Drug of Choice

Eva Eliav

“D’you know what Glenda said? For people with money, travel’s the drug of choice.”

He smiled indulgently. Glenda was their firstborn, and his favourite. “It is more expensive than wine or beer.”

She kept her tone light, careless. “Or even champagne.”  

“What about coke?” he said.

She raised one elegant eyebrow. “Don’t be silly.”

They were flying to Costa Rica. Costa was a popular spot these days. Good weather when it wasn’t pouring rain. Gorgeous beaches.

They could laugh at themselves, she thought, that was good. Though they travelled often, no one could say they were addicts. They weren’t running away, nothing to run from. They had a spacious house in an upscale neighbourhood, plenty of friends who knew how to enjoy life, money for a comfortable golden age. So they liked a change of scenery now and then. Something unfamiliar and exotic. The best part was, days went on forever when you were travelling, just the way they did when you were small.

Suddenly Frieda scowled. Golden age. That coy phrase drove her mad. But other words were worse. Aged. Elderly. Old. Those unpleasant words didn’t suit her and Robert. They were in their prime, healthy and energetic. Thanks to excellent care, they were looking good. No one would have given her more than fifty. In dim, forgiving light she looked forty five. Robert had all his hair, not much silver mixed in with the dark. Both of them had been lucky with the gene pool.

It was good to have time to themselves. The kids and their families lived far away. Not such a disaster, Frieda thought. She and Glenda didn’t get along. That happened sometimes, she knew, with mothers and daughters. What an uncomfortable person Glenda was. The rare times they were together, Frieda managed to keep her smile in place though she often felt like lashing out or weeping. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt real warmth. Conscience pricked her. Her best friend, May, offered consolation. “Don’t be silly,” she’d say, “Don’t you know…family life’s built on hypocrisy and denial?”  Frieda rolled her eyes, but she felt grateful.

Fortunately, Ben was a sweetheart. Even as a boy, he’d always been concerned about her feelings. A pity about the woman he’d chosen to marry… Frieda shuddered.

Yes, she reminded herself, it was nice to have leisure. She enjoyed her home, her garden. She read thick books. She and Robert had season tickets for the opera. She could cultivate friendships in a way that had been impossible when the kids were growing up and needed her. 

Though she’d never felt the babies were a burden. She’d loved being a mother. As a girl, she’d liked caring for small creatures. Kittens were her favourite, but she’d felt a bond even with mice and turtles. How glorious it had been to discover that having a human baby was even better. Glenda had been a pleasure in those days, squealing with joy whenever they played together. Both babies loved to dance.  She’d put on music and they bounced and clapped and twirled around the room, ending in a warm heap on her lap. So many years ago, but it felt like moments. The memories clung like glittering barnacles. She tossed her head, trying to dislodge them. 

Occasionally, she’d worked outside the house. These days, most women worked, and she didn’t want to seem different or old fashioned. So she’d done a bit of this, a bit of that. A lawyer’s office for a while, then a boutique where clients relied on her taste, which was exquisite. Part time always. Robert made enough to provide a comfortable life for all of them.

She’d never been quite sure what Robert did.  He was out all day, sometimes till very late. And he gave her a generous allowance.    

He was still out most of the time. That was a blessing. She’d heard horror stories about this stage of life. Men underfoot all day. But not Robert. He was the kind of man who was always looking for something new, for exciting projects. 

She’d had dreams herself when she was a girl. She’d wanted to be a singer. Pure fantasy. She’d never mentioned it to anyone. It wasn’t the kind of career that went with family, with being a mother and wife. Frieda allowed herself a moment to imagine gigs all over the country, smoky halls, a dress that clung and sparkled, the crowd roaring. Just one moment, fleeting, impossible.  

Well, there were many things she never mentioned. What would be the point? And now…her, a sixty year old singer? Hilarious.

Frieda made a little grimace. Robert noticed.

“What’s up, darling?”

“Nothing,” she said quickly, “nothing at all. I’m looking forward to Costa. Aren’t you?”