“Who in their right mind uses a credit card to buy thousands of toy cars? It ruined our trip to England.” Laura turned to April, waiting for her to ask questions to keep the story going.
April could barely hear her neighbor venting over frenzied parents lining the soccer field. Heat and boredom pushed her deeper into her camp chair. She took a long drink of her sweet tea and wished they didn’t have to drive the kids home from the game so she could have spiked it. Spike—wasn’t that something you did in sports? Yes, but not soccer.
April tried to remember what sport it was and absorb the important, such as they were, details of her friend’s story. Her friend continued when April did not respond, taking her silence as encouragement to continue. She missed what exactly had transpired at Laura’s awful breakfast in the B&B and how that should have been an omen. Apparently, scones were to blame for what was to come next, or was it the tea? Her mind kept running the wrong way like that poor Bloom kid on the field.
“April! Are you hearing this? They bought over two thousand dollars-worth of toy cars. In my name! As me. Not my number, but as another Laura Roberts they created, who is not me, but the credit card company is saying is me, and that Laura Roberts is the proud owner of more toy cars than I can imagine. What in the world would anyone need that many toy cars for?”
“Maybe they do art installations. That’s actually a pretty interesting double life. You could be an installation artist, Laura.”
Laura lowered her sunglasses and peered at her friend. “Are you okay?”
April was not following their usual script. She was tired of their usual script:
Pretend there was no before children.
Provide topical anecdotes. Topics including: children, children’s sports, children’s schooling. (These things were important to her, but did not seem to warrant the depth of attention they received.)
“What in God’s name are you talking about? Why would I want to be one of those installation people? I don’t want to spend my days attaching garbage disposals or drywall or whatever. I couldn’t anyway. I don’t speak Spanish.”
Laura was serious. April could not control her face. She turned away. She hated herself for saying nothing.
The endless game and relentless sun sent April into a vague fugue state, wondering what she would build out of toy cars if left in a lovely blank room just to make a comment on society. She missed art school. She missed cool, quiet galleries. She checked her watch. It seemed to take such a very great effort for one team to lose so they could be done. The mass of five-year-olds on the field could barely kick straight. Hers especially. Bless him. His skill set was more expert arguer with occasional moments of such charm that she didn’t “go to the grocery store” alone and never come back.
“Thousands of cars.” Laura barreled on, oblivious or uninterested in the bump in the conversation she had caused. April wondered if Laura had secret thoughts like hers. She wished she could be as good at the occupation of mother. But she wasn’t. She was bored. Not all the time. But enough. Someone kicked the ball into the bushes on the other side of the field and a time-out was called.
April closed her eyes and lined up cars in her mind. Game back on, she reached in her bottomless Vera Bradley bag of sugar-filled boxes printed with fruits on them but not in them, bags of pretzels, and the ghosts of other snacks that lived down in every crevice. She found her tiny notebook, shook it upside down and managed to avoid coating her sunscreen-sticky legs in crumbs like pieces of chicken ready to be fried. She drew intersecting lines on the page. Her last gallery space was 20 x 30 feet. She decided the tiny cars were three inches each. Turning the page, she made calculations. Whoever the other Laura Roberts was, they were ordering enough cars for April’s vision. The real Laura Roberts was still talking.
“Are you really drawing this game? You know they don’t really have a strategy right now.”
April chose a nod with an affirming smile from acceptable responses. Mollified, Laura clapped when the referee blew the final whistle.
“Thank goodness.” Laura was packed up when the kids got to them. “We have piano at one.” April had an appointment with her shower. One activity per day. Her son could blame his lack of musicality on her later. When she had more energy. When he was grown. When she slept through the night again without soothing nightmares and changing sheets.
Heading to their SUVs, April walked a long way to her usual spot. Late arrivals parked almost a soccer field of gas-guzzlers away from the field.
Laura waved and slipped into her shining white vehicle, leading the armada of almost identical vehicles out of the parking lot. April loaded up her SUV and pulled into the column waiting to exit the massive parking lot, one continuous procession.
As she drove back to her house she noticed a woman standing in a window. Two streets later, she saw a woman standing in a different window, different address, same model. Arriving home, she went straight to her closet, pulled out her camera. She grabbed her son’s bike, told him to come on. Tired, he tried complaining. She heard nothing. They set off, her heart pounding, knowing the women would not still be there, but there might be others.