Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 17, Part 1

The pile of junk mail sat loudly on the kitchen counter, looking brighter and much more alluring than the legitimate mail. Pouring her first cup of coffee, Amy’s eyes were drawn to the colorful plumage of solicitation—garishly bright car dealership balloons, tawny before-and-after Botox faces, fat, anthropomorphic dollar bills, apparently eager to be wasted.

She sifted through the pile as the animating force of caffeine slowly reached her dulled nervous system and took the opportunity to appreciate the flamboyance of each piece of junk before tipping it into the recycle bin.

She was down to one or two real estate ads, complete with stalker-ish photos of two of her neighbors’ homes, when she discovered her UCLA alumni magazine at the bottom of the pile—similarly colorful, slick, and in pursuit of money.

Give back to your Alma Mater with a generous donation! She chuckled to herself upon finding the sales pitch in the left hand corner of the cover. It amused her to think that Greg might have deliberately lumped the magazine in with the other money-grubbing mail. She did enjoy his thought process sometimes; it wasn’t always linear or easy to follow, but it usually led someplace interesting.

I think you guys have gotten enough of my money already, she thought, and tossed the magazine into the bin with a defiant flourish. And I really don’t need to read another article about James Franco.

But as she sat there in the silence with her coffee, the phrase Alma Mater lingered in her mind. She knew it meant nourishing mother in Latin, but she’d always preferred to think of the word Alma in its Spanish translation: heart or soul. In fact, she’d even briefly considered Alma as a potential name for her daughter, back before they’d settled on Penelope Jane, after their respective mothers. “We wouldn’t be doing her any favors, naming her Alma,” Greg had argued. ”A little too 19th century, a little too ugly, if you ask me.”

Maybe he was right, but it gave voice to everything she’d wanted to share with her baby, the connection she’d dreamed they’d someday have. She wasn’t her literal mother—they’d never have that connection—but she’d do her best to nurture, guide, and support the baby as she navigated the world. Although another woman had given her the gift of life, Amy would offer the humble gift of herself: her love, her time, and whatever wisdom she might have acquired. This was her bastardized translation of Alma Mater: mother of the soul. It was a job she’d barely had the chance to do.

In the darkened bedroom, she tried to dress quietly, as not to disturb Greg, but he was disturbed already. He had a nasty flu, and had spent the night thrashing around in restless, febrile half-sleep before finally drifting off as the sun had come up.

She wondered if she was hearing things because now he seemed to be sleep-talking, but not like any kind of sleep talk Amy had ever heard. She’d dated a few guys who’d mumbled nonsensical half-sentences in pillows, but this was different. It sounded unnervingly like a fully lucid conversation—he was enunciating carefully, with the kind of focus and deliberation that’s usually achieved only with conscious effort. In fact, when she first heard his voice, she automatically started to answer him, like a senior citizen who unwittingly carries on a confused, frustrated conversation with an answering machine.


“I guess I needed to hear that, thank you,” he continued, not missing a beat, acknowledging her interruption. “I know I must not be the easiest person to talk to lately.”

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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