Page 31, “The Persuasion”
"All good decisions are made over coffee.” He tapped my espresso cup. “It sounds like she treats you like an adult.”
I wanted to let it pass but “treat-ed” fell out of my mouth, just like that.
“'-ed'? Let's expand on this one.”
He wanted me to elaborate? For once, for the only time except for Bird, someone wanted me to make the past tense bigger “on this one.” Most people only got their knees wet in my gloomy waters with a strained “sorry” or “oh, that’s too bad” or “oh, my friend’s cousin’s mother died.” Tonin was plunging in with hip waders, fly rod, fishing net, and a tackle box.
“Tell me.” He turned his palms up on the table as if he could hold anything I had to say, regardless of weight.
Quickly, faster than I could ever remember talking, I spilled out the timeline, how just four weeks into freshman year and on the very day that Bird and I had had our first serious argument about a grandiose remark I’d made...”
“That I was the most interesting person I’d ever met.”
“Hold it. I’d go along with that.”
His butting in allowed the next words to fall out as neutrally as I’d ever managed…“when my mother died suddenly of a heart attack. She was 53 and I was 14.”
I’d told the story enough times. Repeating that particular string no longer unhinged me when I had to explain why my mother was never around for Parents Day, why I never bought Mother’s Day cards. I’d developed strategies for cutting along the live wire without getting zapped, for explaining without revealing, for reporting and keep moving. I still ached when I thought of her, which was all the time, still woke up crying at three in the morning, but the grief had stopped its sneak attacks in broad daylight. Seven years had gone by and I’d gotten used to it.