Sport 35: Winter 2007
'So where's your man?' Her mother is immaculately coiffed, in a suit that may be Chanel but will neither confirm nor deny. She has lipsticked her chardonnay in three different places, and smiles at the waiter who refills her glass. He pours one for Janice and she takes a sip.
'He was going to come. He got called back by work.' And it's true—she met him in his foyer and they walked a couple of blocks together. He looked different in a suit, sober and handsome, and Janice felt like page 162the figurehead of a liner, her cheeks sea sprayed, coursing through an ocean of people. But then his phone rang—some problem with a credit-default swap, he had to get back, millions of dollars were at stake. So here she is, shipwrecked on a bench seat. She washes her tears away with a glass of water. She makes them glide backwards down her throat rather than her cheeks. This way, her mother cannot suggest the name of a good therapist, or barrage her with the you-don't-know-how-lucky-you-are-count-your-blessings bullets.
'Oh, Janice. I was hoping to meet him.'
Janice and so disappointing are synonymous in her mother's lexicon. 'That's so disappointing,' she sighed, when Janice announced she wouldn't be going to the prom. 'What a let-down,' she said when she had returned home unexpectedly early to discover Janice and a stoner boyfriend half naked on the living-room floor. 'I had thought you were more sensible than that,' she said, when she broke down the bathroom door to the sound of Janice throwing up her fourth dinner for the week. 'Oh, Janice,' she said when the drugstore rang up to report Janice's theft of a turquoise eyeliner and a roll of chocolate laxatives.
Janice doesn't see why she's the one who apparently disappoints. It's not as if her mother has been altogether satisfactory.
'I have some news, darling. I'm getting married again.'
'You are? To whom?'
'Do you remember Bradley? We played tennis doubles together. His wife died of cancer last year, and we've been seeing a little of each other at the club. He's here, actually.'
'Well, I sent him off shopping because I wanted to tell you alone. I'll call him. Tell him to come by.'
'No, don't.' Janice doesn't think she can face her mother's new man when hers has slipped away.
'Oh. All right, but you must meet him before the wedding. I'm here to look at dresses. We thought we'd make it September. When the leaves turn. I'll tell him to make his own plans for lunch.' Her mother fishes in her bag for her phone. 'Have you heard from your father lately?' she asks in her fake casual voice.
'Not since my birthday.' He called from Barcelona; his new wife page 163was the curator at some museum there. He couldn't talk long—the baby was crying, his wailing erasing Janice's voice as if it were chalk on a blackboard. Her father has a new life now, and she's just a lesson he once learned. She had hoped he would invite her over to stay, but he didn't.
'Bradley? Just pick yourself up something for lunch. She's not taking it very well … emotionally fragile, yes … Yes, I know. At least she's eating, she's filled out a little … okay, love you too. Bye, sweetie.' She pulls her earpiece out and holds the phone out long-sightedly to push the end-call button.
'Filled out a little? What, do I look fat?' Janice asks her mother. She snaps the menu shut.
'No, honey, you've just got a little flesh on your bones. It looks good.'
'And what the fuck do you mean, emotionally fragile? What about you? You think I don't know where you were when I was at boarding school?'
Her mother's face trembles, but then, as if trained to defuse family spectacles, the waiter appears.
'May I take your order, ma'am?' he says to Janice's mother.
'Why, yes, I'll have the quail salad. But could you please put the dressing on the side?'