I woke from a deep sleep, finding myself, as I usually do, with Little Rock, Jackson and Charlotte trying to squeeze me out of the queen size bed that could hold me and six dogs comfortably. Oh but these three dogs had to get inside me, as if I were their mama bitch and they were competing to see who would be first to get back into the womb. Ah but the “ass hole” was gone, gone now for six glorious months. Gone are the mornings waking to find his dick inside me. He too trying to find his way back to pre-birth like the dogs, but he was trying to find forgiveness also. At least the dogs did not fuck me, and I felt some kind of love from the dogs, even if it was only because I fed them. I fed him for years too and all I got was him screwing ever other bitch in town.
I pushed the dogs aside and sat on the side of the bed facing the bathroom. I did my usual stretch up shuffle onto the toilet for my morning pee. The seat is down how nice, I smile. Jackson and Little Rock do there morning stretch/shake and follow me, keeping an eye on my every move. They need extra love now that “ass hole” is gone. Charlotte, the oldest stays on the bed till I am in the kitchen fixing breakfast.
I do my usual breakfast shout-out “Come on down, Jason Spinoza!! You’re our next contestant on THE PRICE IS RIGHT!” Jason shuffles into the kitchen, dressed but in need of some finishing touches. I lovingly smile at him, and he half-heartedly smiles back. “Did you sleep ok, baby?” He gives me that look fourteen-year-old boys give their mother when they call them baby. “Sit down and have your breakfast and when you’re done go brush your hair before you head off to school.”
Before I feed the dogs, I fix my baby’s lunch and place it on the standby table at the front door.
“Mom, is Dad ever coming back?”
“I don’t think so, sweetie.”
A young man grabs his lunch and heads out the door. I hope the ass hole knows what he is missing.
For the last six months I have been going to a therapy group in Atlanta on Tuesdays. There is Charles the author, there to deal with his writer’s block. Mrs. Carter the socialite, her husband died and left her penniless. Avery, he is forty-five years old and still living with his mother.Katherine, never married, she feels life has passed her by. Then there is me, Jeanette, whose husband left her for a younger woman. And Doctor Bob the leader of our little group.
Every Tuesday I drive the eighteen miles to fifteenth Street Northeast just across from Woodruff Arts Center and the High Museum to a lovely, out of place, Victorian style home converted to offices. This Tuesday was not like all the rest. This Tuesday would be my last Tuesday.
I sat in the waiting area by myself reflecting on last week’s group. Before the session I had gone to the High Museum to see the Monet exhibit. I was struck and moved to tears by the large three panel painting of Water Lilies. I had seen it in books, imagined it in my mind but never expected something so vast something that drew me into it, as if I were swimming in it. There was nothing else around me except that vast scape of oil on canvas. I sat before it and could not move. I knew I was finished I no longer wanted my old life. Even if Richard came back to me with roses in hand, love in his heart pleading, I did not want to go back. In that painting was life, a living breathing existence that I wanted. Six months of agony and in an instant my mind had changed.
I was late for group that week, I did not spill out my usual spiel about poor me, how I miss him, how I love and need him, what am I going to do without him. What a pile of crap. I sat there and listened to the others. Like me they repeated their same story over again, a few little changes here and there but still the same. I sat there and said nothing. After group ended Bob asked me if everything was ok. I said, “I think everything is going to be fine.”
Now, this week being the last week, in the waiting area I felt relief. I felt fresh and alive. I greeted the others warmly as each came in, avoiding the usual small talk. Bob came out of his office and invited us all in. When it came my time to speak up, I told everyone that this would be my last session. I told them about my trip to the museum the week before and my epiphany with Monet and the Water Lillies. My condolences to everyone, our warm concerns, and appreciations of each other took up most the hour. We all hugged each other. Bob asked if I would come in for a follow up appointment in a few weeks or so. I said “Yes.” One the ride home the radio was playing Scheherazade, a symphonic suite. I cried a little. My life was changing, I had lost something I loved and was ready to let it go. In that painting I saw a new way to live.
I ordered tickets five months ago to The Price is Right, the special Peaches in Georgia show. Atlanta was all a buzz, and I was one of the lucky people to get three tickets. Claudia, Kathleen, and I talked of little else. Funny how six months can change a person, how someone can be so turned around and stretched, those interests of a short time ago mean nothing. I used to love The Price is Right, never missed a show. I kept a journal as to what things sold for. When I went shopping, I checked prices of things I would never buy. I had stopped watching the show four months ago.
The show was in two days Claudia and Kathleen were not going to let me miss it. I did not want to disappoint them. My two best friends — I had wondered if they slept with Richard; he flirted with them all the time and they loved it. I would never ask, they would never tell. It is “the southern way”. Not disappointing others is also “the southern way.” I was changing but some of that old crap was lingering. “Don’t disappoint Daddy,” Mama would say. I loved my father, did anything to make him happy. I dated Richard in high school because I knew Daddy would like him. “The son I never had,” my father would say, “That’s the boy you need to marry” and I did. Mother and I both knew my father was a philanderer. We never spoke of it. She worshiped him to his grave and still mourns his passing. Facing those water lilies and letting go of Richard, I think I let go of my father too.
“Come on down Jeanette Spinoza! You are the next contestant on The Price is Right!” Claudia had to give me a sharp nudge, my mind was off in another space. I was in a daze at first. I knew I had to smile and act excited. My heart was not in it. As a little girl I would put on my prettiest dress and as the show was on, I would pretend to be a contestant, smiling and screeching with joy when I won a prize. I was pretending today too and wondered what prize could satisfy my life? What object of industry and commerce could fulfill me? How much money would it take to make me whole?
I stood at the end pedestal and on the stage the curtain opened revealing a patio set: table, chairs, loungers, a barbecue with utensils, and a gazebo. I was last to give her price. I knew everyone before me was too high and I instinctually said, “One dollar, Drew.”
After the laughter subsided it was revealed I was correct, and it was revealed to me that I was in the wrong place. God, forbid I displease anyone. I went upon the stage with my fake smile and my fake dazed excited look. Drew Carey put his arm around me greeting me just as I imagined Bob Barker would. “My what a lovely Georgia peach, who did you come her with today, Jeanette?” I pointed and identified Claudia and Kathleen. They both stood, giggling, and squealing with joy. A table was rolled out with five items on it; each had a price. The object was to move prices to the correct item. I did so by leaving two alone and moved three. Getting them all correct, winning a chance at the Big Spin, I performed a sweet peach smile and a little jump into the air. Off stage in the side wing watching the other contestants, some winning others losing, I am reflecting on the painting. The vision of that was priceless. No value could be put on it. It was real; this is pretend. Three of us contestants were called out to the Big Spin. Claudia and Kathleen were brought up on stage to be with me. Drew kept referring to us as the beautiful peaches of Georgia; each time he did Claudia and Kathleen would giggle. The contestants, each of us spun the wheel. I came up short. I was thanked by Mr. Carey and was happily escorted off the stage. There was enough disappointment on the faces of Claudia and Kathleen for the three of us. There was no need for me to pretend sorrow.
Two days before the Monet exhibit was to leave the High Museum I went back. I sat before the Water Lilies, again in the presence of something great something real. A power capable of putting a wedge between me and the life of a little girl who dreamed of being on The Price is Right.