The unspoken frustrations of one summer night.
|The Duties of A Good Daughter
I glare out the car window as Mrs. Michaels pulls the car up to our driveway. The headphones blast loud music into my brain, making the ringing in my ears a little louder. It takes all of my strength to sit silently, jaw clenched, knuckles white, muscles tightened. As we pull into the garage I jump out eagerly.
“Good night, honey,” Mrs. Michaels says cheerfully.
“Good night,” I say with false pleasantness.
I hate you.
Not really. I didn’t truly hate Mrs. Michaels. She was a kind woman, and very polite to have invited my family to her party. I only hated her in the way a bum hates charity: you don’t hate the help, you hate the fact that you need it.
I don’t look at my mother in the passenger seat of the car. I walk in step behind my little sister, the one who didn’t talk to anyone at the party, the one who I usually senselessly bicker with on any given day. Tonight we understand each other because neither of us can bear to look at the third woman in the family. We don’t want to see the sickeningly familiar watery eyes, drooping cheeks and confused brow.
As we rush into the house and up the stairs I ask my sister, “Do you mind if I use the shower first?”
She shakes her head.
“I don’t need it tonight.”
Of course not. You didn’t dance. Or talk. Or smile. Or anything else.
“I showered before we left.”
“I don’t want her to come into my room. I have nothing to say to her,” I mutter as I reach my bedroom.
This is a lie. I have a few choice words that I would like to say to her, but won’t since I’m the ‘good daughter’. I shove my door closed, take off my clothes and jump in the shower. The warm water washes the smell of cigarettes from my hair and skin, but my anger still seethes.
As I consider ways to punish my mother the next morning (slam doors perhaps?) I remember what Mrs. Michaels said before we left her house.
“She only had two glasses. It was responsible for her to ask me to drive.”
“Great,” my clenched jaw uttered sarcastically.
I turn off the water and wrap up in a towel. I open the door a crack to see if Mom is in my room. To my relief the room is empty. Thank God. I was afraid she would come in and want to talk to me, have a little ‘heart-to-heart’, or worse yet want to sleep in my bed. The very thought of that slow, slurring voice arouses disgust in me.
I change into a set of pajamas and sigh. What will it be like in October? Stupid question, I already know the answer.
I will have a smile plastered on my face. I will laugh at every joke that my brother tells about me. I will go along with all of my new sister-in-law’s claims to wisdom about what is in style and what isn’t. I won’t tell him that his jokes hurt me because I don’t want to upset him on his special day. I won’t mention that she is thirty and her prime is over while I am sixteen and mine is just beginning. That is what the ‘good sister’ does.
Mom will be plastered just like now. She will walk unsteadily and yell loudly, all the while thinking that she is being cool. She will complain drunkenly about how anti-social Dad is. She will whine obnoxiously about how he never goes to parties with her. I won’t tell her how repulsed I am. I won’t tell her to keep her drunk ass away from me until she sleeps it off. I will hold her hand and walk her back to the hotel room. That is what the ‘good daughter’ does.
My father and sister will be just as disgusted and embarrassed about Mom’s state as I am. They won’t hide it. They will complain loudly about her as soon as she leaves the room. I will probably join in on that. But I will try to be fair. I will try to defend Mom, I will hate my sister and father and even myself for talking about her behind her back. And I will hate her for deserving every word of it. And in the morning Mom will apologize. I will forgive her and I will feel ashamed of myself. That is what the ‘good daughter’ does.
I stick my head out of my bedroom door. I desperately hope that Mrs. Michaels has left, that Mom has started to sleep it off. But no. The garage door is still open and I can hear Mom still conversing with Mrs. Michaels. Her Margaritaville accent sounds like a bad impression of Kate Winslet.
“We must do this again,” Mom says.
I shut my door in revulsion.