Route 7 Review - Page 142

and “O Susannah”, all rendered at a quarter speed and as squeaky as an old ceiling fan, the songs sad and almost unrecognizable. A locked box. Later, all four wandered among the art projects; Nina noted the expression on a cat’s face, the cunning edge of a banana in a still life.  She kept her opinions to herself, oohing and aahing at her girls’ work, marginally proficient self-portraits and one ominous landscape, with cows and clouds. “We mixed the paint wrong,” Maria said. A copy of a copy. “It happens,” said Nina.  She looked at Jackson.  “I have to use the ladies’.” Jackson took both the girls’ hands and led them to the punch bowl.  Nina started towards the restroom at a walk that turned into a trot and then a sprint.  She managed to push the door open and grab the edge of the bowl with both hands before retching all of her lunch and most of her breakfast into the water.  She stared at the puke, a swirling Pollack. When did I have corn? And she laughed, a short bark that may have been a sob. It was an hour as promised when they made their way to the car; Jackson’s key was in the lock when he glanced around at Nina and Harlan. “Where’s Maria?” he asked. Nina looked in the backseat, then to the school doors fifty yards away, and shrugged.  Jackson pocketed his keys and the headed back to the building. “Wait here!” he shouted behind him.  Nina looked at Harlan and then at Jackson’s retreating back.   “Go help your father,” she said.  Harlan sighed, but jogged to him.  He stopped, waved back at Nina, and put an arm around Harlan’s shoulder as they made their way back into the building.   Nina’s felt her heart drop and her stomach rise at the same time, then settle back where they belonged like batter in a bowl. She checked her purse.  ATM card, keys, credit card.  She grabbed her cell phone from the front pocket, put it under the front tire.   She backed over the phone on her way out of the space, hit the avenue and pointed the car west.     She needed to find the nearest ATM.  She needed to find the nearest gas station. She needed to stop crying. What you left behind… Like this and with this. One or the other.   …beats all the lies… If she could live with what happened in that studio she could live with this too.  It was the only way, If she could live with that, she would live with this. It’s the only way. …you can invent If I can live with that, I can live with anything.