moments alone with Patrick. She wishes she had come to this lunch with a dialogue plan, but when has she ever had one of those? She takes a bite of salad, tastes the delicious blend of turkey, bacon, and avocado, and she looks across the table at her son. From what she can tell, his current train of thought exists on a long string of cheese—a long string of cheese that traverses a space between his sandwich and his mouth.
She doesn’t want to interrupt that train, but for them to sit here together, simply eating, would be absurd. For God’s sake! Evelyn thinks. Patrick doesn’t have Alzheimer’s!
“So tell me about San Francisco,” she says.
“It’s nice,” Patrick responds, nodding. Then, after a long sip of his iced tea, “I’d never been there before.”
“Judy said you might go out there next summer—the whole family.”
“Possibly,” Patrick says, involving his finger in the tuna melt cheese negotiation process. “I mean, if it’s doable. We’ll see.”
Evelyn thinks about his options—about his having options—and she envies him.
“You want some fries?”
“You probably noticed my covetous glances,” Evelyn says, playfully.
Evelyn reaches across to Patrick’s plate, picks up a fry and dips it lightly in the ketchup pool he established a few minutes ago. “That’s the thing about fries,” she says then. “If they’re not in front of me, I don’t even think about them.”
“I had some friends in college who claimed to have the same attitude about cocaine.”
“I understand. It brought out the scolding tone in me, too,” he says, with a glibness that is sincere.
Evelyn smiles and shakes her head as she returns from the culinary decadence of fries to the different but equal delight of her Cobb. And as she assembles another forkful of wondrous salad ingredients, she realizes that planning a dialogue with Patrick would probably never work anyway.
* * *
to be continued on October 16th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.