All along the way, sitting in the front passenger seat, she had been babbling to him about how he could indeed, despite his objections and skepticism, sell his photography. She pulled up example after example and idea after idea. She hoped that it also confirmed to him that she had trust in his abilities and talent; that she supported him. He didn’t believe that anyone actually purchased photography prints anymore. She pulled proof off the internet from her smart phone that people did. He remained inscrutable; dubious.
As they entered the cool restaurant from the bright, humid, concrete lined parking lot, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. The kids were chattering behind her. The hostess was greeting her and asking how many people and what menus did they need? Four, she answered. Mom! She turned. How many children’s menus? from the hostess. Two. No, Mom! I don’t want one! Okay, just one. Damn, her eyes were still trying to focus in the dimness.
Suddenly she remembered the last time they’d been at this restaurant and the waiter had handed them a card, the restaurant’s “fan card”, and explained that there was a deal you would get – a discount or something like that – if you recorded on that card how often you came here. She couldn’t remember what the waiter had actually called it. Was it a “fan card”? A coupon? Damn. Did her husband remember and did he still have it in his wallet?
They were trying their best to cut costs lately. This was the first time they’d all been out to a restaurant together in long time. She was pleasantly surprised that he’d suggested it. Anyway, maybe that card could help a little.
She turned to him, still trying to focus, searching for his face within his dark silhouette, backlit with the sun’s blinding rays that kept bursting in whenever the door opened to admit more patrons, encircling his head like a spiky halo.
Hey! Do you still…?
She was thrown off. His face finally came into the clear.
Damn. Her mind had gone blank.
She vaguely noticed in her periphery that they had started to move towards the hostess and that more people were lining up behind them.
Do you remember that..that…
His eyebrows furrowed together, his eyelids narrowed, he was slightly shaking his head. Impatience personified.
A pang shot through her as she tried to get the words out, if she could only remember what that damn card was called. She started up again but was cut short.
WHAT are you trying to tell me!?? Just tell me!!
He was looking at her like she was crazy, neurotic, incomprehensible…
And then a rapid bloom of images burst through her mind: His mother. Various images of her talking to them, of her nervously fluttering around them, of their impatience with her. Of how annoyed he and his brother and his dad would get with her when she was trying to explain something to them, trying to give voice to what she was thinking, to her own opinion on a situation. The eye rolling. The dismissal. The jokes made that were intended to go over her head. Sometimes even the barks. His mother was a nervous little bird sometimes, true. His mom did have that small continuous buzz of worry and fret and judgment much of the time. Dare she say self-righteousness coupled with insecurity? Truth be told, it irked her to the extreme. His mother did, indeed, do things that didn’t make much sense to anyone else; that only she could fathom; that were motivated by things deep within her psyche that no one else could see. She had the way she thought things should be firmly set in her mind and hated when the reality of a situation would conflict with it. She could be rather insensitive with things she’d say. But it irked her to the extreme too, when the men in the house would speak so callously to her mother-in-law. There was no need for that. She felt so hurt for that woman when they treated her so. The lack of respect was dismal to witness.
And suddenly her breath caught in her chest as a trapdoor inside dropped open and sent her heart plummeting. It was a blow to her core as she realized he was looking at her the same way he looked at his mom. He was reacting to her the same way! The same irritation, the same interruptions, the same impatience. Was it disappointment? Was it embarrassment? Was it resentment??
You didn’t give me a chance to finish!, she managed to spit out, before she turned abruptly to follow the cute little hostess to their table, fleetingly catching the looks on her children’s faces. They knew what was up. They knew how she was feeling.
And with that, her hopes for a pleasant, loving, convivial, evening out as a family withered abruptly. There were feeble attempts to water it back to life by everyone else at the table, but the damage had been done.