No energy left to hang up the red dress or put away the black patent stilettos Manny insists you wear. Standing in your slip in front of the iron-stained sink, you splash cool water on your face. You limp to the tiny stove, ignite the gas with a match, put on the teakettle, and sink into the ruins of the over-stuffed chair.
Recital night at Mr. Z's Ballroom Dance Studio. Ten lessons and they think they're Fred Astaire. Eight dollars a night per client, for sweaty pits, beer and garlic breath, stubbles scraping your cheeks, smashed toes. And this palace behind the studio for $100 a month.
Manny Zimbrowski owns the building; Manny owns you. You've stopped asking God to get you out of this hell. You're still waiting tables at The Mascot four days and dancing every night but Sunday.
Forty-four when Jake left you for her. Left you with six kids. Forty-seven when Jenna started college. Forty-nine when Cara said "cosmetology school." And so it went. At least Steve got his education from Uncle Sam.
But you don't regret your kids, or giving them the best of yourself. You'll never let them know about your aching, calloused feet, or the exhaustion that defines your days and nights.
The teakettle whistles. Hardly worth the effort to drop a chamomile tea bag into your mug. Life isn't fair, but you won't tell the kids. They'll learn soon enough. And you hope they'll dance to the real music while they can.