“Why is the grass always greener in Sally’s yard?” I ask this out loud, and my husband takes my question literally. He joins me to look over the fence where Sally is placing a vase of flowers on her picnic table.
“The angle of your perspective means you can’t see the bare spots.” He’s a true scientist. “It also has to do with the shorter wavelength of blue light.”
I am not asking a scientific question. “I don’t mean that.”
“You mean, why did we have children?” He gestures behind me at our patchy lawn. In the corner by the garage, our three kids are nailing spare wood to build a two-story fort. It looks like a shanty-town.
I don’t mean that, either. The grass is not just greener, but brighter and happier in the neighbour’s yard. As I watch Sally putting out chairs, my husband stands closer to me. I tell him she’s turning fifty, and he grunts in surprise. From here, Sally looks much younger. “That’s what I mean. Why does everything look better from a distance?”
My husband shrugs.
I try another example. “It’s like those awful mirrors in department stores, in those cramped fitting rooms. Up so close, they make me look fat.”
My husband looks down at me. “Mirrors are mirrors. They don’t change anything. They can only distort if they’re bent.”
“You mean that’s how I really look?”
He senses a diplomatic answer is in order. “You look fine, but you should change for the party.”
I go upstairs and tell myself I will find something decent to wear, but I can’t imagine what. I unlace my runners and pull out the supportive insoles which I have needed to wear ever since child number three. I unzip the baggy jeans that have spaghetti sauce on them and stand in front of my closet wearing my oversized tee-shirt. I’m behind on laundry and not much is clean. For a minute I debate the merits of going casual, being the stay-at-home Mom who is proud of her hard-working cotton, but as I slide all my hangars aside, I see a black dress that I used to wear before having kids. I doubt it will fit, but after I find a tighter bra and stand up straight, it’s not bad.
I walk into the living room and my husband is frowning at a DVD case. “Why did you rent this? It’s PG13.”
My son is trying to grab it from him. “But I’m thirteen. Everybody in my class saw this. It’s for little kids, too.” He tries to get his younger sisters to help him retrieve the DVD.
I look at the case. “It said PG in the store. It’s PG in Canada.”
“Vancouver’s in Canada.” My youngest daughter is proud of this knowledge.
My husband whispers in my ear. “The Canadian ratings are easier on sexual content. I don’t want my girls dressing like sleaze-buckets.” He steps away and adds, “What are you wearing?”
“It’s old,” I say. “You don’t remember it?”
He shakes his head. “Well, you’re ready, so go ahead to the party. I’ll check out this video and be over soon.”
I remember to stand up straight as I walk out our back door and unlatch the side-gate to Sally’s yard. The archway above it is overgrown with pink roses, and as I pass under, I walk through a cloud of sweet perfume. I look up after I pass through. I swear even the roses are pinker on this side.
read the entire story in Pulp Literature Issue No. 1, Winter 2014.