Chapter 11: Present 3

11Present #3

By the time my hot dog arrived, no seats remained in the diner. Another little girl and her father had squeezed into the empty counter seats beside me. The girl had green ribbons in her hair and ragged, new front teeth. She breathlessly prattled on, her father beside her, about recess at school, an upcoming choral concert in which she would have a solo, the small triumphs of childhood. I wished a solo in a choral concert could spark an excitement equal to the girl’s. . Wonder had crawled up into an old kitchen cabinet and had never emerged. When I saw a magic trick, I no longer sat in awe; when I heard spoken French, I no longer marveled.

I’d been up to Montreal the last weekend. My boyfriend, Luke, had a business trip and asked if I’d come along. He thought it might be a nice romantic getaway, which it was, though punctuated by conferences, business dinners, and networking in the lobby of the hotel. There was a big deal, ready to be closed—a couple other men from the firm had come along, bringing their wives. At a lunch for spouses, the women asked about our wedding date. I informed them there was none. For much of the conversation that afternoon, I was left out, having no stories of children to share, no traumatic discoveries of marital infidelity. I was glad when Luke rescued me—the men’s lunch, which had not turned into a therapy session, had ended well before mine.

In the evenings, we wove through the streets of the city and on every corner, I seemed to catch a glimpse of someone with straight blonde hair, curly brown hair, disappearing. It was like I expected to run into the Enson-Mortons. I didn’t know if I would recognize them anymore, even if I did meet them. Luke asked several times why I was so jittery. I didn’t tell him about the Enson-Mortons. He only knew romaine as the girl in the framed photo by my bed. Taken one day on the lawn of my house as we danced around the yard, the photo of Romaine and me rested next to the one of me with Megan, my high school best friend.

Megan and I had often come to this diner at night, just after concerts because it closed at 2:30 am, just after the last train arrived from the city. Every other place in town shut its doors at nine, sometimes ten for restaurants.

The diner had become so noisy, I could hardly hear the radio. Finally, I could make out the strain of a couple chords I never would have recognized had they not been so familiar. It was a song by Beulah, released almost eight years ago. The first time I had heard it was at their last concert in New York, just after the record had been released.

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