So I focus on uploading photos from the camera. Everybody has asked for them, and I need to clear the camera’s memory for more. I’m judicious in what I’ll post to email, but indulge myself with making screen savers, candid shots of color and light with digital clarity. I even include images from the farmers’ market Rhonda and I visited two hours earlier.
The quality has nothing to do with me, just the technology and easy steps to fruition. But I feel empowered anyhow.
I email some to Rhonda, images of a dresser she wants to sell on Craig’s List, and more of the lake and farmers’ market. I call with my enthusiasm at succeeding. She says her email is at work only, but she’ll open the jpegs on Monday. So I send a batch to my son, and a batch to Dan. So please with myself, I knock on Paul’s door and say he must come and see. My invitation turns into a visit with cat and coffee and catching up. Paul critiques the desktop display with his nose in the air, but melts at images of cat with his cross-eyed self.
When I view them the next day, however, the video display seems small and ordinary, my enthusiasm at succeeding long faded. My son tags me back with some murmuring about missing the change of seasons that they don’t have in San Diego.
But, anyhow… I’m on the deck with Paul and cat trying to decide to trash the pumpkins before the thirty-first. Carved faces are shriveling like old hags, but we mustn’t ignore the holiday. We decide to wait for Monday since it’s cold and the rotting is mostly on the interiors. Mario speaks to Paul, very hush-hush. I offer to leave and give them some privacy, but Mario says he wants the company. In fact, he’s afraid to be alone because the police may ring his bell. Someone in his apartment hands him the cellphone through the window. “Is that the cops?” I ask. “It’s my father on the phone.” Oh, sorry.
“This is something you may have perspective on,” Mario says with his eyebrows knitted like he’s expecting a whooping from his dad. I remember the first day I met Mario and his honesty with strangers. But as his story pours out, I realize honesty is the wrong word. And why is he telling Paul when they have so little between them?
It seems that Mario got drunk after a band performance, not much of a drinker, and drove to his estranged wife’s house at 3am only to catch her in bed with a lover. “You didn’t shoot anybody?” I quickly ask. “Didn’t even raise my voice,” he says too evenly.
“Were the kids there?” Very calm, very staid, he replies. “They were spending the weekend at grandma’s on her side.”
“So… nothing happened?” I insisted. Mario’s eyebrows knit again, and lines on his forehead whiten. “I never drink. I never drive while under the influence. I knew the club was four blocks from her place. I should have… I shouldn’t have– ”
“But nothing happened, right?” I repeat. “She threatened to call the police,” Mario says. “They may arrive here at any moment.”
Paul and I exchange glances, and he shrugs. “Mario,” I say, “Let me tell a couple bar stories.” His forehead tightens further. His eyebrows undulate and eyes bright with tears. “Not to discount what you’re going through,” I quickly add.
Paul goes into senior advisor mode with reassurances the police weren’t called and won’t arrive. He lends Mario his patience and willingness to grapple with diurnal problems. Divorce is a difficult time, but how many women has Mario entertained here? The kids weren’t present that night, so no harm done. “You must maintain some kind of friendship with her so the kids aren’t living in a war zone,” I interject.
“At this point, I just want to beep her when I’m about to arrive, and she can send them out to the car.” He struggles to find balance but, sorry, the questions are slight. No blood, no gunpowder residue. A good story needs events. And consequences.
I play with cat while Paul continues with the advice. Talk to the therapist you see twice a week. Try to maintain peace for the sake of the kids. Treat your visits as though you’re meeting an auntie who cares for them. “This advice is different from what I’m getting from my father,” Mario says. Paul and I exchange glances again. What’s the old man saying?
Mario basks in our attention at his self-generated drama, then goes inside because his dad signals him from the window. “Go to mass and say three Hail Marys,” I call after him, but he shoots me a dark glance. His troubles seem tooooo precious for my broad strokes advice.
“Jeez Louise, what’s his dad saying in there?” I ask. Paul goes into his polished rendition of how Mario’s the only child of a Latin family and, even though both parents are divorced, he entered marriage with expectations of never-ending love. And how he demands precious moments of mama-drama because he was spoiled by the women of his family and told he was the king of the world. “Yeah, but what’s his dad saying now?” I ask. Where’s the storyline? What’s gonna happen next!
Paul continues with long-held opinions about Mario. Snapshots in his head, out of context and cannot be altered. I leave him on the deck with cat.
So later I bite the bullet and call Mama with questions of settling Daddy’s estate and when and what to expect. We have argued this question for four years now, but she claims to being close to settlement. By Christmas, she assures me. And I will soon receive a letter from my younger brother who’s executor and manager. He re-roofed all the houses and don’t I want to form a company to share equity?
No, no, and no again. I reiterate concerns of conflict of interest for him, which Mama doesn’t get at all, and thorny inheritance issues for the next generation. “There would always be monthly income,” she offers. “And I could gift the company with shares from my estate.” She’s reciting the party line.
More snapshots in a person’s head – out of context and can’t be altered.
“We’ve been over this,” I insist. “Siblings should own property free and clear. I won’t sign onto a company run by my brother.” She sighs over the phone. “Well, I want it settled by Christmas,” she repeats and we sign off. I won’t hold my breath on that one.