Dear Mrs. Noonan,
Sorry if it seemed like I was trying to see you naked.
I wasn’t, I swear.
This happened one morning in the summer of 1994, when I was living with your son Will in the apartment on 6th Street. Will had told me the day before that you were coming to visit, and that you’d be staying with us, but I had gone out for dinner before you’d arrived and then stayed out late.
You may have already suspected that I was the type of person who would try to see his roommate’s mom naked. The last time we’d seen each other, I think, was a couple years earlier, when Will and Carter and I had shown up at your bungalow on Captiva Island after driving around Florida for a week, sleeping in a rented Toyota Camry. Spring break. Much of your family was there — Will’s older brother and sisters, with their spouses and children. Lots of babies. You looked very happy, a big sunny smile, to be surrounded by all of them. You have a wonderful family. And needless to say, it was very generous of you to provide us with beds for a few nights, and use of the shower.
Our first night there, over dinner, I told a story about the previous week’s adventures that included my taking a shift behind the wheel after I’d been drinking. “Just a few beers,” I assured the table, after your and most everyone else’s eyebrows had shot up, “I wasn’t that drunk.” I had recently turned twenty-one and thought this was a fine way to talk to other, older adults. Will still shakes his head about it.
Anyway, the night you came to stay with us on 6th Street, after my dinner, I ended up going over to the apartment of some friends of mine. They had drugs there, it turned out, and I stayed up all night doing them and didn’t come slinking home until well after sunrise.
I thought you might be sleeping on the couch in the living room, so I kept my keys from jangling as I opened the door to our apartment and slipped inside, feeling like a crazy-person who was also a ninja. But I braced myself to greet you, realizing that it was perfectly likely you’d be awake. I tried to think of the most normal thing to say in such a situation. (“Good morning! Just back from a jog!” That probably wouldn’t have worked. I wasn’t wearing jogging clothes. I hadn’t gone jogging in five years, probably.)
You weren’t on the couch. The place was strangely quiet, though. The kitchen and living room were empty. I didn’t quite know what was going on. Where was Will? Had he left for work already? Had you not stayed over? I crept across the floor on my way to my bedroom but stopped at Will’s door. It was open a crack and I peeked in. I’d started to think that no one was home. Maybe the plans had changed. Maybe you’d not come after all, maybe you’d slept somewhere else. Will’s brother David, who was also your son, lived in the city, too. Maybe you’d gone there instead. This would have been good. I could have smoked some pot to put myself to sleep.
Your voice startled me. And when I saw your shadow flash across my thin field of vision, I knew I could not have looked good from inside the room — leaning into the sliver of doorway, peering through with one eye.
“I’m not naked!” you called out, almost singing it. “Are you?”
You pulled the door open and stood before me in a white robe. You must have been just getting up. You always had a good sense of humor.
“Hi!” I said, a blurted confession. “I, ummm… No!” I backed away from you. “I was… I didn’t know you were here.” (So I was in the habit of spying on your son as he slept? It was a hopeless situation.)
You were cheery and well-composed, which was your regular way. It was Will who had slept elsewhere, you explained. (At his girlfriend’s, was it? Probably. I think he had a girlfriend at the time.) So you could have a good night’s sleep in his bed. But as I struggled through our brief polite chit-chat, wishing I could rewind the past ten minutes and play them back differently, wanting to disappear behind my own bedroom door as quickly as I possibly could, I noticed a hint of suspicion in the squint of your eye.
I couldn’t blame you, given the circumstances.