Some days, he talked about his days in Paris, where he studied the piano. She was in high school then, no, maybe junior high, and it might have been about the time that her parents were divorcing. She lived on a farm then. After Paris, he studied in Warsaw. Oh, no Warsaw was before that. She got confused sometimes, all the places that he’d studied. She had lived in Europe, but it was only because she’d been in the Air Force. Now he was in the States, and was a professor. She was a professor too, but did not teach piano. They both lived in the Midwest, in different places.
“You want some gum?” he said to her the night they met. They were at a bar and she accepted.
Today the Child Protection guy came by. The hospital called him over the weekend, since she’d left her child with only her friends’ and neighbors’ and her colleagues’ numbers while she went to see her boyfriend. Her child was 17, and when he started feeling sick, he got a neighbor to take him to the ER.
The guy came in. He had a mullet. He sat at her kitchen table with a pad of paper.
“Tell me your full name, your date of birth.”
She told him this.
“And your child’s.” He wrote them on a sheet of paper. He continued, “When my kids were 15, I left them alone on weekends, but I had family around.”
She thought of knocking out his eyeballs.
She told him that she’d moved here recently, but there were friends around her.
“Doesn’t matter,” the guy said. “I even went to Florida two weeks, and that was fine, ’cause I had family around me.”
Would it make any difference, she wanted to say, if your dad is an adult, but he can’t function, that he cannot make decisions, that her friends are much more capable than any member of her family.
She sat there and she listened.
Today was Monday. On Mondays she worked at home, and he was interrupting.
He asked a few more questions. He knew her landlords, cops, who she called her first night in this house, when her son ran out, and she couldn’t find him. The couple had come into her house. “Don’t worry, this town’s really safe,” they told her.
The Protection guy asked her if she worked. She’d been raising her son on her own since he was a baby, since she left his father, since he used to beat her black and blue and almost crazy, and the Air Force moved her from Texas to Mississippi to Germany and England, then to North Dakota, then, when she decided to finally leave the Air Force, she worked for a Bachelors and a job an hour away and could not afford anything beyond beans and bread and milk and eggs, and spent her paychecks all on daycare, she was so tired that she couldn’t stay awake and ended sleeping hours in her beat-up car at rest stops along the way. Then she moved to get a Masters, and then another Masters from somewhere else, and then she got a job as a professor in this crummy state of godforsaken people. But she simply sat there, looking at his paper, and she said, “I’m a professor.”
“Oh!” he said. He didn’t write down any longer. He said his daughter and his son, they were in college! And his wife — she taught classes part-time. “What do you teach?” he said.
“Literature,” she said.
He said he didn’t need nothing else. He got up and said I’ll see you later.
If he came again, she would answer the door naked.
Later, on the telephone, she told her boyfriend.
“You can’t do that again,” he said.
He didn’t have kids. He hadn’t met her son. He hadn’t come to see her.