» Fiction

The Addition

Three Mrs. Smiths barreled into the Duane Reade on East 2nd Street. The younger Mrs. Smiths, married three months ago, and the elder Mrs. Smith, who resented the new Mrs. Smith and preferred her only daughter, Ellie, to remain a Ms. Smith as long as possible, considered the sugar-free breath mints together. A ruse for something, the eldest Mrs. Smith knew; the newest Smith had a jittery air about her, picking up the same nougat bar and returning it to the dusty shelf again and again. Mischievous. Though her daughter reminded her to please leave her bad energy in the domestic terminal at JFK, the eldest Mrs. Smith felt certain it was actually the newest Smith who carried something off about her. The way she handled that nougat bar—demonic? Not good, not good.


Anyway, the eldest Mrs. Smith wouldn’t want them to break up now, what with her being against divorce. Even gay divorce? her husband, Mr. Smith, asked the night before she flew from Virginia to New York to visit the new Mrs. Smiths. A girl’s weekend, her daughter insisted. She missed her mom, or at least wanted her company to brave the IKEA in Red Hook for the younger Smiths’ move. She had news, too, the promise of which she floated not on the phone but over text, a choice that did not evade Mrs. Smith’s notice; news three months into a marriage could only mean so many things, which Mrs. Smith knew damned well, being both married and a mother herself.


Mr. Smith looked so flummoxed the evening before Mrs. Smith left, holding his fork and knife straight up in front of himself at the table, considering the ethics of homosexual divorce. Their church wasn’t happy about divorce, sure. The Smiths had gotten that lecture from the lead pastor more than once. But they were not so thrilled about same-sex marriage, either. So, was gay divorce actually preferable? Mr. Smith stared at his wife, whom he’d known since they were college sophomores, three decades ago. He frowned. He opened and closed his mouth, releasing hot spit to his bare chin. He adored his only child. Finally, he asked only the third woman he had known biblically: A baby is better than a divorce, isn’t it?


Mrs. Smith told her husband, Obviously, it’s better than a divorce, and took his plate away, though he had hardly started in on his meatloaf and mashed potatoes.



In the Duane Reade, the eldest Mrs. Smith pulled her favorite forum up on her phone. She intended to stand in the incontinence aisle for more privacy, but the younger Mrs. Smiths would not let up their closeness. The pair of them held hands as they trailed around the store behind her, picking up dark chocolate bars, refrigerated Gatorades, travel-size toothbrushes. All were discarded in the wrong places.


From over her shoulder, the eldest Mrs. Smith felt stares coming from not just the duo, but a young man in a black puffer jacket and heavy-looking headphones whose face carried a fixed interest. In another life, the eldest Mrs. Smith could not help but think, this might be the person her daughter had married; a man with focused, curious eyes and trimmed stubble. The eldest Mrs. Smith felt a precarious pride at watching him watch her daughter; who doesn’t want their offspring to inspire some healthy desire, after all? She would ask the forum if this sensation was wrong, or perhaps a misguided value, if only the young Mrs. Smiths would give her a moment’s breath.


Maybe someone will think it’s fate, Mrs. Smith’s daughter offered, slipping a sports drink behind a box of jumbo tampons, having seen her mother’s glare. They wouldn’t have known they were craving a light blue Gatorade, and then, there it is!


Sure, the eldest Mrs. Smith said flatly. She made eye contact with the man behind her daughters as the newest Mrs. Smith gave her offspring a kiss on the cheek. He disappeared in a blink.


If we’re going to walk to dinner, I’d like to leave with enough time, Mrs. Smith said, keeping her voice clipped and kind. She felt exposed suddenly, and ashamed. On past trips, her daughter had hustled down cramped side streets, leaving her overstimulated and spooked. Only tourists actually took cabs, her daughter explained, to which Mrs. Smith quietly swallowed that she, herself, was a tourist.


The newest Mrs. Smith piped up: I need to buy something…private. She gave the two natural Smiths a plaintive look; Mrs. Smith thought of her third-graders, the search of affirmation in their eyes when they recited lines for a class play, vulnerable and uneasy with their memories. Teacher, their faces said, tell us you love us. Not: Give me a good grade. Not: Did I get an A? Only: Show me with your face, in front of everybody in this room, that I’ve done right. Mrs. Smith wanted to ask how many pregnancy tests they’d already purchased, had they been to a doctor yet for a blood test? She sucked the skin of her cheeks and bit, figuring they wanted just one more positive before telling her the obvious.


Her daughter nodded at her wife and said, Let’s share one outside, Mom, and flicked at her coat pocket. At the automated doors, the eldest Mrs. Smith looked back at the newest Mrs. Smith and fancied herself a soothsayer. There the newest addition went, legs going like crazy down the family planning aisle.


The mother fingered her phone in her pocket, even more eager, now, to update the forum. She imagined the title she would give the post: How to support lesbian moms (30s, F, NYC?), and then the follow ups: Are both lesbian moms “mom” without exception, as well as, Let’s be honest: What do I do when child of lesbian moms (now unborn fetus) asks the big D question? (ETA: D as in “dad”!!) She imagined getting lots of comments, most positive, some not so much; the thought of a bright, bright screen warmed her with a pride she did not often allow herself to access.


Outside, mother and daughter passed a clove cigarette between one another. It’s vanilla flavored, her daughter said.


Her mother replied: Nice.


The Smith women had been sharing cigarettes since the younger Mrs. Smith was in high school. Her mother, a sprinter in youth and later a casual jogger, drove her to field hockey games even when she was old enough to drive herself; she didn’t trust other drivers on the road, Mrs. Smith said, but what she really wanted was time to sit in quiet with her daughter. Her daughter became mysterious to her in those years, confident and stretched beyond the child-self her mother understood. She went to the mall with friends, stayed up late on the family desktop, typing away to people Mrs. Smith assumed were classmates, whispered on the landline in the kitchen. By her senior year, then-Miss Smith dawdled getting into the car, sneaking off to hover in the garage. Finally, Mrs. Smith caught her smoking. She looked so young in her high school sweatpants, with all that black eyeliner. Get in the car, she said, and they did. Mrs. Smith didn’t say anything when her daughter lit the next cigarette, hunched and scowled in the front seat. When her daughter handed the filtered cigarette to her, the eldest Mrs. Smith took a few puffs, and passed it back. For months, their little joy.


Mom, her only child said as they stood outside the fluorescent Duane Reade, January’s depression thick around them. This is so important to me. A few feet behind her, a straight couple took a selfie; the man’s arm stretched long, and the woman used her gloved hand to adjust the tilt of the screen.


Her daughter continued: I know you might not understand at first, but try to stay open minded. The eldest Mrs. Smith squinted at the asphalt but kept listening; her daughter never got on the phone anymore, so how could she pass up a chance to hear that voice? She could recognize rehearsal in it, that her Ellie had practiced this, whether to a mirror or to the new addition, the eldest Mrs. Smith did not know.


Families are changing, Mom, Ellie added, but it’s the same love.


Mrs. Smith ruffled; same love? Was her daughter quoting commercials now? Anyway. Mrs. Smith found it all to be just fine. A baby, sure. A grandmother. Fine, fine, fine. She did not appreciate all of the hullabaloo over hiding this pregnancy. Probably, the eldest Mrs. Smith bet, they were going to raise the baby all gender neutral; yellow and green onesies, sure, the eldest Mrs. Smith could do that. She had gotten pretty damn good at they as a default, at risk of patting herself on the back. Mrs. Smith took an extra drag of the cigarette, knowing her daughter was watching and wanting.


I know, was all the eldest Mrs. Smith said, believing that she did. I know


Mrs. Smith looked at Mrs. Smith. Their faces just the same: brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, both still with acne scars. Red, red cheeks in the city’s cold. The younger Mrs. Smith stood taller, like her father. The eldest Mrs. Smith knew her daughter inherited her father’s long, thin feet as well. She imagined, briefly, the newest Mrs. Smith rubbing ointment on her daughter’s scabbed heels; they bruised in new shoes so easily, and her daughter had always been impatient to break in what was still stiff. Bandaids, bandaids. Would the newest Mrs. Smith massage her daughter’s callouses, or only rub disinfectant in her blood? Mrs. Smith’s desire to know this intimacy embarrassed her more than her refusal to ask.


Mrs. Smith tried to see hot life in her daughter but couldn’t. Both women were gaunt, still. She figured it was the newer Mrs. Smith who had gotten pregnant, but she hoped it was actually her daughter, her blood. From her forum, she knew not to ask questions of biology, because it implied one mother was more real than the other. Still, while the younger Mrs. Smiths checked directions to the restaurant, the eldest Mrs. Smith typed: How to celebrate lesbian moms (31F, 33F) having baby? No, she thought. She should not have to ask that. She deleted it and typed: How to celebrate lesbian pregnancy of daughter in law when baby isn’t blood? No, still wrong. She deleted again, then switched to her not-private browser and ordered more cotton briefs for her husband.


I’m glad you’re feeling up for dinner, right after your flight and all, the newest Mrs. Smith said when she came outside. Mrs. Smith nodded and said thank you, completing the circle of polite conversion the two of them had entertained for the last few years. When the Mrs. Smiths held hands and walked down the sidewalk, the eldest Mrs. Smith stared hard at the plastic bag. It had to be a pregnancy test, she thought. She hoped it would tear, drop, spill. She only wanted confirmation of a thing she might understand, an entry point. The newest Mrs. Smith held on, held on.



At the restaurant, a third gaunt woman joined them as Mrs. Smith’s daughter confirmed the reservation with the hostess. For four? the hostess asked dully, and to Mrs. Smith’s confusion, all three stretched smiles wide and agreed.


Oh, Mrs. Smith said. Could her daughter not pity her shyness? Some personalities aren’t outgrown. I’m so glad your friend can join us, she said, giving her daughter a brief look of reproach. In return, her daughter named her friend, voice full of a funny anxiety. The eldest Mrs. Smith told the new person hello and realized she had already forgotten their name.


The three women looked at Mrs. Smith with a terrible vulnerability, causing her to experience a swing into both fear and resentment. She was trying, wasn’t she? What to say to this strange addition. The trio appeared to her as three long coats. Three sets of eyes, for once not glued to phone screens. Three mouths that had all worn braces, she could tell. Mrs. Smith repeated herself, that she was very glad their friend could spend dinner with them, and something in all of the women’s eyes shriveled into an ache Mrs. Smith could not understand.


Once at their booth, Mrs. Smith considered the seating an unnecessary tangle. In the end, she sat beside her Ellie, and the new Mrs. Smith and their friend sat opposite them. The new Mrs. Smiths tended to hold hands and share plates, which Mrs. Smith found particularly saccharine and was privately relieved to not have to witness it tonight. Still, this new woman puzzled her. Was she a surrogate? An emotional support decoy? Their couples’ therapist? The eldest Mrs. Smith wished she had a Facebook account so she could slip into the bathroom and do some digging.


When their water glasses came, Mrs. Smith narrowed her eyes in on the new woman’s layered hemp bracelets. A birth doula, maybe. The message board made living seem easy. People followed group rules. Age, relationship, one-liner summary. Mrs. Smith read the TL;DRs first, then went back and reread all of the details; people don’t always know how to pull out what was really the main issue in their lives. Mrs. Smith did not comment or post, but she did read. Admittedly, she skimmed the ones with titles she did not understand: situationships, throuples, polyams, kinksters. Fine for them, she reasoned, though she felt they should have a sub-group, so as not to clog her main page. At this dinner, she felt betrayed; the forums had not prepared her for these queer circumstances. Especially not the raw menu in front of her.


With forced cheer, she asked, When it says it’s all plant-based and raw, that means it’ll come cold? Mrs. Smith resented having to ask these questions but had stopped asking her daughter to bring her to that cheesecake place she loved in Times Square; she could only be mocked so many times for being a tourist, what with her wanting of cabs and cooked meals.


It’s room temp, the newest Mrs. Smith said. The eldest Mrs. Smith hid her grimace behind the menu; it was involuntary, she told herself, this sharp reaction to the young woman’s hoarse voice. She had intended to ask her daughter, and thought her intent was obvious. The eldest Mrs. Smith soothed her inner beast by reminding herself that the crackling young woman was carrying her grandchild.


Still, her daughter stepped in to save her. It’s all vegan and focused around plants, so fruits and vegetables, but the dishes are really very Americana, explained her offspring, who spent childhood years dipping string cheese into bowls of shelf-stable shredded parmesan. I’m going to try the queso plate, she added with an excitement her mother sensed held no irony.


The meatloaf, the eldest Mrs. Smith said. The table felt clipped, tense; too quiet, too much attention on one another’s brief movements. Had her own pregnancy announcement been so bizarre? She could not quite remember the air around her parents’ living room, when she and her husband delivered the news to them; she’d been happy, or terrified, or resting on the fine line between those states, then, she was sure, but how she appeared to those around her, she could not place. Feeling three heads turned on her, she pushed out the words, What is the meat?


It’s a pea protein, Mom, but don’t focus on that. The dish is actually just like what you and Dad like. You know, with the spices. Her daughter gestured her hands in front of her hunched chest, as she had whenever she argued a theoretical point or on behalf of getting takeout, and the eldest Mrs. Smith wanted to lie down beneath the table and spoon her, as they had on the couch when she was young. The eldest Mrs. Smith knew she could not ask for such a thing; someone would call the manager, if not the police, and so she reminded her daughter that she cooked her meatloaf, and that the spices she used were ketchup.



All except for the newest Mrs. Smith ordered a glass of organic, vegan wine. When isn’t wine vegan? the oldest Mrs. Smith asked after the sommelier, a lean, frantic-looking man with studs in both nostrils, returned and placed the glasses on the table. She had wanted to ask when he was running through the list, but her daughter looked close to ill in her nerves, eyes shifting from face to face at their table, and she did not want to irritate her into snapping.

Her daughter said, It has to do with the bugs, or something. The eldest Mrs. Smith watched her daughter take a gulp and wipe her mouth with the back of her hand. The eldest Mrs. Smith watched the newest Mrs. Smith sip at her water, and glanced to their friend, who was sniffing and staring at her wine but not ingesting it.


You can drink up, the eldest Mrs. Smith said loudly, causing the unexpected addition to the group to startle. There are no bugs to check for; isn’t that right, dear? She turned on her daughter, who held the stem of a wine glass like a softball glove.


Her daughter looked at her wife and the friend nervously, then back at her mother. The eldest Mrs. Smith was surprised her daughter did not jab back in her friend’s honor; she found the eldest Mrs. Smith’s lighthearted teasing to be baiting and rude, when in fact, the eldest Mrs. Smith felt she only wanted to be a little less kind without losing affection. Mom, her daughter said instead. We have to tell you something.


With six eyes on her, Mrs. Smith suddenly felt very important. She was grateful for her bugless wine. It tasted light and fresh, she thought. Those words were only implants, really, because she preferred box wine, and also because she felt that she did not understand the world around her. Why was the friend here? How far along was her daughter-in-law? Was this friend the nanny? Was she a surrogate? Nothing quite made sense. She encouraged the sommelier, who filtered back in as though trained to pick on such delicate family rifts, to fill her glass a little extra. He obliged without question. She took a long drink, and said, Yes?


The younger women appeared baby faced, suddenly, without much makeup. Just the flick of winged eyeliner, a bright red lipstick. Their faces looked unbalanced, unfinished; she guessed intentionally. Mrs. Smith had worn her full face, including powder, as she had for years. In the tea lights, she worried she looked like a ghost.


Well, her daughter started. The women looked at one another again when she paused, letting the eldest Mrs. Smith simmer. The eldest Mrs. Smith was prepared to simmer, simmer, until the youngest Mrs. Smith, the newest Mrs. Smith, and their strange friend held hands. Quite ceremonious, the eldest Mrs. Smith thought before feeling she was being made a fool.


I’m very happy for you, she said unhappily. And I understand this probably feels like very big news to give me, but of course I understand.


The women looked at one another, then back at her.


The newest Mrs. Smith repeated her unsteadily: You understand?


The eldest Mrs. Smith finished her wine. She drank her water glass to the bottom. She felt her bladder seize, a reminder of her infallibility.. I’m very, very happy for you girls, she said, but I am a little offended that you’re having such a hard time telling me the truth.


Her one daughter spoke to her very slowly, as though she were a child with a dirty foot in its mouth: What exactly are you happy about, Mom?


The eldest Mrs. Smith felt regret before she said, The baby. After all, it was their news to give, not hers. But why had they made the night so difficult? Why this particularly odd restaurant? Why the awkward friend? Why draw out the reveal? The eldest Mrs. Smith worried why her own daughter thought her own mother would need such buttering up; was it those bad years, the hung up calls, the mentions of the sons of her friends who were so polite, and so single, the use of friend over and over and over? The eldest Mrs. Smith put her empty wine glass to her mouth. She did not want to think about those years and their bruising.


The newest Mrs. Smith looked at the other women, then said loudly and cheerfully, as though repeating her order at the counter of a loud cafe, There’s actually not a baby.


The eldest Mrs. Smith stopped herself from rolling her eyes. She said: Okay, the fetus.


Her daughter grabbed her hand when she said, Mom, no, you don’t understand what’s going on.


The eldest Mrs. Smith wondered where her meatloaf was; how could raw food take so long? It wasn’t even cooked! She wanted to kick the table up into the ceiling. She held her daughter’s hand back. She could not remember the last time they had grabbed for one another. Speaking each syllable fully, she said: Explain it in the simplest terms, will you?


The friend leaned forward and chirped, Oh, Mrs. Smith. We’re a trio.


A trio, the eldest Mrs. Smith repeated flatly. With her free hand, she held her wine in front of her face, as though it were a shield. She stared into the bottom of the glass and swore she saw her child self staring back at her, forlorn and meager, always steps behind, always left out, the haunting of a miserable only child. She placed the glass on the table. She said, What?


Like, instead of a couple, the newest Mrs. Smith cut in. We’re a trio. The three of them nodded at one another, then at the eldest Mrs. Smith.


Behind the eldest Mrs. Smith, the sommelier explained the wine pairings to a table that had just been seated. She listened to the string of happy voices; two couples, she guessed, one old, one young, enjoying a family meal. No trios. No sad old women. Tofu, perhaps. But not all of this. She repeated, What?


No one is having a baby, her daughter said, this time, her voice all shake. We’re not pregnant, or adopting, or anything like that. But our family is growing, and it’s important to me that you accept that.


What, she thought, incredulously. She asked, A fourth Mrs. Smith?


Mom, Jesus. We haven’t talked about that yet.


The eldest Mrs. Smith turned to the new addition. It’s your baby?


There’s no baby, Mom.


No baby, she repeated, feeling dumb.


Mom, we just need you to accept…all of it, us, and the um, the lack of a baby, too.


Accept it, the eldest Mrs. Smith repeated. She hesitated, then took the newest addition’s full glass and drank from hers.




Mrs. Smith shrugged and held onto the stolen glass. She said: Accept it, and her daughter rolled her eyes.


I really appreciate you being so nice about this, the newest addition said, ignoring the pilfered wine. The eldest Mrs. Smith had gotten to know when younger people had prepared their words, irrespective of anything else that might happen before the envisioned moment became the present. I mean, the hemp-adorned woman continued, I know it’s a lot to take in, but you’re handling it a lot better than my mom did.


The eldest Mrs. Smith looked at the pilfered wine glass. Despite herself, she said, Really?


Really! And, besides, we don’t know what the future holds, any of us. The addition said this very wisely, and the eldest Mrs. Smith felt certain that this was the sort of woman her daughter was ceaselessly attracted to: lots of wisdoms, lots of organics, lots of mild emotional stressors in stimulating environments, like the IKEA she was now sure the addition would accompany them to.


Tell me more, Mrs. Smith said. Her face felt warm from the wine. She comforted herself: This is a fling, an exploration. A phase. She thought about the newest Mrs. Smiths; her daughter, just 31, and her wife, a reasonable 33. They had a few good years yet. She finished the wine and noticed her daughter drain her own glass.


You know, about having kids. I mean, who knows, none of us are parents right now, but we don’t know—


Babe, her daughter said loudly. The newest Mrs. Smith shook her head diplomatically and smiled with both rows of her teeth out. Definitely still wore her retainer, the eldest Mrs. Smith thought. Absolutely mother material.


When she did not add a just kidding, ha, ha, the three Mrs. Smiths eyed the addition curiously. The newest asked, What do you mean, the same time the daughter asked, Haven’t we talked about this, but probably no one heard them over the eldest Mrs. Smith, who simply asked: Turkey baster or IVF?



When the three Mrs. Smiths and their new addition—who her daughter pointedly clarified was named Alyssa, and wanted to be called it, instead of the friend—left the restaurant, the eldest Mrs. Smith could not help herself. She’d ordered two more glasses of wine. She’d polished off her meatloaf, which, she noted to the waiter with pleasure, was actually warmer than she’d expected. Her daughter was, in her mind, one step away from being a polygamist.


The pregnancy test, she said as they congregated on the narrow, smoky sidewalk, feeling dumb. You were so cagey in that store, she said, regarding her daughter-in-law face to face, emboldened by the wine.


The newest Mrs. Smith brought her pointer finger to her mouth and picked at her lips. Oh, she said. I’ve had some vaginal dryness.


The eldest Mrs. Smith was too focused (and too drunk) to be deterred. And you didn’t order wine, she continued.

I’m on an antibiotic, you know, she said, giving her wife a pleading look. For the dryness.


The eldest Mrs. Smith let this information settle on their walk back to her hotel in midtown, where the girls were leaving her for the night. As her daughter explained, the new addition—Alyssa, the eldest Mrs. Smith kept as a refrain, Alyssa—hadn’t moved in yet, but would when they moved to the new place.


We’re buying the furniture, the eldest Mrs. Smith said, pronouncing each word as though waiting for a stern correction. But her daughter offered none, and instead described the new home as she held her wife’s hand. An additional bedroom and a half-bathroom, a minuscule yard. A deck that could fit three adults and a tall plant. It had seemed to the eldest Mrs. Smith she had gotten one guess right: IKEA, the shopping, the anxiety.This ability to perceive a thing comforted her.


The four women stopped at a crosswalk. The wind was flat and empty, just cold air hanging steady as they walked through. The eldest Mrs. Smith longed for some city snow, but all around her feet, dirty remnants. A big, dark car slowed at the curb, and a man rushed up from behind them and launched into the backseat. The eldest Mrs. Smith had felt a presence up close behind her, and assumed it was the new one—Alyssa, Alyssa—lurking hard, but in orienting herself to the present moment, realized Alyssa had actually been holding her daughter’s other hand.


The car hovered. The man from the Duane Reade, the one who carried hot blood the eldest Mrs. Smith understood at first as a blessing, leaned his face out of the window. That hot blood looked so young, then, childish in its evil, in its disregard for empathy. Later, the eldest Mrs. Smith would understand it as worse than a lack of empathy; the intention was all cruelty, all power that was not a naive pushing of boundaries, but of choice and intent.


Her girls didn’t react when they heard the slur; it rang through all of them, no one had to ask to clarify it, or to repeat it, or to question if it was a trick of the city noise, but only the eldest Mrs. Smith reacted when the man yelled dykes from the backseat as the car merged into traffic.


The eldest Mrs. Smith ran. It came back easier than she thought, the rhythm. Feet on the ground like she controlled the pace of the present. The lungs, even, remember what it is to become mightier in expansion. When the car stilled at the traffic light, the eldest Mrs. Smith soared, vaulted, it felt like, to catch up. She kicked the trunk of the car. Her foot throbbed and she kicked again. She slammed her purse against the rear window. Inside, her Midol and chapsticks rattled.


The man put his head out of the window. Lady, he said, blank-eyed. What the fuck?


The eldest Mrs. Smith hit her purse against the backdoor of the car as he shouted at the driver to raise his window. He could not figure out how to get it up himself. Of course, she realized, this man had taken an Uber and not a cab. Of course. The eldest Mrs. Smith did not emit noise from her throat. The eldest Mrs. Smith heard noises, distantly; the driver, laughing loudly, the man in the backseat, yelling about customer service, the two new Mrs. Smiths, and, she reasoned, the perhaps soon-to-be Mrs. Smith, being loud in an emotional state the eldest Mrs. Smith could not, at the moment her purse smacked into the man’s face through his still-open window, parse out. She was beyond.

The eldest Mrs. Smith felt her bladder release a little urine; all of the momentum, all of the wine. A little urine is fine, she thought. A little urine detracts from almost nothing.


She heard herself yelling things like eat shit, motherfucker, and I’ll report you, and even, surreally, a promise that she would come for him. Come for him where? How? The eldest Mrs. Smith had no idea where such ideas entered her mind, but it did not matter. He laughed, as the driver finally turned his window up, but he looked nervous, too; the eldest Mrs. Smith taught sophomores biology one semester. She knew what nervous young people looked like. Sure, he was probably in his twenties, but young enough to feel intrinsic unease from the steady rage of an older person. Especially one that had slammed his face with the bottom of a faux leather handbag.


Fuck you, lady, he yelled as the window sealed him. Seconds later, the car merged back into traffic. The eldest Mrs. Smith yelled, The name’s Anne Marie, bitch, and believed the entire island heard her.


The Mrs. Smiths and their girlfriend shrieked around Mrs. Smith the whole walk back through the West Village, the only place in Manhattan the eldest Mrs. Smith felt she understood, a bit, though, as her daughter explained, it was also the only neighborhood not on the grid. Her daughter put a few crushed cigarettes in her hand and repeated, Mom, shit, Mom, holy shit! The eldest Mrs. Smith released a little more urine, from all of the commotion, and didn’t care at all if the odor permeated the night.


In the hotel lobby, Alyssa asked for the eldest Mrs. Smith’s phone number so she could text her the video. I recorded it, she said. In case he hit you. The eldest Mrs. Smith embraced each of the women with her eyes shut, face sucking in the scent of their shampoos: almond, summer rain, green mellow mango. Mothers know these things without asking. She mumbled, I love you, and they all murmured it, or something like it, back.



In her hotel room, Anne Marie changed into one of two hanging robes, leaving her pajamas folded in her suitcase. She left her underwear to soak in sudsy water in the wide-mouthed sink. She did not put on a new pair. She ignored the laminated No Smoking signs and hovered by the cracked window to light up. She watched the video over and over, admiring her bear self, her peculiar, cosmic domination. She opened a miniature bottle of tequila and sipped it, wincing at its punch. She opened her computer and went to the forum. She typed: I (56F) defended my daughters (31F, 33F, 27?F) against a bigot. Feedback?? Anne Marie attached the video and hit post, then closed her computer and fingered a second cigarette, victorious.



Marissa Higgins

Marissa Higgins is a lesbian journalist and 2020 D.C. Arts & Humanities Fellowship grantee. Her work has appeared in the Best American Food Writing 2018 (originally in Catapult), Rumpus, Atlantic, Washington Post, NPR, and elsewhere. She is working on a novel.