“You won’t,” he says. “Sorry. Gallery night in town.”
“Oh, of course,” I say. Our local monthly gallery night is huge for him, and for our other friends in the scene as well. They all hit everyone else’s shows, sip that crappy free red wine, schmooze among the buyers and owners, and then go to the noodle shop with industry hours and drink soju until the sun comes up.
Once upon a time, Seth and I did that together.
“Well, in that case, I’ll see you Saturday morning.”
“Ahhhh, actually Saturday night,” he says. “Late. Remember? We decided to turn the weekend into Corbin’s bachelor party?”
I do not remember this, and I don’t have any reminders set. “But that means you won’t even be at All-Sports anyway.”
“You don’t need me—you’re a pro. Make the sangria, throw away the golf food, buy the kids too much dessert. Same as every year.”
Exactly the same, in that just like the years before, Seth has done nothing to help. Mentally, I underline work on marriage on my interminable to-do list. “Tell Corbin congratulations for me, then,” I say, because this isn’t a fight I want to have right now. The truth is, there hasn’t been a fight worth having between Seth and me in years. Nobody wins anymore. It’s solvable, I’m sure, but that damned to-do list is just so long. “Have a great time.”
Time. In the time I’ve been on the phone, I have gotten seventy-eight new emails. I’m going to need to hang up now if I want to get any of these triaged before my real calls start. And I’ll need to run the calls like a drill sergeant if I want to get Linus from after-school by five. Even then I’ll need luck and maybe a miracle to get it all done. I open up the first email. Realize I never took anything out of the freezer this morning for dinner tonight. So now I need luck, a miracle, and the drive-through. Oh, and with no Seth, I’m doing the shopping for tomorrow night on my own. So now it’s luck, a miracle, the drive-through, and a ten-minute stopover at the ABC liquors for a case of red wine on the drive home.
In the back of my mind, as I volley back email after email, I ponder it all. Linus, programming, loneliness, how much red sangria thirty moms can drink, if we had rotisserie chicken last night, does Bridge eat broccoli now? Far from leaving me behind, Time is sucking me in now, a black hole of errands and notifications and—oh yeah, I am supposed to be eating lunch. And did I pack the kids any lunch? They would have said something, right? They would have noticed?
I order a salad—the same salad I have every Friday, an automated order on my delivery app. Then remember that I was hoping to go to reformer Pilates over lunch. Realize that I could still make it; dismiss the idea. Consider that I might want to just lie on my office floor for the next twenty minutes until the salad arrives. Answer five more emails. Try to remember if any of Bridge’s ride-or-die girls didn’t make the team. She told me last night that someone besides Kara got cut . . . she cried over it. But it was someone she didn’t particularly like, just felt bad for. That’s my compassionate Bridget. Who was that girl?
Brandy. I can’t forget the brandy for the sangria. What brand did I buy last year? It wasn’t as good as usual. I should have put it in my phone so I don’t get it again. Did I? What did I sort it under in my notes app? Do I need to go to the library for Linus’s books on hold? Would it be easier to just give the kid a book budget? I’m easily paying twenty dollars in fines each month. It would be a good lesson in limited resources . . . or he’d just use the money and then put more books on hold at the library. It’s a good thing to have such a reader, isn’t it? Why doesn’t Seth see that? Wouldn’t other dads be proud of such a studious son?
And on and on clicks my mind, going on while the salad comes, while I eat it without tasting it, while my inbox is cleared. It yammers on when it’s time to move myself to the conference room, through a meeting and PowerPoint, and to when the day is over. It goes on until I wake up the next day and find myself in the kitchen cutting up oranges and apples for the sangria on one cutting board and onions for the minimeatballs on another, without quite knowing exactly how I got there and what all I missed on the way.
The good news is, my kids are socially successful. When we arrive at Founder’s Park for the big sporty potluck thing, Zoey finds Bridget, Sofia, and Aaliyah from the team in an instant, and Samuel can make friends anywhere he can find a ball, a racket, or a stick. Joy and I stick together, and I sometimes wonder if she does this out of pity for me, because she always checks with me when someone wants her to play.
Happily, no one has asked yet—she’s one of the littler siblings at All-Sports, and so I use her as a pint-size excuse to spend copious amounts of time setting up a large glass dispenser I found at a garage sale, painted a lemon-yellow chalkboard oval on, and neatly labeled with a fuchsia chalk pen: pink sangria. Then I start assembling the recipe. It’s easy as pie: two bottles of eight-dollar rosé, the zest of an entire lime, a pint of muddled organic raspberries, and the tiniest splash of this very special artisanal birch-sap vodka I heard about on a mommy podcast where they really seem to know their hooch, if how slurred their words are by the end of each episode is any indication. I had to order it from this place online I’d never heard of, and it cost a fair bit more than vodka should, but it just felt like the sort of special touch that would go far here in Birchboro Hills.
Maybe this will be the thing that helps me make my first real friend in town, I think wistfully. It sure hasn’t been the PTA, the boosters, the tutoring, or the carpooling. Not even sitting in the front yard has paid off. Not yet.
When I can fiddle with the drink no longer, I hoist Joy up on a hip, head back to the trunk, grab some more food, and move to the main potluck table. I unpack a tray of deviled eggs with smoked salmon that looks very yummy, if I do say so myself, and encourage Joy to help herself to one. She climbs onto the bench of the picnic table as though all of the potluck—cold homemade chicken, macaroni salads in varieties beyond your imagination (including one with salami?), and, bizarrely, an enormous aluminum platter of pickled radishes, asparagus, and green beans—is laid out for her and only her. Faithfully, she chooses one of my eggs with the biggest garnish of dill and mashes it in and around her face with relish. I take another egg from the other side to make the dish look popular and eat it in two bites, then decide that alone will probably hold down a small glass of my pretty-looking sangria.
When I return to the drinks table, Wendy Charles is there. Her arms are laden with stuff, there’s a purse on her shoulder, and she looks beleaguered. But rather than setting anything down, she is staring at my drinks dispenser. “Pink sangria,” I hear her read, with a question in her voice.
I smile. Always smile. “You can make sangria with strawberries and prosecco, or white wine and peaches, or really any combo of fruit and wine. But mine is rosé, organic raspberries, and lime zest. And a splash of artisanal single-batch birch-sap vodka,” I add behind my hand, like it is top secret. Wendy looks at me blankly. “I know—it sounds crazy. But try it. It’s so refreshing.” Indeed, I note, the glass dispenser is already a few inches lower than when I set it out minutes ago. No one can resist raspberries in a drink.
“We’ve never had pink sangria at All-Sports before,” says Wendy. Her voice is less singsong than usual. Immediately I know I’ve screwed something up.
“Oh,” I say. Then I channel my dear late mother and add, “I’m sorry.”
I know. I know. Why on earth am I apologizing for bringing a refreshing and quite boozy drink to a team potluck on a hot day? Because my mom always said people can’t hate you if you apologize for their problems. It sounds a bit codependent, but my mom worked for some real jerks in her life to keep us kids in shoes and socks, and she knew a thing or two about going along to get along. She often told me a quick surrender will take all the wind out of an angry person’s sails and make them notice how rude they are being.
That doesn’t happen here.