44 Cherry Street:
Lorraine takes a Xanax
Things were a little rocky at 44 Cherry St. The pressure of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for Frederick’s family was too much for Lorraine, and she had become short-tempered. She snapped at Frederick for leaving half his food on his plate at dinner, complaining that she had “Worked her fingers to the bone” to prepare dinner for him and the least he could do was to eat what she put on his plate. Actually, she had bought dinner to go from Fresh Market, and had hidden the packaging, but she had made the drive to Fresh Market from Black Mountain, and that had to count for something. Also, she was always loading his plate with more food than he wanted to eat. She later bit his head off for having worn a short-sleeved dress shirt to work that day. “I work in a service station,” he protested.
“You work there, but you don’t have to dress like a laborer!” she answered.
Frederick had gone into the bedroom and shut the door, and he was quiet for the rest of the evening. Lorraine went into the bathroom and found her big bottle of Xanax and took one with a tumbler of white wine. She too was quiet for the rest of the evening, dozing in her arm chair with a book open on her lap. A tiny stream of drool dripped onto the pages of the open book.
It appeared to Lorraine that the holidays in Black Mountain were going to be bleak. First there was Thanksgiving with all that damn turkey and annoying guests. Then the kick off for the Christmas season, Holly Jolly, was coming up right after Thanksgiving, and this year the celebration was too much for Lorraine. She hated Holly Jolly in general, with tacky people wearing light-up antlers screaming “Merry Christmas” at each other. But the idea of all those loud children and their distracted parents wandering up and down Cherry Street this year was more than she could tolerate. The stage where clumsy kids danced in tutus while their folks cheered and took videos was down at the bottom of Cherry St., half a block from her apartment. She needed a break.
One of her sisters lived on a glorious hacienda in Oaxaca in central Mexico. She was married to a rich Mexican man and at some point had issued an open invitation to visit. As Lorraine dozed in her chair, she dreamed of being in warm, sunny Mexico instead of cold Black Mt. Instead of slaving over a hot stove and having to pretend to like Frederick’s ex-wife, she could be feasting on Mole and Tamales prepared by her sister’s servants.
When she woke up in her chair at midnight, she called the airlines and booked a flight for the following day. She told the airlines representative that she had to travel immediately because of a death in the family in order to get a reduced fare. She wasn’t exactly lying. If she stayed at 44 Cherry St., either she or Frederick would surely be killed by the other.
The next morning she threw several Eileen Fisher outfits into a Vuitton suitcase as Frederick looked on, confused. “But why are you going? I was looking forward to spending the holidays with you and the rest of my family!” Frederick entreated.
“That’s just the problem!” replied Lorraine. “I was NOT looking forward to having that crowd around the table. I was single for a long time, and I enjoy peace and quiet. All that talking and laughing just gets on my nerves. Maybe one of your daughters will agree to host, and you can all crowd around her table. This little break will do us good!”
“Please don’t go,” begged Frederick.
“Sorry. This ticket is not refundable, so I’m off. I’ll call you when I arrive in Oaxaca at Teresa’s house.” She hefted her suitcase down the stairs of 44 Cherry Street and was met by an Uber she had arranged for the night before. Frederick watched from the front window as she pulled away.
To Frederick, the hours dragged by all that day and into the night. He wasn’t sure what time Lorraine was supposed to arrive in Mexico. He had been too shocked over her decision to leave to ask for details. When would she get there? When was she planning on coming home? As it got later and later, he became increasingly nervous. He felt in his bones that something was wrong. He searched among Lorraine’s personal things and uncovered an address book. He found her sister’s number and decided to ring Teresa and check in with her. Surely she would either know when Lorraine was going to arrive, or perhaps, best case scenario, she could pass the phone to Lorraine, who might have forgotten to call.
The phone rang for a long time, and finally it was picked up by a maid who spoke in Spanish. “Hola?” Frederick searched his brain for his high school Spanish vocabulary. “Quiero hablar con Teresa, por favor!”
What followed was an explosion of words he could not understand. When the maid stopped jabbering, he simply repeated what he had said earlier. After a pause, he heard the maid speak to someone nearby, “Senora, hay un gringo aqui. El quiere hablar con usted.”
Frederick heard some shuffling around as the phone was passed to Teresa. “Hello? Who is this?” she asked abruptly in English.
He explained who he was and that he wanted to know if Lorraine had arrived yet at her sister’s home.
“Lorraine! Why would she be coming here? I haven’t seen her in years. We are barely speaking!”
“What are you saying?” squeaked Frederick. “Are you saying that you are not expecting Lorraine at your house?”
“That, Senor, is exactly what I am saying. In fact Jose and I were packing to go to Canyon Ranch for the holidays. I simply hate cooking and entertaining. If Lorraine shows up here, she will find us gone.”
“Oh no!” Frederick wailed. “She left here this morning saying she was going to Mexico to spend the holidays with you. Weren’t you expecting her?”
“Certainly not!” spoke Teresa. “And if you’ll excuse me, I have a great deal of packing to do.”
“Oh no, oh no!” Frederick repeated. “Please call me if you hear from her, and meanwhile I’m going to call the police.”
“Well, do so if you must, but they are a worthless little crew of SOB’s.” She sounded bored, and then she hung up.
Tears welled up in his eyes as Frederick punched 911 into the phone.