Sometimes, one’s own feelings don’t matter a whit.
Daria: Shut up! That’s what’s happening!
Todd: Been a long time since you’re shutting up!
Daria: What I like about you? You keep on shutting up!
Todd: Under the bridge downtown, you’ll be shutting up!
Todd and Daria both miss their little children. Conducting family life is no cakewalk under normal circumstances, let alone with a stressed-out parent hundreds or thousands of miles from home. They spend half the time they’re not holding Dad’s hand pacing the halls and the driveway, calling in favors for childcare help. Todd’s and Daria’s respective spouses are tearing their hair out trying to keep things moving. Everyone is emotional and torn and trying to have patience as we watch our father waste away, but after three weeks, patience with us is wearing thin. People want and need Todd and Daria in their homes and jobs, adding guilt to the pain of coping with losing our dad. The suckfest is beyond belief and life moves fast – not where we are, but we can see it distantly.
I have my own problems, which seem small and silly by comparison. My apartment is empty and everything in my refrigerator is turning blue. I’m lonely for a couch I’ve never seen, for my own bed and the dumb routines of my life. I say things like, “When I go home, I’ll…” thereby skipping the significant event between me and sitting on my couch; sometimes, I am still genuinely afraid. I don’t think much of my problems or desires at this moment, even my idle wish to wake up in my own home, where I live alone and very quietly. The last three weeks’ forced togetherness have been very hard for me, but that’s no more important than being tired or needing a haircut. If you can believe it, for once, I’m not the Center of the Damn Universe.
Yesterday, Dara’s nail polish had chipped to a point where I was uncomfortable looking at them so I shoved a bottle of nail polish remover at her with a bitchy grin. She narrowed her eyes and said, “Nuh unh.” A little while later, we had an unnerving incident in which Dad told Dara he had an important appointment to get ready for and Dara ran outside to cry. Daria ran after her and Todd followed suit. I remained in the kitchen, turning off boiling pots and chopping vegetables because, try as I might, I just cannot be the cuddly mommy type you need when you need a cuddly mommy type. And that’s fine: go have your group hug. I’ll mix martinis, and later, we’ll play strip poker. So when the three of them came back, we finished making dinner, which was fabulous.
After dinner, I pushed the nail polish remover at Dara again and said, “No, really. Give it a whirl.”
Dara: I don’t know why.
Todd: What’s going on?
Tata: She doesn’t want to take off what’s left of her polish.
Todd: Why? That looks like crap.
Tata: Nice going, dude.
Daria: Why don’t you want to take off your polish?
Dara: I don’t know!
Tata: Sweetie, when other people see you looking like this, they think you’re not taking care of yourself and they’ll worry.
Daria: That’s true. Let her take off your polish. It’s nothing. It takes no time at all.
Tata: Zip zip zip. Give me your other hand.
Daria: Did you notice? Yesterday, I was talking on the phone and when I hung up, she’d treated my cuticles and put on a layer of hoof lacquer. See?
Tata: Daria wears too much bling. She cannot go around with raggedy nails. Go wash your hands.
Dara: I don’t want to!
Tata: Thanks for doing it, then. Put your hands on the table.
I rubbed her hands with lotion.
Tata: Do you know why you want to use base coat?
Tata: Tinted polish stains your nails, which you know. Use two coats, like I’m doing now.
Tata: Your nails are thin. Try eating some gelatin at least once a week, and make sure you get some calcium and Vitamin D. You’re under a lot of stress.
Dara: You’re very annoying.
Tata: Pfft, take a number! Two coats of your favorite polish, like this. Don’t worry about the little extra drops. And replace your polish more often. Do you know why?
Dara: No. Why?
Tata: Because this bottle of polish is screaming, “I’m trying to die! I’d like to join the other polishes in Nail Polish Heaven. Please send me to be with the others of my kind.”
Dara: Why do you say that?
Tata: Because the goo in this bottle is thick and heavy. Nail polish should be light and relatively thin.
Dara: What are you talking about?
Tata: Nothing. When you buy a bottle of polish, write the date on the bottom with a Sharpie. If you still have it a year later, send it to Heaven without regret.
Dara: Are they dry?
Tata: Not important! You need two layers of top coat to seal and protect against chipping.
Daria: I get impatient and ding at least just about now.
Tata: If she dings it, I’ll fix it but she won’t. Hold still!
Dara: I’m holding still!
Tata: Hold stiller!
Daria: Now why were you mad before? This is nothing to be mad about. Why were you mad?
Dara: I don’t know! I was just mad!
Tata: Sweetie, when your polish dries, you can rub any extra bits off your skin because you moisturized it well. The first time you dip your hands into soapy water, the polish bits will rub off like magic.
Dara: So in the shower?
Tata: Yup. Baby, your nails look good.
Dara: They do, don’t they?
Tata: Dahhhhling, it’s okay if you’re mad at me, got that?
Daria: …Especially since you’re not really mad at your sister. You’re mad that Daddy’s dying. Aren’t you?
Dara: Yeah. Okay.
I hugged her in an unconvincing manner.
Tata: I love you madly. Don’t ever – uh – change.
Dara: Did you actually touch me?
Tata: Probably not.
Todd: What’s for dessert?
Tata: I’m sorry I’m not the cuddly type.
Dara: I think you’re getting further away from me.
Todd: See this piece of cake? I’m eating it and you can’t stop me!
Daria: Don’t talk to those crazy people and let me hug you, sweetpea!
Tata: When you need tattoos or an alibi, I’m your gal because we’re sisters and someday you may decide what home I live in.
Dara: How do you feel about large mice as involuntary pets?
Sometimes, one’s own feelings don’t matter a whit. Not even one.