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True Love and After That
By Matt Price

The dinner started normally. We went to the Authentic Café, and my dad took the best seat, facing the door, which gave him a prime view for his nightly detective routine. "I wonder why that tan lady is with the bald guy? I bet he's her brother…no, they're holding hands…I bet they're married. Yeah, they're married." Roger Price, Mundane P.I. My mom, never indulging the man, grabbed my hand.

"So your father and I want to tell you something."

My heart dropped. I'm not good with bad news. Actually, I'm OK with the news. I just can't handle that transition time between "we want to tell you something" and the news. My dad takes a break from the tan lady to chime in. "You're going to tell him now?"

Mom: "Why not now?"

Dad: "I don't know. We're having dinner."

Me: "What is it? What is it?"

They ignore me.

Mom: "You want me to tell him when he's driving the car? He'll veer off the side of the road."

Me again: "What? What? What?"

My mom's face contorted with a combination of tension and mischief, as if the mom side of her wanted to shield me from the news, but the yenta side of her had to share this life-changing gossip. The yenta side won.

"Well, you know how Mama's been lonely since Papa died last fall…"

"She's OK, right? Mama's OK?"

My dad chimes in again. "Oh, she's more than OK…ooh, look, the tan lady got a salad. I wonder why the bald guy didn't get any food? He probably ate already."

I snapped. "Hey, Encyclopedia Brown! Enough! What's going on?"

Mom: "Your grandmother has been making some friends."

Well, that's good, I thought. She's been bored in her assisted living building. A few friends can't hurt, right?

My mom corrected herself. "Not just friends, um…she's been seeing people."

"Seeing people? What do you mean? Like she's seeing ghosts and stuff?"

"Um, no…Mama's been seeing other men."

I have a history of getting up and leaving the table when I hear shocking news. Apparently this started when I was four or five after my parents informed me that I had to go to kindergarten the following week. I didn't scream. I didn't cry. I just got up from the table and walked away. And now here I am, fifteen Hollywood years later, doing the same thing. I could hear my parents laughing behind me as I closed the bathroom door. I washed my face and looked in the mirror. This wasn't possible. No way. They're kidding. My folks, man. They totally got me. Very funny, folks. Very Punk'd.

Sitting back down at the table, I played their game. "So…who are these 'other men?'"

"Well, there's one man in particular. His name is Douglas. He's a retired cantor."

OK, this isn't a joke. This person is real. He has a name and a job. Douglas the Cantor. I take a deep breath. I nod. A lot. I nod when I'm nervous. I'm basically a prematurely balding bobblehead doll when my Mom says, "Besides, technically, Mama and Douglas weren't really seeing each other. He just came over a few nights a week. They'd have sex, and he'd go home."

And with that, I'm in the bathroom again. 'They'd have sex, and he'd go home?' When did my grandmother become Rizzo? And with a cantor? I thought a cantor had morals. Does he moan the Sh'ma when they're together? Did I really just think that thought about my grandmother? And you begin to see my living nightmare.

Sidebar: My parents and I don't discuss sex. We never have. It's just understood that people do it, and sometimes babies are born. End of story. My dad never really felt the need to have the fatherly sit-down with me, and while my mom is very hip, she's a puppeteer. She makes a living going school to school with her little, red honking sidekick, Mrs. Goose. The sex conversation with her would probably have done more emotional harm than good.

Mom: "So don't you think Matty should always wear a condom, Mrs. Goose?"
Mrs. Goose: (honk, honk)
Mom: "I agree."

And now we're finally having a fairly explicit sexual conversation, and the main topic is my tiny, once pure grandmother. My mom assures me that the affair started in June, and it's all over now.

"It's the end of October! You've known since June?"

"I wanted to tell you face to face."

"I've seen you twice since then."

"Well, it never came up."

"No, last time I was home, I could've sworn I asked you if Mama had hooked up with anybody lately."

"I don't think it ever came up."

Came up. Came. Now everything is sexual, and it's relating to my grandmother. I was pissed. She was married to my grandpa for 62 years. They were a unit, inseparable, like two antique salt and pepper shakers that only make sense if the other one is close by. Their marriage had defined true love to me. And I am a sucker for true love. I cry at any movie, TV show, book, or poem where true love is mentioned. And when I say any movie, I mean that I teared up when Denise Richards' character dumped Casper Van Dien's character to go be a space pilot in Starship Troopers.

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