Route 7 Review - Page 137

ing away from her like a crowd on a bus, and she remembered a couple weeks ago, Jackson closing Harlan’s door: “She doesn’t think you understand her.” “Huh?”  Nina had been thinking of Jason Karl, specifically his hands, comparing his long, thin fingers with her own.  No resemblance.      He’d begun again.  “She doesn’t--” “Sometimes I don’t.”  She pushed Jason Karl to the back of her mind, focused on Jackson, if only because he’d noticed her distraction and looked ready to ask about it.  “We’re still saying no, right?” “Yes.  Still no.” “Sometimes--” she began, still intent to shift the focus, even if it meant an argument.  She’d been short with Jackson for weeks, short with everyone; time at home felt like a diet, like when she quit smoking. “This time I didn’t.”  Jackson flopped on top of the bedspread and flipped on the television. “It would be easier on me if you were a little harder on her.” He dropped his head and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “You confuse the easy way out with compassion,” she’d said. It was an old argument—good and bad cop, spanking and talking, little girls and young ladies.  Amazing how quickly things got complicated and how complicated they seemed to stay. But Jackson had grinned and refused the bait.  “You two--cut from the same cloth.”  She’d grinned back at him and let it drop, as if he’d scored a point.  As if a homily could contend for the last word.  As if it said something true. Nina stood sideways and examined her profile, the phone pressed to her ear.   As if he knew the first thing about me.   “How am I different today?” she asked her sister. “How could you not be?” Erin asked. “Maybe I’m just different to you.” “You’re still my sister.” “Good to know,” Nina said. “Don’t act brittle.” “We grew up with the same father and mother, same house, same time.  That’s me.”  She’d put a little lipstick on, maybe a nice top and capris.  No reason to run around the house like a hobo. “But we have different fathers.” “Maybe.”  A little of that eye cream might help. “OK, maybe.  But I feel like it explains some things.” “Is that so?  Things?” “Just things, OK?”  Nina set the phone down and pulled the rubber band out of her hair, let it fall.  She pushed up the sides.  Maybe a wedge cut would set off her jaw, maybe something more striking and masculine.  Something like Isabella Rosselini or Louise Brooks. “Are you even listening to me?” said a tinny voice from the floor. She grabbed the handset.  “What things?” “Your restlessness, maybe.” “Mom was restless.” “Well, that’s obvious,” Erin said. Well, fuck you too.  “It’s not a puzzle, Erin.  We’re not here to figure each other out.” “My experience implies otherwise.” Now who’s brittle?  “I’m not a cheerleader with an eating disorder,” Nina said, taking another glance at herself in the mirror, then heading back into the kitchen to finish the dishes.  “Maybe we’re all strangers.” “Well, some are stranger than others, that’s for sure.” Nina always wondered how things happened, if it was indeed the accretion of small accidents--close calls and short cuts that lead to the burst dam, the airplane crash, the one-night stand.  Jackson, the insurance adjustor, would talk of the “paper trail,” whether there was paper or not.  Her sister would refer to “pre-existing behaviors” or “signals.”   She spent a year telling herself her life was good and under control, until it wasn’t.  For so long, her life was like everyone’s, a copy of a copy. She’d modeled for months—it was February.  Again.  Almost a year and she’d never mentioned her mother to Karl.  Erin had stopped calling to pry.   Several times, she’d opened her mouth to talk to him about why she was there, but it seemed less important, the was he or wasn’t he? replaced by does he or does he not? She started smoking again; she’d quit in college.  She started reading poetry again; she’d quit that in college too. She brought a copy of Blake to one of the ses-