The one that was worn in 1852 when women first moved forward? Or the dress the flapper was wearing in 1777?”
“What year was the first women’s suffrage case?”
“Never mind,” I said. “What day?”
“I’m not going to answer the question. You said you were a historian. You can’t have been the first.”
The woman was silent for a minute. Then she smiled and asked, “Will you be my guide?”
“What for?” I interrupted.
“For what my mother wanted,” she replied. “I’m sure she’ll say it was because she was unhappy that I came back to college instead of continuing on to school. Is that what you want?”
I was silent for a moment. She looked at me and smiled. “I’ll be a guide,” she said. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to do whatever my mother tells me,” I replied. “I’m not going to say I was never a teacher. Can I get a new car?”
“I’m not that kind of mother,” the woman replied. “I give you the car. You take the car. And you don’t go to the local department store.”
I went on, “I’m a person who knows what I am talking about but can’t say it. I know that if I were to tell you this, we would probably disagree with each other, but I don’t have to say that I know.”
“Do you think I am an expert in anything?” she asked. “You didn’t answer my question. I never have been taught anything.” She stood up. She turned toward me, smiling. “So I will take your word for it.”
We walked toward the door to the car. I closed the door and went back to my room.
A Little Later on
My mother was home, preparing to go to the market. So I went alone to the basement in order to wait. The door was open when I came in. But I couldn’t imagine that it was anything but my mother’s bedroom or that the place must be occupied, even for an entire night, by my mother.
I walked in and closed the door. The light was already on in the hallway. My mother put her arm on the wall
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