10 November 2009

Her God Calling

Turmeric stains my denim jeans and Miss Betty calls my name three flights down. Her daughter is here only during visiting hours, and her son, who lives at the end of the drive, only brings the mail (check). And besides, he's got Ginny now.

Her grandchildren love her, but their youth has held them captive, and so she only gets an occasional holiday card that reads, "Merry Christmas Grandma. Love, So-and-So." And that's it. For all the ponies and the thousands, the summer camps and the caviar, "Love, So-and-So." That's it.

And so I've become like a daughter (or at least I imagine so) to her. She often calls me dear and she reprimands me too. I dropped an egg the other Sunday, and she nearly sent me to my room. Not for one less egg, but because, like the Renaissance artists, I had created a binding agent of egg and water that she believed would forever coat her linoleum. I assured her it wouldn't and immediately began with boiling hot water and green dish soap. And soon enough everything was as before, under her control and within her reach.

She uses these things called "reachers." Or at least that's the name she's given them. "Get me my reacher, Laura!" And off I go to find the metal stick with its springs and blue trigger. At each end are two quarter size suction cups and along its side is yellow electrical tape with my writing in black Sharpie. She has several reachers (in fact one for each room), and in essence, these things have become like children. I suppose I might even be considered a reacher. Her fifth child and twelfth reacher.

The other night I made a pumpkin tart. It was a job she had given, and so I used two of the other eleven eggs. We were both in the kitchen and the sun was almost set, and she continued, "I am not a drinker..." For her late husband died of it, well that and lung cancer, and she hates the stuff. She despises it. So she always assures me, "I only cook with the stuff." And I did as instructed, replacing 1Tbs of milk with 1Tbs of rum and left the bottle where her late husband couldn't get to it.

Even though he was dead, he'd still make his trips to the kitchen. He'd come to lite his smoke or come to fill his gut, but he'd always come to say mean things. And once he called her a very bad word and hurt her very deep. She wrote about it the day it happened. And when I stumbled upon this note, scribbled in the small box of march the thirteenth, seven and some years ago, I wept. I cried and cried for the mean things he called her and especially for this day, some odd seven years ago, where her worth was cursed by this man who said he'd loved her.

It's full bloom autumn here on the grounds of her late husband. The tulip trees have dropped their rusted leaves and the deer this season are plentiful. And she promised to love him, in sickness and in health. The brook is deep and the trails wide, and in plenty and in want, he promised. Her days are still a mix of good and bad, and the occasional visitor helps. And as the sun sets for night, another day done, in her loneliness and vacant state, she hears her late son, her late husband, her lost children, her God calling.

27 August 2009

She Came Back

I read Psalm 31 on the twenty fifth of August. Read it again yesterday to Graham. Today I figured I should read Psalm 32. "You are my hiding place. You shall preserve me from trouble."

Yesterday dad lost his job. This was the day after mom and I had an awful fight. The kind of fight that gets us screaming and yelling and not acting like mothers and daughters should. I hate it when she cries.

She stormed off, just like she storms off on dad, and left me standing at the kitchen table. I asked her nicely to come back. And then she started yelling. Then I screamed that she come back. I said we were dysfunctional- her and me, and this was true. And finally, with tears in her eyes and anger in her heart, she came back to me.

She sat in the green rocker and back and forth told me how much I'd neglected her, us, over the years. How I'd never had her over for a home cooked meal or how I'd never washed the linens and made up the guest bed. "Once," she said, "you and what's his name. You had me over just once." And now she was crying.

"And I'll never forget that night until the day I die. I've told your father. I told him, 'If I die, and you put me in a casket, please tell Laura that the night she and what's his name had me for dinner was one of the best nights in all my life. Not getting married, not having babies, but just sitting at that table next to her and what's his name.'"

And at first I honestly couldn't recall this night she spoke about. This night that made her cry just thinking that its only happened once. The night I made her happy. Just once I'd made her happy.

And I went on with excuse after another. Telling her I had no extra beds and even had no stove. But there was nothing I could say and nothing I could do. I had neglected her, us, for years and just now learned it was chicken and sweet tea that mattered.

She went back and forth in that old green rocker, and I thought about all those lonely nights. All my uncooked meals and all her lonely nights. And knowing that my chicken had made her life complete, I wondered about my meatloaf or perhaps my pork and brie.

And I thought about the bed that was soon to be delivered. And thought about the sheets and cleaning all the linens. I'll ask her over for some dinner and for some rest from her hard day. I'll serve a six course meal and then I'll pray she starts to heal.

01 June 2009

Black Lace

That night, the one she called me a whore, we sat out in the field and I wept- not for the name she called me, but for the state of my soul and its hunger for the world. I had a small stash of coins with me and a collection of credit cards. I'd nearly cut the them all to pieces but realised I'd regret it come morning. We sat on the grassy mound while the deer passed around us, and the moon was there to help us see and the breeze to help us breathe. He listened to me as I hummed on about eating too much and spending too much, and he just said things would be alright. And he was right. I grew out of that obsession and soon found another to cradle tight in my lonely night.

And when we were through with the mounds and the moon, we came home to her weeping and her legs spread about. And dressed in black lace, with black tears down her face, she was bleeding to death and to life all the same. She convulsed and she shook and she grabbed at our knees, then fell at our ankles and started to plea. With fingers clenched tight, cutting into our bones, she reached for forgiveness and clawed at our souls. The dark and the bright, all collided that night, and the demons and angels did fight for her plight. For the windows and doors and the lights overhead, did flicker and shutter like raising the dead. And we touched and we cried and we pleaded and prayed, yet she was the one- just wanting to get laid.

He held her tight, pressing the backsides of her thighs down hard against the cracked vinyl seats of their old burgundy convertible, and for a moment she was with him. He said he loved her and touched her that way too. Her long red hair was flat against each breast and her slender legs crossed. She wore a pale yellow sundress with bare feet beneath. She passed her toes back and forth diagonally across the sand colored floor mats, fixated on the color of the dashboard, wishing for another time and another face.

23 January 2009

The Lonely

One of the worst mornings of my life was the day I woke beside his lifeless body. It was like a bedroom out of a Wyeth painting- with old planked floors, exposed beams overhead, and a wood burning stove in the corner. He and I never got along, and for those reasons, he shouldn't have done what he did that morning.

Afterward, he waited at the bottom of the stairs in his work clothes- with that same old smirk across his face. I was still wearing my tears, and his sweat too, and would rather not have seen him off. We never loved each other. For heavens sake, we never even liked each other.

One night I shared with him that his swearing was too much. At that, he exclaimed "Jesus Christ! What's your problem?" It was that sort of love- one that had no understanding or care to understand.

One day we went to the Big Apple, and he made me cry in front of all those thousands of onlookers. I can see what they mean when they talk of New York City being a lonely one. He nearly left me there. But somehow we managed the drive home- me with my tears and he with his swearing mouth.

Once we even looked at diamonds. He had something nasty to say about every ring and every salesperson. I tried to pretend he was still a prince, and that I would still someday marry, but not to him- not ever. For how far he was from anything lovely or anything of beauty. I'd rather have lived in a cardboard box with the lonely in that Big Apple.

One day I decided to stop by his house- late at night. He was so angry. He always was. He showed himself to me and I was so innocent. It just wasn't how I wanted things to be- not then, not with him.

I haven't seen him now for years and think of him all too often. For some memories just take too long to fade. I wish there was something one could do to ease the mind of the past, and all its sadness too, but it seems that good things and good people are all that can be done to bring ones sanity back. Jesus Christ. It's amazing how those two words can be spoken.

13 January 2009

Act I, Scene I

For ten years I was in love with a boy who didn't love me. I said I'd marry him, and once, he even asked me to. We were young then, though, and you say stupid things when you're young. Once we went to the theatre, and the fire alarm went off in the middle of the first act. We all sat there for a while, until we finally realised that it was a real fire- not Act I, Scene III. And, single file, we pushed out of that old theatre and into the streets, and the cold November air slapped us in the face. I remember that day, and I remember not taking his hand. In the second act, he laid it gently on my lap, but I just stared at it. Eventually, he pulled back and I started breathing regularly once more.

Afterwards, he took me home. I remember lying on that old brown couch, my cheeks getting scratched with every move he made, wondering how long we'd carry on. At times, the hum of the vending machine drowned out his voice, and soon he was a whisper. He said a prayer for us and for the birds and foxes too. He was simple and dressed that way too. With his legs beneath me, he reminded me of my father- as if I were sitting on my fathers lap and not the lap of my lover.

The tile beneath our shoes was shiny and gray. And here and there, other sets of boys and girls would walk beside our laying bodies- giving no attention to our posture or our scratched and beat up cheeks. But I remember those khaki pants and his hands, like small trees, wrapped tight around my waist. And perched upon his mound of soil, I prayed, and asked, and waited- till the morning came and slapped across my face.

Days passed and as did the seasons and still I loved him so. I remember traipsing through the fields- milkweed at our knees, electric towers above, and his hand tight in mine. He stood just like those towers, with his great height and strong bones, and he walked just like the breeze- hips buckling and swaying like broken tree limbs. The mud beneath us pulled at our soles and the setting sun made silhouettes of us, a great spectacle to the stars. But we marched on, until the weeds had won, and our battered ankles had had enough.

The next morning I remember crying- weeping like an adolescent, confused in her small world. He had been doing his taxes, until my scratched face appeared at the other side of the door. He let me in and drew me tea and soothed me in those morning hours. And Jesus hung behind us, and all his disciples too, seated at that great long kitchen table- with chalices raised about. I remember liking the feeling of walking past that wall, every time I visited. Like feeling I was Catholic and like I was supposed to kneel or do some hail Mary's- there, on the cold linoleum floor, in the kitchen on the second floor.

But we never made it down the aisle- not anywhere even close. Last I saw him, he drove out to meet me on a motorcycle. For now he's an old man, with a family and a future. He drove up on his bike and parked it out front my house. I thought, even then, that I still loved him. But that was all the past- the trees, the towers, the birds and the foxes, like a story to read at night. And as he said goodbye, he touched me only once. And looking like my father- in his khakis and his curls, he was never meant to be my lover.

05 January 2009

The Way We Used To Be

An old boyfriend stopped by the inn today. "How do you take your coffee?" I asked. I had forgotten how he liked it. I didn't even want to offer him coffee, but he near insisted. I had just stepped out of the powder room on the first floor and noticed he had left a note, inviting me to join him upstairs. The evergreens on the rail poked my bare skin all the way up, and the smell of fresh pine reminded me it was Christmas. It was Thanksgiving a year ago that I left him. I got my life back and left him. It was my mother that saw me in my misery. My mother, God, and well, everyone else I suppose.

He had on that same old stained navy sweatshirt. Stained with tears and blood and all his sickness too. "Illinois," the sweatshirt read, stitched in bright red-orange and blue. He had stopped by to give the old thing back to me and some other things too. Things like old kitchen spoons and a painting I had forgotten about.Things I didn't even want anymore. Things that just made me think of him and how miserable we used to be.

I set the items on the deep ledge of the window sill and made my way back downstairs. He followed me past the powder room and into the kitchen, and that's when he asked for the coffee. I gave him what was left in the pot- a black sludge that had sat stale for over three hours. Wishing he would leave, but remembering his tendencies, I carried on with our meeting pretending he was just a customer. I warmed his scone and placed two golden butter pads on his plate. He spoke to me as if I was interested and lingered as if I cared, but those days I'd long forgotten.

He helped himself to more coffee, and to more of my time, and I thought of all the things I would rather be doing. But he still wanted more. He always did. I cleared his plate and empty coffee cup, and he turned to me as we left the kitchen. "Black," he said.

"Black?" I asked. Like the way we used to be? How easily I'd forgotten. For now he was just a customer.