She’s skinny, this counselor to kids with anorexia. Her name is Eve. Today, it’s Strength Cards. First my daughter chooses what she thinks her strengths are, then I will. Eve has weird art around the room, and for some reason the iron sculpture of a Rasta man is leering, its arms akimbo, its hair George Clintonish. I want to take it home, pile it right in beside the stacked boxes with schoolhouses hand painted on the front, apples and pencils dangling from the handle, beside the dragons and fairies. I’d name him “Eh?” My daughter chooses all the cards, except Resolute and Patient. I’d say, however, that the very reason I’m sitting in this room with a leering “Eh?” and pictures of Eve’s triplets and black Formica office furniture and a soft couch with no sides is evidence to my daughter’s resolution and will. She nailed Patient, however. The other 20-some cards are in her bony hands. She’s all good, all beautiful, this eight-year-old product of myself and her father. I’m not so sure my daughter is the one who needs Eve. I need to go to the bathroom. These sessions upset my stomach, wake up my irritable bowel.
Eve wants my daughter to choose her top five now.
–How come there isn’t a Pretty card? Jory says I’m pretty.
–Pretty is luck. Something your mom and dad gave you.
My daughter snorts and hands me all the cards, except Resolute and Patient, without choosing her top five. Now it’s mean ol’ Mommy’s turn. Eve nods at me to choose.
I narrow the cards down to five: Inquisitive, Intelligent, Independent, Artistic, and Brave. My daughter’s only eight so I have to explain Inquisitive. She likes what it means; she likes that I think she is. Her big eyes widen, her smile shows off her pretty teeth. Sitting in the sterile air of Eve’s office, I can see my daughter twice this age, and I know I’m in trouble. I can also see how her heart will be broken. She’ll let go her independence and she’ll fall into a guy named Mr. Ordinary’s arms and he’ll wrap her up in his protection for a little while before handing her heart and love back to her and send her home. To me. My Smart daughter will wipe away her tears, and she’ll swear off love and men. Her Curiosity will vanish and she’ll walk around being Artistic, being Brave, and she’ll have killed off her reason to be. She’s telling Eve now about Jory, her boyfriend. My daughter was made to Love. In other words, I brought her into this world so she can Hurt.
Our time is up, and Eve hands my daughter a journal. She wants her to start recording all her feelings, her upsets. My daughter hands the book to me.
–Mom’s the writer. I’m a singer.
–This isn’t about writing. It’s not about your mom.
My daughter rolls her eyes, but deep down she likes to please people. She tells Eve she’ll do it. She won’t; it’s too much like something I would like her to do.
Outside, the sun is setting. The world is pink and purple and dark blues, shadowy. It’s hot. Inside the car, my daughter asks to listen to the radio. She sings at the top of her lungs while I drive through rush hour traffic, on the fringes of this big city, the car pointed toward our little spot in the country. As we pass the Super America, she asks for Krispy Kremes. She’s started eating again. I make a right turn and pull into a parking space on the curb. The doors slide open and after I pack twelve donuts into a green and white box, my daughter wraps her arms around my thighs and says I love you.