The bright-walled amphitheater of the luxury cruise liner school makes my marriage prison break feel like a hall pass handed out with a menacing threat.

It tickles the brain. I want to laugh at the elbow pain. I blink a tired eye and marvel at how hard I fought to fall flat on my face at rock bottom.

She zooms past, holding the limp hand of her daughter scrambling behind her. The daughter holds a silver plated water bottle bearing her name, “ANGELIQUE.”

Her mother glances over her shoulder and her face lights up with the kind of wide-eyed wonder reserved only for mothers realizing they are in the company of other mothers with children similar in age.

We scramble down the hallway exchanging the stats of our children. Fourth grade, third grade. New to the school district, three years in. We were at basketball camp last year. This is our first time.

Do you live nearby, she asks. We live in River Oaks.

I picture her house: a white-stoned fortress with a circular driveway. Deer grazing in the yard. An easy breezy morning enjoying the dimmed October sunshine on the back patio.

I live in the part of town one moves to when they can't afford a good divorce lawyer, I tell her, putting a positive spin on the midnight cries of car alarms and the sidewalk art of vagrant amputees and the stripper dope femme across the hall who throws empty liquor bottles at her boyfriend when he tries to leave.

We’ve all been there, she laughs, but I doubt that.

I notice this about myself—I look down a lot when I am with these women. I probably know the tile pattern of every floor in West Lake.

I am suddenly self-conscious that my hair hasn’t properly been colored and cut in years. That my face is blotchy red and dead without exfoliation facial care of any kind.

She’s chatting and walking fast and thankfully doesn’t seem to notice me tuck my ratty purse under a cardigan whose strings are coming loose at the pits. And my pits aren’t shaved, I think. I’m a bottom dwelling, stinky, hairy mess.

But I decide sitting down next to the woman and her immaculate purse I’ll still wave at my son from the stands, even if he doesn’t score a single point, even if he’s benched from start to go and he only uses his hands to peel off the paper of his hastily bought plastic water bottle, just so he’ll know I’m here and I’m not going anywhere and just because I decided to fall doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to stand.

Erin Passons, 10-2015
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