When I contested Patty’s version of our upbringing on Linda’s Latte
Hour, Linda said I was disloyal. “After all she’s done for you?” Linda
asked. “After she protected you from him?”
The live audience booed.
Patty’s house sits in the shadow of Mount Tam, overlooking the bay.
Her town has free summer concerts and farmhouse dinners. Lycra-clad
bicyclists cascade down the tree-lined roads. Swimming pools, private
schools, and Polynesian dance classes. Bulk bins, three-hundred-dollar
twelve-course tasting menus, and the Bohemian Grove.
When she answers the door, her thick curls are rumpled on one side,
as if she’s just woken from a nap. She’s grown her hair out since Linda’s
Latte Hour. Her usual style of blouse, blue or white linen, is rumpled.
The collar is stained with an oily thumbprint. Patty’s mad for a cleanly
pressed blouse, and I’m not used to seeing her disheveled. A familiar,
tingly feeling crawls up my neck. Check for exits, Patty wrote. Assess for
signs of distress. How full is the bottle? How many cans are in the bin? No,
Patty’s sober. She’s been sober for so long. She hugs me, keeping at least
an inch between our chests.
George thought I was paranoid when I made our go-bags and stashed
them under the bed. I snatched them when we escaped our home. They’re
emergency kits with underwear and toothbrushes, batteries, flashlights,
water, and cat kibble. Now he’s glad to have them. On the way here, we
stopped for a litter box. Beanie gets locked in the guest room with all her
supplies, wailing from behind the door to let us know she’s not happy
We three crowd onto Patty’s sectional. George and I are squished
onto the shorter side, sinking into the crack between the cushions. Patty
assumes her therapist’s pose, one elbow propped on the couch’s arm,
eyeglasses dangling from her hand.
Patty’s home is orderly and calm but not quite lived in. Despite the
redecorating she’s done since Paul’s departure, it still feels like a hotel
lobby. The glass bowl of reflective stones. The dish of potpourri. The box
of tissues. She and Paul used to see clients here. Now she rents an office.
“What can I say?” She shrugs. “Business is thriving. I don’t have to
keep seeing clients,” Patty assures us, “but it keeps me humble.”
She casts an admiring look over the newly painted living room. The
paint smell makes me sneeze.
“Bless you,” says Patty benevolently, hand poised to pass the tissues.