(if you are easily offended by language, this blog might not be for you!)
This kitchen was originally built in 1956, and then renovated in the mid-80’s. The walls are bead board, the real deal, painted white, with imperfections galore. Only two or three people can happily be in here at once. The small stove/oven and fridge are new. The stained, white farmhouse sink is not and is worn. The cabinetry is basic and utilitarian.
Pots hang from a rack like Spanish moss. The laminate floor is torn up under the sink. There is a spot that feels soft in the floor by the window; don’t step there. It feels like you could almost fall through, depending on how much weight you put on it. It makes you wonder why it’s soft, and it sounds like leaves crunching under there. It makes you feel insecure. It makes you think about the cemetery behind the house and wonder how far back it starts, and if anyone really knows where it begins and where it ends.
Lori looks at a small cross made of glue-gunned shells, propped on one window. A silver cross hangs by a ribbon on the other. She likes them; they feel optimistic. There is voodoo here on the island, and the lighthouse keeper told her he wears his cross necklaces to ward off evil. But he also sells jewelry, so he is most likely trying to make a sale. It almost worked; he kind of creeped her out, and she thinks of the missed opportunity to buy his jeweled protection.
There are open wires above the fridge, going into the breaker box. A folk art piece hangs by the breaker box, reading “Drunk as a Skunk” with beer bottle caps framing it. There are old White House vinegar jugs lined up like the Von Trapp children on top of the cabinets. An old Coca-Cola cooler covers the soft spot in the floor; she wishes she hadn’t moved it earlier.
She expects to notice lingering crab odors from last night’s dinner, but doesn’t. It smells musty, like Grandma’s old kitchen; clean but well-used from cooking over 60,225 meals over 55 years. Her sister Ginny would love this house and kitchen.
The dirty dishes sit in the sink, forgotten after the bottle of wine sang her sweet lullaby. One of those old chair/stools sits by the stove. It’s actually another art piece, painted with the words “This was my Grandmother’s kitchen stool”; it probably was, given the chipped paint and rusty spots. It holds the coffee pot since there is not enough counter space…odd that the coffee pot’s usual importance is so diminished there in the corner. Her assistant-ordered, gourmet coffee used to have a front row seat, but here, on the island, it can sit in the corner and just be a face in the crowd.
Her sweet golden retriever/boxer mix, Sam, snores in the adjoining room. Lori stares at the phone, willing herself to make the obligatory Sunday phone call/check in with Mom. She is glad she did her yoga today. She takes a deep breath and picks up the phone.
“Hello, my love. How are you, darling? When are you coming home? It’s been a long six months. I’m worried about you, Lori.”
“Mom, I’m fine. I’m not ready to leave yet.”
“But I miss you. Look, it’s not like you’re the first politician to slip up. You didn’t even have children. It could’ve been worse. You were under too much pressure, a woman in a man’s world. It happens all the time, and I know you’ve prayed for forgiveness with Pastor Johnson,” Mom rationalizes.
And the two of you would be so deflated to know how little my decision to screw my intern had to do with either of you, Lori thought.
“Mom, I’m fine. I’m feeling good. I’ve planted a garden. I’m doing therapy by Skype. George and I have emailed a couple of times, but he’s still furious with me. But I’ve been going to an African church here on the island, and the minister has been a good friend to me.”
“Darling, that’s wonderful. Did you say African? Well, that’s better than nothing. Yes, get your hands in the dirt; keep busy; pray, pray, pray. God forgives us all, even the worst of sinners. I miss you so much, when are you coming home?”
“Soon, Mom. As soon as possible. The newspapers are still bugging me. And you, probably too. They can’t get enough of it.”
“Listen, as soon as some other celebrity has a breakdown or gets married, then you’ll be out of the news. But dear, you’ve always been so smart: valedictorian, law school, a state senator for goodness sake. I just don’t understand, why did you have to video the, um, affair?”
As if she had done that for public viewing. Her fucking intern, she thought. Although that could have been his official job title. She took a swig of beer. The young, hot intern had video footage of their affair and when she ended it, he ended her career. Everyone saw everything on the internet, including the sexy Betsy Ross costume she had worn once for fun, which he had kept and shown to audiences on his press tour. There were late night jokes, SNL skits; so much fun at her expense. The intern had since found a job designing women’s handbags and was in talks to be the new cast member on Jersey Shore. She had retreated to a remote island somewhere near Savannah, and was awaiting divorce papers.
“Mom, I didn’t.”
“I just don’t understand why you weren’t more, um, selective. Why couldn’t it have been a nice boy, somebody like Maggie’s John?”
“Oh please, Mom, John’s a total douche-bag. I don’t know. How should I explain a delicious asshole who betrayed me and ruined my life? I’m still figuring that out myself.”
“Lorena Joy, watch your language. Darling, I’m here for you. We love you and we’re glad you’re okay. Keep going to church and planting pretty flowers. You’ll be fine. Please visit soon. We miss you.”
“Goodbye, Mom.” Lori slammed the phone into the cradle and popped open another beer. She went to put on her shoes to head down to the beach to try to forget about all of them.