The Gretchen Question by Jessica Treadway
English | 2020 |General Fiction/Classics| ePUB | 3.5 MB
The Gretchen Question recounts a day in the life of Roberta Chase, who does not have much time left to make peace with her son, who’s punishing her for withholding his father’s true identity from him.
A single mother torn between protecting her only child or revealing herself fully to the people she loves most, Roberta finds herself at war with conflicting loyalties, increasing betrayal by her own body, the confused love she feels for her oldest friend, and a trauma from her past that casts a deep and possibly permanent shadow not only over her own life, but over the legacy she will bestow upon her son.
Portraying the most intense and shameful moments of motherhood, and the things we leave unsaid even to those we want most to hear them, The Gretchen Question is a celebration of one woman’s private reckoning with the source of her life’s most profound pain – as well as its greatest pleasure.
But I didn’t need to worry about that now. I was determined to delay feeling anxious about it until two hours before we were to meet. The therapist had once advised me to schedule “worry time,” during which I was allowed to think as much as I wanted about whatever agitated me. These thoughts could include all the what-ifs and fantasies my mind could conjure (no matter how outrageous), but aside from that specified block of minutes or hours, I must do my best to reject any worries that sneaked in.
I was skeptical, I admit. But I also have to admit that it worked, at least a little.
For instance, it helped me sleep on the night before my surgery two years ago. As I lay in the dark I told myself that when morning came, I could let my fear run away with itself, but not before then. The technique isn’t perfect by any means, but sometimes it works well enough to keep me from fretting all day about an afternoon appointment, like the one I had later. I would allow myself to begin fretting at one o’clock.
As for the bins, Jack had planned a trip for his and Grettie’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary without taking into account that they’d miss the trash and recycling day for their street. Their town ordinances dictated that they couldn’t leave empty receptacles in front of the house for more than a few days. But neither did they want to leave a full garbage barrel in the sealed garage for another week.
A year ago, they could have just asked one of their neighbors to help out. But now, since they’re at odds with most of the people on their street, Grettie asked me to swing by and move the containers from the curb into the backyard.
It’s not far for me; their town is right next to mine and only a fifteen-minute drive when it isn’t rush hour, and she knows I have flexibility during my day. But she still hesitated to request the favor, I could tell. She felt bad about taking the trip at all, right now, even though she didn’t know how far away they’d be because Jack had not told her: it was a “surprise destination” anniversary trip.“Are you sure you’re up for it?” she asked me before they left. “You know how fast a week goes, right? We’ll be back in no time. You’ll be fine.”
I couldn’t help realizing that it would have been more than twenty-five years—nearly thirty!—if it had been Grettie and me celebrating the length of our lives together. And I tried hard, as I always did, not to resent Jack for taking her away at a time when I might really need her. I always suspected him of being at least a little jealous of my friendship with Grettie, even though she told me No, he didn’t feel that way at all.
But never mind, I told myself. Never mind, as I have told myself so often during these years.
The trash and recycle trucks made separate trips to the street but both routes were always finished by midday, Grettie told me. My work meeting was scheduled for noon. At ten, I clicked into the file I’d moved to the head of my queue in the hospital database, figuring that I would likely be finished within an hour. It was a case of the flu complicated by irregularities in the patient’s heart.