Charlie and I sit on the hotel bed while we watch TV. He came up for my last weekend in Auburn, and of course we had to have dinner with his parents. Charlie and Elaine discussed Al’s plans to marry a fifth time, while Don’s strained eyes observed their faces. I added a few words on Al’s behalf, but I was alone in my opinion. After we left their house, I remembered the first time I had dinner with the Stattons.
Although Charlie assured me I had nothing to worry about, I was nervous about meeting his parents. I spent hours agonizing about what I would wear, and I finally settled on a lengthy red skirt, a black button down top, and black boots. I prepared answers to questions I imaged Charlie’s parents would ask. I wanted to prove to them that I was a valuable addition to his life. However, I never got a chance to answer the questions I visualized them asking. The whole time I was there, Elaine talked about how the quality in house building has changed. She complained that houses these days looked generic, that they had shoddy craftsmanship, and that nobody built shutters anymore. Charlie tried to veer the conversation towards me, he kept interrupting his mom with phrases such as “Ann’s an accounting major” or “Ann loves Broadway”. Whenever he would utter these words, Elaine would give me a smiling nod and say “that’s wonderful dear”, and continue her architectural rant. During the visit, Don only said six words to me. When Charlie and I were getting ready to leave, he shook my hand and told me “it was nice to meet you”.
My family had a completely different reaction to visitors. My dad would bombard my guest with questions every minute, and if he happened to be in a foul mood, it would be two questions a minute. Charlie, similar to his parents, also lacked natural curiosity. Although he often inquired about my day, he always accepted whatever answer I gave him, no matter how absurd it sounded. During my stint in Auburn, I would tell him that I wanted to read a book or watch TV every night, while I spent the evening with Mike. He accepted my reasons without any questions or accusations. His lack of suspicion obliterated my guilt. I felt his silence condoned my actions.
“Do you notice how there is nothing good on TV anymore”, Charlie’s voice interrupts my thoughts.
“You just noticed that?”
“Well I have heard people complaining about TV. And most of the new shows make me wonder if the producers were on crack. But I choose to believe that one day, an amazing new show will be on TV; a show that will make me want to cry, laugh, and cheer all in one episode.”
“You are such an optimist. You know that’s never going to happen.”
“Well I have to be an optimist since you’re a pessimist. You always perceive everything so negatively.”
“I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. There is just nothing positive in the world. ”
“You’re wrong. There are plenty of positive things in the world. You just have to know where to look.