Live Nude Girls
-- Westley (Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride)
Thursday night I finished work and drove to the senior center with a large bowl of pasta salad I somehow found time to construct during my day from hell. When I arrived, I asked the gentleman at the front desk where the special needs mothers' support group was being held, and he said that he would show me. He took off as if I would perish if I wasn't in the company of these women STAT, and I had to practically jog to keep up with him. He held a door open for me, and I found myself in a large, gymnasium-like room with a small table standing like an island in the center of an expanse of shiny wooden floor. A serious conversation was already going strong. I pulled up a chair and sat down, feeling like a spy. Soon there were about seven of us. Thankfully, a woman I recognized from Erik's school took the chair next to mine. A woman from our parks and recreation department spoke to us about classes and services for children with special needs. I was excited and scared at the same time discovering things I might do in the future with Erik, and she listened to our thoughts and concerns. We created a play date and scheduled it next month for just our children and their siblings. No stares. No fear of failure. It would serve as a safe place for me to get a foothold in the community, make connections, and see what Erik is capable of in a group setting outside of school and therapy. A place to push off into the typical world of school and play with assistance from people who have been educated how to help children like Erik excel. She then left us to be alone with each other, soaking in a sense of newfound, easy intimacy. Two hours easily slipped by. I plucked salt-dusted M&Ms out of a bowl of snack mix in front of me and listened. The woman next to me cried silently, dabbing her eyes with a bumpy picnic napkin. I wanted to dig through my purse for the dogeared packet of Kleenex I never use but was afraid to interrupt her delicate state of grieving, her face coated in a hot blush. I sat very still, as if I could scare her away with a quick movement like a shy deer in the woods.
As the sun set and its last rays of light spiked through the windows, I realized the white Christmas lights strung above us along the ceiling were on and began to bathe us all in a soft, angelic glow. I suddenly felt as if I was at the world's most depressing and poorly attended gay prom. The woman who spoke to us earlier quietly reentered the room and asked us if we wanted the fluorescent lights switched on. We all said no simultaneously, as if we all shared the same brain. She shrugged and left us alone once again.
I have never attended a support group before. I was surprised to find tears on the faces around me completely shocking. Honestly, I would have been less shocked to enter the room and find everyone completely naked. I came to the conclusion that the majority of my support from women like myself has come mostly over the Internet, and I have not really regularly witnessed much in the way of tears except my own for the last three years. Most of mine have been shed in private. I have at least attempted to contain them behind closed doors. I did not have to speak, and my own salty reservoir remained in place, behind a dam and hidden from the outside world. The thought of it escaping was horrifying. The flow around me was open and honest. When tears were not visible, the eyes around me seemed to sparkle with them, ready to carry away the dark toxins of anger, resentment, grief, and PAIN.
We were eventually eighty-sixed from the facility, as the nimble man from the front desk had to go home. We picked up our dishes and escaped into the cool evening, buoyant on shared energy and emotion, still obviously hungry for each other. I felt weirdly happy and high, as if I had held my breath too long and was suffering from moderate oxygen deprivation. A glossy, champagne-colored Corvette sat outside in the lot, its obscene, fat curves spreading thickly over two parking spaces. We all quietly glanced at it as we made our way to our minivans and SUVs. I turned to the girl with the tears on her face, pointed at the car wearing my straightest face, and asked if it was hers.
She looked surprised, giggled, and shook her head.