Excerpted from The Genesis of My Double.
POKER, BRIDGE AND MAHJONG ON NEEDLEPOINT
One day after my mother had died, I dreamed she was in heaven. I did not really believe in heaven or hell, but decided to go with it. She had to be somewhere and I searched everywhere. I went shopping to see if she was in Bloomingdales or in the shoe department at Macys. Maybe she was spraying herself with perfume and letting a sales girl powder her nose with a puff she would never buy. I went to to the grocery store to see if she was perhaps buying milk, sugar or eggs for a sour cream cake she would or would not bake before my father came home from work. Finally after a few days of wandering malls and stores, I broke down and cried. There was not one woman at any cosmetic counter who had seen her. Had she disappeared into thin air? Filing a missing person's report seemed pointless and ridiculous, but I wanted to go through with the charade. And while I knew the metaphor had a shelf life that was about to expire, I took comfort in the fantasy.
Had I been sleepwalking when I imagined my mother baking cream cheese cookies in the kitchen. Or dreaming as she sat at the card table passing out tiles for mahjong? Her needlepoint sits on the floor next to the couch where my father yells at the football players on TV. My mother and her friends take turns getting up for coffee and cookies in between picking their mahjong tiles. Next week, three of my mother's friends will play bridge at the same table that my mother has meticulously been needlepointing for close to a year. It is the same table where my father and his friends play poker, smoke cigars and eat peanuts every Sunday night.
The mustard colored phone cord wraps around my mother's legs as she salts and peppers the chicken and turns on the oven. She smiles into the phone and motions for me to get some slivered almonds from the kitchen cabinet. The clock over the desk ticks loudly. The water is boiling as she puts in elbow shaped pasta. Soon she will take out the butter, add salt and serve the pasta with the chicken and green beans. Time is a funny thing and if I blink hard enough or think hard enough maybe my mother will reappear in her embroidered apron and tell me she has won a round of bridge, and that it is time to set the table for dinner.