I keep thinking about my daughter’s friend, Dee. She’s funky, dyed red hair and piercings and crazy mismatched clothes: short plaid skirt over black fishnet stockings, tight tweed jacket on top and lace-up boots below. Always odd combinations, purple and red and orange together, brown and yellow, a splash of black. When she shows up in an Abercrombie sweatshirt one day, my daughter, who likes her brand names, is disappointed. “Don’t go preppy on us, Dee,” she says. “I love your outfits.”
We picked Dee up for a VM sleepover on Friday. When we arrived she had finished making dinner for her mother, her stepfather and her baby brother, and had just started in on the dishes. “Come in,” she said. “Want some stir fry?” She served it in plastic bowls, and we sat at the table while Zeke played airplane with the two-year-old’s food and Dee washed the dishes.
“Open up,” Zeke purred. “Down the hatch.” She made airplane noises and waved the spoon around extravagantly in front of the boy’s nose, and he giggled and squealed.
Dee’s mother sat at the computer, her back to us. She didn’t look up when we walked in. When I passed her to go to the bathroom, she looked sideways at me, not meeting my eye. On the way out from the bathroom, I introduced myself.
“Oh yeah,” Dee said. “Zeke’s mom, this is my mom. Mom, this is Zeke’s mom. Isn’t my mom amazing,” she added brightly. Her mother shook my hand when I held offered it, a limp, damp shake. She was a big round woman who balanced on two tiny feet, her legs short and surprisingly thin. I found out later she was pregnant.
We played with the boy some more while Dee finished up. The house was filled with Christmas ornaments on shelves and in various hutches. Oversized photographs of Dee as a child and the little boy hung on the walls.
When we left, I said goodbye to Dee’s mom. She didn’t respond. Her finger clicked on the mouse button, and the computer screen flashed.
Usually Dee can’t hang out much. She spends too much time watching the little boy. He adores her, and she him. When we left he wailed after her, and his mother ignored him.
Dee, Zeke says, sleeps around. She smokes pot and cigarettes. She speaks of herself in the third person, in a high voice. “Dee loves this,” she says, pointing at a Sobee tea when we go grocery shopping. I put it in the cart. “Oh,” she says.”Dee thanks you.”
At home, she practices her part for the Monologues. “Shout it out,” I say. “Sound mad. Sound sorry when the words get softer. Imagine you’re her.”
She doesn’t take much coaching.