“It’s Lin!” my mum yells.
She is standing at the doorway to the living room with the phone in her hand, looking slightly annoyed at having had to get up from the sofa.
I had my headphones on, the door to my room closed. But not anymore.
“I’ll be there!” I holler back, throw away the headphones, walk man, magazine – and fly out of bed.
Slam the door open and cross the living room in one or two steps. I’ve practiced that run a lot. Easy when there are no other rooms to practice in. Easy even with all the VHS-cassettes on the faded carpet I have to sidestep to get over there.
My mum looks impressed in an overbearing kind of way but she doesn’t comment for once and just hands me the phone.
“I’ll be watching the rest now,” she remarks as she returns to the couch and cranks up the volume on the TV again. Not loud enough so I can’t hear myself in the kitchen, but … loud enough.
I close the door, make sure the cord is stretched to be furthest away from her, and then I pull out a kitchen chair.
“Lin – is that you?”
“Sure, dummy – who else would it be at Christmas time?” she deadpans.
I lean back as best I can on the hard wooden chair.
“I’m just glad you called,” I say.
“You thought I wouldn’t call?”
“No, I mean … ”
“Hey, we had a good time last time, didn’t we?”
“Yes. Yes, we did.” I say it and I mean it, even as I push away some of the more awkward memories, like Lin suddenly breaking off Michael Jackson on the ghetto blaster to announce that she wants to buy me my own place to live.
I struggle to find out what to say next. I thought it would be so easy. I missed Lin so much, and yet –
“Awfully silent, you are – “ Lin says in her best imitation of a certain little green movie creature that by now she already knows we both love.
” … I’m silent because it’s Christmas,” I reply, try to make it sound like a joke.
“For four whole days?” she asks incredulously.
“We’ve been, you know, Christmas shopping and all … ”
Why didn’t I call? I wanted so badly to call but –
“Look, Carrie – I’d like to see you again, get out of this crazy place.”
She means that big house. All being packed and packaged now, I suppose. Set up for sale.
“I’d like that, too,” I say.
Why didn’t I call Lin? Her father’s funeral, I think. But I could have … called?
“We’ve got a lot in common, Carrie,” Lin continues with that determination I have gotten to know well already. “And this place is pretty nutso with my mother back from the Keys running around like one big excuse for herself … not much Christmas here.”
“Yeah, I guess she would.”
“She’s a bitch,” Lin says with absolute surety and I flinch. I don’t like my mum a lot of times, but to call one’s mum that …
Lin senses my uncertainty. She quickly ads: “Julia means well … “
Like me she also calls her mother by her first name sometimes. But I only do it to myself when I don’t feel like being related. Lin does it – well, she has done it quite a few times in the few times we’ve been together. Let’s just say that.
“My mother is okay,” Lin continues flatly. “She panicked. Left me with ol’ Mick and the housekeeper. Thought she couldn’t handle it all, you know.”
“That your father … ?”
“I’m so sorry, Lin. God, I’m so sorry. I never really said – ”
“Yeah, it sucks. All of it.”
“I should come out to you. I should have called, but – ”
“Forget about it.”
” … How’s the house?”
“Not much party there now.”
“Did, eh, your mum say anything to, you know, the living room?”
“No, she doesn’t talk to rooms. She is not that crazy,” Lin deadpans again. But there is a tinkle of something in her voice. Something that makes me smile again.
“Silly girl!” I shoot right back. “I was wondering if she had killed you because you smashed the living room and a couple of other rooms as well.”
“I think she didn’t like it, but I also think it made her see that flying off to the Keys with Gerard wasn’t so smart.”
“Oh, you said she had gone down there with, er someone, but nae that they … that he … ” I start and quickly stumble over my own words.
“Look, it doesn’t matter,” Lin interrupts. “I think they’ve been going at it for some time … “
“Lin, I – I never had anyone in my family do stuff like that.”
“You’re lucky … “
There is a long silence now, longer than I’d like.
Grey snow falls outside the kitchen window. It’s a white, white Christmas all right, but not here.
“Do I freak you out, Carrie? I have to know,” she says but her voice is very thin now. Nothing determined, not at all.
” … A bit.”
“Me or my family?”
“It’s nae like that. It’s… ”
“It’s okay, you can say it.”
“You are hard on them – like you do nae care.”
“Sometimes I don’t.”
She never cried over her father while she talked about him. Not once.
“I’m just saying – I thought I was hard on my mother – or my father. But you are harder, much harder.”
“My father left me all that money, specifically for me. My mum takes care of it until I’m 18 but still … ” her voice momentarily fades ” … I guess that’s kind of nice of him.”
“Maybe … we should spend some of that money then?”
“Ha, are you looking for a loan, lassie?”
“No, lame-o,” I give her back, laughing.
She already knows how I feel about Scotland but it was kindly meant. So I laugh so she knows she is a kind “lame-o”.
“I was wondering … ” I continue, searching a bit, ” – if you want to get out … Have you seen that movie yet – 12 Monkeys -?”
“No! But I really want to. It sounds awesome! But I haven’t … you know … “
“Why don’t we go see it then?”
“No, I mean – after Christmas. Maybe on the 26th?”
“I’d like to see you today, Carrie. And I think maybe we should just stay at home. You can dive into my comics. There’s a lot of soda left from the party.”
“You don’t feel good about coming out here because of my father and all?”
“No, it’s … ”
“My mum won’t be around the house that much. Or Gerard.”
“It’s good,” she continues, “because if there ever was a dick it’s Gerard. I can’t understand why my mother wants his dick.”
“Jeesh,” I try but in reality I feel like vomiting. “Lin, you’re mum’s sad and … ”
Oh, shit. That came out bad.
“What, and you don’t think I am?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
I breathe deeply, then:
“It’s just … yeah, what you said. It’s just far out, with Gerard and all. But I get it. I get why you think he is a dick. He sounds like a dick!”
She chuckles but without warmth: “My mum adores him.”
“But she’s, well – och, Lin, I really, really wish this had never happened to your dad. Fuck, it’s just so … fucked up.”
Softness finds a way into her voice: ” … I’d like you to meet my mother and, you know, see the house when it doesn’t look like the Cuckoo’s Nest. And Gerard, well, he has the kids this Christmas, so he will be leaving for Chicago in a few hours.”
“And … ”
“I’d like you to come out. Please.”
“Lin, it’s, like, you know, Christmas.”
“Well, what are you doing for Christmas – you and your mum?”
“Well, me and my mum have – ” I start but then a siren blares from the TV in the living room.
“What the hell was that?” Lin blurts. “Are the cops coming for you?”
“Muum – turn down the volume!” I open the door and yell into the living room.
“Oh, okay … “ Lin says.
“Sorry, about that.”
” … I’d really like you to come.”
“But you are moving.”
“Not the night before Christmas.”
“You, uh, know where you are going yet?”
“Afraid we’ll be neighbors?”
“No, dummy, you would nae want to live here!”
“Well, I’ll buy a condo for sure, somewhere Downtown. Then in two years’ time I can always sell it and be even richer. Then move, if I have to go to college somewhere else.”
“Yeah, who’d want to stay in jolly ol’ Cleveland!” I chirp.
But there is no answer. Again.
Then she says:
“Carrie, I could come to your place if you’d rather I do that …”
I breathe deeply, wonder what to tell my mum. Then I listen to the TV and I figure that I don’t need to tell her anything. I’ll be back in time for Christmas take-away anyway.
Maybe late take-away.
“No, Lin, I’m coming to you. I want to.”
“Then it’s going to be a merry white Christmas after all,” she says in a way so I can almost see her smile.
“But the snow is really yucky here in the city,” I reply, feeling a smile of my own take over. I let it.
“A merry yucky Christmas then!” she drones on.
“Right. I’ll see you in about an hour!”
“Wait. I can’t send Mick for you,” she says. “He’s off for Christmas.”
“No worries. I’ll take the bus. I do nae want it to be a habit riding in a Mercedes!”
“Afraid you’ll get addicted to it?”
“I know,” she says and I can hear the light in her voice now. “Take care. See you soon.”
Then she hangs up.
I sit and stare at the grey snowflakes for awhile. And I wonder … are we going about this the right way?
Perhaps I’m just too desperate, coming over here a few months ago and all. Dad and mum’s divorce. All the jerks in class.
But it’s Christmas. You can’t just sit and wait for gifts to come.
Down by the riverside
It’s bound to be a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned
Carry a cup in your hand
Last edited: 24 August 2019