I pulled Zoe’s soft little curls into pigtails and tied blue ribbons into perfect bows around each elastic. I turned her around and looked in her big brown eyes, she gazed off somewhere else. I had been paranoid about her being hurt when she was in the car with Chris when his “foot slipped” and he hit Jake’s truck.
“Are you OK?” I said. “Do you have any owies? We are going to see the doctor to make sure you are doing OK.”
She chewed on her pacifier like it was gum.
I tried again, making sure it wasn’t a ‘wh’ question. “Zoe, touch the owie.”
She reached forward and pressed my heart with her hand. I couldn’t help but scoop her up and hold her tightly. I carried her out to the car in the driveway, getting wet along the way. But I was glad for the gray of the rain and the splashing on the windshield that dulled the thoughts that wouldn’t stop. It seemed perfect to just wash everything away. I couldn’t even drive past his house. Instead I drove the other way down the street, even though it was completely out of the way.
I turned on the radio and on NPR they were talking about religion. The main topic was self-forgiveness. I figured I wasn’t quite at that point yet, since I wasn’t ready to give up what I would need to be forgiven for. In fact, I had pretty much alienated everyone who cared about me except for Zoe. I couldn’t think of anyone who wasn’t utterly disappointed with me. So I pulled over on the the side of the road in the parking lane under a bridge, got out my phone and called my mom.
She said, “You sound defeated.”
“What’s wrong, Love?”
“I don’t know what’s going on, I just, I’m having trouble doing the right thing these days.”
“I don’t know. I just always have this feeling like I want more. And I don’t even know what that is. I can’t just be happy with what I’ve got, Mom. And it is so stupid because some people don’t even have a roof over their heads or enough to eat, and all I can focus on is myself. I should just be a good mom and wife and not be so selfish I know. But it doesn’t matter knowing what is right, when you don’t listen to that part of yourself.”
“Well honey, you need to get your power back. Instead of living inside your head all the time like you do far too much, Odette, loose yourself in the successes you have already built. What about Chris, how are things with him?”
“They are not so good.”
“But he’s such a nice guy. You need to take care of that relationship. Isn’t that what you want?”
“Does anybody know what they want?”
“I think so.”
“Mom, I’m going to be 30”
“I know, what do you want for your birthday?”
“Mom, I don’t mind getting older, but it is that romance of youth that I miss. I don’t mind leaving all the other parts of youth behind, but to abandon romance seems unbearable.”
“Oh, lord, When you are 60 you are going to be kicking yourself for not appreciating 30. And Odette, isn’t Chris romantic?”
“Sometimes….sporadically. But, there is something about someone who can’t help but be romantic even if it goes against every fiber in his body.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean like…” I tried to think of a character she would know…”James Dean.”
“Well James Dean was very fetching, but don’t you find romance in what a good father Chris is and how well he takes care of you when you aren’t feeling well? A “bad boy” would abandon you in the times that you need him because, well they are always putting themselves first. There is nothing romantic about being abandoned.”
“Thats for sure” I said. “But then, mom, what if they have been horrible and you just want them to be nice again….like before they were horrible?”
“Who are you talking about honey? Is there someone in your life besides Chris?”
“No….um…no. I was thinking about myself. I have been horrible to Chris and maybe he just still wants me around because he is yearning to get me back to when I was really into him. No one likes to loose that…that glow that you once had in someone’s heart.
“Well, honey, it is hard for me to help you when you are talking in such broad terms, but I can tell you this. If you miss romance, then you need to tell that to Chris. He may surprise you.”
“Ok , mom”
“Ok, Love. Take care and give Zoe a kiss for me. Oh and Odette, sometimes you just have to do the right thing even when it goes against, what did you say?.. every fiber in your body.”
“Ok, bye Mom.” I looked up to pull back out into the road and a black truck with a large dent in the back drove by. I took a breath and waited for a couple more minutes for a few more cars to go by, then pulled back out into the rain. I would see Chris at lunchtime, and then I would do the right thing, no matter what.