idol season nine | week 35 quick fire | 562 words
"Do you remember that hotel in Amalfi, when we went to Europe after graduation?" you say. "Oh, Jean, that boy had such a crush on you! What was his name?"
I would tell you if I could, but I am not Jean. She died three years ago, with her children and grandchildren at her bedside. I drove you to her funeral.
You had such a wonderful history with Jean. You were playmates from the time you were three, then grade-school Girl Scouts, rodeo-queen competitors in high school, and you even went to college together. I was never as brave or outgoing as you were, and never had any friendships as strong as that one. I dreamed of the kinds of things you actually did, and yet I never really minded. Your life always seemed more vivid than my own.
"Rodolfo, that was it," you say. You go on talking about the beautiful beach, the houses, the food, and the other places you visited on that trip. I sit in the chair next to you and smile, and fix your blanket when it slips too far down.
I leave when you fall asleep around four.
"Do you remember the day you left the back door open, and all the chickens came into the house?" you say. "Mother was so angry! Sarah Jane, she said, I believe you'll be cleaning this entire house from top to bottom today. She meant it, too. Oh, felt so bad —you were only eight."
I am not Sarah either, but I know how this story goes. Sometimes pretending is just too painful, but I think I can cope with it today. "And then you helped me clean everything, even though it took all day. Mother forgave us the next morning, and told everyone at church about it."
Your sister Sarah doesn't visit you very often. She says it's just too hard.
I am Sarah for the rest of the afternoon, until your dinner comes and it's time for me to go home.
"Do you remember your seventh birthday, when you got your first bicycle?" you say. "It was so pretty, and by the end of the day you were riding it! You were the only girl in the neighborhood without training wheels."
I do remember, because this is one of the stories that is actually about me. "It was perfect," I say. "The most beautiful blue bike I'd ever seen. It was sunny that day, and we had ice cream and chocolate cake. You always made the best cakes—" My throat tightens, but I keep going. "The best everything. You were such a good mother. The other kids used to be so jealous…"
You brush my face with your fingertips and smile, and for that moment you are Mom and I am Lainey, and we both know it. I wish I could hold onto this feeling forever.
It happens less and less often now, and one of these times will probably be the last. But this is why I come here every week—the chance to sit with you and listen to whatever you have to say.
The chance that you'll remember who we both are, and for just one more afternoon you'll love me the way you used to.
Even when I'm with you, I sometimes miss you almost more than I can bear.