― It’s my pleasure, Mother.
― Where are we going?
― To a restaurant.
― Are you still writing?
― Yes, I am.
― When will you finish?
― I am not planning on it.
― Why not?
― Some day this year I will have a book. I am hoping to go on writing afterwards.
― Will your book get published?
― I am making the arrangements for that.
― Will you get married?
― I am not making any arrangements for that.
― Why not?
― I am afraid of following the example of my parents.
― Did Father and I have a bad marriage?
― You both seemed to enjoy it.
― Did I ever cheat on him?
― It’s not for me to know.
― Did he ever cheat on me?
― It’s not for me to say.
― Why don’t you want to have a marriage like ours?
― Because I had enough of abortions in my life.
― How many were there?
― Two. One with Elise, because I wasn’t ready to be a father. Another with Rachel, because she didn’t want me as the father of her child. It was wrong each time.
― Where are they now?
― Elise left the country, got married to a Costa Rican revolutionary twice her age, had a daughter, got divorced, came back, got remarried to a submissive professor from Santa Barbara. I think she found her level. Rachel ran away. I hear that she is back in China.
― Is she coming back to you?
― I don’t think that’s a good idea.
― Why does she hate me?
― I don’t think she hates you. She is uncomfortable with the way you try to tie me to your apron strings.
― I do no such thing.
― Opinions differ. You always complain when you can’t get your way. Between you and me, that has been the case for thirty-three years.
― You used to tell me everything when you were little. Now you don’t talk to me any more.
― I am talking to you now, Mother. You just don’t like what I have to say. I’m no longer a child. I haven’t been a child for thirty-three years. You can’t have me all to yourself all summer long while Father is having his fun in the city.
― You were very sick. You had to go to the country.
― No. You had to go to the country because your marriage wasn’t working.
― It was your grandmother’s fault.
― Maybe so. But you no longer shared a room with her. And it was your choice to move in with her in the first place.
― We had to do it. We had to go back to Odessa. Father had to take care of his brother and his mother.
― No. Father had to take care of his family first.
― Eva and Joseph needed his help.
― They would’ve done fine on their own. All Eva ever wanted was to read all day. All Joseph ever wanted was to drink vodka, play dominoes, and screw his nurses. They both got their wishes in Father’s care. It happened at your expense. How many abortions did you have?
― I don’t remember. Four or five?
― Because father didn’t want any more children?
― Because we couldn’t take care of more children. No one in our situation could do that.
― I don’t think so. Your cousin Alex had three children. They turned out just fine.
― He wasn’t planning on it. They had twins the second time.
― So what? They didn’t get them aborted.
― Father insisted on it.
― You could have said no. You were the one getting pregnant.
― That’s why you don’t want to get married?
― I am holding out for a different kind of marriage.
― We had a good marriage. Father never complained. We never had any fights.
― I remember it differently. Whenever Father saw you after work, you went through forty-five minutes of grumbling followed by twelve hours of silence. But whenever I asked him about that, he came to your defense.
― I was a good wife to him.
― So he said. He said that you were a real friend to him.
― His girlfriend said the same thing.
― So you knew about that.
― I read it in her letter. She praised me and complained about him.
― I think I read the same letter when I was fourteen years old. It’s the sort of thing women tell men when they want to get their attention.
― Is that what they tell you?
― I don’t have a wife for them to identify with.
― What do they say?
― They say that I am adorable but unmarriageable. They like me in small quantities. I share that much with my late uncle Joseph.
― I wish you would get married anyway.
― I’ll think about it. Maybe after I finish my writing. Good night, Mother.
― Good night.