For a woman who hit 70 last spring, Connie looks the same, just a different version of the one I remember. She was always older, in age, in disposition, but now there are more creases, more lines around the eyes, and her hair has softened to a dull grey cotton. When I see her eyes, I see the dead weight she carries inside her thoughts. I see the bricks of years harnessed to her shoulders, weighing her down.
Her only daughter Stella was killed by a hit-and-run driver a few months after Brady was born. Stella was thirty-three, and my only memory of her is as a six-year-old, so unlike her mother: mild, polite, affecting a pretend English accent because she thought I was a special member of the family. She curtsied for me and I sat in her bright yellow bedroom sipping pretend-tea with her with a teddy bear and Strawberry Shortcake. She giggled a lot, but solemnly. The Queen’s giggles. She was a sweet little girl, but even then she looked doomed to me. Trapped in a peeling Polaroid. Or maybe time has left me that memory, an age that bore rotten fruit.
“You made shitty time, as usual,” said Connie. “Were you driving around the block a couple more times so you wouldn’t have to face Mom?”
“I was snowed-in at the airport,” I said. “I told you that.”
She poured me a cup of coffee and set it beside me. Some of it sloshed out and splashed my hand. Typical Connie. Hospitality with a dash of hostility. I didn’t say anything. She grunted and wiped the table with a dishcloth. She was all sighs and grunts. She looked tired. She was burning hot inside, and not just because of me, our natural hostility towards one another. She was tired of everything and it showed.