Imaginary Life

Alaina watched the train pull away, then down to her ringing phone. Ugh. “Hi Mom.”

“Well, hello! How are you?

“Fine, I was just—“

“You always say you’re fine. You never tell me anything.”

Maybe there’s a reason for that?  As her mother prattled on about Julie’s husband’s hernia surgery and Dorothy’s daughter’s friend who fell on the ice, she imagined a world where she had a normal mother who heard her and genuinely cared. Alaina sighed and listened on.

“My goodness, it’s loud. Where are you?”

“The station. I like to imagine—“

“Do you remember when you were stopped by the police in Colorado? The policeman was so nice, and your father had to get you out of trouble.”

Alaina tried to make the connection between today and a thirty-five-year-old event, but she came up empty. A cop had seen an out of state license and checked for proof of ownership that she wasn’t carrying.  That the owner was sitting next to her in the front seat was somehow what her mother now called her dad “getting her out of trouble.” She listened to more unconnected ramblings about people she didn’t know, and she tried to complete the occasional sentence.

The call finally ended, with her mother proclaiming her love for a daughter that in reality she had crushed into a chronically depressed husk.  She watched the next train leave and continued to wonder what it would be like to be someone else.