“You were always so stubborn,” Cecie said.
I was? Maybe my father meant it kindly, this last begrudging inclusion of me. A man I hadn’t seen in seventeen years. But I had been right
to get away, I had always been right about that.
“The lawyer can draw up something for me to sign,” I said.
When I got back to New York that night, I called all my friends to tell
them I was home and why. “So sorry,” they said. “Very sorry to hear.”
But I didn’t tell a single person about the will, I didn’t think anyone
would get it. It was too complicated to explain and too particular to my
odd little family. People never get it about money.
Of course, I felt rich for turning it down. You could list all the things
you didn’t need and feel wonderful for abandoning them. I lay around
my apartment for days, watching crappy TV at all hours, renting videos,
eating takeout, reading mysteries, having my own little mourning party.
“You look like hell. You must’ve had a great time,” my boss said when I
came back to work. I had been drinking too much in the last nights of
what was left of my vacation. I wasn’t that tan either.
“So does everybody over there hate Americans?” somebody asked.
“Not especially,” I said. “Not anymore. End of an empire.”
I had to think that this was the great anxiety my father had lived
with, the decline of America as a big fat world power, head of the glut-
tonous Western world. He lived in anguish at the constant evidence that
it was slipping, slipping.
Empires slipped. Who didn’t know that?
When I traveled in Asia, sometimes people thought I was from Australia or Canada. Too scruffy and penny-pinching to be a rich American. Could I have been rich if I’d held my hand out for the will? Probably
not, if interest was all I got. How much was it? I was never going to ask.
I was not going to think about it.
And I didn’t. Somewhat to my own surprise, I came close to putting it
out of my mind once I signed the form. I didn’t hang out with people
who did a lot of spending, and I’d never expected to come into money.
What did I need? Not that much. I had my Boston pals—we still talked
on the phone—and I had my buddies at work. I thought I got along with
everyone, but maybe I didn’t. At work there were battles about whether
to merge with the Service Employees International Union—I thought