Friday, December 16, 2005

"And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..."

Tim's mother Diana is utterly forgettable, physically.

Her spotless black blouse and grey knit skirt tell me that she has fashion sense, and money, and her trim figure says that she watches her weight, but she's not been blessed with her daughters' plump lips and striking eyes; her mouth seems to disappear when she closes it tightly, and she's keen to hide her eyes behind huge, goggle-like glasses.

"There are things about Tim you don't know," she intones, so nasally that it seems she could speak without opening her mouth.

We're interrupted by the piercing sound of glass breaking. It's a big, loud crash, almost like a window being smashed.

"Steve!" Tim calls, her voice shrill with panic.

I dash up the stairs to find Jenny sweeping up the remains of the glass macaroni and cheese pan. She smiles up at me through her black curls as she dumps the pieces into a brown paper bag. "Kids were fighting over it," she laughs.

"What the hell did you put in there, Tim? Catnip?"

"Salt and a little cayenne pepper. My own special recipe."

"Cayenne pepper? For kids?"

"Just a little! They were fighting over it, weren't they?"

"So what did you want?"

"I was gonna ask you to clean up the pan, but Jenny got it. I told her she was our guest, but she insisted."

I turn to leave the room, and when I reach the steps, I turn back and look at Tim as she stands at the sink, spraying out a skillet with hot water.

She turns to face me, brushing the hair out of her eyes with the back of her wrist, her face shiny with sweat. It's way too noisy to hear her from this distance, but she mouths the word "Hi," smiling brightly through the billowing steam.

I have not been able to get that image out of my head since I saw it. She seemed so happy, so comfortable, as if she had been living at my house for 100 years. I enjoy her company; being alone has become harder than it used to be.

I could marry this girl, I think.

I trot back down the stairs to speak to Diana. Wonder what the hell she was talking about before.

"Saving the world?" Diana says.

"Not this time. They didn't need me."

"So Steven," she says with a little sigh, lightly slapping my knee. "There are some things we need to discuss." She reminds me of a teacher about to lecture an unruly student.

"Call me Steve."

"Listen. Tim has been through a trauma. A trauma that most people would kill themselves over."

"MOST people?"

"Steven, you have no idea. That's the problem here, you really have NO idea what you are getting yourself into. Tim hurts men. She always does. It's not her fault; she's a good person. She's still healing."

"Diana, I know about the rape."

"I doubt you know about the rape."

"You doubt I know about it?" I say, wrinkling my forehead. "So how do I know it happened?"

"I doubt you know all about it."

"Sixty stitches? The asthma attack that put her in the hospital? Alex Rodriguez?"

She glares at me in shocked silence, as if she had just caught me rummaging through her underwear drawer.

"Steven, you shouldn't make her talk about that! That was a very traumatic event in her life!"

"I didn't make her talk about anything, Diana."

"She didn't want to talk about it," she says to the wall in front of her.

"Then why did she do it?"

"Maybe you forced her to."

"Why don't you go to talk to her about it?"

"You don't talk about rape on Thanksgiving, Steven," she sneers.

"Not talking seems like a good idea right now."

She breathes deeply, slowly examining the pictures on my wall one by one. "Steven, don't be defensive. We're just talking. There's no need to be defensive."


"You need to understand that healing is a long process. I guided her through the process," she says, painting imaginary cirlces with her hands. "There are a lot of, steps in the process. Tim and I got very close. She leans on me; I am her support system. "

"I'm glad to hear it."

"No you're not."

"Excuse me?"


"Call me Steve. Ok?"

"Steve, Tim is a beautiful girl. You're playing it cool, like all the guys do. You're in love with her. I saw that little speech you made before. You're in love with her," she says, smirking pretentiously from the side of her mouth, they way your mother did when she asked if you got into trouble at school.

"Guys fall for her. They always do. Even the ones who normally don't fall in love. Just don't get too attached to her."

I pride myself on keeping my temper in check. Even if I do get angry, which is rare, I am careful not to show it. When you show your anger, you let someone know they are bothering you, which gives them the confidence to keep doing so.

I am angry enough to throw something. No one tells me my business. No one tells me how to run my life. And how dare she pompously claim to be protecting my feelings? What am I, nine years old? And since when has a woman ever hurt me for longer than 15 minutes, anyway?

Despite my rage, I'm careful to keep my voice at normal volume, and to maintain a relaxed position in my seat. I want Diana to see me calm and businesslike. She's used to manipulating people, I know, and I want her to wonder why she's not affecting me.

"Diana, as you pointed out, it's a holiday today, and it would be very un-Thanksgivinglike for me to tell you what I truly think about what you just said. I'm very familiar with Tim's dating history. She's familiar with mine. We actually have very similar pasts in that respect. We've discussed the risks involved in committing to a relationshp. We're adults. We accepted the risks and so far, everything's going very well."

"You're not listening. You're not listening," she says, with a shrug of resignation and a note of fatalism in her voice, as if she were complaining about bad weather.

"Diana, I heard you. You can't seem to accept that your daughter is an adult now. You've got to let her go!"

"She's never going to be with you, Steve," she seethes through tight lips, her heavy glasses sliding visibly down her nose. "You're just like alll the rest of them. You're gonna change her, and you're gonna cure her, and you're gonna live happily ever after. I'm just trying to help you! If you don't want my help, fine. Learn the hard way," she says, waving her hands like a conductor ending a symphony.

I seriously can't look at her anymore. I want to wrap my hands around her bread-stick neck and twist. But I manage a cool smile and a suble nod of the head as I stand up from the couch and stride toward the staircase. "Hey, Diana. If you ever want to cut the umbilical cord, I can recommend a good obstetrician," I say.

She narrows her eyes at me, and for the first time I see unmistakable hate in her face. Maybe I took it too far?

Tim is going to be pissed at me for this, but there's no sense letting up now. "Thanks for the advice," I say, with all the sarcasm I can muster, locking eyes with her as I climb the stairs.


I don't want to ruin Tim's Thanksgiving. I also don't want to make her take sides. With any luck, her mother will come to her, losing her mind, betraying herself as the out-of-control sociopath that she is.

Twice after the confrontation, I saw Diana speaking animatedly to Tim, gesturing powerfully with her hands, like a preacher. Each time, Tim stared mutely, hypnotically, at the floor.

8:10 PM

The last of the guests have gone. The house is already amazingly clean; most every countertop shines, and every dish has been cleaned and returned to its rightful place in the cupboard.

Tim and I haven't discussed my conversation with her mother, and I'm starting to think that I gave away a major advantage by letting Diana speak to Tim first.

"The house looks awesome, Tim!" I say, and as I see her avoid eye contact, I know it's going to be a long night.

"You ok?" If she's pissed, I'm going to make her tell me all about it. Why assume anything? Let her tell me what's bothering her, and I'll address those issues and only those issues.

"I think we're going too fast," she says.

Son of a bitch.

Actually, son of a is completely unnecessary.

"Tim. Do you have any idea what a psychotic, manipulative shrew your mother is?"

"Leave her out of this!" Tim shouts.

"Why? This was her idea. All her idea. And you're going right along with it."

"You weren't close with your mother. You didn't talk to your mother. That doesn't mean I can't talk to mine."

"This isn't about talking. It's about her controlling your life. Don't you see it?"

"Steve, I need her. She helps me! I know you think it's bullshit-"

"Tim, no offense, but you've had sex with what, 60, 70 guys? You did coke and ecstasy and went to sex parties? And fucked four guys in an hour? Didn't you do that?"

Yeah, I would never do such things. Well, only if I had the chance.

"Oh, and like you don't fuck."

"Not like you did."

"So I'm a slut now?"


"No, I'm serious! I want to know! Do you think I'm a fucking slut?"

"No!" I shout. "But your mother is supposed to be this positive influence on you. How do you explain what you did?"

"Sometimes I didn't listen," she says quietly, staring at her shoes. "You'll never understand, because your mother abandoned you, so now you think that no one needs their mother."

"No, no one needs my mother. There are good mothers around. Yours just isn't one of them."

"Don't talk about my mother that way!" she shreiks, startling me, her voice reverberating painfully from the kitchen walls.

"Don't be manipulated that way!" I scream back.

"She's not manipulating me!"

"Yes she is!" I thunder back. "You can't see it! You're fucking blind to the whole Goddamn thing! You're fucking blind!" I shout, lunging at her with the last word.

"You don't understand. You're just a hardheaded idiot! You're not even listening to me!"

"Hm. Sounds just like something your mother said earlier."

"Just forget it, Steve. You'll never understand."

"Stop saying I don't understand!"

"You don't!"

"Stop saying it!" Now my voice is reverberating.

"You don't fucking understand!!" she snarls, baring her teeth, lunging back at me.

I grab the nearest object - a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels - and hurl it to the ceramic-tiled floor with every ounce of strength I can muster. The bottle smashes violently, sending shards of glass in every direction, and I watch for a second as reddish-brown tendrils of liquor trace their way across the grout lines.

The room falls eerily silent. Tim has gone pale; her mouth hangs open as fear, anger, and panic crisscross her face. I scared her.

Excuse me, Tim? Could you possibly pour a little Coke on the floor? This stuff's no good straight up.

Suddenly, I want to hug her, I want to apologize, I want to tell her that we can talk about it, that I love her, and that when two people love each other they find ways to work things out. But I am not enough of a romantic to believe that that could really be true.

Her mother controls her fully. She might as well have a remote control with buttons marked "break up" and "let him down gently". There's no way Tim is going to let me in; there's no way this can work between us unless she sets the proper boundaries with her mother. And that will happen sometime after I fuck Eva Longoria.

"Steve, I, I, don't want to break up! I don't want to make you angry," she says, her breathing quickening, her eyes welling up. "Can we please talk about this? Calmly?"

"Fuck you. Get out."