Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving break

In which we see Ms. Bradstreet call it a day

The Maria Chronicles, # 25

Maria is crying. She's lying in bed, where she's been since dusk, and is now waiting for sleep to overtake her as her apartment goes dark. No dinner. No work. She changed into sweats and a t-shirt, climbed under the covers, and now just wants this day to end.

It wasn't really a bad one. Three classes today, one of which was on Jefferson's presidency. (Maria spent a little extra time on Marbury v. Madison, because she always stints Supreme Court cases). There was a department meeting on the upcoming National History Day competition. Maria was joined at lunch by Edie Wilson, which surprised her a bit because she wasn't sure Edie liked her. Maria, for her part, decided that she actually liked Edie's sharp tongue, whose targets -- among them Edie herself -- are usually deserving.

After school, Maria was going to grade the set of quizzes she received yesterday so she could return them tomorrow, the last day before the Thanksgiving break. But after nearly dozing twice at her desk, she decided she'd go home and work there. She had just grabbed her mail out of the her box in alcove of her building when her cell rang, which she fished out of her handbag. It was her son Evan. Maria listened as she unpacked her laptop and he explained that while he was planning on coming to see her for Thanksgiving, his girlfriends' parents had sent a pair of refundable plane tickets to their home in Florida, and he was thinking that . . . .

You go on ahead, she had told him. Felicia had long since decided, after careful discussion with Maria, to spend Thanksgiving her father. Mother and daughter would be together for Christmas. Maria is almost relieved to face the long weekend alone. She'll go to a movie on Thursday -- she's always loved going to the movies on Thanksgiving -- and maybe stop by and see Jen, who invited her for dinner. But when would she see her children together again?

Maria was sorting through her mail, handbag on the floor and laptop case still on her shoulder, when she saw the official-looking document with the state seal of New Hampshire. Oh my God, she thought, as she tore the envelope and pulled out the sheet. She opened it up and was right: it was the final decree. Seventeen months since she discovered Mark's affair, sixteen months since they separated, thirteen months since they filed the no-fault divorce, and four months since she moved down here. And now here it was. She felt numb.

After about a full minute, Maria roused herself. Shedding all she had in her hands, she went into the kitchen put the dishes in the rack away, sorted some laundry, finished looking through the mail, and plugged her computer into its charger. Then took the quizzes and decree upstairs. She thought maybe she'd do some grading while sitting on her bed, maybe with the TV on. But after she changed, washed her face, and climbed into bed, she couldn't bring herself to break the silence with her clicker. Nor could she pick up the first quiz; the decree was on top, and it was as if it blocked her from picking the quizzes up.

Now, suddenly, the great wave of misery breaks upon Maria Bradstreet. She hangs her head and cries until her neck hurts. And then she slides under the covers and cries some more. It takes a good twenty minutes before she finally drifts to sleep. And it takes another 47 before she turns in her sleep and knocks the decree to the floor.