At the liquor store in my neighborhood, the guys behind the counter display a polite interest in me as a regular customer. They see me for five minutes twice a month since 1998. They have apparently developed their own narrative for my life, which is excellent news.
Guy: Hey! Where’s your boyfriend Tony?
In retrospect, I’m Italian and never dated Italian men, but Daria did. She had a type. Daria and Todd met up in the Stone Pony one night so Todd could meet Daria’s latest tall, handsome, tanned, Italian, cologne-drenched, possessive bigot boy.
Todd: So…what’s Tony’s name?
The liquor store guy is really asking if I have a boyfriend, which is a funny thing to ask a middle-aged woman who isn’t wearing a wedding ring and whose hair was recently flaming sunset pink. He does not ask about my girlfriend Toni, but if he thought I had a girlfriend named Toni I bet I’d also have his phone number on a matchbook. You can learn a lot in ten words or less. I smile and don’t tell him anything.
Tata: Denver, I think.
I’d love to hear his version of my saga. On the one hand, I don’t want the kind of attention saying, “We broke up in October” invites. On the other, it’s hard not to sigh heavily and stare off into space.
Tata: You always have to stab people more than you think you will.
That might move things right along, or along to the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Facility, where I know the library’s marginal because I stock it myself. The antic might be worth it: Mamie left last week for a half-price shoe sale in Boston, where I wouldn’t want to be the fellow customer or unarmed salesperson when Mamie spots her fall season designer trophies. In any case, this hunting expedition occupies her full attention. I leave messages.
Tata: My mother brought me to the Falmouth Bus Station at 3:39 for a 3:40 bus and I ran into the depot to buy a ticket where I couldn’t think as the lady behind the counter said, “Round trip for two: $78” and I said, “No, one person, one way” and the ticket was $18.50 even though the bus company’s 800 number said $17.00 and I couldn’t argue because behind me Mom was working her weird verbal voodoo on the bus driver which made my brain go all swirly but I got the right ticket and dragged my two suitcases and my Dragonball Z lunchbox onto the bus and set up a cushion fort and growled everytime somebody came near but I’m on my way to get an Amtrak train back to MetroPark where Paulie will either pick me up in the World’s Largest Pick Up Truck(tm) or I’ll take a cab home for peace and quiet after two days of people talking constantly, and the voices in my head are squawking, “Mantequilla! Mantequilla!” can you tell?
Lala’s traveling the country with her glamorous car-racing son and her cantankerous ex-husband. Sharkey’s perfecting his golf swing in the Carolinas. Most of the family’s still up at the Cape or off at a trade show. Trout’s taking care of a sick friend. For Christ’s sake, I talk to cashiers for wicked banter.
Tata: Like, what?
Her: Like, like like?
Tata: Like, NO!
Her: Like, ya huh!
This dialogue takes place the same week Mom flashed her English degree at an unlikely moment.
Mom: You can really parse sentences. I never learned to parse sentences.
Tata: Did I just hallucinate a compliment? I must be dehydrated. How many fingers am I holding up? Four! No, three!
Mom: No, I never really learned until you did.
Tata: What? We’re even then because my mind’s a blank now.
While I stand around, muttering, “The fucking yellow ribbon magnets are Tony Orlando’s fault,” I worry about finding the fun, witty chatter that’s like crack for word junkies like me. But I can hush up and quit fretting. Suzette’s on the case and Mark’s got the funk.