He took me by the hand as if I were a child. When I pulled back and
stopped him, he turned to me with a face like a mechanical sculpture, the
jaw slowly opening. Never before had he done that or seemed so broken.
“Okay,” I said. “Okay.”
Upon our arrival at home, we went to the living room and looked at
the chair like neurotic museum patrons, but it was empty. My father
shrugged. “She has to be here somewhere. Help me.”
So began our most terrible evening yet, as we searched the house,
opening closets and looking under the beds like burglars in a slapstick
comedy. My father ripped clothes from their hangers and threw them
on the floor and put his hands against the exposed wall as if feeling for
a heartbeat. In the kitchen, I removed heavy cookware from a cabinet
under the sink and crawled halfway inside. On my hands and knees, I
peered under the couch but rose quickly when I heard my father shout
from the other room.
“Here!” he said.
I ran in and saw him pulling my mother, looking sulky, by one leg as
he removed her from underneath the dining table. Despite her scornful
attitude—she only sighed when we asked what she was doing—Mother
again allowed herself to be taken to the facility. I helped get her into the
car, and as my father turned to me with the keys, I shook my head.
“But she’ll need a fourth room,” he said.
“I’ll stay here.”
“There’s no telling if—” he began.
“I watch here, you watch there,” I said. In this way, each of us would
have a territory.
Dad stood with the driver’s-side door open, one leg in the car and the
other on the driveway, as if to demonstrate two sides of his nature. From
the passenger side, I could hear my mother saying, “Please bring me the
novels I’m reading.”
“There’s no telling if what, Dad?”
The look he gave me could have sharpened a knife.
“If there are more of them in the house,” he said.
As he drove off, his expression was a controlled burn. He didn’t feel
anger toward my mother, not precisely; neither did I. Our rage was
against the multiplication of one or several mothers.
I went inside and stood in the living room. In the backyard, no birds
were flying. The trees swayed like concertgoers. Something about my