Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hurry up and wait

"This was supposed to be fun," said the disembodied voice in my head. The one that always needs interpreting, but no one ever seems to understand. Especially now that it sounds like it could use a hot tea with lemon to soothe the grating.

We were all together. Dressed up and clean … ish.

He shifted his weight and approached the desk. My husband smiled uneasily at the maitre di and gave our sir name.

Of course, we could wait in the bar until the rest of our party arrived. It would be a while.

After a childhood of waiting, he was finally in a position to be early. So he was taking an overfull advantage. He ordered a drink and asked the kids if they'd like sodas.

The boy didn't seem to mind, but she was prickly. It was apparent in the intractable way our daughter stood in the lounge -- her mouth tightly set, her eyes fixed at a point just shy of glazed over – a slight nudge could set her off. If he had been paying close attention, he might read the whole story in her body language ... from tragic beginning to decimating end.

A story as old as life itself, or so we are told, and yet it's something we've never experienced before. Not in so many words, anyway.

To tell it would seem like extracting the plot from a Tarantino film and wringing out all the gratuitous violence.

No matter how you tell it, the story won't make sense on the surface, and the narrator always runs the risk of losing her audience.

A story where the author doesn't always have the last word ...

But here goes:

It was her favorite place. This crowded restaurant. A family dinner in which we were also meeting friends. There would be children her age; children she liked. There would be food and theatrics and maybe even a hint of drama.

Just enough to be exciting, not enough to spoil the soup. And of course, there would likely be dessert.

Right now she'd rather be anywhere but here. She couldn't hide it.

Ask her a question? She'll answer in a whisper. Ask her to repeat herself and she'll say it again even quieter.

Cue record needle being dragged across vintage vinyl.

"What's wrong with her," my husband asks me since I am the translator whenever he finds himself in the inhospitable territory of Ticked-Off Tween.

Oh right. Seems illogical doesn't it?

Not really. I know what's wrong, but what I don't know is the right way to explain it. Do I cut the red wire or the blue wire?

It's a dangerous position to have between the volatile generations: translator. One indelicate word, one misinterpretation, and the whole place blows. I'd be sweating if it weren't so cold here by the door.

Instead, I close my eyes and clamp down on the nearest wire.

You know how you hated it when your father was always late? … Hated it so much you made a vow that you would never be late to anything? A vow so important to you that you leave an hour early to a fifteen-minute commute?”

Yes,” he answers with solid recognition and a dash of pride.

Well … She feels the exact same way about being forty-five minutes early.”

And with a look of understanding, he showed me I had chosen wisely.

History might repeat itself, but eventually, we'd all be served.

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