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).
“So Claudia and I talked this morning about dinner tonight,” Evelyn shares, while driving Joy home. “I’m assuming you’re still a vegetarian?”
“Well,” Joy squirms a little bit, but more from a feeling of inconvenience than of guilt. “Actually. No.”
“What can I say? I met a cheeseburger six months ago, and—”
“You took him home?”
“Oh. Oh, no,” Joy responds, waving off the concept as if it were trite. “We just did it right there in the restaurant.”
Evelyn laughs and smiles. “Should you be telling this to your mother?”
“I think you can handle it,” Joy says, her dimples as deep as ever.
“Okay,” Evelyn says, reaching an intersection near their home and waiting for a pair of rollerbladers to skate past the car. “I am not disappointed.” Then, looking at Joy, “I will never be disappointed. But: would you object to a vegetarian meal tonight?”
Joy looks at her mother for a moment and reveals the teasing temperament that defines her approach to life. “As long as they’re not the same vegetables I was involved with before.”
Her access into the intersection clear, Evelyn hits the gas. “I think we’re safe,” she says to Joy.
Evelyn, Davy, and Joy share a dinner of vegetarian lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. And they wrap up the meal just as Claudia is leaving to go home.
Evelyn is surprised by the appetite she brought to the meal, so rarely does she eat this early. But she also realizes that the day began much earlier than usual. God, she thinks, as Joy graciously walks Claudia to the door, maybe tonight I’ll be able to sleep!
When Joy returns to the dining room, Davy looks at her quizzically. “Who are you?”
“I’m Joy, Dad,” she says, the slightest bit of unease showing through her smile. “I’m your daughter. We just had dinner together.”
“I don’t know you!” he replies angrily.
Davy then gets up from his chair and states, with the emphasis Evelyn knows is hyper-compensatory, “I’m going in there!”
As Davy heads for the door that leads to the kitchen, and ultimately, to the family room, Evelyn calls out from her chair, “Are you going to watch TV?”
“I’m just! I’m just! I’m going. I’m going to do,” Davy calls from the kitchen.
“He’ll be fine,” Evelyn says to her daughter. “He’s just…going to do.”
“Going to do,” Joy echoes, her dimples a bit crimped.
When Evelyn returns from settling Davy into the family room, Joy is sitting at the dining room table, looking stunned but not defeated.
“Let’s go in the study,” Evelyn suggests, retrieving her glass from her place at the table. “C’mon!” she says then, using the tone one would for a puppy.
And the tone, which helps Joy lighten up, leads her to the study, where Evelyn turns on a few lamps, sits in one of the leather chairs, and sets a relaxing precedent.
Joy, not ready to sit just yet, walks around the room. She looks at the bookcases as if she has never seen them before. She takes in the art on the wall. She circles about, caressing her wineglass and breathing deeply.
“Okay,” Joy finally says, exhaling audibly. “Okay,” she says again, descending into a corner of the leather couch and looking directly at her mother. “That was intense.”
Evelyn nods slowly, her expression somehow conveying love, sadness, and resignation all at once.
“But I really admire,” Joy begins, somewhat haltingly, “the way you communicate with him. In a way, you treat him as if nothing were different.”
“Mmm,” Evelyn says, nodding again, not knowing how to respond.
“And since we don’t know what’s different for him,” Joy continues, “I mean, we don’t really know, maybe that’s best.”
Evelyn looks at her daughter—appreciative of her presence, appreciative of her exploring mind.
“God!” Joy then exclaims. “Claudia told me earlier about his sax performance the other day!”
Evelyn nods, squinting through her emotions and so very glad that a family member is there to share some of them.
“I mean,” Joy goes on, “what’s that about? He hasn’t lost it all! Has he just lost his ability to communicate what he knows?”
“That’s the mystery,” Evelyn tells her daughter. “That’s the mystery. You know, a year or so ago, when I realized he was napping a lot, I worried about that. I thought he shouldn’t be sleeping so much. But then, I wondered about his dreams. We can fly in our dreams, right? We can do things we can’t do when we’re awake. So maybe, in his dreams, your father can have conversations! Maybe he can hold his own, you know?
“And,” Evelyn adds then, “if that’s the case, I say ‘let him sleep’.”
* * *
to be continued on November 13th .
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.