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Went to dinner with my parents, my brother, and his family last night

It was nice to reconnect. The kids are snarky teenagers now, and have incredible senses of humor. They’re confident and happy. My mom was awful to both of them, but they couldn’t be bothered to care.

What gets to me the most is the false sincerity. Sometimes she will look at her grandchildren with such love and affection that she almost seems normal. Yesterday she was looking at my niece and smiling, saying something about when she was a little girl. Then, out of nowhere, she was angry. “I AM TALKING TO YOU. LOOK AT ME.” She hadn’t addressed Sami, and she had actually been talking to Jim and I about what Sami was like when she was little, but apparently Sami had missed some sort of cue to look at her grandmother with sheepish adoration.

She looked up at her. My mom kept smiling her false smile. Sami said, “Is there more?” My mom said no, and Sami turned her attention back to her dinner.

More than anything, I’m sad for her. She has an awesome family. Three kids, four grandkids, all bright and funny and a joy to spend time with (it’s taken me 40 years to feel comfortable saying things like that about myself), but she’s unable to recognize it and enjoy our company. She’s so wrapped up inside her mind with her own warped story that she’s missed all the good stuff. And she’s hurt us so much that it might be too late to change it. I try not to think about how that must feel, because it hurts. I’m not sure if she’s even aware. I hope not.

I had a dream about it last night.

“Come here. I want to show you something.”

I was a sophomore. I was after school late for rehearsal. I had a tiny part in the school play. It was actually written in by the director to provide some exposition and comic relief. I had to wait an hour or two before it was time for me to do anything.

I became friends with the boy who played the piano for the production. He lived near the school so he was always around whether they needed him or not. That night we were in the back of the theater watching the rehearsal when he said that.

“Where are we going?”

“Come on.”

We left the school and walked around the side of the building, and then down the steps to the track below. We walked to the middle of the track and sat down on a concrete platform.

“Nice and quiet, isn’t it? Look at the stars.”

I did as I was told.

After a few minutes he said, “It’s cold.” and put his arm around me.

“We should go back inside.”

“In a little bit.” His arm moved lower and his hand was under my shirt, on my bare back. “You’re so warm.”


His hand moved up my back and settled on the clasp of my bra.

“Stop it.”

“I’ll stop it when you stop smiling.”

I went cold. I shut down.

He unclasped my bra and put his other hand up the front of my shirt. He let out a sigh.

This won’t take long, I thought. We can’t stay here forever. Just wait. It will be over soon. I went over my lines in my head.

I heard a voices from the top of the hill. “Bridget? Are you out here?” it was a few people from the drama club. They must have noticed I wasn’t there for the rehearsal. His hands retreated and found their way to his jacket pockets.

“I’m here.” I called. My voice was flat. Thin.

One of the girls in the group ran down the stairs. “Are you okay? We were so worried! Are you alright? Sweetie?” She sat down next to me. “What’s wrong?” When I didn’t respond, she said, “Here, let’s get inside.” and helped me up.

As we were walking to the stairs she whispered in my ear. “Did he hurt you? Did he touch you?”

I was instantly ashamed. How did she know? I was opening my mouth to say “No.” But why? Why would I say no?

I couldn’t speak. I started crying. I knew I had to stop, but the more I tried to stop the worse it got.

She walked me back into the school. Behind us I heard scuffling and “What the hell, man?” between the piano boy and one of the boys from the search party.

I didn’t cry because of what happened. I don’t even know if I ever really processed what happened. I cried because of her kindness and concern. The way she looked at me. The tone of her voice. Her hand on my shoulder. It ripped my heart out. We weren’t even friends. And I don’t even remember her name.

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