On Wednesday, when I foolishly believed I’d drive myself, I called Daria and asked about the Holiday Inn I used to pass between Exit 8A and her house. Friday morning, Paulie said, “No, it’s a Ramada, and I think it’s Exit 8.” Maybe you only hurt the ones you love, but often you’d like to maim a few passersby.
Mom had plenty of time to call Daria after I hung up the phone.
Mom: Are you ready to leave the house now?
Tata: Nope. I’m standing in my living room naked and hoping my tan dries.
Mom: The sooner we leave the better.
Tata: I really appreciate your help with this stupid errand! I’m sorry about your errands. I feel so guilty!
Mom: It’s just your sister-in-law’s birthday present. She’ll understand!
Tata: I have to go kill myself now, but I’ll be at your house in half an hour.
I threw the phone on the couch and tapped myself all over to see if the Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer was dry enough to slap fabric on. Yes? Yes. In a blur of arms, legs and lace, I glopped on foundation makeup and foundation garments and fragrance and powders. Forty-five minutes after I hung up the phone, Mom and I jump into her little truck thing. She hands me a map with directions from the Turnpike. The Turnpike is off to our left. She turns right. I’m paying attention to the road but, nervous and guilt-ridden, I’m just babbling.
Tata: So I ran in my room to get dressed, right? And I put on a black bra and my blouse and I take off my blouse because the plunging neckline plunges a little too far, even for me. And I put on a black sleeveless whatsis and put the blouse back on but I can’t make my fingers button the buttons. So how big is my apartment? It’s really big for a one-bedroom, but how many closets does it have? There are only two where clothes hang but I can’t find my pants in the drycleaning bag, and I can’t go without pants! I put on a pair of Daria’s black slacks and zip up my boots but then I look in the coat closet and there they are so I’m bouncing down my hallway with one leg in each pair of pants and I’m thinking ‘The humor of this will be lost on my mother if I break my neck and she still didn’t get to the post office.’
Mom: You may have noticed we’re not headed toward the Turnpike.
Tata: Yup. You may have noticed I’m getting a little hysterical.
Mom: Daria says Route 130 is our best bet during rush hour on a Friday afternoon.
Tata: She’s sure? I thought after 130 intersected with the Turnpike there was a sign, “Here be monsters.”
Mom and I had a tough few years in which we spoke to each other through clenched teeth when we spoke at all, but it was only the first thirty-eight of our lives together. So we’re pretty good. We drive on Route 130 past the workhouse, car dealerships, strip malls and dirt mounds. The further down 130 we go the less there is to see. It seems to go on forever. We pass the intersection of Route 130 and the Turnpike, but the directions from Daria and Mapquest don’t seem to match the map. We bet on the map. I turn the map upside down so our heading is right in front of us. Counter to the instructions, I say, “We’re very near. Turn right.” Mom panics for one second. She turns right. Ahead, we see a sign for the Ramada Inn to our right, mysteriously hidden from the main entry to the Turnpike. We pass through a tiny road and a wall of trees. The Ramada’s parking lot opens up before us. Birds are singing. We stare at each other for a long minute, then Mom pulls up to the entry and puts the truck in park.
Neither of us believes it. We’re supposed to be lost now. The ceremony is at 6; it is 5:39. I get out of the truck with my overnight bag, a book and and my formal cigar box purse Nicole gave me for Christmas a few years ago. In the lobby, I see no one I know. Spotting the bag, the concierge asks if I have a reservation. No, not exactly, but I leave the bag with him. Just inside the Ramada’s main entrance I passed a room set up for a wedding, complete with giant plastic trees filled with Christmas lights and a tulle canopy. It is deserted. I wonder if I’ve come to the wrong hotel. The concierge says no.
For hours, I’ve been moving at Mach 2; I’ve come to a sudden stop and the noise catches up. I’m noticeable anywhere, but I’m conspicuous in the small lobby. I hate weddings. Nobody’s in charge here. I walk into the dressed up room, pick a chair three from the back and three from the aisle and sit. I can’t figure out why the people around me are acting as they are. Now I wonder what I’m doing here.
I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing here. For a few unpleasant minutes, I wish I weren’t.