She walked into the house, passing photographs of pictures that didn’t look like her anymore holding dogs that had died years ago. Her parents held onto such things. Her parents held onto each other even though they should have been letting go. They didn’t get along anymore and they all knew it. It hung over the dining room table and was the ribbon that tied their birthday presents together. “To: Lisa, Love: Mom and Dad.” These cards were lies. Her dad never did anything for them but pay the mortgage. Lisa wondered if he knew what month her birthday was or that she didn’t like waffles or that she had passed the SATs with admirable scores. No. Her mom knew that. Her mom knew all of these things because her mother was capable of love in a way that men were intrinsically incapable. It was the type of relentless love that kept going no matter what, no matter the heartbreak. “Zombie love,” Lisa called it, though the term was one she kept to herself because she didn’t know if it was any good.
Her mother was sitting on the blue chenille sofa they had purchased from the Pottery Barn four years ago. Lisa hated that sofa. It had begun to pill within the first year, despite the fact that it was expensive. Her dad had paid for that, too, but he wasn’t waiting up for her. Her mother looked up from her square sheet of paper from the Wall Street Journal. She was a housewife hellbent on educating herself and when she told people what she did for a living, or didn’t do for that matter, Lisa knew it embarrassed her. In her mother was a great potential that had died out long ago, transferred onto her daughter in a way that made Lisa nauseous to think about. There was too much riding on her. Grades and college and boys and boys and what was wrong with that boy tonight? Didn’t he like her? He had kept staring his clock and not at her face. He had been staring so hard that he had missed the way she moved her hair off of her shoulder, exposing her neck and her tank top with the laces that tied at the knobby bones above each shoulder. She wasn’t sure what these bones were called; she thought they were part of her clavicle or she didn’t know what. Anatomy had always been her worst subject – that and flirting with boys, apparently.
There was a bottle of wine sitting in front of her mother and most of its contents had been consumed. She was friendly and that bothered Lisa; she hated to see how the wine loosened her mother up because it made it obvious how much she was repressing in her real life. When drunk her mom was easy and confident and silly and funny and Lisa wouldn’t have a problem with all or any of these things if her mother had been like that in real life, in the mornings when they woke up, in the car on the way to school, when she was cooking dinner for Lisa and a husband who didn’t love her anymore. “Was it great? He was cute!” her mother said and she said it in a voice that felt familiar in that way and Lisa hated it. “It was fine. It was whatever.” And she walked up her stairs to a bedroom, leaving her mother on a sofa made in China and a mouth full of wine and bitter heartbreak.