At Not To

“Darling!” she said. “I’m so glad you came. I’ve been waiting for you all day. I was dying to see you. Is that a new haircut?” It wasn’t. “Well, you look amazing. I’ve missed you. Why do you always stay away so long?” It had only been a week since I’d seen her. “Jeb went to buy a power drill from Sears. He’ll be back soon. We can have a nice cup of tea. I got those butter cookies you like so much.” I’ve never liked butter cookies. It was gingerbread cookies that had always been my favorite. “Sit down right there. That’s good. Now, tell me all about yourself and how you’ve been. Is your boss still giving you trouble at the office?” My boss had never given me trouble. It was my brother, Harrison, who was having problems at work. His boss had decided that he wasn’t working hard enough, and to be fair, he was right. Harrison was so bored at his job that he just looked at porn all the time and tried to find new positions to try with his latest girlfriend, who had once been a dancer. “And what about that plant I got you, is it still alive? Are you treating it well? You know, you have to give it a lot of light. Light is crucial for that kind of plant. I forget the name, but the guy at the nursery definitely told me that what it needed was a lot of light and not too much water.” The plant had died three months ago. I’d told her this at least twice. I said nothing this time. “Oh my, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you. Did I tell you? Jeb’s getting a promotion and we might be moving to Oklahoma! Isn’t that wonderful?” She’d told me this at least twice on the phone in the past week. “Oh, darling, I’ll still get to see you. Since Jeb is getting a raise I’ll be able to take the train over any weekend I like. Your brother’s said I can stay with him.” He hadn’t. That was my sister, Eliza, who had offered her a place to stay, albeit reluctantly. But she didn’t really love Eliza and she couldn’t bear Eliza’s girlfriend, and we all knew it. She wouldn’t stay with them, even if her life depended on it. “Have you been watching American Idol? Didn’t you use to like that show?” Never. “I thought so – but you probably don’t have time for it now, not anymore, not with all the work you’ve got piling up, I’m sure. You really shouldn’t take those freelance jobs, you know, they’re way too much for you. You never have time for anything anymore, darling. You never come and see me. Oh, Jeb had these two tickets to the game that’s happening at that stadium – oh, what’s its name? You know the one, the one downtown next to the mall. That one. So do you want them? There are three tickets, really, but Jeb is going to go alone because his friends don’t like going to the game – isn’t it silly, they all say they’re too old and that they prefer being at home in front of the television. As if Jeb is old! He’s in the prime of life, he really is. Anyway, do you want the tickets? You’ll have to sit with Jeb, of course, but you should spend more time with each other anyway.” I’d never been to a game in my life. Well, maybe one or two in high school, because my friends had wanted to go for some obscure reason. Maybe it had been the cheerleaders. “Also, you know, I showed my friend Pam the picture of Lia, and she pointed out how much Lia looks like me when I was younger – isn’t that funny, darling? You know, they do say that-” I actually had noticed that, but it was much too creepy and disgusting a concept for me to entertain for long. “Oh, I’m just teasing, don’t make that face. You know I don’t go in for all that psychobabble anyway, darling. Pam does, though. Do you know, she’s seen five different therapists in the past year? I mean, aren’t you supposed to stick with one person if you start that whole thing?” It’s incredible how people manage to judge things they don’t even believe in. “Going already? Oh, darling, you didn’t even finish your tea. Do you want some butter cookies for the drive home?”

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