Growing Up with Infidelity

An Excerpt from Infidelity: A Memoir

This is my first restaurant meal with my father. I am between Daddy and Mother. I finger the thickness of the coarse white tablecloth and clink the empty glass with my fork. Mother frowns and shakes her head. The waitress, her dark hair a shining helmet, moves behind us to pour water. She spills a drop when she pours Daddy's, which seeps slowly on the cloth.

''Oh, pardon me. I'll get that right up.'' She dabs it with a napkin. She smells of roses and grease. Her fingers are poised around her pencil, pink nails curve at the ends.

''Ready to order?'' When she approaches my father, her voice slides down just a little. ''What did you think of the White Sox?'' he asks her. ''Catch any night games?'' He flashes her a broad smile.

''Whenever I can.'' Her laugh is slow and throaty and doesn't match her gentle voice. Daddy's eyes sweep her hips as she walks away. I see him watching her. And he looks away. She has such a slender, tight body, while Mother's is lush.

She wets her lips. ''Yeah. Well, I was supposed to go with my boyfriend, but …'' She taps her pencil point against her pad and raises her eyes to the ceiling.

''But?'' Daddy pursues.

''He was rained out.''

He laughs. ''I have some tickets for tomorrow night's game.''

''Lucky you.'' She raises one eyebrow. ''Well, can I get you anything else?''

''No. We're fine for now,'' Mother replies.

Polly returns with our plates, sets down my turkey, the gravy with a grease slick on top. She slides Daddy's steak and potato from her arm. She bends at the knees to do it, leans closely over him.

''That was quick,'' he says.

''Well, I try to serve my customers well.'' Her voice is low and she says her words slowly. ''I might be able to get you some tickets to a night game. Might have some right here.'' Daddy pats his gray suit pocket, checking inside his jacket. He pierces her with his black eyes, scans her. He is aware of her every movement, turn of phrase.

''Oh, yeah. My girlfriend loves the Sox, too.'' Polly flashes a smile. Her lips glisten a soft pink. ''Oh, my next order's up.'' She winks at him and sashays away. His charm has won her over.

Daddy rests his hand on Mother's arm. His blunt tan fingers and sparse hairs are at home on her pale blue sweater. ''Might as well make things fun,'' he says.

Mother flashes her casual smile and for a moment, I am swallowed by her warmth.

''Ah. My family,'' Daddy says.

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