Will Power

Poor Aunt Sue.  Anyway one day I get a call from her out of the blue, and somehow she has got wind that I have practically finished my work on the PhD and in acknowledgement of the feat wants fordto buy me a car.  Spending time around Aunt Sue was so hard, I was remotely tempted to say no, but I couldn’t have said no in any case to her gesture, and besides my little Volkswagen was on its very last legs.

So she comes up and we spend an afternoon in a used car lot.  First this one, then that one, and really I didn’t fucking care as long as it ran, but I had to feign enthusiasm and interest, and finally she more or less settled on a powder blue Mustang 2.  It was a pretty shitty car but it was the first I had with automatic transmission and that was pretty cool.  She paid 6000 in cash for it in 1979 dollars, so I guess it wasn’t cheap.

 But by that time she had launched her own career, got a realtor’s license, and what’s that other thing—a broker’s license—so she could go completely out on her own, though she still worked with some firm, and she was making money hand over fist and had acquired multiple properties, rentals and such.  Partly she was there at the right time; the California market was making one of its whacko runs.  And I am sure she was good at it.  Pushy, but not too pushy, real smart and I do believe completely responsible.

 But it was a crazy day.  Trying to buy a car in a couple hours in an afternoon was not the way I would do it.  But she wanted to make a grand gesture I guess.  Well, maybe, it worked because I remember it, and the dinner I had to sit through with her afterwards.  She could be pretty blunt and would ask me such questions as, “Are you happy?”  “Is this what you really want?”  That sort of thing.  To the first, I had to say, no, of course since I was absolutely miserable, and as for is this what you really want, well, I had not idea what I really wanted because nobody had ever asked me.

I could have lied I guess and said I was perfectly happy but it wasn’t in me.  So she started to tell me how I could be happy and successful just like her (when all you had to do was look at her and see misery leaking out everywhere).  She had gone to some self-help group and the leader told her what to do.  It was all in the will. First you wrote down what you wanted (which she did on the spot) and then you will.  So she had done that and four years later she looked at what she had written down that day that she wanted—a Lincoln and a mink coat—and she had both. And much more.

That’s all I had to do.  Will it and it would be so.  I could hardly stand to listen to this shit and then it got really weird because sadly it had recently been learned that her husband had cancer, and well, she wondered—she had wondered deep inside herself—if maybe she hadn’t willed that.  God, I felt unhappy.  I sort of felt like crying, for god’s sake, the way people get along.  I guess she was saying that deep inside she had wished her husband dead and more than that her wish had come true. I tried to say, no, no, no, of course not; a person simply couldn’t will such a thing.  But I don’t think I had any positive effect.

I don’t know maybe five year later she developed breast cancer and died in about six months.  It was just too far along.  As a final act of will, she wrote my mother out of her will even though she had promised the old lady she would get something up till a month before she died.

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