Once, maybe twice a month, if the money was flowing right, my parents got laced in their flyest gear to try to run the streets like they used to. By then they were pushing 60. Not old, but not young either. Growing up, the old heads I called aunts and uncles told me how they all used to party together three or four nights a week, and how my parents were the ringleaders.
That all changed when I was born, they said. My parents hit a quick one-eighty. Shifted their priorities. My arrival turned them into homebodies. Made them more comfortable in loose-fitting pajamas and lined house slippers than in sweat-drenched shirts and slick shoes that cramped their feet.
But every now and then, if my father finagled his way out of his Saturday morning shift delivering packages for FedEx, he’d stroll into our apartment on a Friday night, toss his keys on the table, lean his head past the doorframe to whichever room my mother was posted in and say, “We’re going out tonight.”
You’d think she’d find this sweet, the spontaneity of it. Like in those old-timey movies where the husband comes home to tell his wife to throw on her best clothes, they’re hitting the town, and the wife drops whatever she’s doing to turn on the stereo and put on her face in the bathroom, all while her husband admires her from behind, sways side to side, shadowing her tempo — both of them smiling at each other in the mirror.
But this was real life, and in my real-life home, my mother didn’t like surprises.
“You just telling me this now?” she said one night.
“I’m telling you when I could.”
“Phones don’t exist no more?”
“How you expect me to call when I’m on the truck?”
“You figure out a way to call when you wanna know what I’m making for dinner, don’t you? When you wanna complain? Talking ’bout, ‘Chicken again?’ As if you’re the one who does the grocery shopping after working, after cleaning, and after everything else I do.”
“So what you saying? You don’t wanna go out?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then say what you mean!” my father shouted, the only way he felt seen.
“Is yelling supposed to scare me?” My mother laughed.
“I’m not yelling. I’m — ” Here he paused, collected himself, took a deep breath. “I’m excited is all.”