Starbucks chocolate mint coffee for breakfast, the last of the bag in the freezer since the Christmas before. She was now going on $15 dollars in the account since Christmas week when she forked over the promised last one hundred for the concert ticket promised her son. She was praying to some god her Plenty of Fish date tonight was the paying kind. She was counting on it. It was dinner.
Once she had dated a man who had used a coupon their first date and then expected her to split the cost. Mean little life. There were times she felt she was hanging on like a tick on life’s back. Not at all like the genteel mannered life of her upbringing, her white rich mama having adopted her from Cambodia and trained her in the way of proper southern ladies. Her mama had assumed after the divorce she was being wined and dined, that rich men were courting her. Let her assume, thought Chanthou.
She had changed her name back to Chanthou Seng. Her son retained his father’s surname, Rouse. She had been Georgia Abernathy as a child, heaven forbid, then Georgia Rouse, married.
She touched the picture she recently taped to the refrigerator, a picture of a Cambodian woman handing over her baby to an American soldier in a helicopter. The copter was on the roof of a hospital and the mother was saving her child from horrors and likely death under the Khmer Rouge. Chanthou had ripped it from the page of an old magazine at the library. She had no pictures of her family.
The coffee grinds in the Mr. Coffee filter inside the basket still smelled a little like mint chocolate, like some old forgotten dream. She retrieved a china mug from her long ago Christmas wedding shower. She wanted to smash it. But she had an affinity for beauty and could adopt a cold objectivity for sentimental objects when it served her.
The wedding ring quilt she had given to her dog. It was some cheap mass produced western looking thing they probably made in her country or some other place with no unions, ten hour days, women fainting and falling out. It was a delicious feeling when the small white pet began to tear at it with her teeth and paws.
Her son was up finally, on his way to work a double. He was tall, dark, the skin and facial features of home. He was so much taller the top of her head fit under his chin. He would never know she had only $15 dollars to her name until the month’s alimony came through.
She received a text from a man she hadn’t met yet who would meet her out for tea, and, she hoped, some of the restaurant’s Thai offerings, like the Satay Satay Salad or the Thaiger is Crying Sandwhich. Yum. Are you ok with beards? he said in his text. Cause right now I look like Santa. Something about that completely cracked her up. She smiled. She told him so.
When she received a text from her ex the day before, something having to do with their son, he had said something hilarious, and she cried. She would not have confessed this to him of course. But despite her bitterness, she found the old laughter both poignant and painful and no less a kind of miracle. The icy slim blond who was her replacement wouldn’t tolerate much of a rapport between the two of them so she keeps it brief. She needs her monthly aid and would not cause trouble.
How much fun when she was young. In college, climbing in the campus fountain, dancing with her friends. I don’t give a fuck she had shouted for the whole quad to hear and her friends had repeated after her, laughing, all of them soaked and twirling around, three a.m., no campus security. She remembered what she felt like when she said that, something she would never have said before when she was a foreign daughter with white rich Christian parents.
That’s what she felt now at the prospect of meeting Santa. And he had joked with her that she should sit in his lap.
She had a feeling he would pay.
And if he didn’t, she would make her escape.