Cheryl, an attractive twenty-something, was waiting in the restaurant parking lot when I pulled up.
“Hang on. My friend is coming,” she said to me through the open window.
Moments later, her friend, Jen, burst out of the restaurant and stumbled to the car. They were both good-looking and dressed almost identically–black blouses and jeans that weren’t so much distressed as shredded. They had already had plenty to drink, but were heading from the Mexican restaurant to an Oceanfront bar.
As we were leaving the parking lot, something darted out from behind a building and down a side street.
“Look, ladies. A fox.” There are lots of foxes in Virginia Beach, and they are nocturnal, so late-night sightings are common.
Jen was excited. “Oh my God! Look at it! It’s so beautiful. I love aminamals!”
She was drunk, but she pronounced it that way deliberately: Aminamals.
“I love aminamals. That’s why I’m going to be a veterinary assistant.”
“Is that right? Are you in veterinary school?”
“Not yet, but I’m going to be.”
We got around to this topic again later, but it was interrupted by a passionate debate between them about whether or not a particular friend had had plastic surgery on her derriere.
“She has definitely had an ass job,” Jen insisted.
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Is that really a thing?”
They answered in unison, “Oh, yeah, it’s a thing.”
“Have you ever been to Miami?” Jen asked.
“Well, you should go. All the women in bikinis on the beach have had ass jobs. Are you married?”
“Then don’t go to Miami, you jerk. What are you thinking? Why do you want to look at all those ass jobs?”
“Actually, I wasn’t planning on going to Miami. That was your idea.”
“Well, don’t go.”
Part of my developing skill as an Uber driver involves knowing how to skillfully change the subject.
“So, what were you doing before you decided to become a veterinarian?” I asked.
“She was in L.A.,” Cheryl answered. “She’s a model. Isn’t she beautiful?”
I looked in the rear-view mirror.
“Like a model,” I said. “Why’d you come back? Modeling sounds pretty exciting.”
“Mostly to make my dad happy.” Jen answered.
“Your dad didn’t like you modeling?”
“He just didn’t like me being so far away. He’s got PTSD from his time in Afghanistan.”
“Wow. Is he Navy?”
“He was a SEAL. He was on Team Six. My dad’s pretty badass.”
“Whoa. I guess so.”
“And I’m his only real daughter.”
“You have a bunch of step-sisters?”
“Sort of. My dad just takes care of a bunch of kids. Me and my brother and six others. Some are my mom’s.”
“But your mom’s not in the picture?”
Both of them laughed. “No,” said Jen.
“We both have some pretty f-ed up moms,” said Cheryl.
“My mom’s a slut,” Jen said. “She’s had kids with, like, six different men. That I know of. She’s not involved in my life at all. She’s drugged up all the time. I’m not even sure she’d recognize me if she saw me on the street.”
“But your dad takes care of all her kids?” I asked.
“Some of them. My dad just kind of takes in needy people. He’s like that.”
“But you said he has PTSD?”
“Yeah. He can lose it sometimes, but he’s mostly just really protective. That’s why I came back here.”
“So, Cheryl, your mom’s a mess too?”
“Yeah. She’s a lesbian.”
“Did she leave your dad for another woman?”
“Not really. She’s sleeps with lots of women. And she hasn’t really left him. They’re still married.”
“My dad’s really religious. He’s a Mormon. And Mormons don’t believe in divorce, so they just stay married. I mean, she sort of comes and goes. She’s got other secret families.”
“Secret families? What does that mean?”
“She has all these other families where she pretends to be the mom. She’ll live with them for weeks at a time. Then she’ll come back for a while.”
“You know what’s really crazy?” I said.
“That the two of you seem pretty normal.”
“I know, right? We talk about that all the time. It helps having a friend whose mom is as f-ed up as yours.”