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Lift: A Serial

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Part Nine

July 4

Ah yes, the Fourth of July. More to the point, the Fourth of July in a small town. You would think that having grown up here, I'd remember what a big deal it is. I didn't, and so I found myself face-to-face with a hoard of people along Main Street this morning. They were waiting for the parade; I was out for a speed-walk, which I've concluded is the best aerobic activity for me.

Quick aside: I have visions of the elliptical trainers from my amazing, supercharged old gym. No impact, no bouncing my knees or the wings, and the freedom to catch up on a little news or reading. And probably there's a gym here with such devices. But then I'd have to sign up and go regularly, and face people, and decide to use the locker room and face down stares or avoid it and feel I was wasting my money ..... Too much stress. So speed-walking outside it is. I enjoy the air and don't need more TV, so it's just as well.

Anyway. So there I was, walking, and as I came in view of Main Street I saw the backs of bunches of folks. It's funny to watch people watch something else. Parades here are a big deal, with lots of organizations providing floats of varying quality and size, and the different strata of cheerleading and band elements from all the surrounding school districts, the music from one group fading as the next one approaches. As a kid I thought it was the best thing ever; as a teenager I hated that it was all so small in comparison to the Macy's parade on TV; after I went away I never gave it thought. And all this time, it has gone on year after year.

Nostalgia aside, I wasn't inclined to join in the spectating, possibly becoming a spectacle myself—lots of people around here have seen me, but lots haven't, and surely a bunch of folks would find me at least a little odd—so I had to revise my walking route. Not such a big deal. In contrast, if I'd been trying to drive somewhere I'd have flipped at the detour.

Other nice things for the holiday: Dad and Mom joined forces to create a bit of a backyard feast, with grilled steak and corn on the cob. Mom also produced some grillable veggie mix, which Dad cooked on a grill gadget he bought off QVC. It was delicious, with hints of garlic and olive oil and rosemary. I went heavy on the compliments, and everyone was in a great mood.

Right now I can hear fireworks going off, probably over the park. I feel extraordinarily wholesome.

July 5

Yesterday was a nice interlude. And today everything came back.

I finally concluded that I was just not going to be able to script what I will say to Kelly about my wings, to prepare her for the sight of me (and them). So I decided to rely on my ability to think on my feet and ad lib. I would call her and see what I said. So I called her apartment ... and she wasn't home. No surprise, she's never home. I called her cell phone ... and got her voicemail. Waited and tried a bit later, with again no result. I could try her office, but I'm pretty sure she has that forwarded to the cell phone.

It's completely possible that she'll arrive before I get hold of her. In a weird way I'm interested to know how she'd react with no advance warning. (But then, I think my interest may really be transposed fear acting like curiosity.)

So, while I was trying to figure out what to say to Kelly and whether to just email the photos and let her call me, I mentioned to Mom that Kelly is coming. I guess I asked where would be a good place to get dinner. What I was thinking, I don't know.

Mom of course said that Kelly has to come here, to the house, and that she (Mom) will fix a wonderful dinner for all of us.

It was a nasty row. Looking back I think there were multiple possible causes:

  • Mom would like to have more guests, loves to entertain, and here's an intelligent, successful, lovely person visiting from Boston. And I'm trying to keep her to myself.
  • I keep saying how good Mrs. Weinstein's cooking is, and Mom is perhaps feeling slighted.
  • Mom is maybe trying to find some way to connect with me.
  • Or maybe she just dug her heels in and thinks I'm pushing her around.

Or, maybe all of these.

For myself, I was looking forward to having a little quality time with my old best friend, catching up, reconnecting with the life I used to have. Maybe I want to reassure myself that I'm still ... I don't know ... cool or something.

But anyway, we argued. I stormed up to my room before we'd decided anything, and then later went back and said it would be very nice if Mom would prepare a meal for Kelly. I offered to make salad. We sort of patched things over.

So. Kelly will come here, to have dinner with my parents. And hopefully we'll find a little time to ourselves to chat.

And hopefully I'll talk to her ahead of time, to let her know what's she's in for.

Part 10

July 6

Today has been a flurry of activity for me. I've been cleaning—Mom and I split up the house after discovering that our cleaning styles are incompatible. She insists that one should dust after vacuuming; I'm a wipe-everything-to-the-floor-and-sweep person. The house was already eat-off-the-floor clean, but I think we both needed to do something. Kelly won't be in town until tomorrow. I don't even know for sure that she will come to the house at all. I still haven't been able to reach her. I know only that she's scheduled to be in the city tomorrow, that she proposed we have dinner here in town, and that she never returns my phone messages.

So I went ahead and sent an email with a photo of the wings. I decided to send only one photo. Sending more than one felt too strong, like she needed a lot of warning. I am still trying to keep this low-key. I haven't received a note back.

Recent realization: I don't remember how I shopped before the Internet and online commerce. How did I know what to buy? Where did I get recommendations? I guess I read reviews in the paper and magazines, or maybe I comparison-shopped in stores. But for example, I'm looking for a camera now, and so I go to the web and check reviews on cnet.com, in the tech columns at the Wall Street Journal, on Amazon, on Consumer Reports. Did I look things up before, or did I just buy things and hope they worked out? And why can't I remember? I had subscription to Consumer Reports, and I know I used it. But what did I do when there was no review for the kind of product I needed? It troubles me that I can't remember. I know I had a lot of posessions—I know I bought them. I simply can't recall how.

July 7

Just got an email:

    Dinner w/your parents sounds great. Am tired of restaurant food, home-cooked is perfect. Looks like we have a lot to discuss. See you tonight @ 6.
    —K

And of course it does little to help my nervousness. I feel like I'm going on a blind date.

Mom's cooking hit a fever pitch, so I left the house. Borrowed the car — even though it's a huge SUV, still have to squirm to get the wings finagled around the seat and into the back. It's an ordeal, like turning myself into an origami bird. Getting out is significantly easier, but I always have the fear that I'll arrive someplace, get out of the car, and then be unable to get back in. I'd have to phone home and have my parents come retrieve me and the car. I imagine myself lying in the back like luggage.

But, back to today. I drove out to the state park, which was next to empty, and walked a few miles. I found an open space, recently mowed—Are they supposed to mow parks? Does that hurt the wildlife?—and ran around flexing my wings, flapping. I tried to glide, but can't seem to support my weight. It's unclear whether the wings are not aerodynamic, or I weigh too much, or I don't know the technique. But just running and generating a breeze felt good, invigorating and calming at the same time. I headed back, squiggled into the car again, and went home refreshed.

Kelly should be here soon.

July 7, part 2

Kelly has been and gone. We didn't have the best-friends/heart-to-heart reconnection I had hoped for. We did have a terrific meal, better than most restaurants Kelly said and I agreed.

Kelly looks good. She looks pretty much the same as ever, casually fashionable but not glaringly so ... not so well-dressed that she'd make a client feel envious but enough to impress. She brought a bottle of wine, was friendly with my parents—remembered their names, which surprised me, but then I suppose she looked them up when she was getting directions online. I watched to see how she'd react to my wings, but she seemed not to notice them. Like they were just spare limbs that some people have and others don't.

I take that back: She seemed to look past them. The way one might look past a wheelchair or artificial hand.

It all seemed nice and warm, cordiality flowing around the room. Mom was putting final touches on the meal, so I invited Kelly to join me out back for a drink, thinking we could catch up. Instead she joined Mom in the kitchen, offering to make a salad. That had been my task and I'd thrown together some ingredients, but Kelly started concocting a dressing, chatting with Mom about balancing the various tastes, concerned that the dressing not compete with the rest of the meal. "This is a treat for me. I never cook," she explained, to the food it seemed. I stayed near the door, keeping out of their way, chiming into the conversation as needed.

During the meal I caught her watching me a bit, watching the wings, watching my parents. The conversation was great, small talk and large talk with contributions from everyone.

And then it ended, immediately after dessert. Kelly said she would be giving a big presentation in the morning for the prospective client and still hadn't done all the research. She offered to help clean up, was declined, and thanked us all for "such a lovely and relaxing evening away from it all."

I walked her to her car. So much had not been said, and I couldn't find a way to bring it up. We stood looking at each other, mentioning people we knew and how they were, where they were.

Finally I pulled myself together. "You haven't said anything about the wings."

She nodded. There was just enough light to see faces, and the streetlights had come on, but I couldn't make out her expression. "I wasn't sure what I should say."

"I don't know if there is a ‘should' for this situation."

She nodded some more. "How do you feel about it?" Typical: reflecting my questions back at me, getting me to open the negotiation, keeping her thoughts to herself.

"I feel fine. It isn't about feeling."

She nodded again. "Can I touch them?" She reached out and brushed a hand on my right wing. "It's just ... I'm at a loss, you know?"

That was it, of course. Here was a woman who always knew how to react, had a measured response for anything, and I had presented her with a situation to which she didn't have a response.

"I don't either," I said.

"Listen, I'm sorry I don't have more time. You know how it is. I'll call you and we'll talk some more. Is that alright?"

I said, "Sure," because what else was I going to say, and she got in her rental car and drove off.

So now we're back in our house, my parents and I, the atmosphere a little stretched because the big event we had prepared for has ended and everything is still as it was. Dad finished the dishes and is looking through gardening catalogs. Mom is reading a book and watching TV at the same time. I sat with them for a bit, then came back up here to write a few notes.

I didn't know what to expect, and I'm not fully sure what happened. So I don't know why I'm surprised.

July 8

Got another email from Kelly:

    Sorry I had to rush off. I didn't even tell you about the new thing—I'm thinking about leaving here, starting my own business. Wanted to see if you'd be interested, but couldn't think of a way to work it into the conversation with your folks. Think there could be a role in it for you ... would like to discuss. Will call you in the next few days. Thanks again for the fantastic meal. Your mom's a doll. Your dad too. Talk soon.
    —K

 

Next issue: Getting away from getting away from it all.

Copyright © 2002 Cynthia Closkey