Containing a mother-daughter reunion.
Daphne and Roxana had chosen to meet at Ivar's, a fast-food fish place on the Seattle waterfront. Any attempt at more intimacy would have been a sham, and they both knew it. They were attracting an avid audience in the next booth consisting of a bearded blond in a business suit, a short pony tail adorning his fine linen collar. That's Seattle. If it didn't rain so much it would be paradise.
Through the glassed-off sitting area of Ivar's, the ferries crossing the Sound and the reinstated trolleys were visible, all very picturesque. In better weather customers even had a view of the Olympics, but the weather was rarely that good. Outside, the tourists competed with the lunchbreak joggers for sidewalk space, scarce despite the drizzle, while the sea gulls competed with the pigeons for crumbs. The pocket-picking shops along the piers came a close second to the Space Needle as Seattle's most popular tourist attraction, although Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market gave them a run for the money--exactly what all the once historic sites were running for.
The rain-wet, rain-grey businesses, so-called art galleries and fish restaurants were decked in Christmas finery in honor of the season, an attempt at colorful festivity which was muted by the colorless effect of the sky. The occasion already over, however, the lights and glitter would soon come down, and Seattle would return to unrelenting winter drab. Seattle may be the most livable city in our fair country, but if you want to live there, you have to grow accustomed to gray, to the kind of weather which dampens sidewalks and dampens moods right along with them.
Daphne and Roxana were sitting at the crowded clam bar on the picturesque waterfront obviously not getting along very well. And the blond businessman was obviously nursing his shrimp and chips to keep his booth, keeping his ears open for auditory tidbits as well.
"Then what do you want to do with your life?" Roxana asked sarcastically. She leaned back in the booth and looked at her daughter, her breaded clam strips growing cold in front of her.
"I think I'll bum my way through college, catch myself a future Boeing engineer, and then live the rest of my life high on the hog," Daphne replied, the tone of her voice very similar to that of her mother. Despite their differences, the two women displayed a certain resemblance to one another. Both were highly attractive in a made-up, Hollywood sort of way, colorfully dressed and heavily painted. They defied each other with the same square chin, snubbed each other with the same ski-jump nose in the air. They even wore the same colors, shades of blue and green, (on Daphne's part provided largely by denim), colors which would have gone with the sea and sky if the sun had been shining. The hair-colors they flaunted, however, were radically opposed, Daphne sporting Madonna blond in contrast to her mother's Elizabeth Taylor black.
"Getting a man is the easiest thing in the world," Roxana said. "If that's your idea of success, then you'll never have any problems whatsoever."
"Yeah, well, then why are you a dyke? Couldn't get what you wanted?" Daphne asked with a cool smile. The businessman with the pony-tail, camouflaging his eavesdropping with the Seattle Times, nearly choked on his coffee.
"Not from men," Roxana replied evenly, ignoring the malice. She gingerly picked up a cold clam strip and ate it. "What I don't understand is how I ended up with a super-hot twenty-year- old man-trap for a daughter."
"We all get what we deserve. You're pretty super-hot yourself, you know."
"But I'm not a man-trap."
"No, that you're not," Daphne admitted. "But what were you twenty years ago?"
"You're a bit of a bitch, aren't you?"
"Like mother, like daughter." Daphne smiled and bit into a scallop, leaving traces of lipstick on the other half.
"I'm not the marrying kind."
"You were once. And I'm your visible reminder."
"At least I learned my lesson."
"Well, give me time, Roxy. Maybe I'll learn something someday too." Daphne shrugged her shoulders in a very theatrical way, sending her long, extravagant silver earrings jangling, and gave her mother another insincere smile. Roxana wondered why she bothered.
"If you're so set on marrying, perhaps you will accept a little free advice?"
"Shoot." Daphne settled back, folding her arms in front of her chest.
"Beware of the modern-day double-standard if marriage is really the extent of your ambitions. Getting a man is easy, but marrying him is another matter entirely."
"How would you know? You don't have anything to do with men."
"I know a lot of men." The way Roxana said it, it sounded as if men were a foreign species and her knowledge came from field work.
"And when did you have your last male lover?"
Daphne let loose a laugh as insincere as her smile, causing Pony-tail to peek over his paper. Roxana's eyes met his in a brief, hard stare, and he retreated behind the Times again. "See?" Daphne was saying. "Anyway, you just told me I wouldn't have any problems getting what I want. That's the way I like it."
Roxana heaved a sigh much too heavy for her role of sarcastic genius. "That step-mother of yours has ruined you."
"Oh, come on, Roxana. If I were like her, I would end up a perfect housewife, squandering my husband's money on nothing but household gadgets."
"You can hardly claim you take after me."
"No, I can't at that. I like men. Which is more than can be said for you."
Roxana grimaced. "And is that supposed to be a positive characteristic?" she said at last. Daphne shrugged. "The extent of your ambitions is to catch an aerospace engineer. I'm impressed."
"A house on Lake Washington would be nice too."
"If you're successful in nabbing your Boeing man, you'll probably end up with a house in Renton or Everett."
"I've had enough of suburbs."
"Well, you're headed right back there. That's where marital bliss leads."
"But why should I work nine to five when there are lots of guys out there who could do it for me?" Daphne asked with a look of feigned innocence.
Roxana glared at the top of the blond head in the next booth. Pony-tail did not come out from behind his paper. "Marriage is a trap, Daphne."
"That's what you think. You just didn't tackle it right, you were too serious about it. If that's the attitude you take, of course it will trap you."
"Don't overestimate yourself. Custom is a real tyrant."
"Custom is different now. We're emancipated. At least that's one thing I have you and your generation to thank for." Daphne tipped her water glass to her mother in mock acknowledgement.
"You're fooling yourself. Things aren't that far along yet. Every woman has to fight her own way out of the role of household drudge in any partnership, whether it's sanctioned by law or not." Roxana leaned forward in an unaccustomed display of seriousness, resting her elbows on either side of the cold clam strips. "You can't even imagine what a tough opponent those entrenched habits can be."
"You're just bitter..."
"Yes, I am."
"...and I'm going to make sure I get a maid anyway."
Roxana shook her head and smiled at her daughter with a curl of the lips that didn't come near her eyes. "Well, then, you'd better talk it over with your future source of income before you tie the knot. He may not have the same idea of domestic bliss as you. Have you considered that according to your plan, your hypothetical engineer will be your provider? The man who brings home the money is head of the house, remember."
"The woman who wraps the man around her little finger rules."
"Good. Try it. It seems like a pretty empty goal to me. What will you do with your Boeing engineer once you've got him where you want him?"
"Spend his money." Roxana laughed shortly. "Well, what makes a life full?" Daphne continued with a mean smile. "Taking aesthetic black-and-white photographs of naked breasts and door frames? Creating 'art' that doesn't sell well? Working at a small-time local magazine to have enough money to get by? No thanks, mother mine."
Roxana looked out at the ferry headed for Bremerton. "I never said you should do things my way."
"Then why won't you accept my way? I haven't the slightest need for creative fulfillment, and even less for intellectual fulfillment. Material fulfillment, that's what I'm after. I want an easy life, all the comforts money can buy. I'm a child of the eighties, not a child of the sixties. Idealism is out."
The child of the seventies in the next booth grimaced.
"I sincerely doubt if I would qualify as an idealist," Roxana pointed out, returning to an exemplary tone of sarcasm.
"Aw, come on," Roxana's callous daughter protested. "You're essentially a disappointed romantic."
"A disappointed romantic, huh," Roxana repeated, raising one plucked eyebrow. "And what are you?"
"Jaded. After all, you're my mother. You probably can't imagine how humiliating it is to have a mother who's a dyke, can you?"
The sea gulls cried.
The pigeons gurred.
The Bremerton ferry honked.
The pony-tailed businessman ate another cold chip.
"What do my sexual preferences have to do with anything?" Roxana finally said with a brief shake of the head. She looked at the flesh of her flesh, her bleached hair and denim, and wondered if she could--or should--have done anything differently.
"When I was growing up all the kids knew, Roxy."
"Swell." Roxana's voice carried no inflection.
"Yeah, it really was swell, I can tell you. Children can make life hell for each other. I'm going to make sure the rest of my life is a bit more pleasant."
"So it's basically the same old story with a twist--the daughter suffering from the mother's desertion, but mainly because of what the neighbors said."
"Well, I don't think I'm suffering now, but if you want to take on a load of guilt, you're welcome to it. I'm not stopping you."
"You're welcome. Always happy to oblige." Daphne smiled sweetly and Pony-Tail peered over his paper discreetly.
"I doubt it," Roxana said. Daphne was right, she was bitter.
"Enough of this, don't you think? Let's go."
Roxana snorted. "Good. Maybe we should just give up on these meetings. It's obviously an effort for both of us, and an unpleasant one at that."
"First time we've agreed all afternoon, huh, Mother?" At the word "mother," Roxana gave a start. Was that minimal acknowledgement, or merely one more jab?
As they got up to go, clearing away their half-eaten food, their avid audience folded up his Seattle Times regretfully. Following the two women out of the enclosure, he hurled his last chip toward the water. A greedy sea gull caught it in mid-air.