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Authors: Kate Klise

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In the Bag (10 page)

BOOK: In the Bag
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Subject: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
Not mad, just disappointed. Mr. Hitchcock had such high hopes for us.
(And no, I’ve never done it before, either.)



I stared at the word. Love. What a sweet boy. Okay, I
to make this work.


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
I know. I’m disappointed, too!


I studied my message before sending it. Coming from me, “Love” seemed forced. I deleted the word. But then that looked cold. So I deleted my name, too, and pressed

His response arrived seconds later.


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
Can I suggest an alternative? (Tell me now if I’m wasting my time.)


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
No! I mean, yes! Suggest away! I really DO want to meet you.


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
Okay, here goes. What if instead of meeting in Madrid, we met in Paris? Could you convince your madre that you’ve got some kinda bug—I don’t know, maybe like spontaneous leprosy or something—and you’re too sick to fly to Madrid tmw? If so, I could take a morning train up to Paris and meet you there tmw pm. Without the weirdness of parents. I’d return before your mom gets back—or my dad notices I’m gone. Brilliant or stupid? You tell me.


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
OMG. You’re brilliant! Do trains run between Paris and Madrid?


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
Looking at the online sked now. Leave here tmw morn at 8:45. Arrive in Paris at 10:41 pm. Depart Paris the next morn at 7:10. Arrive Madrid 7:42 pm.


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
OMGx2. Let’s do it!!!


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
100%. Can you check your e-mail tomorrow morning before you leave? Just to make sure I can weasel out of going to Madrid? Not certain I can pull this off, but I’m going to TRY TRY TRY! The good thing is, I had a really high fever once when Mom/I were flying to L.A., and I passed out cold as soon as we landed at LAX. It ended up being nothing, but my mother toooottallly freaked. So this might just work!


Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What a tangled Webb . . .
Try, Blousey. That’s all I can ask. Mr. Hitchcock is rooting for us.

By the time I got back to the apartment, I was a complete wreck. Luckily Mom was still on the phone. When she hung up, she stared at me: “Where’s dessert?”

“Oh,” I said. “I forgot.”

“Honey, what’s wrong with you? You’re white as a sheet.”

I flopped facedown on the futon. “My stomach feels funny.”

And I was only half lying.



spent the rest of the day putting out fires at the exhibition space.

Someone—a disgruntled laborer was my guess—had apparently flushed wet cement down the toilets in the women’s restroom. I had to find an industrial plumber to clear the lines. Meanwhile, an electrician was working on the shades, which were cooperating but only intermittently. It would all get resolved by the time the exhibition opened the following evening.

My bigger concern was the show itself. Was art getting worse, or was I getting more jaded? Because this show, with all its monitors and high-tech digital effects, left me cold.

If these artists were trying to convince me that the pursuit of love in the postdigital age was more exciting, more mysterious, more . . . well,
love should be, they’d failed. None of the exhibits passed the Jimmy Webb test, which was the standard by which I judged all works of art.

The test consisted of comparing the work in question with the song “Wichita Lineman,” where the tension between what you understood and what you didn’t was just the right mix to pull you in deeper. Art has to ask questions and make you care. Nothing I saw elicited even the slightest emotional response. But maybe that was the point. Maybe love was impossible in the postdigital age. Maybe passion was passé.

Or maybe I was just too old to understand it—or worse yet, to experience it. When was the last time I’d been with a woman who moved me half as much as a Jimmy Webb song? Moira in grad school? Blythe during my internship in New York? Frances, later, in Vancouver? They all eventually tired of my inability to fully connect, and who could blame them? And then when Laura got pregnant with Webb, that changed everything.

Never mind the past. I had to focus on the show.

After I finally had the electronic shades working to my satisfaction, I returned to the hotel to put on a clean shirt for dinner. Webb was in the room, watching soccer on TV.

“Hungry for paella?” I asked while buttoning my shirt.

“Uh-huh,” he answered.

“So how’d you spend your afternoon?” I asked, hoping to be surprised.

“Yeah, uh-huh,” he said. His eyes didn’t move from the TV.

“What’d you do this afternoon?”

“Uh, nothing really. But I want to do some stuff tomorrow. Hey, Dad, can I have some euros?”

I gave him a stack of bills. At least he’d put on the new clothes.

We walked from the hotel over to Plaza de Santa Ana, a photogenic old square filled with street musicians and tapas bars. I chose a restaurant with a nice crowd of locals.

“I’m going to have wine with dinner,” I said as Webb and I seated ourselves at a small table near the back. “You can have a glass, if you’d like. It’s legal here.”

“Enh, pass,” he said. “I’ll just have a Coke.”

As we waited for our paella, I couldn’t help staring at Webb. For years I’d done my best to make sure he was cautious, careful, not too much of a risk taker. I wanted to help him learn to make smart choices, unlike his mother.

But maybe I’d gone too far. Maybe I’d created a young man who was a coward—or worse yet, a dullard.

“What’s the favorite thing you’ve seen so far on this trip?” I asked.

He didn’t answer.

“Webb,” I said. “What’s the best thing you’ve done so far in Madrid?”

He still didn’t respond. He had a faraway look in his eyes. Somehow he wasn’t hearing the impatience in my voice.

“Webb, dammit, I’m talking to you!”

“Sorry,” he said. “I was thinking about something else.”

seemed like a pretty generous word for it, I thought as I poured a second glass of wine from the carafe. With the alcohol came a depressing thought:
Who am I to call anyone a bore? I’m a first-class ass.

That stupid note was like a rock in my shoe.
So what
if I had slipped an admiring note in a woman’s bag? Was it such a goddamn crime? Part of me knew it wasn’t. But the other, more honest part of me wondered if it wasn’t the beginning of the end. Because it wasn’t just the note-in-the-bag debacle. There was also the fact that I clearly didn’t understand or appreciate the
Love in the Postdigital Age
exhibit. Maybe I was too old for this stuff. Maybe I’d lost my eye for modern art. Would I soon start defending the work of Thomas Kinkade and collecting keepsakes from the Franklin Mint? Did the fact that I’d so misjudged the appropriateness of a romantic gesture mean I’d lost my compass in that realm, too? Would I start pinching women’s asses in elevators—or frequenting Hooters? Was I turning into a pig?

“Dad, don’t you think?” Webb was asking me.

“What?” I said.

“Just . . . everything,” he said, laughing and making a sweeping gesture with his hand. “I like everything here. Don’t you?”

“Yeah,” I said.

With the possible exception of myself.



oor Coco.

Normally I would’ve blamed the mussels. But I’d had them, too, along with two beers, and felt fine.

Before she curled up on the futon to sleep, Coco had complained that her head was throbbing. Shortly before midnight, I heard her in the bathroom, rummaging through Solange’s medicine cabinet. I got up to check on her.

“What do you need, honey?” I asked.

“Aspirin. Tylenol. Anything,” she said, holding her head.

Her skin was chalk white, but she didn’t feel feverish. I got some nighttime formula Excedrin from my bag and gave her two capsules. “Do you want a wet washcloth for your head?”

“No,” she whimpered.

“Go back to sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

She looked at me with her big, kitten-in-a-basket eyes. “Mom, I don’t think I can go to Madrid with you.”

“Oh, Coco. We have to do this. I’m sorry. I really am, but—”

“Mom, I
” she cried, her voice breaking into a kind of wail. “I will seriously throw up or pass out or
if I have to get on a plane.”

My mind became a murky blur of dark images. I couldn’t let Solange down. I just couldn’t. But how could I drag Coco to Madrid if she really felt this bad? I remembered the time at LAX when I thought she’d died.

Oh, God. This is what I get for wanting to throttle my daughter earlier in the day. This is my punishment for being a terrible mother.

“Do you think you need to see a doctor?” I asked.

“No,” Coco said, gulping for air. “It’s just like . . . a bug or something. Can’t you go without me?”

“I can’t leave you here alone.”

“Why not?”

“Because I
” I said, picking up the phone and dialing Solange’s number.

She answered on the first ring. Of course Solange was awake at this late hour.

“I hate to do this to you,” I said after explaining the situation. “But I knew you’d understand.”

“I do understand,” Solange replied. “But, Daisy, I need you here. Would Coco be more comfortable on a train?”

I asked. Coco buried her head and started crying.

“I’m afraid she
doesn’t feel well,” I said.

Solange asked to talk to Coco. I could hear only my daughter’s end of the conversation.

“Hi . . . Thanks . . . I know . . . No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just . . . I feel crummy. I’m sure it’s nothing . . . Of course I wouldn’t mind. I know! College, right? I’m going to be on my own in four months anyway.”

Of course she’d already begun the countdown for when she was leaving me. It’s okay. Perfectly normal, in fact. Don’t take it personally.

“Uh-huh,” Coco was now saying. “Yeah, okay. Thanks. I will. Bye.”

She handed the phone back to me.

BOOK: In the Bag
10.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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