I don’t know what I was thinking. Even under the best of conditions, moving three kids to a new home is something that a sane person would attempt with a lot of planning and several vehicles, preferably with at least one best friend holding her hand. Moving three kids, and most of their belongings, from Cape Cod to upstate New York on a hot Friday afternoon at the end of August is nothing less than a suicide mission. I peered uneasily into the rearview mirror at the two dogs, Spanky and Bella, sitting all the way at the back of my Toyota 4-runner in a tiny space in between all the boxes, their noses stuck out the crack in the window, panting. I knew they were going to make it of course, but it is a classic symptom of my chronicly escalating anxiety that I project all desperation and impending breakdown onto the state of my car and my dogs. I couldn’t look my kids in the eye, even though Juju and Lula were directly behind me. Maire, back in the country since June, had of course immediately laid her first born bossy claim to all power positions: the overstuffed chair in front of the TV and currently, shotgun in the car. She kept shifting in her seat, tossing her sandy blond shoulder length hair over her shoulder, turning the air conditioning up and down, changing the radio dial and harumphing loudly at least every other, let’s say, second. She was just making sure to let me know that she was savvy to my standard MO of acting as if everything was OK as a form of subliminal maternal hypnosis when things were far from OK. With her arms crossed in front of her chest and her gaze glued deceptively to the traffic in front of us, she had her eye on me, no more funny business. However, there was no way a kid, even a precocious, worldly 17 year old like her, could even begin to imagine the backlog of funny business I had stored up for her while she gone in Germany for an entire school year and then a long summer with her dad and sisters. Funny. Hysterical even.
Since I depended on the devotion of anyone of a number of lovers for my hand holding, pretty much since the beginning of time, and I was currently single, I had been hard pressed, in the 11th hour, to think of anyone to come to my assistance. Oddly, this is often the case when things get really ragged and precarious for me, I just can’t think of anyone to call. Part of the problem today was that I didn’t think about how emotional the whole thing would be, I just thought about getting myself to Ptown and back, having enough gas money and a place to sleep with my two big dogs, since I didn’t really know anybody in Hudson well enough yet to leave them with. I mean, what was I thinking.
When I had made the first move, leaving the kids with Cristof, back in the beginning of May, I was flush from the sale of my house. I operated like a high roller, hiring movers to take all the furniture and even help pack some last minute boxes. Oh yeah, and I had also conveniently picked up an extremely young butch lover, who was more than happy to takeover the chain of command whenever I broke into tears, which was often. The whole clan loved her, even Cristof, she was just that charismatic, she made everything a party. Lula was particularly fond of her and guilelessly announced to the entire chiropractic waiting room, “My mom’s new girlfriend is, like, a kid! She’s really just a kid. She’s so cool!” In the three very short months since then I had a chance to a) re-assess my romantic coupling b) go completely over-budget on the renovation of our new home, which included taking out another home equity loan that I couldn’t possibly afford the payments for and c) taken a wildly successful and risky last minute art trip to Germany that I, unexpectedly and at the last minute, had to pay for myself. So what had looked like a dream come true, a do-over free pass, had quickly dissolved into the same old panic just in time for my infamous role as the super mom that takes her kids away from the life they have always known AND their dad. I was hanging over an abyss of who knows what: no job, not a whole lot of cash, no mom and no ex-husband in any reasonable vicinity, two dogs that would probably die of dehydration and a car that, even though it was the nicest car I had ever owned, would probably break down before I even crossed the Sagamore bridge.
“Mom, we’re hungry.”
“Honey, can we just make it across the bridge, I promise we’ll eat right when we get over the bridge. I feel like if we stop now, we’ll lose our spot . . . This traffic is not going to let up, I’m telling you. Now that we’re in it, we’re just in it. Breathe.” I was of course reminding myself. Breathe, breathe, I whispered in my mind to the dogs in the back.
My cellphone rang. I strangely answered even though I didn’t recognize the number.
“Vera? I hope you don’t mind me calling you. I had to call around for your number. I just, well, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this but I was waiting for you to call, I mean the day is almost over and I guess the whole thing is subtle but really you say True Love and you mean it, I don’t know what you are promising but . . “
“Excuse me, who is this?”
“It’s Troy. You know, Troy. You are supposed to be in love with me today. I made a reservation.”
“Ummm, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh my, Troy, hi. So sorry. I was thinking about you this morning . . “
“This morning? Jesus. Is that the way this works?”
“Ummmm, I don’t promise contact. I make that very clear. I was thinking of you rather, um, strongly, this morning. I mean, Troy, I started my day with you, but when we made our date several weeks ago, I didn’t know that I would be moving my kids today . . . But you see that is the deal with this True Love Project . . . It’s like, whatever happens . . It’s just like life, I mean, we all have stuff, you know, I have stuff, you have stuff . . This is just a tiny capsule of life, love . . I can only do my best, I am doing my best here, our best in love, well it’s relative to what we can muster up depending on what life is handing us . . I had the best of intentions . . “ I check the rearview mirror, better to keep looking at the dogs than to look at Maire, who was boring a hole through my temple with her lazer contempt-o-vision.
“Oh. I see. Well, if this is like real love then I guess I am allowed to tell you that I find this hugely disappointing.”
“I understand. I know this is probably not gonna help, like at all, but can I tell you that I do think about this . . . . if I tell you that I made a vow to myself that everything that happens here is perfect, can you get this. Like there aren’t any mistakes. I mean, I am not hired to love you. This is an art project. I am an artist and I am falling in love with you to the best of my ability at a particular moment in time, human being to human being. Do you know what I mean? Today has not been a good day. It’s been almost, like, a bad day. I am sure you have had some of those. I am really sorry.”
“Yeah, well . . “
“Look Troy,” I tried the authoritative approach, “I really have to go, things are kind of, ummm, pressing . . Goodbye Troy.” I didn’t say I love you, but I was thinking it. I thought it might be a bit much even though I was meditating on the intention of meaning it.
I hung up the phone, slid my eyes over to Maire and shrugged limply.
“Mom, who was that?”