At 4:35, she would find a way to respectfully end the conversation. She watched the little hand on the clock steadily approaching the 7, and started looking for a place to interject.
“And then the waiter starts singing! Right there- opera, in the middle of the restaurant!”
“That’s very interesting, Mother, but really, I must be going…”
“Some of the other diners were staring, so I started passing around my salad plate so that they could tip Jeremy for the beautiful entertainment.”
“Mother, I really have to go. It was nice talking to you…”
“Oh, Birdie! I forgot to tell you something!”
She cringed at the sound of her childhood nickname. She preferred to go by her given name, Beatrice, that is if she went by anything at all. She was perfectly content living in a state of self induced anonymity.
“I’ve told you before, Mother, please don’t call me ‘Birdie.’ It’s a silly, juvenile nickname,” Beatrice said.
“Yes, Yes, of course, Bird…er…Beatrice. Anyway, the thing I meant to tell you- I’m coming to visit!”
“You’re coming to visit? When?” Beatrice was careful not to show the disdain in her voice. Her mother had never come to visit her before, and she had been careful to keep it that way. She went home twice a year, for a week at Christmas and for a few days each July. Up until now, the biannual visits and weekly phone calls had been enough to satisfy her mother.
“Lets see, my train comes in…tomorrow! Oh look at that, I get to see you even sooner than I thought! Sweetheart, I’m so excited to see you, and your home, and to meet your friends…”
Beatrice listened halfheartedly as her mother rattled on and on about how excited she was. At some point, her mother paused to breathe, and Beatrice was able to end the phone call.
It was 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday, and for the first time in months, Beatrice didn’t make vegetable soup and eat it out of the green bowl. At 6:15, she didn’t open her laptop to check her e-mail. And at 6:45, she didn’t turn on the shower. Instead, she sat on her light brown sofa, staring at her clean, eggshell colored wall.
She sat there for hours, thinking about her childhood, her mother, and the fact that her mother would in her apartment the very next day. She thought about her mother’s eclectic and cluttered way of life. It dawned on her that by the time she came back to her apartment after work the next day, there would be whimsical throw pillows on her crisp, clean couch and the smell of incense would be wafting through her meticulously febreezed home. She remembered that tomorrow was chicken and broccoli night, and realized that she probably wasn’t going to eat chicken and broccoli.
Most importantly, Beatrice thought about him. About how she had cautiously and successfully avoided talking about her family. Now her efforts would be deemed useless. She had created a life and a story that was entirely her own. But tomorrow, it would be her mother’s story.