"I have something I want you to see."
This is her explanation
for the stack of books she has carried into her den. She sets one of them in between us on the couch and opens it up. Here is an old photo album
of hers-circa 1980s
- Therese, the high school years.
The hairdos, the clothes and the rampant awkwardness of the teen adventure. She turns the pages slowly, blushing between smiles. Sometimes she covers her mouth and muffles a gasp. "These are days," she says, "that was our song at prom."
Days you hate and treasure, I offer. She nods, without looking up.
"Well, I am showing you this," she says, skipping over the snapshots of friends she no longer talks to, "because you need to see how I was- what kind of life I used to have."
And? I offer, tilting my head and leaving the question hanging in the air between us like a flock of soap bubbles.
"Well......and you know that my life is not that way anymore of course and I wanted you to see that I haven't found a way to reconcile it yet."
Reconcile the potential with the present? I squint, to show it was a question from me, and not a proclaimation.
"Maybe..." she stared, "I don't know...it is just a complicated thing to remember where I was going and where I ended up. "
So you have up ended up here? What is here?
"Here is this," deep breath before her monologue:
"Stuck living at home at age 34. Unmarried and childless. A poor minimum wage job and no prospects. A used Nova parked out front with a Handicapped tag attached to the rear view mirror. A cane and stupid leg brace from a boat accident.
And where you thought you would end up is?
"A college degree, teaching job, marriage
"A house of my own with ceiling fans and a gas grill out back."
And five photo albums as proof-- I add.
"Yeah, I guess, photo albums as proof"
Well, what if this is a different book altogether- what if this is chapter two and there's more to come? What if?
"I don't know," she whispers, closing the books and throwing the stack of them on the floor. "I just don't know much of anything anymore."
She pulls herself up onto my lap in the way small children do when they are sick and need reassurance.
"Tell me it will be better soon. Tell me?"
I say this:
It will be much better soon- much better. But you won't ever forget those days.
So now all I have to do is figure this out. How do I reassure someone whose closets are filled with shoeboxes of disappointment?