Facebook Status Update: Allison Trainor is wondering what she’ll do with all this free time. Both kids are napping!
Internal Status Update: Allison Trainor is going to have an internet affair while her children nap.
I click on Bo Larsen’s profile page for a better look, another look. Anything new since last night? Yep. He’s changed his profile picture. In this one, he is wearing sunglasses, a black jacket, and a sated smile, like he’s had a morning of great sex and rock n’ roll. The shot is from the waist up, but his right hand is visible, clutching the neck of his guitar. It could be a picture for an album cover.
I should have ignored Bo’s friend request. He should have been crossed out of my life nine years ago, the last time I saw him live and in the flesh. Now, he pops up on my computer screen daily.
My hands hover above the keyboard, the blank comment box beckoning me to post some cryptic inside joke to make him smile.
I log out. I have things to do. I have nothing to do. Nothing I want to do. Allison Trainor is bored out of her mind. Allison Trainor thinks of herself in the third person and narrates her status updates to herself all day long. Allison Trainor is becoming pathetic.
I slam my laptop shut and pour myself another cup of coffee, stirring in heavy amounts of cream and sugar. Bo Larsen. He needs to grow up already. Half the pictures he posts feature him hanging out at hipster L.A. parties with silly, pouty women much younger than him. Not his type back in the day.
The party images don’t get to me as much as the ones of him hiking, jogging, rock climbing. Bo is less scrawny than he was back in college, but obviously he’s stayed in shape. I was the one who’d gotten him into climbing. He owes me for that.
Bo has commented on my photos. Things like, “Still looking amazing,” and, “The one that got away.” I deleted that one. My husband wouldn’t like that.
Allison Trainor can’t believe it’s already 11:00 a.m. If she doesn’t start the laundry now, there won’t be enough time to hang it outside. Allison Trainor believes line-hung laundry smells fresher, cleaner.
I tip-toe into the baby, Michael’s, room. He is zonked out. Angel baby. I think about taking a picture of him. I could post that on my page, beautiful evidence of my blessed life. The camera click might wake him, though.
I lift the diaper pail. I use cloth diapers. Allison Trainor is doing her part for the environment.
There is a knock on the door. Crap. They are going to wake up the baby. I set the pail down quickly, gently, and run on tiptoes to the door.
Nobody is there when I open it. Just a big package left on the doorstep, and I can see the UPS truck out on the street. Allison Trainor doesn’t understand why you even knock if you don’t need her signature!
I bring the package inside. It is addressed to my husband. The return label reads Victoria’s Secret. I dial him at work. “You’re shopping at Victoria’s Secret now? Is there something you’re trying to tell me?”
“Shoot. That was supposed to be a surprise for your birthday. I thought it’d come on Saturday. Don’t open it.”
“Lingerie? Sounds like that’s more of a gift for you.”
“It’s not your only gift,” he says. He is hurt. He can be so sensitive. I have to say, “I’m just joking.” I have to say, “You know nobody ever gives me better gifts than you.” I have to act all cheery and change the subject, let him know I am taking our children to the zoo.
“Really? That’s so great.” He doesn’t like it when we just hang out at home. What he likes is when I educate our six-month- and three-year-old progeny, give them new experiences, teach them the Latin names of the animals we will see at the zoo: Glaucomus Sabrinas, the Northern Flying Squirrel, Pan Troglodytes, the Chimpanzee; Musca domestica the common housefly who will land on my daughter’s snack, no doubt. “It’s great you remember all that stuff and pass it on the kids,” my husband says. No, it is a terrible reminder that maybe I should have gone to vet school after all.
I toss the package on the hall table and go check on the baby. I can hear my three-year-old in her room, singing to a CD. Ellory doesn’t really nap anymore. I make her have morning rest time. So I can rest. She isn’t allowed out until her alarm clock goes off, which will be in about 15 minutes. Time is flying.
There is a knock at the door. I am never going to get the laundry done.
I peek through the peep hole. A woman I don’t know is holding a young girl’s hand. I open the door halfway. Allison Trainor wonders should you fear strangers who appear to be mothers?
“Hello,” the woman says. “My name is Britney and I’m a recovering meth addict.” She is wearing a “Hello, My Name Is” nametag written in purple marker. She has dotted the i in her name with a heart. “I’m selling magazine subscriptions to earn money for my treatment center. Would you be at all interested?” She hands me this laminated badge thing so I can see she’s legit. It says, “Youtopia Treatment: A Better You is Not an Illusion.” Allison Trainor thinks that’s weird.
Britney is young. Maybe 23. She is wearing a loose cotton shirt and a tie-dyed skirt. She has a cast on one leg, a walking cast, apparently, as there’s no sign of crutches. She has a crocheted bag slung over her shoulder. The little girl has brown hair neatly pulled back into two ponytails. Huge blue eyes. Her dress is too small. She is holding her mother’s hand and hides her head behind her mom’s legs when she notices me looking at her.
“I’ll take a look,” I say to Britney. She hands me a clipboard. I skim it. Allison Trainor doesn’t have time to read magazines.
The daughter says, “Mommy, I’m thirsty.”
“Shh,” Britney says. “In a minute, sweetie.”
“I could give her a juice box,” I say.
“No, ma’am,” Britteny says. “Thank you, but she’ll be fine.”
“Juice box! Please, Mommy, please. I’m soooo thirsty.” The toddler has given up her shy-girl act.
“Really. It’s no trouble,” I say. “I’ll be right back.” I leave them standing at the door, but when I come back, they are seated in my living room. Allison Trainor is shocked by the nerve of strangers.
I give the little girl her juice box. “Say thank you,” Britney says. The little girl is too busy sucking on her straw. Britney smacks her hand, accidentally knocking the juice box to the floor. “Sorry,” she says to me, her anger unconcealed. “Say thank you, you brat.” The little girl looks shocked. Allison Trainor would never smack a juice box out of a child’s hand. Never in public. Allison Trainor has done worse in private. She has snatched a chocolate milk out of her daughter, Ellory’s hand when Ellory wouldn’t stop blowing bubbles into it with her straw. Allison hadn’t had much sleep the night before. That milk was going to spill over. It was annoying. The cup crashed to the floor. Ellory cried and cried while Allison made her wipe it up. Allison has done other bad mommy stuff, too — yanked her baby daughter’s legs out from under her when she found her standing in the crib, dirty diaper in hand, smearing poo on the wall. Those losses of temper weren’t pretty.
But, I’m no meth head, at least.
The little girl’s juice box is on my carpet, sideways, purple liquid slowly dripping out. I right it and hand it back to the girl. Allison Trainor’s carpet has seen worse.
“Sorry about that,” Britney says, flushing red and avoiding my eyes. “She’s still learning her manners.” She hands me the clipboard. “Sorry I called you a brat, sweetie,” she whispers to her daughter. You need to be nice to this lady, though.” This lady. This old lady. Allison Trainor will be 32 next week.
“You know, I don’t really read magazines,” I say. I don’t like Britney. I hand the clipboard back to her and start to move toward the front door. I hope she will follow me.
“You’ve got a real nice house here,” Britney says. “It might be nice to have some magazines out on your coffee table for guests to read.” She is still sitting on my couch looking like she’d like to settle in for a morning nap.
“That’s true,” I say. Maybe if I buy a magazine I can get her out of here. I look at the sheet on the clipboard again and find a magazine that sounds all right, something about parenting. “So, do I write you a check now?”
“No, ma’am,” Britney says. “You just fill in all your information and they’ll bill you later. Britney has made no move from the couch. She props her foot with the cast up on my coffee table. “This thing is killing me,” she says. She yawns again, opening her mouth so wide I get a good view of the silver stud piercing her tongue. I try ignoring her. Her daughter is done sucking and squeezing the juice box and is blowing air into it now trying to re-inflate it.
“Where do I write it in?” I don’t see a place to put my information.
“Second page on the clipboard. See?” She doesn’t stand up to help me or to take my information. She sinks a little lower into my couch, lets out another big yawn. Sloth. Allison Trainor is being visited by a a Bradypus tridactylus or rather, a Bradypus homo sapiens.
“All right, then,” I say. I fill it in quickly and look over to see that Britney’s eyes have closed. “Mommy needs a nap,” the little girl says, giggling. “No napping on the job, Mommy!” She looks about three, the same age as Ellory. I wonder where she heard the phrase, “no napping on the job.” Britney says, “Shut up and let Mommy get some rest.” She slurs the words as if she’s talking in her sleep.
I clear my throat. Loudly. Britney opens her eyes, sits up. Gasps. “Oh, my goodness I’m so sorry, ma’am.” She stands up.
“What in the hell is taking you so long?” I turn to see a man standing at the door. Britney moves toward him, but he is inside my house now. He is a tall man, out of place in my tiny foyer. His heavy work boots don’t go with his plaid golf shorts and tight gray t-shirt with a skull print. His hair is short. Bleached blonde. Greasy. His arms are tattooed. He’s spent too much time in the sun.
“Sorry, babe. She invited us in for a drink. Nellie was thirsty.”
“You’re supposed to be selling magazines, not sitting around drinking tea, pretending you’re all high class and shit.”
My own daughter comes into the room. I want to tell her to run. There are strangers in the house. Strangers Mommy doesn’t like.
“Go back to your room. Rest time isn’t over.”
“But my alarm went off,” Ellory whines.
“Oh, you got a daughter, too. How old is she?” Britney asks, as if emphasizing our bond of motherhood is going to make her agitated boyfriend or boss or whoever calm down.
“She’s three. Honey, go back to your room,” I tell Ellory firmly. I push her behind me, wishing I had given my child code words for emergency, for Dial 911.
“I’m three,” Britney’s little girl, Nellie, says, holding up three fingers.
“I know you from somewhere,” the guy says to me. “What’s your name?” He is studying me hard, his harsh words to Britney replaced by an uncomfortable interest in me.
“Hilary,” I say. Hilary Larsen, I think. That’s my name.
“That’s not your real name,” Britney says. She waves the clipboard at me like an accusation.
“It’s my middle name. It’s the name I go by.”
“I thought your middle name was Beth,” Ellory says from behind me.
“No, sweetie,” I mumble. “That’s Auntie Helen’s middle name.”
Britney says, “Well, I’d choose Allison over Hilary, but that’s just me.”
“Do you have any Polly Pocket dolls?” Nellie asks my daughter.
“My daughter loves Polly Pocket now. Her foster family bought her a whole set,” Britney says. Allison Trainor has unwanted guests. Bad people whose child was taken from them.
“You know, I’ve got to be getting my daughter back to her nap,” I say, ushering everybody towards the door. They allow me to scoot them onto the porch, but just as I go to shut the door, the man presses his large hand against it, holding it open. Allison Trainor’s heart is racing.
“Wait a minute,” the man says. “You’re Allison Garman, right? Bo’s old girlfriend? I knew I knew you.”
Garman is my maiden name.
“What’s your name?” I am suddenly interested. The dangerous stranger is not really a stranger, maybe.
“Steve. Steve Lehr.” I totally remember Steve Lehr. He was the drummer in Bo’s band. All the girls had a crush on him. He is not this guy, this guy who’s been tweaked out, who is spending his morning driving some loser, recovering meth addict, bad mother around.
“Wow, I wouldn’t have recognized you,” I say.
“Yeah. I know. That’s what the drugs did to me.” He says it with such regret that I feel like a judgmental jerk. Allison Trainor has no compassion, no mercy.
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that,” I backtrack. “I mean, it’s been awhile.”
“Well, you look just the same. Man, you’ve done real well for yourself,” he says. “You’ve got a great place here.” I imagine him casing my house — my house that suddenly feels too big, too fancy. My house that has too many French doors, too many windows, too many unprotected points of entry.
Ellory runs off somewhere. “Where’s she going, Mommy?” Nellie asks.
“Thanks,” I say to Steve. “You still in touch with Bo?”
“Just talked to him last week about getting the band back together. He’s too busy with film school, though. He’s already got some movie deal lined up.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Are you talking about that loser you used to be in a band with?” Britney asks. “That guy’s such a prick,” Britney says to me. “He’s got a kid he doesn’t even talk to. Can you imagine?”
Allison Trainor is shocked, unable to reconcile the images she’s seen of Bo Larsen with the idea that he’s a father.
Ellory returns, dressed as a princess. She’s showing off for Britney’s little girl.
“Hell, it’s not Bo’s fault,” Steve says. “The mom moved to a different state and all.”
“Whatever,” Britney says. She’s clearly got opinions about what makes a good parent. Allison Trainor still cannot imagine certain people being a father.
I used to imagine it all the time when Bo and I were dating. We’d tour with his band in our family bus. Our kids would have cool names, like Starshine and Stryder, that he’d write into song lyrics. They’d be amazingly beautiful, like Bo, but we’d shield them from the media, keep them out of People magazine and stuff.
Allison Trainor remembers that Bo was not always beautiful.
Bo Larsen had given her a spool of blank CDs for her birthday. Bo Larsen had been too lazy to burn a song to even one, offering to let her borrow his laptop to copy the music they both loved. Bo Larsen had way too many explanations for his flirting with the groupie girls who came to his gigs. Bo Larsen chewed his nails and spit the pieces on her couch like it was no big deal.
“Your daughter is so cute,” Britney says.
“Yeah, she is,” Steve says. “Listen, Allison. I mean, Hilary. We gotta get going. We should hit some more houses before our meeting,” he says to Britney.
“Thanks for ordering,” Britney says pulling out a brochure for me from her bag. “The treatment center relies on help from people like you. Here is a description of our program and if you would like to make a donation at any time, it is tax deductible. She whips out a pen and starts scrawling on the brochure, “Here’s my number in case you ever want to get the girls together for a play date.” Allison Trainor doesn’t think so. But, I take the number just to be polite.
“Good seeing ya,” Steve says. I shut the door. Allison is rid of uninvited guests. Allison is having a mind trip kind of a day.
“Mommy, when can I have a play date with her?” Ellory asks.
“I don’t know, sweetie. We’ll have to see.”
“What about today?”
“We’re going to the zoo today.”
“But, I don’t want to go to the zoo. I wanna play date.”
“Throw a temper tantrum, and I’m going to go nuts, you hear me,” I say. My voice is too angry. She’s interrupting the mixed up thoughts in my head, the realities I’m trying to sort out.
“I don’t like you anymore. You’re so mean!” Ellory says. She storms off. Where does she learn this stuff? I need to talk to the director of her preschool. I need to do the laundry.
The baby starts to cry. He has woken up early. I go to his room and pick him up, snuggle him against my shoulder and carry him to the couch to nurse. Ellory comes back in to the room and sits next to me. I offer the baby my right breast. He latches on.
“Is he drinking chocolate or vanilla?” Ellory asks. I jokingly told her once that one side was chocolate milk. She believed me.
“Chocolate,” I say, smiling. Allison Trainor has calmed down.
Ellory grabs our special book from the nursing basket. It is a journal I have been writing in since she was a baby, a book about her, a book we only read when I’m nursing her brother. It keeps her quiet.
I open the book randomly and read from the entry dated October 20th, almost two years earlier. Ellory was about 18 months old. I read: Today I took you to the zoo. We went straight to your favorite part, the petting zoo. You touched a sheep’s ear and squealed with delight. Then, I bought you a little cup of food to feed the animals and they swarmed around you. You weren’t afraid at all.
You say a lot of words now and have started putting two words together. Lately, your favorite word is me. You add “me” to a word, so that’s it’s a request. Kiss. Me. Chip. Me. Slide. Me.
Ellory laughs. Then, Michael lifts his head from my breast and smiles, the milk spilling down his chin.
“Hey, that’s vanilla!” Ellory says.
“Kiss. Me,” I say to her.
She pecks my cheek. Michael latches back on. “Book. More. Me,” Ellory says.
Allison Trainor says, “Me thinks I have a good life.” Allison Trainor needs to quit thinking of herself in the third person. Right now. Me think. Right now.