by Mary Sophie Filicetti
“How was your weekend?”
Your new colleague’s question seems innocent enough. Awaiting a group photo, the two of you stand posed alongside other school staff on the playground structure while a photographer positions the stragglers.
Here’s what you said:
“Tiring, but satisfying. I took on a home repair project— ripping out the rusty shed in my backyard.”
Here’s what your colleague said:
“Why didn’t you have your hubby do that?”
So many ways to respond. You go with a straight answer. There is no hubby; you don’t mind a little hard work. Besides, swinging a sledgehammer really works out pent-up aggressions.
He looks at you, brow furrowed. Like you’ve been found wanting, or somehow disappointed him. On cue, you both turn to the camera and smile.
Afterwards, the assistant principal picks up the baton. “Good to have you aboard, Mrs. __,” he says, extending a hand. You’ve never met the man, and your resume didn’t specify a Ms. or Mrs. The trick here is to gently course correct before the label spreads like a virus.
“Actually, Mrs. __ is my mother,” you say, with a self-deprecating chuckle. “I go by Ms.”
Afterwards, at the staff meeting, he gallantly introduces you as Mrs. __.
What you hear when you open the door to two young men in white oxfords:
“Welcome to the neighborhood! We’d like to tell you about our church, and explore the programs we can offer to your family.” A pair of earnest smiles accompany the invitation.
“Sorry, you have the wrong impression. I’m actually single,” you say, gesturing vaguely towards the peaceful, empty living room.“I live alone.”
The two follow your gaze blankly. You give them a moment to regroup, to restart their approach, but your response doesn’t register.
Young man number two is busy describing an upcoming family conference when you wish them well and gently close the door. What the hell, it’s just something to laugh about at the block party tonight.
What you hear your neighbors say:
“My fiancée and I just discovered the loveliest B&B…”
“My husband volunteered to coach Jennie’s travel soccer team this year…”
What You Say:
Neighbor Leslie (Louise?), in an effort to include you asks, “Is your… partner here tonight?”
Here’s Where We Remain in 2021
It’s a one-size-fits-all world. You play along, creating Mr. ___ over a burger and more than one Budweiser; details provided on the heels of persistent questioning.
“He’s out of town…Yes, he travels quite a bit…”
As dusk descends, you decide against fictional children, since even imaginary progeny would require photos and endless charming vignettes. The alcohol loosens your tongue, and you spin a tragic tale of infertility, your unrealized hopes unfolded.
The dessert table beckons, lifting your spirits with the anticipation of a rich, chocolate brownie. Instead, the gingham cloth-draped table boasts ambrosia salad and a green gelatin mold with pretzel bits suspended inside. There’s nothing to do but grab a bowl and dig in.
Mary Sophie Filicetti is a teacher of the visually impaired who once spent time writing stories in the myriad coffee shops around DC, and now writes at home. Her fiction has appeared in AEL press, Montana Mouthful, Every Day Fiction, Nightingale and Sparrow, The Magnolia Review, and The Phoenix. Tweeting @marysfilicetti