Biographies & Memoirs

Chapter 31

By ten A.M., Evan and I are in our chairs, ready for the show. Eden’s rapist has yet to be found. Cruz continues to repress his rage publicly, but when no one’s around he’s crazed, sure it was her doctor.

As the credits roll, I lean back and sigh. “If they don’t sort this out before I leave—”

“I’ll have to write you with the updates. Did you book your flights?”

“Yeah, next Tuesday.” Five nights left, Evan. Tick tock.

He raises his eyebrows like he’s just taking this in for the first time, and I nod. For a split second, I think I might lean into him.

“So I was going to tell you, I found my old art portfolio from uni.”

“Can I see?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Now?” I nudge.

“I guess so. Okay. Yeah.” He stands up, so I do, too. “After you,” he says, and I head outside, past the lemon tree, across the driveway, alongside his Scirocco. I stop at the door. We’re both nervous.

“Here?” I ask, pretending I don’t know where I am.

In his room, he unzips a giant black folder and spreads out his school drawings on the mattress. A motorcycle, cylinders, city streets. More than some sort of passion or point of view, his work communicates a desire to complete the assignments to his professor’s satisfaction. Deeper in the pile are drawings of the human form. A hand, a back and neck, bent over, hair hanging over like a waterfall. No faces. Faces are hard, I bet.

“Do you have anything you did outside of class?” I ask, digging for classified information.

“A few. Not sure where.” He doesn’t want me in his private portfolio, and maybe that’s as it should be. It’s not right to drag someone’s insides out into the daylight, take a long look, and then walk on, leaving him to dart around scooping up his papers and pictures.

“Oh, actually,” he says, surprising me, “I have one drawing.” He pulls out a sketch of a bird’s nest. His pencil marks are light, the paper undented. It’s beautiful and oddly sad.

“This is really good, Evan. You should hang this in the living room.”

“John wouldn’t want my art in the house.”

“Come on.”

“I promise you.”

I try to say something nice about John, like how he gave Tracy and me a ride downtown last week, but Evan shakes his head and says John recently asked him to start contributing for groceries.

“Did you ever get along?” I ask, and he exhales, the way people do when they’re about to say the thing that’s been going unsaid.

“We used to do okay. I mean, I can’t say it was so obvious to me what Mum saw in him, but I probably wasn’t very excited about her dating anyone.”

“And then …”

“When Mum got sick, he … there were so many decisions, and I knew a lot about her situation because I read a lot about tumors and cancer treatments, and my friend’s mum is a nurse, so I knew about different options and medications, but he didn’t talk to us, me or Pop. He’d come home from the hospital, go in their room, shut the door, and come out with his decision.”

I ask why John had all the power.

“He’s the husband.”

“Right, of course. I was just thinking …” I don’t know what I was thinking, other than that Evan’s life as her son went back twice as far as John’s life as her husband, and maybe that should prequalify Evan.

Though if my mother ever has a fatal disease, my brothers and I will have no say whatsoever. For that matter, neither will my father. She will not allow us to be the ones to withhold her medication, turn off her respirator, let her die. As far as she’s concerned, those decisions are hers alone, and she’s made them, along with every detail of what happens after. At her funeral, someone talented will sing “Ave Maria,” the long version. There will be a program, but no photo. Between her birth date and the day she died, there will be an extra long dash, because Let me tell you something, Kelly, it’s what happens in the dash that matters. She will be cremated, unthinkable as the process is, and the ashes from that fire will be spread in three places: the woods near our swim club, the backyard at Wooded Lane, and the beach off Thirty-fourth Street in Avalon. She will be let go peacefully into the hands of a God who knows her full name and every hair on her head and who will deliver her to the field in heaven—the green, green grass of home—where Libby, TJ, and Slugger wait for her with her brother, Tommy.

I’m tempted to ask Evan if it’s possible that his mother made all the decisions and John was just the messenger, but I don’t know enough about cancer and what it does to a person to go that far, so I say the feeble, haggard, deeply true thing that everyone says even though it doesn’t help at all: “I’m so sorry.”

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