Home > The Good Luck of Right Now(2)

The Good Luck of Right Now(2)
Matthew Quick

I looked at her, and she smiled almost mischievously—like I’d seen the sexy fast girls do with their shiny painted lips back when I was in high school. That salacious smile made me feel nauseated, because I knew it meant trouble. It was so unlike Mom too. It was the beginning of living with a stranger.

I said, “Why did you call me Richard?”

She laid her hand gently on my thigh, and in this very flirtatious girlish voice, while batting her eyelids, she said, “Because that’s your name, silly.”

During the thirty-eight years we had known each other, Mom had never once before called me “silly.”

The tiny angry man in my stomach pounded my liver with his fists.

I knew we were in trouble.

“Mom, it’s me—Bartholomew. Your only son.”

When I looked into her eyes, she didn’t seem to see me. It was like she was having a vision—seeing what I could not.

It made me wonder if Mom had used some sort of womanly witchcraft and turned me into you somehow.

That we—you and me—had become one in her mind.

Richard Gere.

Bartholomew Neil.

We.

Mom took her hand off my thigh and said, “You’re a handsome man, Richard, the love of my life even, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. You made your choice, so you’ll just have to sleep on the couch. See you in the morning.” Then she floated up the stairs, moving quicker than she had in months.

She looked ecstatic.

Like the haloed saints depicted in stained glass at Saint Gabriel’s, Mom seemed to be guided by divinity. Her madness appeared holy. She was bathed in light.

As uncomfortable as that exchange was, I liked seeing Mom lit up. Happy. And pretending has always been easy for me. I have pretended my entire life. Plus there was the game from my childhood, so I had certainly practiced.

Somehow—because who can say exactly how these things come to be—over many days and weeks, Mom and I slipped into a routine.

We both began pretending.

She pretended I was you, Richard Gere.

I pretended Mom wasn’t losing her mind.

I pretended she wasn’t going to die.

I pretended I wouldn’t have to figure out life without her.

Things escalated, as they say.

By the time she was confined to the pullout bed in the living room with a morphine pain pump spiking her arm, I was playing you twenty-four hours a day, even when Mom was unconscious, because it helped me, as I faithfully pushed the button every time she grimaced.

To her I was no longer Bartholomew, but Richard.

So I decided I would indeed be Richard and give Bartholomew some well-deserved time off, if that makes any sense to you, Mr. Gere. Bartholomew had been working overtime as his mother’s son for almost four decades. Bartholomew had been emotionally skinned alive, beheaded, and crucified upside down, just like his apostle namesake, according to various legends, only metaphorically—and in the modern world of today and right now.

Being Richard Gere was like pushing my own mental morphine pain pump.

I was a better man when I was you—more confident, more in control, surer of myself than I have ever been.

The hospice workers went along with my ruse. I firmly instructed them to call me Richard whenever we were in the room with Mom. They looked at me like I was crazy, but they did as I asked, because they were hired help.

Hospice workers took care of Mom only because they were being paid. I wasn’t under any illusion that these people cared about us. They glanced at their cell phone clocks fifty times an hour and always looked so relieved when they put on their coats at the end of their shifts—like departing from us was akin to attending a wonderful party, like walking out of a morgue and into the Oscars.

When Mom was sleeping, the hospice workers sometimes called me Mr. Neil, but whenever she was awake I was you, Richard, and they were doing as I asked because of the money they were being paid by the insurance company. They even used a very formal, reverent tone when they addressed us. “Can we do anything to make your mother more comfortable, Richard?” they’d say whenever she was awake, although they never once called me Mr. Gere, which was okay with me, since you and Mom were on a first-name basis from the start.

I want you to know that Mom truly loved watching the Olympics. She never missed the games—she used to watch with her mother too—and watching gave her such great pleasure, maybe because she never left the Philadelphia area during her seventy-one years on earth. She used to say that watching the Olympics was like taking a foreign vacation every four years, even after they switched the winter and summer games to different years, and therefore the Olympics occurred every two years, which I’m sure you know already.

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