There are certain conversations you have with the fruit of your loins that are repeated so many times as to become rote like the Lord’s Prayer. One such conversation in our house starts when the offspring turns the magical age of sixteen and continues until, well, their death. This is the Reader’s Digest condensed version of that conversation:
“No matter what happens, if you are broke and haven’t spoken to me in years, if you are living in a foreign country under an assumed name, if I have told you never to darken my door ever in this lifetime, if you fear I am on my last breath, if I am indigent and living in a stylish cardboard box on Broad Street, if I have lost my mind and don’t know who you are anymore, no matter what the circumstances are, if you are unable to pay your car insurance I will pay it for you.”
We have these conversations, during what I like to call The Vehicular Years of Terror, because to drive without insurance in the United States of America is beyond folly; it will be your undoing. I like my offspring to be prepared for the many ways life can kick you in the teeth. I manage to articulate this on every white knuckled, Xanax enhanced driving lesson I ever give them. I reiterate this on a quarterly basis for the rest of their lives. Apparently though, I had not made myself clear.
She has given you the encapsulate version of what happened last year, I’m going to provide the details, then she’s going to come behind me and correct your impressions of the situation. As much as I want to blame her for everything that went down, I really can’t because she was trying to do the right thing on so many levels. She was trying to be a good roommate, a good friend and a responsible adult. Unfortunately, she chose to cut the umbilical cord at a most calamitous time.
As I found out at brunch that beautiful autumn afternoon on Meadow Street, the roommate had issues. His Mom was out of prison, again, wasn’t that great? And he thought he had a job, well maybe he did, I mean, he dropped off an application somewhere. They were sure to hire him, wasn’t that great? He was off the drugs, only drinking, for, like, a whole week, wasn’t that great? (I suspect this was only due to the fact that he couldn’t afford drugs.) He had invited a friend to stay, who also consumed groceries and hot water, but it was great to see him. He was getting his testosterone from a dealer to keep his period at bay and his mangy whiskers full. Apparently, if he didn’t have money for food or rent it was okay, but he’d do anything to avoid menstruation, even picking up a little cash selling his transitioning body on the street. Great. Just great. I've got to tell you, the peach pie was really good that day.
So she paid his share of the rent. She paid the utilities. She bought the groceries. She worked two jobs, often working from 7am to 10pm, seldom having a day off. By December she was strapped, exhausted and sick. She called to tell me she was coming home for the weekend and I was overjoyed. I missed her.
As I’m sure you recall, we are from Buffalo, New York. It snows there from October to June. We live in Richmond, Virginia where it snows once or twice a year, some years not at all. We know how to drive in the snow. The rest of the people in Virginia don’t. It was the second day of the snowfall; I had driven the twenty miles home from work and found the highways clear enough for navigation. I gave her the green light to make her way out of that freezing apartment and onto the interstate. It should have taken her twenty minutes to get home.
She called to tell me she had difficulty getting her car out of the alley, and while she was hanging up I heard her address some male voices, telling them she was fine. I stared at the dead phone in my hand and had the distinct feeling something was wrong. An hour went by and she hadn’t arrived. I called her phone, no answer. I remember being curled up in the recliner in front of the television with the dog in my lap and sitting up so abruptly I knocked him to the floor. He turned to look at me, as if to say “What in the world was that for?” I turned down the television so I could think. (Does anyone else do that, or is it just I? If I’m driving to somewhere unfamiliar and I get to a tricky part of the directions, I will turn down the volume on the radio so I can concentrate. As I write this I think of my Mother saying, “Turn down that idiot box, I can’t hear myself think.” I guess that’s what I do.) I tried her phone again, no answer. I was thinking every-Mother’s-worst-fear-scenarios when the house phone rang. It was the hospital.
Night had fallen by the time we reached the hospital; the long drive made in stony silence while I texted the Boy for support to avoid having a blame placing conversation with the Husband. “Remember I love you,” he said. I would remember. I still do remember. And be forever grateful he was there for me that night. Unbeknownst to me, in the coming hours I would fear for her life, learn she had a girlfriend and was in fact bisexual, and discover she had paid his share of the rent and let her car insurance lapse ten days before.