Monday, September 16, 2019

The Silver Linings Playbook Chapter 17

Tiffany's Head Floating over the Waves When Ronnie picks me up in his minivan – which has three rows of seats – Tiffany is already buckled in next to Emily's car seat, so I climb into the very back, carrying the football and the bag my mother packed me, which contains a towel, a change of clothes, and a bagged lunch, even though I told Mom that Ronnie was bringing hoagies from the local deli. Of course my mother feels the need to stand on the front porch and wave, as if I were five years old. Veronica, who is riding in the front passenger's seat, leans over Ronnie and yells to my mother. â€Å"Thanks for the wine and flowers!† My mother takes this as an invitation to walk to the minivan and have a conversation. â€Å"How do you like the outfit I bought for Pat?† my mom says when she reaches Ronnie's window. She ducks down and takes a long look at Tiffany, but Tiffany has already turned her head away from my mother and is looking out the window at the house across the street. The outfit I am wearing is ridiculous: a bright orange polo shirt, bright green swimming shorts, and flip-flops. I did not want to wear any of this, but I knew Veronica was likely to make a fuss if I wore one of my cutoff T-shirts and a pair of workout shorts. Since Veronica and my mother have pretty much the same taste, I allowed my mother to dress me – plus, it makes Mom really happy. â€Å"He looks great, Mrs. Peoples,† Veronica says, and Ronnie nods in agreement. â€Å"Hello, Tiffany,† my mother says, sticking her head into the car a little more, but Tiffany ignores her. â€Å"Tiffany?† Veronica says, but Tiffany continues to stare out the window. â€Å"Have you met Emily yet?† Ronnie asks, and then he is out of the car and Emily is unbuckled from her car seat and placed in my mother's arms. Mom's voice gets all funny as she talks to Emily, and standing next to Mom, Veronica and Ronnie are all smiles. This goes on for a few minutes, until Tiffany turns her head and says, â€Å"I thought we were going to the beach today.† â€Å"Sorry, Mrs. Peoples,† Veronica says. â€Å"My sister can be a little blunt sometimes, but we probably should get going so we can have lunch on the beach.† My mother quickly nods and says, â€Å"Have a good time, Pat,† as Ronnie buckles Emily back into her car seat. Again I feel like I am five. On the way to the shore, Ronnie and Veronica talk to Tiffany and me the same way they talk to Emily – as if they are not really expecting a response, saying things that really don't need to be said at all. â€Å"Can't wait to get on the beach.† â€Å"We're going to have such a good time.† â€Å"What should we do first – swim, walk the beach, or throw the football?† â€Å"Such a nice day.† â€Å"Are you guys having fun?† â€Å"Can't wait to eat those hoagies!† After twenty minutes of non-talk, Tiffany says, â€Å"Can we please have some quiet time?† and we ride the rest of the way listening to the yelling noises Emily makes – what her parents claim is singing. We drive through Ocean City and over a bridge to a beach I do not know. â€Å"Little less crowded down here,† Ronnie explains. When we park, Emily is put into what looks like a cross between a stroller and a 4Ãâ€"4 vehicle, which Veronica pushes. Tiffany carries the umbrella. Ronnie and I carry the cooler, each of us grabbing a handle. We take a wooden walkway over a sand dune covered with sea oats and find that we have the beach all to ourselves. Not another person anywhere to be seen. After a brief discussion about whether the tide is coming in or out, Veronica picks a dry patch and tries to spread out the blanket while Ronnie begins digging the umbrella spike into the sand. But there is a breeze, and Veronica has some trouble, as the wind keeps folding the blanket over. If it were anyone but Veronica, I would grab a corner and help, but I do not want to get yelled at, so I wait for instructions before I do anything. Tiffany does the same, but Veronica fails to ask for help. Maybe some sand gets kicked up or something, because Emily starts screaming and rubbing her eyes. â€Å"Nice,† Tiffany says. Veronica immediately attends to Emily, telling her to blink, demonstrating what to do, but Emily only screams even louder. â€Å"I can't take a crying baby right now,† Tiffany adds. â€Å"Make her stop crying. Veronica, would you please make her – â€Å" â€Å"Remember what Dr. Lily said? What did we talk about this morning?† Veronica says over her shoulder, shooting Tiffany a serious look before turning her attention back to Emily. â€Å"So now we're talking about my therapist in front of Pat? You fucking bitch,† Tiffany says, shaking her head, and then she is walking away from us quickly. â€Å"Christ,† Veronica says. â€Å"Ronnie, can you handle Emily?† Ronnie nods solemnly, and then Veronica is running after Tiffany, saying, â€Å"Tiff? Come back. Come on. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry.† Ronnie flushes Emily's eyes with bottled water, and after ten minutes or so, she stops crying. We get the blanket spread out under the shade of the umbrella, weighting the corners down with the cooler, our flip-flops and sandals, and Emily's super stroller – but Veronica and Tiffany do not come back. After every inch of Emily's skin is coated with sunscreen, Ronnie and I play with her down at the water's edge. She likes running after the waves as they recede. She likes digging in the sand, and we have to watch to make sure she does not eat the sand, which seems weird to me, because why would anyone want to eat sand? Ronnie carries Emily out into the ocean, and we all float over the waves for a time. I ask if we should be worried about Veronica and Tiffany, and Ronnie says, â€Å"No. They're just having a therapy session somewhere on the beach. They'll be back soon.† I don't like the way he emphasizes the word â€Å"therapy,† as if therapy were some sort of ridiculous idea, but I don't say anything. After we dry off, we all lie down on the blanket – Ronnie and Emily in the shade, and me in the sun. I doze off pretty quickly. When I open my eyes, Ronnie's face is next to mine; he's sleeping. I feel a tap on my shoulder, and when I roll over, I see that Emily has walked around the blanket. She smiles at me and says, â€Å"Pap.† â€Å"Let Daddy sleep,† I whisper, and then pick her up and carry her down to the water. For a while we sit and dig a small hole in the wet sand with our hands, but then Emily stands and chases the foam of a receding wave, laughing and pointing. â€Å"Want to go swimming?† I ask her, and she nods once, so I scoop her up into my arms and begin to wade out into the water. The surf has picked up some and the waves have a lot more height, so I quickly walk past the breakers to where the water is up to my chest. Emily and I begin to float over the swells. As the waves grow in size, I have to jump and kick really hard to keep both of our heads above water, but Emily loves it and begins squealing and laughing and clapping her hands every time we float up. This goes on for a good ten minutes, and I am so happy; I kiss her chubby cheeks over and over. Something about Emily makes me want to float over waves with her for the rest of my life, and I decide that when apart time is done, I will make a daughter with Nikki ASAP, because nothing has made me even close to this happy since apart time began. The swells get even bigger. I lift Emily up and put her on my shoulders so she will not have her face splashed by the waves, and her squeals seem to suggest that she likes being so high in the air. We float up. We float down. We are so happy. We are so, so happy. But then I hear someone screaming. â€Å"Pat! Pat! Paaaaaaat!† I turn and see that Veronica is running very quickly down the beach, with Tiffany trailing far behind. I worry that maybe something is wrong, so I start to make my way in. The waves are pretty big now, and I have to take Emily down from my shoulders and hold her against my chest to ensure her safety, but soon we are able to negotiate our way back to Veronica, who is now running into the surf. When I get closer, Veronica seems to be very upset. Emily starts to scream and reach for her mother. â€Å"What the hell are you doing?† Veronica says to me when I hand Emily over to her. â€Å"I'm just swimming with Emily,† I say. Veronica's screaming must have woken up Ronnie, because he has run down to meet us. â€Å"What happened?† â€Å"You let Pat take Emily out into the ocean?† Veronica says, and by the way she says my name, it's obvious she does not want Emily to be left alone with me, because she thinks I am going to hurt Emily somehow, which is unfair – especially since Emily only started crying when she heard Veronica screaming, so really Veronica was the one who upset her own daughter. â€Å"What did you do to her?† Ronnie says to me. â€Å"Nothing,† I say. â€Å"We were only swimming.† â€Å"What were you doing?† Veronica says to Ronnie. â€Å"I must of fallen asleep, and – â€Å" â€Å"Jesus Christ, Ronnie. You left Emily alone with him?† The way Veronica says â€Å"him,† Emily crying, Ronnie accusing me of doing something awful to his daughter, the sun burning my bare chest and back, Tiffany watching now – suddenly I feel as though I might explode. I definitely feel an episode coming on, so before I blow up, I do the only thing I can think of: I start running down the beach away from Veronica and Ronnie and Emily and the crying and the accusations. I run as fast as I can, and suddenly I realize that now I am crying, probably because I was only swimming with Emily and it felt so right and I was trying to be good and thought I was being good and I let my best friend down and Veronica screamed at me and it's not fair because I have been trying so hard and how long can this fucking movie last and how much more do I need to improve myself and – Tiffany passes me. She runs by me like a blur. Suddenly, only one thing matters: I need to pass her. I start running faster and catch up to her, but she picks up her speed and we run side by side for a time until I find that gear women do not have, and I blow by her and maintain my man speed for a minute or so before I slow down and allow her to catch up with me. We jog side by side on the beach for a long time, neither of us saying a word. What feels like an hour passes before we turn around, and what feels like another hour passes before we see Ronnie and Veronica's umbrella, but before we reach them, Tiffany veers into the ocean. I follow her – running directly into the waves – and the salt water feels so cool on my skin after a long run. Soon we are in too deep to stand, and Tiffany's head is floating over the waves, which have calmed down considerably. Her face is a little tan and her hair hangs dark and wet and natural and I see freckles on her nose that were not there earlier that morning – so I swim over to her. A wave lifts me up, and when I come down over the other side, I am surprised that our faces are very close. For a second Tiffany reminds me so much of Nikki, I worry we might accidentally kiss, but Tiffany swims a few feet away from me before this happens, and I am thankful. Her toes come up out of the water, and she begins to float, facing the horizon. I lean back, stare at the line where sky meets water, allow my toes to rise, and float next to Tiffany for a long time, neither of us saying anything. When we walk back to the blanket, Emily is sleeping with a fist in her mouth, and Veronica and Ronnie are lying down, holding hands in the shade. When we stand over them, they squint and smile at us like nothing bad had happened earlier. â€Å"How was your run?† Ronnie asks. â€Å"We want to go home now,† Tiffany says. â€Å"Why?† Ronnie says, sitting up. â€Å"We haven't even eaten our lunch. Pat, you really want to go home?† Veronica says nothing. I look up at the sky. No clouds at all. Nothing but blue. â€Å"Yeah, I do,† I tell him, and then we are in the minivan driving back to Collingswood.

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