by Toby Tucker Hecht
When she was little, because her mother told her to, she would wait patiently for the school guard to tell her it was safe to cross to the other side, even though the big girls—ignoring the woman in uniform with her gloved hand held up in an imperious stop gesture —zigzagged, squealing with the thrill of adventure, through the traffic on Broadway. When it was summer recess from middle school, because her father said no, she did not take the subway to Rockaway Beach with the other girls because it was too dangerous and you never knew when someone would come out of nowhere (the ocean?) and snatch you away, and your family would never see you again, so she spent her vacation reading library books in her un-air-conditioned apartment. When she was a teenager, because her mother warned her, she did not allow boys to touch her in places that she was told not even to touch herself, so while her friends were experimenting with love and desire, she dreamed of the shy boy in her math class who smiled at her in a lop-sided way, and felt tingling sensations, which she stifled with a pillow between her legs. When she was a young woman trying to decide whether to study acting or take a degree in library science, because her father advised her against the stage since, really, how could she expect to make a living in the arts, she completed her degree and got a good job in the New York Public Library system instructing patrons how to do research using the internet, but bought a subscription to an off-off-Broadway repertory theater’s season where she sat spellbound watching plays on Thursday nights. When she was in her thirties and trying to decide whether to marry Lewis, a sometimes-employed tenor sax player who told her she was the most exciting woman he’d ever met and made her ache with yearning whenever he brushed her skin with his hand, or Gerald, a kind and steady process engineer who was getting promotions every year in the company he worked for, she listened to her mother’s ominous words about security, and married Gerald, making love on Saturday nights in five minutes flat. It was several years later, when her daughter was old enough to understand, that she advised her, without any interference from her parents or husband, to follow a path that was not without risks, where her own needs were fulfilled, and where she might possibly experience unhappiness and difficulties, but also great joy, because she knew first-hand that you cannot go back in time and recover those lost experiences that were the blood and guts of life, that her daughter grinned and said, “Good Mommy, because I want to save the world.”
Toby Tucker Hecht lives and writes in Bethesda, Maryland. Her other publication credits include stories in THEMA, The MacGuffin, Spindrift, RE:AL, The Powhatan Review, Red Wheelbarrow, and The Baltimore Review. When not writing, Toby can be found at the National Cancer Institute where she works in the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis.