By Jane Meredith Adams
was the era of the exploding Ford Pinto and it made sense to me
that one minute you were driving a cute little Pinto and the next
you were sitting in a death trap. The person Nancy replaced me with
wasn't a girl, which was lucky because I would have had to kill
her, slowly. My replacement was a grown man named Mr. Ramsey, our
high school math teacher and the coach of the girls' basketball
team. I hadn't paid attention to a bald, thirty-four-year-old man
driving a large green Pontiac and wearing black nerd glasses. He
was so old it never occurred to me that he was a living person who
might be looking for a date after basketball practice.
went to his house," Nancy said as she drove me home one day.
I was the only one who knew, a privilege. I scooched my feet up
on the dashboard.
house?" I asked. "Why would you go to his house?"
made dinner for me," she said.
her father know about this? At least I was age appropriate.
wants me to give him a full-body massage," Nancy said. I left
my body entirely.
weekends brought the three of us together again. On Saturdays, Mr.
Ramsey and Nancy walked the leafy paths that criss-crossed the campus,
looking like a cordial father and adorable daughter, while I watched
them from my dorm window like a sniper. When Nancy complained to
Mr. Ramsey that I'd called her, crying, he sent me a letter in an
envelope sealed with a sticker from the magazine Psychology Today.
Meaning what? "Friendships change," he wrote in a neat,
prissy script. "To everything there is a season."
married him. About ten years after high school, my mother spotted
the write-up in the Darien News. I felt like one of those
women who discover that her husband has three different families
around the world. This is not the person I knew. Nancy had
been subjected to Mr. Ramsey's green Pontiac and platitudes for
so long I didn't rule out Stockholm Syndrome. Eight months later,
my mother phoned with another item from the News: Mr. Ramsey
was dead from cancer. This I could understand. The guy was a thousand
years old. The wedding had been a mercy marriage, a gesture of pity.
ought to be difficult to get in touch with someone from high school
after twenty-nine years. It ought to involve a screening device
with a recording that says, Have a piece of chocolate and lie
down until the urge passes. I had a lot to ask her. Was she
a lesbian? What did her father say that made her break up with me?
Did she ever have to drive Mr. Ramsey's green Pontiac?
living in California by then and she was a doctor in Massachusetts,
but just like that, her voice was in my ear. "Wow," she
said. "How are you?" My heart leapt: she still cared.
I told her I had two kids, she said, "Wow" again, and
asked if they played field hockey. We'll always have field hockey,
I thought. Maybe we could all get together.
getting ready for work," she said. At eleven o'clock in the
morning? She clanged pots around, making lunch. In a distant part
of my brain, I noted that she hadn't asked for details about my
kids or my job or my life. I hadn't told her about my girlfriend
or the kids' dad or everything I'd been thinking and feeling about
her for twenty-nine years. "Let me get your number," she
said. "I'll call you back."
your mom?" I asked.
mom was a Darien Katherine Hepburn, all cheekbones and brisk heartiness,
carrying a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies across the grass
to the field hockey game.
can't get out of bed," Nancy said. "She can't feed herself.
I moved her up from Connecticut and she's living with me."
the sound of her voice.
paused. "That's what I'm doing," she said. The statement
didn't invite questions.
After a week, I stopped jumping when the phone rang. She was busy,
what with all the doctoring and the bed-ridden mom in the back room.
After a month, I thought, it's not her, it's me. I'm an idiot.
solving is a business of hunches. You make one guess and then another,
until you have a theory and the mystery unravels. You can't get
anywhere unless you pay attention to the clues. As it turns out,
it's possible to devote an inordinate amount of brain capacity to
ignoring the evidence. The mugger wasn't going to hurt me, my mother
wasn't capable of taking the cat -- my cat -- to the pound
without talking to me about it, my girlfriend wasn't too scared
to tell her father to bug off.
they're smarter than Inspector Clouseau, my eight-year-old twins
love to watch The Pink Panther. They see trouble coming,
the moment when the detective is about to slip off the grass and
fall into the lake. I see a detective who's as bad as I am; a fool,
stumbling, shambling, toward the truth.
version for easy reading
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