The Car Ride

“And that’s the last thing I’ll say about your little ex. I didn’t come here, after not seeing you for almost a year to only talk about your break up. Let’s just have a good time.”

With an unusual display of self-control, he stopped himself from snapping back and saying that she was not only the one that brought it up, but also that they both knew this wasn’t the last time she would bring it up. Instead, he just smiled and stayed quiet, pretending to enjoy the radio and focus on the road.

“Did you hear me, JBR? I don’t like it when you don’t respond. You know that.”

“You’re right, mom. I’m just happy you’re here with me, and extremely excited about tonight’s play.”

JBR had mastered the art of redirecting his mother’s attention, taking the conversation away from subjects that made long drives like today’s even longer. As always, it worked perfectly. His mother started re-telling one of her favorite stories – the story of the time JBR’s dad took his mom out to watch the Phantom of the Opera. He knew it by heart. What had started as a nice dinner date out in New York City, took an unexpectedly luxurious turn when Carla, fueled by a few glasses of Champagne, demanded to be taken to a Broadway play that very night.

“And that wasn’t it. I told him I wouldn’t leave the restaurant unless in a white stretch limousine – like the ones in the movies. Your dad, as loving and generous as he was, and probably also a little drunk, had no choice.”

She was beaming. Sure, JBR had heard the story many, many times, but he loved it, and he loved the way his mom told it.

“He loved to impress you anyway he could, so I’m he loved doing it.”

“Of course he did,” she said so matter-of-factly, “he enjoyed that night more than I did. I always did my best to make him more spontaneous. We sure had a good time.”

And here it came – the inevitable ending to any happy memory that involved his dad. Almost 12 years had passed, and, yet, the conversation always went the same way. The silence was interrupted by the familiar,

“I can’t believe it’s almost been 13 years.”

“12,” he corrected, as if the universe gave a damn.

If JBR was a baking tray, then his father’s death was that completely caked layer of food that no amount of scrubbing was going to remove. Whether by the sheer amount of time it had passed, or simply how much space it had taken up in his mind, it was just there. Absolutely and unequivocally a part of his personality.

“I miss him.”

“I know, ma. I miss him too.”

“Everything would be so different if he were around.”

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