At parent-teacher conferences, Mr. B suggests that my son, Django, explore other genres over the summer.
My son is gorgeous, broad-shouldered with curly-blonde surfer hair.
“Do you really think that?” he wants to know. “Or do you just have to say that because of the standards?”
He’s also a sharp one. A full grade ahead in some classes.
Mr. B smiles at Django, leans back in his seat and puts his arms behind his head.
I fold my hands politely in my lap and notice regrettably that I am wearing high heels, which Django specifically asked me not to do. He gets all irked by the amount of noise they make in his school’s hallway.
“Surely there’s some genre you could explore, just to humor me?” Mr. B asks.
Django shrugs. “Yeah, okay. Maybe. Like what?”
Mr. B turns to me. “What does Mom think?”
I’m with Django on this one. I don’t agree with looking for flaws in the corners of inspired success. But I like Mr. B’s devotion to Django, and I don’t want to shoot him down.
“Romance is always intriguing,” I say.
My son snorts and Mr. B laughs.
“My mom is an authority on the subject of romance,” Django says, and now we’re both walking a fine line.
But often that’s the best place for us to be. It’s when we try to hide who we are that things go to shit.
“Is that right?” Mr. B asks me.
I nervously unfold my sunglasses and put them on. Realize too late what I’ve just done and try to pull it off like I meant to. Like it’s a Hollywood glamour moment.
I clear my throat, search for the controls.
“Are you familiar with VC Andrews?” I try, only half-joking. “When I was Django’s age I devoured everything she wrote.”
“And look how she turned out,” Django adds.
“I’m not familiar with that author,” Mr. B admits.
“Perhaps you could explore some other genres, too,” I suggest, gamely.
Mr. B gives his renowned full-belly chortle.
“Honestly? I’m never quite sure what to make of you two,” he says.
“Nor we ourselves,” I reply, standing. “Probably best just not to give us too much attention.”
In the car, on the way home, Django suggests I date Mr. B.
“What? Why? Wait. Are you teasing me?”
“I like Mr. B,” he tells me, and then perhaps the real answer. “And I wouldn’t mind having more people in our life.”
“We have tons of people in our lives!” I say, and as I do, I notice how little space it leaves for conversation.
“We have tons of people on the outside,” Django says, softly. “But on the inside, it’s just you and me.”
“And Lovey?” I ask, hopefully.
“Sure, and in the summer, Lovey visits, which is great,” he concedes. But I know what he’s talking about.
“Honey, I don’t think Mr. B thinks of me that way.”
My son rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on…”
It’s a tribute to his love for me that Django thinks I could have any man I wanted.
“It’s been more than six weeks since Paddy visited,” he says now.
“Yeah. It has. I noticed that, too.”
“Mom, you can’t just go breaking up with people all the time.”
“I know that. I don’t…”
There have to be words for this. There have to be words for the things that my son can’t remember or doesn’t understand.
Words that explain how my letting men in means catching an exhilarating ride on an airship designed to explode beautifully mid-flight.
Words that would help him to consider the possibility that maybe it is better this way.
Words like, “I’m sorry, Django.”
He looks out the window and I give him a moment.
We are nearly home by the time he turns back toward me, gives a nod at my feet. “Nice shoes, by the way.”
I smile, grab his knee and give it a shake. I love this boy.
“Could you hear me coming?” I ask.
“The whole world could hear you coming.”
* * *